Accreditation: A View from the Trenches

What follows is intended to be an honest and practical series of commentaries about accreditation.  My perspective is primarily as an EAP professional first actively involved in, and now actively committed to, the value of accreditation.  Your perceptions will be as they need to be.  Feedback is not only welcome but will flavor future installments.  Expect further commentary on items designated with a *.

Accreditation.  I work in an organization that actively pursued EASNA accreditation, at the time when EASNA accreditation was being transitioned to accreditation through the Council On Accreditation

(COA).  My organization was one of the last few EAPs accredited under the original EASNA standards.  We learned a great deal about ourselves as an organization from the EASNA accreditation process.  We opted to pursue re-accreditation through COA.  I believe I doubted the decision an average of 33.3% of the time while we completed the Self-Study.  I believe pursuing COA accreditation was one of the best business-decisions made by our organization.  While I admire any organization that contemplates pursuing COA accreditation . . . even if those organizations opt not to pursue accreditation, I especially respect those organizations that believe in a tangible, grueling, commitment to demonstrating best practices through the adherence to standards* and the scrutiny of other professionals through Peer Review*.

Accreditation.  Based primarily upon an “n” of one . . . mingled with anecdotal opinions from cohorts pursing accreditation, I would like to share a few perceptions of what you may find helpful as you consider pursuit of accreditation.  This is not a comprehensive list:

  • It will cost you quite a bit of money
  • You have no idea how much time and energy it will take to complete the Self Study*.  What is a good prediction as to the amount of time?  Start with planning on your accreditation team working, on average, 50% more than they usually work…on average
  • Realize no matter how good you believe your organization is you will discover you cannot completely prove it based upon the standards.
  • Expect to be irritated with COA, with the Standards, with your Policy and Procedure manuals, with your profession*, with your peers, with your bottom line, with yourself.
  • Expect to be proud of COA, of the Standards, your Policy and Procedure manuals, your profession, your peers*, your bottom line, yourself.
  • Expect to be frustrated with COA, the Standards, your Policy and Procedure manuals, your profession, your peers, your bottom line, yourself*.
  • Discover you will celebrate far less than you deserve.
  • Plan on working on re-accreditation before you learn you achieved accreditation.

Accreditation.  An online dictionary I periodically consult defines accreditation as follows:

  1. to ascribe or attribute to (usually fol. by with),
  2. to attribute or ascribe; consider as belonging,
  3. to provide or send with credentials,
  4. to certify (a school, college, or the like) as meeting all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum, facilities, etc.;
  5. to make authoritative, creditable, or reputable; sanction;
  6. to regard as true; believe.

Generally, I believe most of us embrace challenges with a rather proscribed set of values and perspectives.  No doubt that is true for how the Employee Assistance profession perceives accreditation.  While I believe all of the definitions listed above are applicable, I believe #6 is that to which I believe our profession could aspire to for the best benefit.

EASNA promotes best practices.  While each and every employee assistance organization can and likely should claim providing services that typify best practices, how do we know this is true?  I suggest accreditation can, in some compelling ways, demonstrate a true deliverable.  What’s your perspective?

Respectfully submitted by: David B. Goehner, LCSW, CEAP
Empathia, Inc.

Next up: Accreditation – It’s about Standards