Whether it’s due to the pressures of everyday life or a recent impactful event, many people struggle with depression, addiction, anxiety disorders, and other mental health challenges. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the demand for mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorder counselors to grow 22% from 2021 to 2031 .1
If you’re interested in developing or enhancing the skills you may need to help people cope with such struggles, you might want to consider pursuing a graduate certificate in counseling.
What is a counseling psychology certificate? This article aims to answer that question. It also discusses topics such as admissions requirements, potential career paths, and how to choose a program, and includes FAQs and helpful resources.
What is a Counseling Psychology Certificate Program?
Counseling psychology certificates are non-degree programs designed to help students develop or upgrade their skill sets in specific areas of counseling and psychotherapy.
These certificates are generally offered at the post-bachelor or post-master’s level, making them a great option for those who are working toward meeting the educational requirements for a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
In some cases, counseling psychology certificates are offered as an addition to a graduate degree in psychology. However, if you want to boost your qualifications without the time and financial commitments of a graduate program, then a counseling psychology certificate may be a good fit.
What Do Counseling Psychology Certificate Programs Cover?
Although counseling psychology certificates generally focus on psychotherapy theory and practice, the topics covered may vary by program.
For example, a certificate in behavioral health and counseling psychology may include courses in abnormal psychology, behavior modification, and child psychopathology, while a marriage and family therapy certificate might cover counseling theories such as family dynamics, early childhood and parenting interventions, and cognitive behavioral couple therapy.
Examples of coursework in counseling certificate degree programs
- Approaches to Multicultural Counseling
- Life Span Development
- Introduction to Well-being and Positive Psychology
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Group Counseling Skills
- Developmental Aspects of Psychology and Addiction
- Psychological Intervention in Childhood
Concentrations for Counseling Psychology Certificates
Depending on your experience, interests, and career goals, you may choose a certificate with a concentration in mental health counseling, school and career counseling, marriage and family therapy, or one of the following:Addiction counseling—helps clients struggling with alcohol and drug abuse
- Applied behavioral analysis—assists people in changing maladaptive behavior
- Art therapy—uses art as a tool to help others express and address their emotions through creativity
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) counseling—helps people, including veterans, work through trauma
- Sports counseling—assists athletes in building psychological skills to achieve optimal performance and well-being
Practical Experiences Component
Counseling psychology certificates may require a supervised practicum, internship, or lab to help prepare students for licensure as a counselor or psychologist.
If obtaining licensure is your goal, determine whether the counseling psychology programs you’re considering offer this type of hands-on experience.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Counseling Psychology Certificate Program?
Although counseling psychology certificate programs typically require anywhere from 12 to 30 course credits, completion times may differ widely by program, school, and your status as a student. Practicums and internships might also extend the length of your program.
What Are the Admission Requirements for Counseling Psychology Certificate Programs?
Although admission requirements may vary, to qualify for counseling psychology certificate programs students typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in counseling psychology, psychology, or a closely related field.
Other common admissions requirements include:
- A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Copies of official transcripts of previous coursework
- A statement of purpose that outlines your career goals
- A current resume
- 2-3 letters of recommendations that speak to your skills and experience
- In-person interview
- Application fee
Who Might Benefit from a Counseling Psychology Certificate Program?
Because online Certificates in Counseling Psychology are flexible and may be completed in less time than a degree program, they could be beneficial to a wide variety of students.
Individuals who may benefit from a Counseling Psychology Certificate Program include:
- Psychology majors who want to learn about niche areas in counseling psychology, such as substance abuse counseling, behavioral disorders, or music therapy, before pursuing a graduate degree
- Students who’ve earned a master’s degree in psychology and want to pursue LPC or similar certification
- Working counselors who want to upskill to enhance their career or pivot to another area of focus
For instance, a focused certificate may be a good fit if you’re a social worker who wants to enhance your qualifications in career counseling or applied behavior analysis. On the other hand, a general counseling psychology certificate could allow you to explore different facets of the field and pinpoint an area in the field if you’re currently undecided.
What Are the Potential Career Paths for Graduates of Counseling Psychology Certificate Programs?
Counseling psychologists help patients understand and address problems at a personal, professional, or community level.
Through mental health counseling and psychotherapy techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, these professionals help patients to leverage their strengths, cope with challenges, and function better in their everyday lives.
Counseling psychologists also consider how race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability could influence psychological health—and understand that behavior may be affected by both individual and environmental factors.
Although the two professions are similar, counseling psychologists tend to focus on overall being across the lifespan, while clinical psychologists often work with clients who deal with severe effects of mental illness.
Note that in addition to licensure or certification, counseling psychologists may need to obtain a doctoral degree in psychology in order to practice.
Job Outlook, 2021-31: 10%, which is faster than average2
Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists help couples and families deal with relationship struggles by discussing their emotions, processing changes such divorce or job loss, and developing coping strategies to deal with difficult situations. They may work in private practice or for hospitals, mental health centers, hospitals, or substance abuse treatment facilities.
Job Outlook, 2021-31: 14%, which is much faster than average3
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor
These therapists provide support for clients who are dealing with issues such as alcoholism, addiction, anxiety, and depression. They may use a variety of techniques, depending on their specific focus. These professionals are typically employed by hospitals, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, and prisons.
Job Outlook, 2021-31: 22%, which is much faster than average4
School counselors help students deal with social or behavioral issues. They might focus on developing a student’s social skills or work to uncover the reasons for inappropriate behavior. They typically also work with teachers to assist students in improving their academics and planning for their future.
Job Outlook, 2021-31: 10%, which is faster than average5
Social workers help people prevent and cope with life challenges such as substance abuse, illness, or unemployment. They may concentrate on particular areas, such as child neglect, substance abuse, or community advocacy. Employers of social workers typically include child welfare and human agencies, healthcare providers, and schools.
Job Outlook, 2021-31: 9%, which is faster than average6
How Do I Choose a Counseling Psychology Certificate Program?
5 Factors to Consider When Researching Programs
As mentioned above, there are a variety of concentrations in the field of counseling psychology, so it’s generally wise to ensure that your prospective curriculums/programs align with your career interests and goals.
Some questions to ask include:
- Do I meet the prerequisites for this program?
- Does the coursework focus on my area of interest?
- Do the instructors have professional knowledge in the field?
- What types of opportunities are available for supervised clinical experience?
- Could this program help me meet the educational requirements for licensure?
One of the major advantages of counseling psychology certificate programs is that they tend to take less time to complete than traditional degree programs.
If you plan to continue to work while pursuing your certificate on a part-time basis, finding a program with fewer required credit hours may be a priority. Even if you plan to engage in your education full time, find a program with a timeline that works fits your lifestyle may be an important consideration.
With the accessibility and flexibility offered by online learning, location might not be high on your list of priorities. However, if your goal is to become a licensed counselor, it may be beneficial to enroll in a certificate program located in the state that you plan to practice in.
Other locational factors to consider include potential job prospects, networking opportunities, professional resources, and cost of living.
Tuition costs tend to vary based on a variety of factors including program length, school, and location. Keep in mind, however, that some schools may offer more extensive financial aid than others, which could offset higher tuition.
Accreditation ensures that the school meets a certain level of quality. When researching master’s in neuroscience degree programs, research whether the school that is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Look for schools that are regionally accredited by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA), including:
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC),
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Counseling psychology certificate programs could be a valuable way to gain skills and knowledge in the mental health field and stand out as a qualified counselor or therapist. Prospective students should carefully research and consider their options before enrolling in a program. Success in a counseling psychology certificate program typically requires dedication and hard work, but the rewards could be significant, including increased job opportunities, higher salaries, and the ability to help others achieve mental and emotional wellness.
- What is the difference between a certificate and a master’s degree in counseling psychology?
The primary difference between the two is that a certificate in counseling psychology is not a degree program. In addition, students pursuing a certificate might already have earned a master’s degree. The advantages to choosing a certificate program over a traditional master’s program may include:
- Fewer required credit hours/shorter completion times
- More cost-effective tuition rates
- Gaining knowledge in a specific (rather than general) subject area
- Is it possible to obtain licensure or certification with a counseling psychology certificate?
While post-master’s counseling psychology certificate programs are typically designed to help students fulfill the educational requirements for licensure or certification, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you meet all of the requirements for state in which you want to practice.
Depending on the credential you seek, this may include passing an exam and obtaining post-graduate supervising clinical experience.
- How much does a counseling psychology certificate cost?
The cost may vary based on a variety of factors including program length, school, and location.
- Is it possible to complete a counseling certificate program online?
Yes! However, note that some programs might require you to complete a supervised internship and/or practicum. Often the school will help students find a local placement to fulfill this requirement.
- What is the job outlook for graduates of counseling psychology certificate programs?
The job outlook generally varies depending on the specific career you choose. However, for many counseling careers, job growth is projected to be faster or much faster than average.
American Counseling Association (ACA)
The ACA is a non-profit, professional and educational organization committed to the growth and enhancement of counseling practitioners.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
The AAMFT is a professional association for the field of marriage and family therapy that facilitates research, education, and theory development.
American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHC)
The AMHC is dedicated to promoting the profession and helping clinical mental health counselors meet the health care needs of patients.
American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
The ASCA offers professional development, resources, and research and advocacy efforts to support school counselors around the world.
The Association for Addiction Professionals provides education and certification for addiction-focused counselors, educators, and health care workers.
| 2https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-6 | 3https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/marriage-and-family-therapists.htm | 4https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm | 5https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-1 | 6https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm | Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Accessed 5/5/2023.
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer or guarantee of employment and that may help prepare students to meet the licensing or certification requirements of the field they choose to study. Students should check with the appropriate certifying body to make sure the program they apply to will help meet any licensing or certification requirements. Students should also consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.
- Take advantage of some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, while earning a degree from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
- Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
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