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CARF Accreditation

woman explaining about CARF accreditation

One of our goals as a company is to provide you with the most up to date information that can impact your practice. We believe that it is important that you are well informed with all of the available information that can improve your practice. Recently, we did quite a bit of research about CARF Accreditation, what the process is, and how it can provide value to your practice and to your clients.

What does CARF stand for?

First, CARF is an acronym that stands for Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Their mission statement is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process and continuous improvement services that center on enhancing the lives of persons served (

How did CARF get started

CARF International was formed in 1966 by two national organizations -- the Association of Rehabilitation Centers (ARC) and the National Association of Sheltered Workshops and Homebound Programs (NASWHP) -- that had been developing standards for their respective memberships for about a decade. In September 1966, the two organizations agreed to pool their interests in setting standards and formed the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, now known as CARF International.

Why is CARF Accreditation Important?

As an independent accreditation body, CARF stands as a major player in ensuring quality standards are maintained. When choosing a treatment facility clients look for organizations that have the CARF logo and are CARF organizations.

According to the CARF website, “Consumers face a variety of options when deciding what services to use and who should provide them. Accreditation is a sign of quality and is an important consideration in their decision making. They look for CARF® accreditation in their choice of treatment for addiction and substance abuse, rehabilitation of a disability, home and community services, retirement living, and other health and human services.

CARF International has surveyed hundreds of thousands of programs around the world since it was founded as an independent, nonprofit accreditor in 1966.

The value of accreditation goes beyond a competitive distinction for service providers and a framework for continuous quality improvement. CARF offers a wide variety of value-added benefits and several unique advantages to help providers receive the greatest return for their accreditation investment.”.

How is CARF Accreditation Achieved?

According to the CARF website, “Achieving accreditation requires a service provider to commit to quality improvement, focus on the unique needs of each person the provider serves, and monitor the results of services.

A service provider begins the accreditation process with an internal examination of its program and business practices. Then the provider requests an on-site survey that will be conducted by a team of expert practitioners selected by CARF. During the survey, the provider must demonstrate that it conforms to a series of rigorous and internationally recognized CARF standards.

Based on the results of the survey, CARF prepares a written report of the provider’s strengths and areas for improvement. If a provider has sufficiently demonstrated its conformance to the standards, it earns CARF accreditation.

After receiving the report, the provider must submit a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) to CARF to show how it is addressing any areas for improvement. Then, each year during the term of accreditation, the provider must submit a report to CARF documenting additional improvements it has made. The QIP can be downloaded from the Customer Connect website. Read more about the accreditation process at steps to accreditation.”

This process of accreditation is very similar, and seems to fit other quality standards that apply to other industries. For example, aerospace companies must acquire accreditation along the AS family of standards which are a subset of the ISO (International Standards Organization) standards that apply to a wide range of industries including healthcare, aerospace, technology, and manufacturing.

How does CARF accreditation help with billing and third-party insurance?

CARF has been around for more than 50 years and have established their standards as the gold standard in ensuring quality in a rehabilitation or mental health setting. Since CARF, the organization, has a long standing international reputation, they have contracted with insurance companies to show which mental and behavioral health organizations have satisfied the CARF standards.

CARF offers each insurance company a portal and visibility into which organizations are CARF accredited along with a history of their performance records and quality improvement initiatives. Establishing your practice as a CARF organization may give your practice a distinct advantage with an insurance company when it comes to credentialing, rate increases, or general visibility with an insurance company.

How much does it cost to be CARF accredited?

Cost seems to be determined on an individual basis by CARF. Since mental and behavioral health organizations vary in size and complexity and since CARF audits each organization it is normal that they would have varying costs. We would encourage you to reach out to CARF to get a quote of costs to become CARF accredited.

Who should consider getting CARF accredited?

If you are the owner of a rehabilitation center or if your private practice specializes in drug and alcohol abuse treatment, then CARF accreditation would be right for you. Technically, any practice or healthcare organization can be accredited, but they specialize in substance abuse rehabilitation services. At the very least, that is where CARF got their start in accreditation.

How is CARF accreditation different from credentialing?

CARF accreditation demonstrates a commitment to excellence and quality outcomes in regard to treatment. Credentialing is a way to obtain payment and referrals from a third-party health insurance company. They are mutually exclusive processes and procedures, and different skill sets.

Managing a quality standards audit will require time from the leadership team of a practice. Credentialing can be outsourced or done internally by a member of the administrative or clinical team of a practice.


We would encourage you to reach out to CARF directly if you have any additional questions or concerns about the process. We hope this helped provide you with clarification around CARF accreditation and look forward to providing you with additional resources and information that will help your private practice journey smoother!


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