District of Columbia Counseling Psychology Masters Programs

Masters in Counseling Psychology programs may prepare students to help others function, face and overcome challenges. Most counseling psychology masters programs explore human behaviors, health issues, ethics and theories of psychological counseling. Also, students may often select electives or a specific area of emphasis to mirror their own interests. Art Therapy, Marriage and Family Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling and Career Counseling, are a few possibilities.

Masters in Counseling Psychology Program Information

What Is Counseling Psychology?

A Masters in Counseling Psychology program explores one of the most dynamic and broad practice areas recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA). Counseling psychology focuses on identifying and helping to manage emotional, social, work, school and health-related concerns that people may go through in their lifespan. These could include anxiety, addiction, depression, marital problems, or adjustment issues. Students who work towards their masters degree in counseling psychology could learn about these concerns and how to translate theories into informed treatment methods.

About the Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology

The Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology may introduce students to the abilities needed to counsel individuals, families and groups. Most degrees of this nature provide a psychology-based course of study. Students may learn to construct tests and measure outcomes. Also, they are likely to take courses that help them grasp how to integrate and apply scientific data and theory. These usually form the basis of assessment, and suitable client interaction and crisis intervention skills. Since these interventions are typically problem-specific and goal-directed, students could study both normal development issues and mental disorders.i

Applicants to a masters program in counseling psychology typically need a bachelors degree with some undergraduate coursework in psychology. Other material could include a current resume, essay and letters of recommendation. Some schools also look for a minimum GPA of 3.0 and may interview prospective students.      

Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology Requirements

In some universities, the Masters in Counseling Psychology program may entail between 48 and 60 credits. This could take a full-time student roughly two years to complete. Credits are usually divided between coursework, field placement and electives. Typically, the programs with more credits have a wider scope of electives to help students meet eligibility requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) in their state.

Here is a look inside a possible Masters in Counseling Psychology curriculum.

  • Entry-level review courses (e.g. counseling theory and application)
  • Core courses (e.g. mental health, environmental influences and contexts, behavioral and individual differences, cognition)
  • Electives in special areas of counseling (e.g. addictions, substance abuse, mental health).
  • Practicum, internship or research requirements (varies by program)

Every program is different, so read course lists and descriptions to find one that matches your goals. To that end, there are sometimes two tracks to consider, the Master of Arts (MACP) in Counseling Psychology and the Master of Science in Counseling Psychology (MCSP).

MA in Counseling Psychology

The MA in Counseling Psychology usually has a broad scope of study. It may be a good fit for students with a more varied educational background (such as social work). Counseling Psychology MA programs also commonly require a thesis or an extensive research project. Graduates from an MA in Counseling Psychology program may continue to obtain their counselor’s license, but also may choose to pursue a career path related to teaching or research. Others may further their education if they pursue a doctorate degree such as a PhD in Counseling Psychology.

MS in Counseling Psychology

The MS in Counseling Psychology has a slightly different approach. Students who pursue a MSCP degree commonly have a bachelors in psychology. They may enter the MS program with the intention to work directly with patients. For that reason, these programs often have practicum or supervised field practice included into the course of study. MS programs may act as a platform to a PsyD, if a student aspires to practice as a counseling psychologist.

What are some Masters in Counseling Psychology Courses?

A Masters in Counseling Psychology program may be a dynamic mix of courses in human development, biopsychology and research design. You could also expect some courses to cover professional practice areas such as ethical and legal issues. Below is a sample of possible courses. Make sure to contact schools directly for more information.

  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotherapy theory
  • Cultural diversity
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders and assessment
  • Vocational development
  • Human sexuality
  • Family and systems theory
  • Positive Psychology

DID YOU KNOW? Demand for counseling psychologists will increase as people continue to turn to psychologists for help with their problems.ii

Other Masters Programs in Counseling Psychology

Students who are drawn to interpersonal counseling may find other appropriate masters programs in counseling psychology to choose from. You may want to factor in outside interests such as a background in dance, creative art or social work. Take note that aside from your masters in counseling psychology, you may be required to complete post-master’s clinical experience, and pass your state licensure exam for your area of professional practice. Some masters in counseling psychology programs may help students satisfy requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), while others may not.  Since programs vary, inquire directly with the schools on your list if this is a goal. The state license in counseling is literally permission from a state to practice counseling or to call oneself a licensed counselor. By contrast, national certification is not a license to practice. In some states, holding a national certification may assist the counselor to obtain a state license.

Masters in Art Therapy

Students who want to blend studio art and counseling might consider a masters degree in art therapy. A Masters in Art Therapy program may address theories of personality development and creative arts therapy. As a human service profession, art therapy explores the world of non-verbal communication. Coursework is likely to include art diagnosis, counseling theory and intervention methods. Students may learn how to interpret created productions and formulate effective treatment plans.

Masters in Career Counseling

A Masters in Career Counseling program may suit those who want to apply psychological principles to professional development. One of the degrees in this field of study is a Master of Arts in Psychology with a focus on career management and counseling. In this type of program, students are likely to explore diverse personality theories and group dynamics. Coursework could also discuss motivation, normal and abnormal workplace behavior and social learning theory.

Masters in Counseling and Therapy

Masters in Counseling and therapy programs include the MSCP degree along with programs that focus specifically on coaching, mental health or professional clinical counseling. Some schools offer the Master of Science in Counseling degree which explores the key theories and methods. Students then select an area of emphasis and take themed courses. Mental Health Counseling, Substance Abuse Counseling and Applied Behavior Analysis are some examples.

Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs blend required courses (ethics, research methods, lifespan development) with clinical internship. Mental health courses typically discuss the biological bases of behavior, diagnosis, and psychopathology. Other courses expand on interview methods and crisis intervention, and help students develop the ability to listen empathetically in a clinical setting.

By contrast, a Master of Arts in Forensic Mental Health Counseling is designed for students who aspire to provide mental health services in forensic or legal settings. To address this goal, courses may cover forensic psychology, law, family violence and child assessment.

Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) programs may help students develop the clinical skills to address issues in relationships from a family-centered point of view. Many programs that lead to the MFT degree cover family systems theory, gender and human sexuality. They also highlight therapeutic concepts that are based on interaction (e.g. listening) and personality theory.

Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling

Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling programs may blend courses in mental health counseling theory, advocacy and treatment methods. Rehabilitation counselors help people with various disabilities live independent lives. Programs such as the Master of Social Work in Mental Health may fall into this category. Coursework will vary but might include topics such as policy, social welfare and juvenile justice.

Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling

Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling programs explore the skills and treatment plans used to address individuals with addiction and dependency issues. Most programs cover a broad range of topics. For instance, the MS in Addiction Counseling delves into theories of addiction, drug classification, assessment and treatment, and counseling methods. This type of program is also likely to discuss the impact of addiction on family structure. Other programs, such as a Master of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling, might tackle co-occurring disorders, recovery and relapse. 

Accredited Counseling Psychology Masters Programs

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is an accreditor for counseling masters programs. Approved programs will have met or exceeded the standards of quality set out for by profession. The types of programs that fall under CACREP purview include masters-level addiction, career, clinical mental health, clinical rehabilitation, school, college and marriage, couple and family counseling programs. Typically, programs that are approved are offered in regionally or nationally accredited schools. Follow up with individual schools or visit the CACREP website to learn more.

On Campus vs Online Masters in Counseling Psychology?

Masters in Counseling Psychology programs may be available in a variety of formats to meet students' needs. Earning your masters in counseling online might be a good fit for students who have to juggle work and other duties while they try to meet academic goals. Distance learners access their coursework wherever and whenever is most convenient. Keep in mind that some programs may have internship or practicum requirements. This may entail travel to campus or nearby facilities. Follow up with schools to learn more.

Students who pursue their Masters degree in counseling on-campus trade in web-based course for in-person interactions. Classes meet at a set time and place, which may make it easier to collaborate and network with peers. Counseling is a very interpersonal field, so this might be a great way to boost communication skills. Plus, you may have access to extended campus facilities, like libraries, career services or labs for research.

The hybrid format combines a bit of both. Classes could be available in the online or on campus format, and students may get to choose what fits their current schedule. Other Hybrid Counseling Masters programs may rely on online courses with short residencies each semester.

Every program is different, so read descriptions and think of what format will be easiest to commit to.

What Is a Counseling Psychologist?

Counseling psychologists advise people on how to deal with their problems. They help patients come to terms with their issues, whether these arise at home, at the workplace, or in their community. Psychologists first seek to understand and explain thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This is done through observation, assessment, and experiments. These tests help the therapist to develop theories about the beliefs and feelings that influence a person. Then, through counseling, they work with patients to identify the strengths or resources they can use to manage problems and improve their sense of well‐being. They may also assess, diagnosis, and treat more severe psychological symptoms.

Most counseling psychologists need a doctoral degree and licensure to practice. ii However some choose to pursue a career as Mental Health Counselors, Family Therapists, Marriage Counselors or Substance Abuse Counselors. For these pursuits, a masters degree in counseling or a related field, as well as state licensure, may be sufficient.iii

Take the Next Step

A Masters in Counseling Psychology may expose you to a dynamic field of study that could help you prepare for a variety of potentially rewarding career paths, and, serve as a basis for future studies. Use the on-page search tools to help you find a counseling psychology masters program that aligns with your goals and location needs. Filter your search by subject and format to easily compare the same types of programs. Or, look for counseling graduate schools by city, state or country. Each school has unique features to check out, so take the next step and request info today!


[i] div17.org/about-cp/what-is-counseling-psychology/ | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

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