Counseling Psychology Programs

Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs prepare students to help patients manage and understand their problems at home, work, or in their community. Recognized as a specialty within the field of professional psychology, counseling psychologists work with concerns that range from developmental topics to addiction issues.i

Whether you aspire to use the word ‘psychologist’ in your title and are looking into Psy.D. programs or you are interested in clinical social work, counseling psychology programs might be for you.

Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs

What Are Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs?

Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs seek to help students learn to assess and treat patients using a wide range of counseling modalities. This is often through a combination of coursework, research and hands-on clinical practice and internships. Earning a graduate counseling psychology degree could prepare students to pursue a variety of counseling careers, depending on interests and level of education. Examples include counseling psychologist, mental health counselor or marriage and family therapits. Some programs may even prepare graduates to seek state licensure or professional certification. Every program is different, so follow up for details.

Counseling Psychology Programs vs. Counseling Programs

At the graduate level, there are different educational paths depending on whether you aspire to work as a licensed counseling psychologist or as a licensed counselor. Both psychologists and counselors are mental health practitioners in the larger context. Individuals in both professions are also required to be state licensed, though this varies by state. However, there are some distinctions, both in their training and their scope of practice.

Counseling Psychology by definition is focused on “emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns” of individuals.ii Graduate programs in psychology abide by standards and guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) and include courses in statistics and research methods such as observation, assessment, psychoanalysis, or psychotherapy. Through conducting experiments they look for patterns of behavior or beliefs that influence the way their patients think, emote and act. To work as a counseling psychologist, you must meet the following requirements.i

  • Hold a Psy.D. or Ph.D. in Psychology
  • Fulfill internship requirements
  • Minimum of 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology


25% of counseling psychologists have a doctoral degree, 40% have post-doctoral training and 27% have a master’s degree.iii

Counseling is often used as an umbrella term. While still a regulated, and human-centered profession, it does not usually involve the same clinical research base that psychology does. Counselors, also referred to as Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC) may include Art Therapists, Clinical Social Workers, Substance Abuse Counselors, Mental Health and Marriage and Family Therapists. These professionals are also commonly required to meet the following guidelines.iv

  • Have a masters degree either in psychology, clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field
  • Go through post degree supervised work (2,000 to 4,000 hours of post degree supervised internship)
  • Pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education classes

If you do not wish to practice as a licensed psychologist but you are interested in understanding human thought and behavior, this might be a good option for you.


57% of Substance Abuse Counselors have a master’s degree, 15% have a bachelor’s degree and 15% have a post-master’s certificate. v

Types of Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs

Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs may be with available to fit a variety of interests. While each program will focus on counseling, each may have unique areas of focus or approaches. You might choose to study a specific technique, or focus your study around a targeted population. You could also seek to gain the skills required for work in a designated setting. Counseling psychology programs you might consider are listed below.

Art Therapy – a person-centered technique that focuses on analysis of a patients’ expression through their artwork; requires a masters degree for entry-level positionsvi

Career Counseling – typically practiced by licensed professions with a masters degree in counseling, career counselors give vocational guidancevii

Counseling & Therapy – includes human-centered fields such as Social Workers and Mental Health Counselors

Marriage & Family Counseling – involves helping people manage and or overcome problems within a family or other relationship; requires a masters degree for entry-level positions

Rehabilitation Counseling – centers on helping people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities function autonomously; requires a masters degree for entry-level positionsviii

Substance Abuse Counseling – professionals counsel those who suffer from alcoholism, drug dependency, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems; may require a masters degree for some roles.ix

Finding the ‘Right’ Graduate Counseling Psychology Degree

Once you have figured out the type of program you are looking for, you can then land on the graduate Counseling Psychology degree that aligns with your ambitions.

Masters in Counseling Programs

Masters in Counseling Psychology Programs typically require prospective students to have a bachelors degree in counseling psychology. You might also need to submit GRE scores, references, a resume, a statement of purpose essay, and have some measure of behavioral science undergraduate coursework. This may vary according to the graduate school, and the type of program. Thesis and non-thesis options are offered in some programs, depending on whether you are interested in advanced study or entering the workplace.

A few program options include: Master of Science in Counseling w/LPCC and PPS Options, MA in Psychology and Counseling, Master of Social Work, MFT Art Therapy and Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health.

PhD/PsyD Counseling Psychology Programs

PhD Counseling Psychology Programs may require students to possess a bachelors or a masters degree in the same or related field. Students might also submit a statement of purpose, GRE scores, scholarly writing sample and a resume. While both terminal degrees, PsyD and PhD programs may have different goals. PhDs are academic research degrees for graduates who prefer to pursue non-clinical roles. PsyD programs are designed for those interested in clinical practice.

A few program options include: Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy-Child and Adolescent Therapy, PsyD Marital and Family Therapy, Doctor of Psychology - Mental Health Administration and PhD Counseling Psychology.

Graduate Certificates in Counseling Psychology

Counseling Psychology Certificate Programs allow you to continue your education and earn extra credentials to specialize in your career. These are often shorter programs with more concentrated coursework. Certifiates may be available at the masters or post-masters level. Schools vary.

Explore options such as Post-Master’s Professional Counselor Licensing Credits, Professional Counseling: Advanced Official Certificate and Graduate Certificate in School Psychology.

On-Campus, Online or Hybrid Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs

Counseling Psychology Graduate Programs are available in several learning formats. Whether you choose to study at graduate school or through a distance-learning or blended online format depends on you. In some cases an online program may be more convenient, especially if you live too far from an APA accredited program. On the other hand, working with people requires observational, communication and interpersonal skills that you may not be able to learn remotely.

A good place to start is to search by location – just choose the city, state or country that you prefer and browse listings. Otherwise, there are easy to use menus for both ‘hybrid’ and ‘online’ programs.

Accreditation and Licensing for Counseling Psychology

Both counseling psychology and social work are regulated professions. To qualify for licensure, candidates need to prove they have graduated from an accredited program. This means the graduate school for counseling psychology is accredited by state and regional agencies. Program accreditation will depend on what you are studying. Resources include the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)x and the American Psychological Association (APA).xi

Choosing to build your education with accredited programming means that you are striving for certain academic standards and quality. Also, that when it comes time, you are ready to seek licensure.

Take the Next Step

Counseling psychology graduate programs prepare students to help others in one capacity or other. Perhaps this means providing direct care to patients in settings such as schools, physician’s offices, substance abuse treatment centers, mental health clinics or in private practice. There may be many paths to choose from. Sound interesting to you? Take the next step and find the program that aligns with your goals. Filter your list by program type or degree level. Then click on sponsored listings to contact schools and learn more!

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