Counseling Master’s Programs: Choosing a program that helps you meet your goals.
When it comes to education, counselors have to answer to more than just their employer. They must also meet state requirements. The most important consideration in choosing a counseling master’s program, then, is the credentials it qualifies you for. Largely this comes down to choosing the type of program.
Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s Programs
CMHC Program level accreditation by the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the gold standard.
Clinical mental health counseing programs prepare graduates to work in private practice or to seek employment as health service providers with governmental or nongovernmental organizations. Programs include a breadth of counseling courses from career development to group consultation and counseling. They also include coursework in mental health diagnosis using standard diagnostic manuals like the DSM. Programs are typically 60 semester hours and include a minimum of 600 hours of internship.
Program level accreditation by the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is the gold standard. Many states model their educational standards after those of CACREP, though some more loosely than others. There are some practical reasons for opting for CACREP-accredited programs even in cases where they are not mandated for licensure. Some federal agencies tie reimbursement for health care services to meeting a national standard — i.e. CACREP accreditation.
- Featured Online CACREP Accredited Master's in Counseling Program Options:
Capella University offers three online CACREP - accredited Master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.
- Liberty University, a non-profit university, offers a CACREP accredited online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Click here to learn more about Liberty University and their Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
- New York University NYU Steinhardt offers an online Master's in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness that helps prepare students to work directly with children, adolescents, and adults both individually and in groups. The program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) and requires no GRE scores for admission. Click here to learn more about NYU Steinhardt and the Master's in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness.
- Sacred Heart University's Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is offered online and was developed based off CACREP standards to prepare graduates for licensure in most states. Click here to learn more about Sacred Heart University and the online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Rehabilitation Counseling and Combined Master’s Programs
CORE and CACREP are working more closely, and many students are seeking 60-semester hour combined rehabilitation/ mental health counseling programs
Rehabilitation counseling programs prepare counselors to assist individuals with mental and physical disabilities. While rehabilitation counselors have traditionally focused largely on employment and employability issues, the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) reports that their roles are expanding. Some rehabilitation counselors help youth transition to independent living in the world beyond high school special services; some help older adults function at an optimal level after health issues and challenges.
Rehabilitation counseling programs are at least 48 semester hours. Traditionally CORE accreditation has been the standard. Now CORE and CACREP are working more closely, and many students are seeking 60-semester hour combined rehabilitation/ mental health counseling programs (http://www.core-rehab.org/CORE-CACREP). Again, the reasons are largely practical: A professional who has graduated from a CACREP-accredited program is eligible for reimbursement through federal programs like TriCare.
School Counseling Master’s Programs
School counseling master’s programs prepare individuals for certification through their state department of education and for service delivery in traditional and nontraditional school settings. These programs often have a different accrediting agency: the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Some school counseling programs also prepare professionals for state licensure as professional counselors; options depend on state mandates as well as on program content or accreditation.
Addiction Counseling Master’s Programs
Addiction counseling is another arena where there are different types and levels of credentialing. Addiction counseling master’s programs prepare graduate to operate at the highest level in addictions service delivery in agency or (sometimes) private practice settings. A 60 semester hour accredited program will provide the most options. A student who selects this option will have the traditional core of counseling courses and may ultimately qualify for multiple credentials.
There are other options, including programs focused on career counseling or college counseling. They are typically at least 48 semester hours. It is important to realize that the program title may vary from what’s listen in the accreditation manual.
Although one will still see programs accredited by CACREP as community counseling, they are generally programs that are transitioning and that will be accredited as clinical mental health at their next accreditation review.
There is a lot available, and it can be hard to choose! decides to move into a new branch of counseling may have the option of pursuing additional coursework later without having to actually seek a second degree. And if it’s just skills not a new license… there’s always continuing education.
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