CMU Counseling Program receives Midwest innovation awardProfessor Dr. Allison Arnekrans’s first-hand experience

The Central Michigan University Counseling Program received national recognition last month as recipients of the Innovative Counselor Education Program Award. The award was given at a biannual conference in Denver, Colorado on behalf of the North Central Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (NCACES), a regional division of the Association for Counselor Education & Supervision (ACES). 

The award seeks to honor an outstanding, innovative, and/or unique counseling program at an institution in the NCACES region. The purpose of NCACES, which covers 13 states in the Midwest, is to advance counselor education and supervision in the ACES North Central Region in order to improve the provision of counseling services in all settings.

Courtesy the Central Michigan University Counseling Program

Now in my 10th year as a professor in the counseling program, I submitted the nomination on behalf of the counseling program over the summer. The program has undergone an immense amount of growth and change over the past 10 years, which deserved formal recognition and celebration. Included in the nomination packet was a letter describing the ways in which the program is innovative and outstanding, as well as support letters from program alumni who are also community and campus partners.  

One example of innovation included was the implementation of a telehealth component into the program’s training clinic—the Center for Community Counseling and Development (CCCD), which is a state-of-the-art training center that provides free mental health services to students and community members. 

Courtesy the Central Michigan University Counseling Program
Services are provided under supervision by our Counselors-In-Training—enrolled CMU graduate students—to get their first clinical experiences working with actual clients. Because of the telehealth option we have available, we can see clients all over the state, but especially in underserved and/or rural areas with limited access to qualified providers. Providing free services is also an important social justice offering as we want to ensure access and availability of services given the unprecedented need in our state.

In addition to the ability to provide online counseling services to clients, another innovation is about having an online program to train counselors. In a recent interview, my colleague, Dr. Ellen Armbruster, shared more about the school counselor shortage in Michigan. 

Courtesy the Central Michigan University Counseling Program

To work towards solutions for this growing problem, the program recently launched the only CACREP accredited online School Counseling Program in Michigan. Additionally, in conjunction with the Gratiot Isabella Regional Education Service District (GIRESD), the program is now offering financial support to school counseling students while completing their clinical experiences in a PK-12 setting under the MI-Elsis Grant. 

Adding online education options for students has increased the enrollment in our programs exponentially, with many students coming back for a second career opportunity or from non-traditional backgrounds. 

Innovative solutions implemented to support new and transfer students include: a comprehensive and interactive new student orientation built as a repository of resources and reminders; participation in an active, and also award-winning, student organization, Mu Kappa Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI); and a mentorship program whereby new students are assigned a mentor (advanced current student or recent alumnus) that can share their experience and help them get adjusted in their initial months in the program. 

Courtesy the Central Michigan University Counseling Program

Community Partnerships were also highlighted in the nomination package as a way to extend the reach of our program. In the Spring of 2022, the program was approached to offer support groups for burned out healthcare professionals in a local hospital system, in addition to assisting at-risk youth with mental health services in the school setting where no school counselor was available. 

From a faculty perspective, it has been meaningful to form these collaborative networks as a way to give our students hands-on experience and work through real case-based scenarios. Any opportunity to apply the course text into a learning experience is a priority for the faculty, and feedback on these experiences has been positive. 

Courtesy the Central Michigan University Counseling Program

I am thankful that the CMU Counseling Program was recognized with the “Innovative Counselor Education Program Award” as it gives us the platform to share our new initiatives and hopefully garner some interest in the program. Our program is committed to delivering a rigorous, comprehensive, and meaningful graduate student experience. We seek to graduate quality practitioners to offer an ethically sound and productive experience for their clients. 

The CMU Counseling Program offers three concentrations or areas of focus, including Addiction Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and School Counseling. All of these programs lead to clinical and discipline-specific licensure and credentialing in the state of Michigan. The program is offered in two formats: a hybrid program in Mt. Pleasant, and a fully online program with no residency component required (part- and full-time options available). If you are interested in learning more about the CMU Counseling Program, contact or visit our website

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Read more articles by Allison Arnekrans.