What is a Professional Certification?
During the early phases of development, one of the common areas of discussion about the Certified Clinical Adventure Therapist (CCAT) credential was exactly what was meant by the term “certification.” An important distinction became apparent--certifications are different than assessment-based certificate programs; however, they are both frequently described using the same term, ‘certifications’!
The Institute for Credentialing Excellence differentiates between Professional Certifications and Assessment-Based Certificate Programs. In a Professional Certification, the goal is to recognize the knowledge, skills, competencies and experience that professionals have already accumulated. An Assessment-Based Certificate Program aims to teach a specific body of knowledge and assess that the appropriate skills and knowledge were learned at the time of the assessment.
These two different types of credentialing practices can best be described by offering common examples used by professionals. Many CPR and First Aid courses are great examples of assessment-based certificate programs. There is a very specific set of skills and knowledge that are taught, and an exam is given at the end of the class so that a certificate may be offered. It provides evidence that at the time of the course, the participant knew everything necessary to perform CPR and First Aid and received the specified training from the organization that taught the course (i.e. Red Cross, American Heart Association, etc.).
Many credentials currently awarded to therapists are based on a professional certification model. These types of certifications involve a process of acquiring skills, knowledge and experience that is not constrained to one specific teacher or organization. In order to become certified, an individual needs to demonstrate that they have completed all necessary training, has a specific amount of experience using the material from the training, and has received supervision to ensure that the practice was consistent with the approach described in the training.