Online Masters Programs in Counseling Psychology
Online Masters in Counseling Psychology programs explore foundational theories, current research and methods of consultation. As a general professional practice area, counseling psychology aims to help diverse groups of individuals, couples, and families of all ages with lifespan issues.i These issues could be related to things such as stress, health, anxiety, job, school or family pressures. Other, more severe problems that may be dealt with through counseling psychology include mental health disorders and substance abuse. Since there are many treatment methods – even art and expressive therapy, there are equally diverse online counseling degrees. Consequently, students should think about the direction they want to take, and find the program that aligns with these goals.
Why Consider an Online Masters in Counseling Psychology?
One of the reasons to consider an online Masters in Counseling Psychology program is that they are usually designed to be flexible enough for busy adults. Some programs are 100% online, while others that aren’t tend to state that up front. In other words, there is no ‘one’ format so read the details provided by the universities.
In most cases, courses are primarily online and students log in to a portal to complete their work and submit assignments - from wherever they have Internet and, whenever they have time. Why ‘primarily’? As counseling psychology is a person-centered discipline, some distance programs do entail a brief residency or residencies. Face-to-face sessions may enhance the otherwise independent aspect of online education. These are usually times for discussions, presentations and both large and small group exercises. For instance, some programs use experiential learning models. You could learn a specific counselor skill in theory and then develop group dynamics skills through role play and simulation exercises. Moreover, you might use the time to meet advisors, faculty and classmates.
Access Courses Remotely
Online students use the web to access course materials, view announcements, email, distance library services, subscription databases and resource material. This means you might attend an online Masters in Counseling Psychology program located anywhere in the country, potentially allowing you to find one that truly matches your interests. This portal is also a way to interact with faculty and fellow students. For instance, you might take part in threaded discussion boards, white boards, chat rooms, and multimedia presentations.
DID YOU KNOW?
When asked about their education level, 27% of counseling psychologists responded they had a Masters degree. ii
Learn Online, Intern Locally
Aside from web-based courses, expect online Masters in Counseling Psychology programs to include practicum, internships and clinical supervised hours. Students usually arrange to complete these activities in their local community. This type of set up is defined by each university, so make sure you add it to your list of things to ask each school.
Meet Licensure Requirements
Many of the online Masters in Counseling Psychology programs are licensure track programs. In other words, the coursework they offer is intended to help students fulfill the education (credit) requirements to meet their state licensure stipulations. Of course, if this is your goal, you should check with your state board, since the rules vary from state to state. Also bear in mind that licensure is not part of the degree. You must graduate from an approved program, complete the required hours of supervised clinical practice, take and successfully pass the national exam.iii
Multiple Start Dates
Some schools with online Masters Programs in Counseling Psychology offer multiple start dates. This means, if all goes well with your application, you might be able to start pretty soon, as opposed to wait for a typical semester.
Types of Online Masters Programs in Counseling
An online Masters in Counseling Psychology may be offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degree. They may also be available as an area of emphasis in a degree from a related field, such as Master of Social Work (MSW), Master of Human Services, or Master of Education (MEd).
Degree Requirements: Most online counseling degrees entail about 60 credits of required courses and electives. Students may also have exams, a master’s project or thesis, and an internship.
Counseling Practicum: The counseling practicum is usually a set number of hours per week at a selected agency where student works under supervision with clients. The goal is to practice and build competence with interviews, assessment and counseling, and to learn about ethical, legal and professional issues. An internship may be a continuation of the practicum where students learn to apply more advanced methods for interviews, assessment and intervention.
Application Requirements: Applicants are typically required to have a bachelors degree, minimum 3.0 GPA, personal statement and letters of recommendation. Some programs also request students to have psychology and statistics credits. Students who pursue their art therapy degree online may also have to provide a link to their art portfolio and have studio art credits. Programs vary.
Online Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Online Masters in Art Therapy programs blend counseling and visual arts practice, to engage a person’s creativity and use it in clinical assessment and treatment. Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients use art to express feelings. The artwork that is produced is then diagnosed by the art therapist to help the client heal emotional conflicts, manage behavior, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem. Some programs may prepare students to pursue registration as art therapist (ATR) and meet eligibility for state licensure as a Professional Counselor (LPC) in their state.
Online Master of Arts in Career Counseling
An online Masters in Career Counseling may be offered in some universities as a Master of Arts in Psychology with this as the area of emphasis. This type of program may prepare you to apply what you know and empower professionals in their careers. Career Counseling programs delve into how people make career decisions, behavior in the workplace, mental health and personality theories. Many programs also discuss current research, and use tests and measurements. Both are common feature of a psychology-based course of study.
It's important to note that some programs do not meet certification or licensure requirements, since state licensure is not always required. Make sure to review requisites in your intended state and career path ahead of time.
Online Master of Arts in School Counseling
An online Masters in School Counseling program may prepare graduates to help pre-K-12 children reach their personal and academic goals. Coursework is likely to delve into the foundations of school counseling theories and processes. It may also go into issues of group dynamics, cross-cultural counseling, and how to develop and evaluate programs. Other course topics typically cover ethics, human growth and assessment of children and adolescents.
Online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
An online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program typically explores family development, dynamics and systems theories. Marriage and Family therapy is somewhat distinct from other areas of mental health counseling. This is simply because its focus is on treatment of the family or couple as a unit, not the individual. For example, marriage and family therapists look at interpersonal relationships to treat any problems or issues. Coursework could cover gender, human sexuality, psychopathology and child-focused family therapy. You might also look for programs where the focus is specific, such as counseling for military families.
Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
An online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling may prepare students to work with issues such as substance abuse, family violence, divorce, aging, and general emotional problems. Students are likely to take courses that survey psychotherapy, mental health counseling and development. This could mean things like crisis intervention and empathy, as well as diagnosis, psychological tests and pharmacology.
Online Master of Science in Addiction Studies
An online masters degree in Addiction Studies highlights the theories and practical skills necessary to counsel addictive behavior. Addiction counseling programs explore substance abuse and dependency disorders. They might also discuss psychiatric disorders in combination with alcohol and drug abuse disorder, as well as the impact of addiction on families.
Online Master of Social Work
An online Master of Social Work may serve as an alternative to a Counseling Psychology degree. As mental health professionals, social workers may deal with a variety of issues. Among them are substance abuse, elder care, health care policy and behavioral health care. Students who earn their Master of Social Work often do so with the intention to refine their niche. For example, a focus in adult mental health may stress human behavioral theory with an emphasis on clinical practice and policy. While MSW students may explore research and critical analysis, the course of study is less psychology oriented.
Online Master of Psychology in Coaching
An online Master of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Life Coaching degree is likely to explore advanced cognitive theory and motivation. Coursework could stress leadership theory, communication, and data analysis. Coaches and mentors have a specific skill set. They typically observe individuals and then make recommendation based on feedback. This type of program may differ from a counseling degree. Students may still take some psychology courses but the central theme is coaching methods, models and techniques. For example, students could learn how to coach executives.
Online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
An online M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling may help students develop the skills and knowledge to provide clinical counseling to diverse groups. Students might explore course content in multiple therapies. Some of these areas might include marriage, couple and family counseling, multicultural counseling, substance abuse counseling and career development. In addition to individual and group counseling courses, the MEd might cover crisis prevention and intervention, abnormal behavior and human growth.
Counseling Psychology Careers
Counseling psychologists work with their client to help them improve their sense of wellness, alleviate distress and resolve crises. They also assess, diagnose, and treat more severe psychological symptoms. If this is your goal, you might use the online Masters in Counseling Psychology as a stepping stone to either a PhD or PsyD in Counseling Psychology.iv
Other students may choose an alternative to psychological counseling and may want to pursue a career in social work or human services. Or, as mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, school counselors, career counselors, rehabilitation counselors or art therapists. These occupations tend to have specific education and licensure requirements, hence the choice of online counseling degrees. If any career stands out to you, use it to inform your selection of program.v
Explore Accredited Online Counseling Programs
Most schools, whether fully online universities or traditional institutions with online Masters in Counseling Psychology programs, are regionally accredited. At this level, accreditation speaks to the quality of a school’s faculty, student resources, curricula and whether it is financially stable.
Within accredited schools, you may find CACREP accredited online counseling programs. The programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) must meet additional professional standards. The same is true for schools that are accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
Why CACREP Accredited Online Programs?
Per the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), post-masters experience and supervision requirements are waived for graduate students who have completed CACREP accredited tracks.ii
National certification from NBCC is not a license to practice. However, in some states it might assist the counselor to obtain their state license. The National Counselor Certification from NBCC shows the public and employers that the counselor has met the national standards set by the counseling profession.ii
Take the Next Step
Each of these online Masters in Counseling Psychology programs entails its own types of courses, research and distinct fieldwork opportunities. Make sure to read through these details to help you choose the best program for your needs. To help you search, we have some easy to use tools. Refine your preferences by subject, and a list of sponsored online counseling degrees will come up. All you do from there is contact the schools directly with the on-page form. Take the next step now!
[i] apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling.aspx | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3031.03 | [iii] nbcc.org/Certification/CertificationorLicensure | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm
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