United States Online Counseling Graduate Programs

Online Counseling Degrees are offered at the certificate, masters, and doctoral levels. Masters degrees are common as they generally prepare students for state licensure. Many programs offer areas of study such as addictions, mental health, or school counseling. These make space for students to fine-tune their professional identity and goals. Many of the PhD programs in counseling are designed for current counselorwho want to pursue a career as educators, researchers, or supervisors. If you have the desire to help others in a professional capacity, the convenience of an online counseling degree may facilitate your academic goals. 

What Are Online LPC Programs?

Some online counseling degrees may prepare students to pursue licensure as professional counselors (LPC). Professional Clinical Counseling is one of several behavioral health services that requires a state license for private practice. Across the United States the professional title often varies. But to use it, one usually needs a masters level education, and post-degree supervised practice.i 

Course of Study for Professional Counseling

Online LPC Programs often follow set guidelines in their educational process.

  • Coursework (ethics, counseling theories)
  • Residencies to learn and practice basic skills (e.g. role play)
  • Fieldwork (supervised internship and practicum in approved location)

Therapist, Counselor, or Psychologist?

The words ‘therapist’ and ‘counselor’ may be tossed around rather generically. And, there are many types of online counseling degrees to consider, each with potentially different points of view, courses, and outcomes. As such, you may need to think about what your goals are. Do you want to mentor business professionals? Are you more engaged in research? Is your mission to help those with substance-abuse issues?

Licensed psychologists

Licensed psychologists typically have a PhD in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree, and may start out with a Masters in Counseling Psychology. Those who practice independently are state-licensed which means they have fulfilled internship and supervised professional practice requirements. Also, they have passed the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.i As health professionals, their education is based on clinical psychological research into the human brain and behavior. This means, they may assess and make clinical evaluations of clients’ mental health and diagnose mental illness.

Therapist

The use of the title “therapist” is a protected one that usually requires a state license and masters level education. As a broad category, it could include various kinds of Psychologists, Licensed Social Workers, Counselors, Art Therapists, as well as Marriage and Family Therapists. These professionals take a behavioral approach to therapy rather than a scientific one. Some of the degrees that may offer routes to the protected title of therapist might include: Master in Psychology, Master in Marriage and Family Therapy, Master of Social Work, Master in Counseling or a Doctorate in any of those fields.

Licensed Professional Counselor

The title “counselor” is often used as an umbrella term for both licensed clinicians with advanced degrees and other forms of counseling (mental health, school counseling). As stated, it is a title that usually requires a state license and masters level education. While counselors may lack the clinical research found in psychology programs, licensed professional counselors (LPC) do use intervention skills. Their goal is to empower others to work through their life challenges. Whether this means emotional stress, anxiety, career, or school and relational issues. They also advocate for and work with clients to find strategies that might improve things such as their ability to cope. Or to strengthen self-esteem and promote positive changes. Familiar with human development across the lifespan and consultation theories, they often provide individual, couples, family, or group counseling: all practical skills that online counseling degree programs may help to instill in learners.

DID YOU KNOW?

Professional counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.ii

Types of Online Counseling Degrees

To be considered for online counseling programs, applicants often need a bachelors degree from an accredited university. In some schools, an undergraduate or masters degree in psychology, education, behavioral science, social work, or a related field is preferred. Applicants may also have to show an aptitude for counseling through professional, volunteer, research, or personal experience. 

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

Students in an online Master of Arts in Counseling programs may explore human thought process, emotion, and motivation. While requirements vary in Online Counseling Degrees, in some schools, students may take about 60 credits of courses. Also, it is not uncommon to have to take part in personal psychotherapy sessions, an internship, and practicum. Some schools offer areas of study where a student may acquire the skills to provide counseling services to a specific group.

  • Addiction Counseling: An Online Masters in Counseling with a focus on addiction might cover theory, applied psychology, and counseling. Courses might cover human development, child and adult psychopathology and treatment, professional ethics, assessment and statistics, and counseling techniques. This emphasis may help students develop the skills needed to offer guidance and treatment to people who struggle with addictive behaviors.
  • Mental Health Counseling: An Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling may provide students with skills to offer therapeutic assistance for patients with mental illness. Courses might provide tools to assess clients in crisis, theories of psychotherapy, and ethics.  

Online Master of Science in Psychology

An online Master of Science in Psychology might with an emphasis in coaching might explore techniques and motivational methods. Students are likely to examine things like goals, behavior patterns, and cognitive processes. In addition to ethics and statistics, course topics may provide insight into how to coach or mentor executives. 

Online Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The online Master of Education (MEd) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling may provide the tools and know-how to provide clinical counseling to a broad range of groups. Course content might cover multiple therapies, interpersonal relationships, symptom categories, and substance abuse. Also, a practicum and several for-credit internships are usually required.

Online Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

An online Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology may cover topics such as lifespan development, human sexuality, and applied psychological research. A course of study in counseling psychology might also explore neuroscience and pharmacology. Some programs might prepare students to pursue licensure as Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC).

Online PhD in Psychology

The online PhD in Psychology is a research-based degree in the field of psychology. Coursework often dives into current theories and best practices, and may empower learners to mix their scholarly research with practical expertise. Some programs in some online universities may allow students to earn their Master of Science in Psychology while they work toward their PhD. Also, there may be several different tracks to choose from. Social psychology, health psychology, and educational psychology are a few examples.  

Online Graduate Certificate in Coaching

An online graduate certificate in coaching may entail about 16 course credits. While not a full degree, a graduate certificate might fit the needs of those who seek advanced education. Applicants tend to have a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology, counseling, or a related field. In their coursework, students might explore basic theory, skills, and techniques. Also, course topics might cover motivation, leadership theory, communication, data analysis, and responses to psychology and sociology.  

How Are Online Counseling Programs Structured?

Most online counseling degree programs provide coursework through a course-management system. Online students typically use the web to access course materials, announcements, email, distance library services, subscription library databases, and for interaction with faculty and fellow students. To facilitate interaction, students may use threaded discussion boards, white boards, chat rooms, email, and multimedia presentations. Also, some platforms allow students to submit assignments online in multimedia formats and to receive their professors' reviews of assignments online in the same formats.

So, while you may have to learn well independently, online counseling degrees may provide flexibility and convenience if you are employed, a busy adult, or live too far from an accredited counseling program.

Find Accredited Online Counseling Programs

Online counseling degrees are available through regionally-accredited universities. CACREP accredited online counseling programs are those that have been professionally approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). These programs tend to follow specific standards and guidelines for masters and doctoral counseling degree programs.

So What's Next?

Compare online counseling degrees at the masters, doctorate, and certificate levels. Easily scroll through paid programs and contact the schools with the on-page form. Some online universities have rolling admissions which means, if you are accepted, you may not have to wait too long to get started. Check it out now!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm| [ii] counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling/overview

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