CMU Counseling Program garners prestigious award for innovation

Honored by NCACES for pioneering initiatives in counselor education

The Master of Arts in Counseling Program at Central Michigan University received the esteemed Innovative Counselor Education Program Award at the 2023 ACES Conference held in Denver, Colorado, presented by the North Central Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (NCACES), a regional division of the Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (ACES). This prestigious recognition spotlights outstanding and pioneering counseling programs within the NCACES region, spanning 13 Midwest states, all dedicated to elevating counselor education and supervision to improve the provision of counseling services in diverse settings.

Allison Arnekrans, a faculty member within the Counseling Program, championed the program's nomination for this accolade. Her nomination package featured outstanding testimonials from program alumni and community/campus collaborators, showcasing the program's groundbreaking attributes.

One hallmark of innovation is the integration of a telehealth component into the program's training clinic, The Center for Community Counseling and Development (CCCD). This clinic offers free mental health services to students and community members. “Services are provided by our Counselors-In-Training to get their first clinical experiences, and because of the telehealth option we have available, we can see clients all over the state, but especially in underserved and/or rural areas. Students receive an enriching and diverse experience while also helping to meet an unprecedented need,” Arnekrans said.

Sheri Pickover, the Program Director, underscores the program's recent growth and transformation. She attributes this success to the 2021 accreditation of all their programs by CACREP and the surge in enrollments post-COVID-19, “we have experienced an increase in enrollments, especially those coming back for a second career and non-traditional backgrounds.”

To support this diverse group, the program offers various engagement opportunities beyond orientation. One such resource is the Mu Kappa Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, an award-winning counseling honors society that focuses on professional identity development. Additionally, the program operates a mentorship program, matching new students with experienced mentors to ease their transition into the program. Since the program accommodates a substantial number of online students, all initiatives are provided virtually, fostering a strong online student community.

Central Michigan University's Counseling Program has blazed a trail in innovation by introducing the only online School Counseling Program in Michigan. In conjunction with the Gratiot Isabella Regional Education Service District (GIRESD), the program has also successfully implemented the MI-Elsis Grant, offering financial support to school counseling students as they undertake mandatory clinical placements in PK-12 settings. To delve deeper into the challenges related to school counseling in Michigan, Ellen Armbruster, a CMU School Counseling Faculty Member and Program Coordinator, shares valuable insights in a recent interview.

A final example of innovation was offered relative to the program’s recent community partnerships, as a way to broaden its impact. The CMU Counseling Program was approached to offer support groups for healthcare professionals in a local hospital system, in addition to assisting at-risk youth with mental health services in the school setting. Pickover, expressed her enthusiasm about these collaborations, stating, "It has been a pleasure to collaborate with area partners in meaningful ways that support a solution-focused approach. Getting out of the office and into the sites and schools helps us, as faculty members, maintain a more informed perspective on the dynamics of the places where we live and work. This insight, in turn, empowers us to tailor our instruction to better serve our students."

The CMU Counseling Program offers three distinct concentrations: Addiction Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and School Counseling, all of which lead to clinical and discipline-specific licensure and credentialing in Michigan. The program is available in two formats: a hybrid (40% in-person/60% online) program on the main campus in Mt. Pleasant, and a fully online program with no residency requirement (offering part- and full-time options).

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