Since all states require that graduates hold at least a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling before applying for licensure, this is the most preferred level of education for professionals.
Many colleges are bringing their Master's of Mental Health Counseling online. What does this mean? Typically, universities take their campus-based graduate level coursework requirements and curriculum, then review and write it for an online learning environment. They put the lectures and discussions online via video, chat, or message board formats. Quizzes, tests, and homework is all completed online - some of which are timed and some of which are open book.
This type of learning environment is excellent, especially for those with perhaps a Bachelor of Counseling (or related field) that are working in psychology or counseling and looking to get a Master's in Counseling degree while still working full time.
Finding a CACREP Accredited Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
It is important to look at programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). These programs offer the highest quality of courses with rigid standards that a school curriculum must adhere to.
Other advantages include more employment options, a better pathway through the licensing process, and getting an upper hand when applying for a doctoral degree.
Consider a Featured Online Counseling Program
|School and Program Information||Online Program?|
Online MA in Counseling
GRE Not Required
Earn a CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling online top-10 ranked Northwestern University in as few as 18 months. GRE not required. Bachelor's required.Learn More
|University of Denver|
Online MA in School Counseling
Designed to adhere to CACREP standards
GRE Scores Not Required
Learn from doctoral-level faculty in live classes and gain experience through mock counseling and in-field training.Learn More
Online MA in Counseling and Guidance
GRE scores are not required for admission.
Prepares aspiring school counselors to become transformative leaders and critical resources for pre-K-12 students in public and private schoolsLearn More
|Our Lady of the Lake University|
Online MA in Counseling
Designed to adhere to CACREP standards
No GRE required.
Three specializations in Clinical Mental Health, Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, or School Counseling.Learn More
|University of Southern California|
Online Master of Education (ME) in School Counseling
Can be completed in less than 2 years.
No GRE requirement
Classes led by USC Rossier faculty who are experts in school counseling, educational leadership and family therapy.Learn More
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs
Typical Master's Level Coursework
Learn how to create a legal, ethical, and professional counseling practice and the techniques required to gather and evaluate client information to lead them in the right direction. Find the best approach to help their needs by assessing various methods and the data behind it.
Courses include material pertaining to normal and abnormal mental health, introduction to psychological pharmaceuticals, and ever therapy. The in depth programs provided by accredited schools give students experience with the historic and theoretical concepts in psychology as well as introducing new techniques for application.
Students in mental health counseling will work in the classroom and in laboratory settings so that they will fully comprehend the research aspect as well as the application of the different applications of mental health counseling.
Online Master's of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs
College of William and Mary: Online M.Ed. in Counseling Program
Clinical Mental Health Counseling is one of the three concentrations that the William and Mary School of Education offers with their Online M.Ed. in Counseling program. 60 credit hours are needed and can be completed as early as 2 and 1/2 years. There are three separate instances when students can enter in the program in the school year -- August, January, or May. Enrollment requires two residencies, which are meetings and activities with instructors face-to-face on campus for three days.
Application requirements include a $50 fee, academic transcripts along with GRE scores, three different letters of recommendation from professional and academic sources, a personal essay, and a resume. Courses are set at $665 per credit hour and other fees include a $145 non-refundable graduation fee and a $115 one-time LiveText fee.
Courses are separated into three different wheels. The first offers a number of core courses shared with all three concentrations:
- Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
- Techniques of Counseling
- Group Theory and Techniques
- Professional, Ethical, and Legal Issues in Counseling
- Theory and Practice of Multicultural Counseling
These offer a general overview of various mental health issues students will find with their patients when counseling them and the techniques in order to help them, both individually and in group meetings. These courses also dive into ethical and legal dilemmas that take place in counseling, as well as discovering different customs for ethnic minorities that differ from those in the United States. Specific in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a course that deals with substance abuse and the impact of that in various ways to our society.
The second wheel focuses on developing the student's potential career in counseling and the study of research methods A supervised practicum is required, in which the student will actively use the techniques learned to counsel their first client (minimum 100 hours needed). The third wheel contains various specific counseling services, such as substance abuse and sexual issues. The curriculum culminates with a supervised internship, which requires a minimum of 600 hours of counseling experience to satisfy the requirements of the degree.
Palo Alto University:
This Master's degree is one of two areas of emphasis from Palo Alto University, and they offer plenty of flexibility in their online program. Students will take two or three classes per quarter (each quarter coincides with the season), and all of them are offered at evening times. Courses will be both interactive and live with other students, and the program can be completed in approximately 2 years and 9 months (11 quarters). This also satisfies California's requirements to receive a license as a Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).
Start times are offered in the fall and the spring and the program requires 93 units to graduate. Tuition cost is $533 per unit with an additional $36 fee per unit. For the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year, the total estimate is $52,917. A Bachelor's degree in psychology is not required, but the following four courses will be strongly recommend for incoming students to take:
- Developmental Psychology
- Physiological or Biological Psychology
- Personality or Abnormal Psychology
The first year offers a number of courses around theory, such as how these practices will impact their clients' daily lives, observing actual clinical meetings, and the history and development of counseling. Other courses include legal and ethical requirements, and diagnosis and treatment planning. The second year has a number of various counseling focuses, be it in adolescence, crisis, trauma, addiction, couples, and what is acceptable for ethnic minorities that are not used to United States customs.
Everything culminates in the third year with more advanced counseling courses, appraisal and and assessment in counseling, the study of research and program evaluation, human sexuality, and a practicum split in all three quarters. Students need to complete a minimum of 700 hours of counseling fieldwork and 280 hours of direct counseling. Any work needed past the allotted time of nine months in ineligible for financial aid.
Common Mental Health Degree Course Areas
- Assessment and Evaluation in Counseling
- Diagnosis of Emotional and Mental Disorders
- Group Counseling
- Prevention and Intervention in Crisis and Trauma
- Human Development
Gaining Work Experience in Mental Health Counseling
Every state requires that graduate degree holders take part in 1-2 years of supervised work experience, varying state to state. This requirement can be completed after the degree program has been completed or in conjunction with the appropriate degree program. Students must find a licensed mental health counselor that is willing to supervise future mental health counselors in order to complete this requirement.
Resources are available in each state to assist students with finding a licensed professional to work under. This work experience provides future counselors with the necessary expertise needed to work in the field.
Willing acceptance of critique during this supervision period is a positive attribute that professionals should use to better their overall practice.
Preparing for Counseling Licensure
In addition to the educational requirements and work experience, students are also required to pass the state board exam in their respective state as a last step to becoming licensed. These exams are designed to test different aspects within their specialization in order to guarantee that the licensees going through the program meet the state’s standards for practice with the public.
Each state values the integrity of their licensure system, making it a very thorough process regardless of the location. View our state counseling licensure information.
Clincal Mental Health Counseling Career Options
Substance Abuse Counselor
Millions of Americans suffer from substance abuse with drugs and alcohol. Counselors in this profession will study the behavioral patterns of their client and find out why they need to depend on and experiment with these substances. From evaluation, these counselors will then tackle different obstacles for their client to overcome addiction.
For those that have not been able to figure out their passion in life, a life coach offers a way to develop a plan for people to achieve their goals and maximum potential. This could be a professional or personal effort, such as changing careers or exercising. These counselors evaluate the ongoing relationship and alter these goals when necessary. Encouragement is often necessary, but counselors must have their client achieve various steps for accountability.