Mental Health Counselor Degree Programs and Schools
As a mental health counselor, you'd have the opportunity to provide support and guidance to individuals and groups dealing with personal, family or social issues. Mental health counselors typically need to earn a master's degree and licensure in order to find employment. Review the requirements for entering the counseling field, and get info on choosing a school.
What You Need to Know
Mental health counselors help their patients to improve and maintain their mental and emotional condition. Most states require you to be licensed before you can work in this career. You may train for licensure through a number of master's degree programs offered by accredited universities.
|Degrees||Master's degrees in mental health counseling, clinical psychology or counseling psychology|
|Courses||Client assessment, humanistic psychology, group therapy, counseling skills|
|Schools||Your school needs to be accredited on the national or regional level and meet the standards of the National Board for Certified Counselors|
How Do I Qualify for a Program?
You must nearly always have a bachelor's degree earned from an accredited school or university to be eligible for admission to a mental health counseling master's degree program. While it's not always required, many institutions show a preference for applicants with degrees in a related subject such as psychology. You may be required to take a standardized entrance examination or submit letters of recommendation. If your native language is not English, you may also be required to demonstrate proficiency in speaking and writing English.
What Will I Study?
Most degrees in mental health counseling are master's degrees. Depending on the school or program you choose, the degree you earn may be a master's degree in mental health counseling, a master's degree in clinical psychology that includes a specialization in mental health counseling, or a master's degree in counseling psychology. Your curriculum will likely include courses in subjects such as assessment, humanistic psychology and career development. You may choose from campus-based or online degree programs, and both part-time and full-time program formats are available. You will also probably complete at least one internship or practicum to enhance your training outside the classroom. Here are some topics you might be studying:
- Alderian psychology
- Counseling skills
- Social justice
- Trauma theory
- Group psychotherapy
What Specializations are Available?
In graduate counseling programs, you'll be able to find a variety of specializations that you can pursue to tailor your studies to your specific interests in the field, whether that's working with a particular demographic or working in a focused area of counseling. Here are some concentrations to consider:
- Trauma and crisis intervention
- Health psychology
- Latino mental health
- Treatment of addiction disorders
- Child and adolescent treatment
- Clinical mental health
- Forensic psychology
- Art therapy
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Student affairs and college counseling
What Should I Look for in a School?
Your school should be recognized by the National Board for Certified Counselors as qualified to offer instruction in mental health counseling. The school or institution that offers your program should also hold regional or national accreditation with a recognized accreditation board such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. If your school is not nationally or regionally accredited, or, at the very least, licensed with the state where it is located, you may not be eligible to sit for licensing exams once you complete your program.