For programs looking to establish themselves firmly in their industry, accreditation can be seen as a gold standard. It enables the organization to demonstrate to its profession and the public it serves that their program meets stringent standards set by the credentialing community. It can add legitimacy and enhances a program’s credibility.
However, the path to accreditation is not typically a one-and-done endeavor. Because of the weight accreditation carries, it takes patience, careful planning and sometimes multiple rounds of applications through trial and error.
We spoke with Lisa Nemzo, president of the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA), who shed some light on her organization’s application process. After going through the process with five different certification boards and plenty of education along the way, they received accreditation in 2019.
What was the catalyst for your accreditation?
In August 2007 after initiating a member survey, APTA recognized that the membership felt the following two topics to be of utmost importance to the profession of Polarity Therapy:
- Creation of a definable, recognizable, and accountable profession.
- Support for defending the right to practice Polarity Therapy without a massage, bodywork, or somatic license.
APTA performed some research based on the information received from the membership and determined that having a standardized test was the first step towards the defining and recognition of a legally established Polarity Therapy profession.
According to the information gathered, we learned there are four pillars in establishing a profession: certification, accreditation, licensure and research.
APTA chose to pursue certification and accreditation. In November of 2008, APTA adopted the goal of establishing certification into its strategic plan and began working with a psychometrician to create an exam to certify Polarity Therapy Practitioners. The process was expected to take one to two years and ended up taking a little over three years. APTA also established a 501 (c) 6 to assist with these efforts.
Tell us about your experience with the process.
APTA began exploration into accrediting its certification by a national accreditation organization (NCCA/ICE). Over the next several years, we learned that working by committee rather than one person doing all the work was what created success with the application.
No amount of setbacks kept us from forging ahead. Instead we asked lots of questions and began to understand the steps to accreditation. Some of the questions included:
- What constitutes undue influence by a parent board over a certifying council?
- What degree of transparency is allowed in the process of applying for accreditation, i.e. what documents is the parent organization (APTA) allowed to have access to?
- What processes can the parent board be involved in and when must the certifying council operate independently?
Many steps were taken to ensure that the original Certification Governing Board (CGB) had final say over all essential certification activities.
The most important lesson we learned was that what is documented in the Policies and Procedures must carry through to the Handbook and the website. Once our members understood achieving accreditation would bring more legitimacy to our profession, they readily volunteered to serve and participate on the committees. Working in groups allowed us to collaborate and feel pride in the process. Committees were established by submitting volunteer requests to our membership via email along with personal follow-up.
What were some of the changes you had to make along the way to get to accreditation? What “a-ha moments” did you have?
We chose to hire a professional accreditation consultant who helped guide us through the entire process. A few “a-ha moments” along the way included:
- We are stronger working in a committee than with a few, or one person doing all the work.
- We can have a helpful relationship with the ICE Accreditation Services staff during the process, asking questions, and receiving direction to available resources along the way.
- It was better to use the expertise of our consultants in writing our documents rather than solely relying on volunteer members.
What is your advice for those who find the process challenging and may want to give up?
- Don't allow yourselves to be intimidated by NCCA/ICE. They are people just like us, trying their best to serve us. They are approachable and are always helpful.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how dumb you think they are. The silver lining is in the boldness of being willing to learn.
- Consider hiring a consultant, or at least thoroughly understand the NCCA/ICE standards before you begin.
- Go to the annual ICE Exchange and sign up for year-round webinars.
In your opinion, what is the value of accreditation?
Accreditation gives your certification extra value by showing it was vetted by a national independent certifying agency and withstood the scrutiny of the process. It elevates your profile in the community and in the eyes of other professional organizations, practitioners, doctors and others.
The Separation of Certification and Education by Shannon Carter, EdD, CAE and Ron Hanchar, MBA
Making NCCA Accreditation Work for You by Janice Moore
Tips and Tricks for Navigating the NCCA Online Application Portal (Complimentary Webinar)