Top 15 Accredited Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online Degree Programs

By Kirsten Hughes

An online master’s in clinical mental health counseling will prepare graduates to pursue their professional goals of a career as a licensed and professional mental health counselor. Distance learning is a great opportunity for the self disciplined student who is looking for more flexibility and independence in order to balance work, family, and graduate school commitments. Mental health counselors are trained to provide assessment and treatment services to a diverse population of clients in a broad range of settings. Highlighted here is a list of accredited online graduate degrees in clinical/mental health counseling. Many of the programs listed here offer numerous degrees and/or certificates in areas related to mental health counseling.

Internship/ Practicum Experience: Most online master’s in clinical mental health counseling require the completion of a supervised internship and a practicum experience. Do not let these requirements dissuade you from pursuing these programs. The practicum and internship requirements are built into the programs to be completed in ways that feel manageable for even the busiest students. To support students in obtaining licensure following graduation, CACREP standards require the completion of 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship. Practicum and internships are generally completed in your local community and are worth the time and effort because they provide valuable learning opportunities and skill development. Additionally, the experience you gain and the relationships you build during this time are good resume builders and references for future employment opportunities.

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Residencies: Many of the online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs listed here also require residencies. These are face-to-face components of the program, generally taking place a couple of times during the course of the program for a few days to a week at a time. Residencies provide numerous benefits, from developing relationships with fellow students and faculty to enhancing the educational experience. Many graduates of online counseling programs list the residency as a top highlight. Most residencies take place on the main campus. Students should consider extra costs that come along with residencies such as transportation, lodging, and meals.

A note on accreditation and licensure: All schools in this list of online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs are regionally accredited and some of them are also accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Students graduating from accredited programs have a competitive career advantage and often experience a more seamless process towards licensure. Post graduation requirements for licensure vary by state. It is recommended that you check with your state licensing board directly to determine if the program you are interested in meets the educational requirements necessary to work towards licensure in your home state. Following graduation you can begin the licensure process of completing clinical hours and supervision and taking the licensure exam. You must be licensed by your state to practice as a counselor (or work under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor). Contact your state board directly for further information.

If you are motivated to pursue an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling, choosing the school that is the best fit for you is the first step towards accomplishing your goal and advancing your career. We believe that you will find among the schools in this list the best online graduate degree in mental health counseling to meet your personal and professional goals.

For information on how these programs were selected for the ranking, see the methodology statement at the end of this article.

15. Prescott College

Prescott, AZ

Master of Science in Counseling Online: Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Prescott University offers a Master of Science in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This 60 credit hour master of science in counseling degree online program at Prescott University offers five areas of specialization as well as several innovative concentrations. Students will collaborate with faculty to customize their education to meet their career goals. Students are required to attend two residencies per academic year, while this may mean a couple of more residencies than the other schools on this list require the overall time commitment on campus is comparable because the residencies are only 3-4 days rather than a week as some schools require. Graduates of this program will have completed the courses and supervised clinical experiences necessary to prepare them to pursue licensure (in most states) and careers as mental health counselors.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $17,760

Residency requirements:

Students completing their master’s degree with online courses are required to participate in residencies on the Prescott campus during each Fall and Spring semester. Each Prescott Colloquium begins on Friday morning and goes until Sunday or Monday afternoon. The colloquia provide the opportunity for students to connect and collaborate with their cohort and faculty.

Areas of specialization include:

Clinical mental health counseling; couple and family therapy counseling; clinical rehabilitation counseling; addiction counseling, and school counseling. Additionally, Prescott College is one of a select handful of programs in the United States to offer the following concentrations: adventure-based psychotherapy; ecopsychology, equine-assisted mental health; and expressive art therapy.

14. Nova Southeastern University

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling

Nova Southeastern University’s College of Psychology offers an online Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. This online degree requires, as most programs do, for students to complete a supervised clinical practicum/ internship in their hometown at a program approved site. This 60 credit hour program will prepare graduates for professional careers in working with issues such as substance abuse, family violence, divorce, aging, and general emotional problems. The online coursework can be completed from anywhere in the world, allowing students to complete a graduate degree while maintaining their current work and family commitments.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $15,882

Residency:

An annual professional development institute is scheduled each year on the main campus in Fort Lauderdale. Concentrations are available in: mental health counseling; substance abuse counseling; substance abuse counseling and education; or behavior analysis.

13. Medaille College

Buffalo, NY

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

Medaille College offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online. This degree is offered online and on campus. Medaille College aims to provide their program in a flexible format to fit the scheduling demands of all students. Students are supported throughout the program to meet their academic and professional goals. Students can complete the 60 credit hour program in as little as 2 1/2 years. Graduates of this program will be competent in a broad range of areas including clinical assessments, case conceptualization, and ethical standards.

  • Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $14,688

Clinical Mental Health Counseling specializations include:

Addictions and substance abuse; aging; family, parenting, and marital problems; self-esteem; stress management.

12. University of the Southwest

Hobbs, NM

Master of Science in Education in Mental Heatlh Counseling Online

The University of the Southwest (USW) offers a Master of Science in Education in Mental Health Counseling program online. Graduate students at USW can choose between two graduate programs in Mental Health Counseling: a 48 hour program and a 60 hour program. The reason for this option is that some states require a minimum of 48 hours while others require a minimum of 60 hours for licensure. A graduate student may pick the program consistent with his or her state’s requirements. The program provides all of the courses necessary for students to work towards licensure in New Mexico and many other states.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Graduate Tuition: $10,440

A variety of electives are available to choose from including:

Play therapy; clinical supervision; counseling traumatized clients; addictions counseling; and human sexuality.

11.Faulkner University

Montgomery, AL

Master of Science in Counseling Online

Faulkner University offers a Master of Science in Counseling Online. This program integrates a Christian-based worldview within the mental health profession. Graduates of this program go on to work in a variety of clinical settings – from community agencies to Christian ministries. As with most other online programs, graduates are eligible to pursue licensure in the state where the program is based – in this case, Alabama, with reciprocity being offered with some other states. Faulkner recommends that students verify with the counseling board in their homes state regarding the potential for licensure. Program electives include: marriage and family therapy; substance abuse counseling; and suicide intervention and counseling.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • Graduate Tuition: $9,180

Residency requirements:

Students in this program are required to complete two one-week on-campus residencies during the program. Residencies are scheduled for the third weeks of January and September each year and provide students with hands-on field experience.

10. Wake Forest University

Winston Salem, NC

Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

Wake Forest University offers an CACREP accredited Master of Arts in Counseling Online. This 60 credit hour program offers specialty courses for students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program including: clinical mental health counseling; classification of mental and emotional disorders; and issues in clinical mental health counseling. The program covers specific areas of interest such as: abuse and addictions; career counseling; and disaster and crisis. This program leads to eligibility as a Licensed Professional Counselor after meeting post graduation requirements.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $35,364

Residency requirements:

Online students are required to complete two residencies. Residencies are offered Thursday night through Sunday at noon on campus. Dates for residencies will be announced six months in advance. Students will have the opportunity at residencies to connect with and build relationships with peers and faculty. Faculty will support students through evaluations and ensuring that student’s practicum and internship placements are a good fit.

9. University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA

Online Master of Science in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health

The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers an Online Master of Science in Counseling with three options for degree concentration: Clinical Mental Health Counseling; School Counseling; or both specializations. The School of Health Professions (SHP) Counseling Programs are accredited by the CACREP. Students in this program will have the opportunity to engage in supportive and collaborative relationships with their peers to enhance their learning experience. Graduates of this program will be prepared to work with diverse populations from a wide range of backgrounds, in numerous clinical settings.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $17,708

Residency requirements:

All counseling students are required to attend a week-long residency program prior to starting their second year in the program.

8. Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Regent University offers an Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. This 60 credit hour online degree prepares graduates to incorporate a biblical foundation in their clinical work. As professional counselors, graduates of Regent University will bring spiritual balance to their counseling approach. Students are encouraged while in the program to strengthen their own self awareness along with professional and clinical skills. Students can begin the program in the fall or spring semester and can complete the program in as little as two years.

  • Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $15,600

Residency requirements:

Students in this online master’s program are required to complete three week-long residencies during the course of the program. Residencies provide students the opportunity to consult and collaborate with peers and faculty.

7. Bradley University

Peoria, IL

Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Specialization

Bradley University now offers an Master of Arts in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling online. This CACREP accredited program prepares graduates to take the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). Students can take the NCE the semester in which they graduate. Passing the NCE permits students to start working towards state licensure. Graduates of this program will be prepared for careers as professional counselors with the ability to work with diverse client populations covering a range of issues from substance abuse, to family conflicts, to grief counseling. Along with preparing graduates for professional licensure, graduates of Bradley University will also find they are well prepared to pursue a doctoral degree.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $14,580

Unique feature:

Bradley University sets itself apart from other online programs with it’s focus on current neuroscience-based practices. Students will study neuro-counseling and learn how the mind works and how counseling impacts the brain. Residency requirements: Offered during the first term and the eighth term, students are required to complete two, one-week-long campus-based residencies.

6. Colorado Christian University

Lakewood, CO

Online Master of Arts in Counseling

Colorado Christian University offers an Online Master of Arts in Counseling centered on integrating counseling principles with Christian faith. This 60 credit CACREP accredited program can be completed in 2 1/2 years. Online courses are generally offered in 7-week blocks to 12-week blocks. Students in this program will participate in online courses and residential training. Students in the program will take the courses in a prescribed progression and will have the opportunity to develop supportive relationships with their cohort through synchronistic course experiences and at the residencies. Students are encouraged to be self reflective throughout their time in the program.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $13,881

Residency requirements:

Three 5-day residencies are required for online students. These intensive trainings take place at CCU’s Lakewood Campus. The residencies take place at specific stages of the program. Residencies provide students the opportunity to connect with professors and peers in their cohort while learning essential counseling skills. The residences also allow time for students to connect with one another in meaningful fellowship.

5. Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling Online

The Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Science at Capella University offers a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling Online. The CACREP accredited program offers coursework and clinical experience that will prepare graduates to work towards licensure.

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Specialization courses are available in: foundations of addiction and addictive behavior; human sexuality; child and adolescent counseling; marriage and family systems; mental health counseling approaches and interventions; group counseling and clinical applications in mental health counseling; applied research and program evaluation in mental health counseling. Students will complete the practicum (100 hours) and internship (600 hours) requirements as outlined by CACREP standards. The practicum will offer students the opportunity to gain valuable clinical skills under supervision of an approved supervisor. The internship experience will allow students to focus on supervision, teaching and research.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $13,770

Residency requirements:

Many graduates of Capella University list their residency experience as the most valuable part of their educational experience. Students are required to complete two in person residencies. Each residency is 7 days long and takes place in the middle of a corresponding 6 week course. During residencies students will have the opportunity to collaborate with others as they strengthen skills in areas such as scholarly communication, crisis management, and issues related to ethics and diversity. Every effort is made to make the residencies as accessible as possible for current students in the program and so residencies are offered in alternating locations throughout the U.S. annually.

4. Walden University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

Walden University offers a CACREP accredited Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online. Walden University is currently offering students accepted into the program a $7,500 Counseling Change-Maker Grant toward the cost of tuition, to be applied over the course of 8 terms.

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The program offers several areas of specialization that will prepare graduates to contribute to the mental health and wellness of diverse populations in a variety of professional settings. Graduates of the M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will be prepared to take licensing exams and to meet the academic licensure requirements of many state counseling boards.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $11,925

Specializations available include:

Addiction counseling; career counseling; forensic counseling; military families and culture; and trauma and crisis counseling. Residencies: Students in this program will complete two residencies (6 days each) while in the program. Residencies are offered in convenient locations throughout the year to fit the individual needs of all students. In the face-to-face residencies students will have the opportunity to build relationships with peers and faculty. At residencies students will have the opportunity to become oriented to the field of mental health counseling and prepare for field training.

3. Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

Online Master of Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Track

Messiah College offers a CACREP accredited, faith-based online master’s in clinical mental health counseling. Graduate courses in the counseling program are offered following a specific rotation throughout the year. The program is designed so that all students take the core courses followed by their chosen track. The other two tracks available are marriage, couple, and family counseling and school counseling. Students in this program will complete online coursework, internships, and two one-week face-to-face residency courses. Students are encouraged to choose to complete the program following the two, three, or four year model. However, students have up to six years to complete the program. Graduates of this program will be academically prepared to take the exam to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.

  • Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $10,710

Residency requirements:

Students in this program are required to take two face-to-face courses as one-week intensive courses. The two courses are 1) professional issues and ethics for counselors and 2) counseling techniques. The courses are offered a couple of times each year (Monday- Friday 8 hours a day) on Messiah College’s campus in Grantham, PA. Students will engage in lecture, group discussion, group work, and various exercises throughout the day as well as alone and in groups in the evening to prepare for the next day’s class.

2. Adams State University

Alamosa, CO

Master of Arts in Counseling Online: Clinical Mental Health Emphasis

Adams State University (ASU) offers a CACREP accredited Online Master of Arts in Counseling with a Clinical Mental Health Emphasis. The online program is designed to meet the needs of students that do not live in proximity to a counseling program and/or whose work schedule makes it challenging to attend on campus classes. The content of the online courses is the same as what is offered in other accredited ASU courses but in an online format. This program requires the completion of two on campus one week summer residency intensives. Graduates of this program will be prepared to pursue licensure as a professional counselor. The Clinical Mental Health Counseling curriculum meets the educational requirements for the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Colorado. As always, students are encouraged to check with their home state licensing board to confirm that the curriculum matches their home state requirements for licensure.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $10,368

Residency requirements:

Adams State University offers two on campus one week summer residency intensives. The required residency experience allows students the opportunity to engage in person with faculty and peers, develop clinical skills, and receive individual support.

1. Grace College

Winona Lake, IN

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online

Grace College offers a CACREP accredited online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health. This degree is a good fit for students who want to prepare for licensure, or pursue a doctoral degree. Additionally, as a faith based program, this program is ideal for those that hope to minister in the mental health field or the local church. Students in this program will have the opportunity to develop a strong understanding of a Christian counselor identity. The program is designed to be moved through with a cohort in a specific sequence. Students that choose to be enrolled full time can complete the 60 credit program in three years.

  • Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • CACREP Accredited
  • Graduate Tuition: $8,592

Residency requirements:

Grace College requires three annual residencies throughout the course of program. Each residency is a 7-10 day session on-campus in scenic Winona Lake, Indiana. The faculty design the residency to be an academic experience that also allows students to foster peer relationships. The goal is that the cohort will carry these relationships into their online learning experience and on into their professional careers. This time will also allow for students to connect with faculty and receive critical advising and training.

Methodology

To develop the ranking of the top 15 accredited online master’s in clinical mental health counseling degrees, we started by using the Institute of Education Sciences’ College Navigator to gather a list of schools that offered an advanced degree in mental health counseling with a distance education option. We then added to this list from schools listed in the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) database that offered advanced degrees clinical mental health counseling with a distance degree option. From this list of programs, we cross-referenced with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to keep only regionally accredited schools. Priority was then given to programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The schools were then ranked (within the 10 CACREP accredited programs and then again within the remaining programs) based on the average graduate student tuition and fees for the academic year 2014-2015 as listed on the College Navigator web site.

Look for an updated ranking of top accredited online master’s in clinical mental health counseling programs in 2018.

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