The Top 25 Most Affordable Online Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs 2020

By: BCD Staff

October 2019

As a clinical mental health counselor, you can help people better navigate their lives on an internal and external level. You can offer clients ethical, compassionate, and practical guidance as well as support through mental, emotional, and situational hardships in their lives. You can help individuals and groups understand themselves and enable them to create strategies for coping and thriving within their circumstances. 

The following Top 25 Most Affordable Online Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs can help you get there. Each program listed is offered either fully or primarily online, which allows you to start from wherever you are, both geographically and situationally. 

The following list includes some of the most affordable programs available to offer you high-quality education at a relatively low cost. Most of the programs listed are accredited and can lead to the necessary licensure to become a clinical mental health counselor. However, it is still recommended that you should confirm with an agency such as the Department of Human Services to ensure your selected program meets the requirements for your home state. 

Clinical mental health counselors can expect to work with a variety of individuals, groups, and communities facing a range of challenges and struggles in their lives. As a counselor, you may work in a private practice or hospital, a mental health or substance abuse center, a community or government agency, or a correctional facility. You may work with children and adolescents, individual adults, couples, families, or community groups. 

Aspiring counselors should expect to engage in work that can be stressful and sensitive, but also meaningful and rewarding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for counselors is growing at a projected rate of 22%, which is much faster than the average growth rate across all industries. This expected growth reflects individuals' and groups' growing willingness and motivation to seek support and guidance through mental health issues.

Methodology

Best Counseling Degrees is proud to provide counseling students with top-ranking resources and information so they can make informed decisions about their future. While several micro-factors are affecting every school's overall score, primary grading factors are accreditation, affordability, mid-career earning potential, how competitive admissions are for incoming students, student feedback, and school reputation. Each ranking utilizes information provided public sources such as:

  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP)
  • National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator
  • United States Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook

#25 Southern New Hampshire University

Hooksett and Manchester, NH

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Southern New Hampshire University is one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation – and you can grow with it. The university began in 1932 as a business school specializing in accounting and secretarial science. It began delivering distance education programs through the Internet in 1995. Today, the private university uses an open enrollment policy, admitting all applicants who hold a high school diploma or a GED. Though the school has a main campus in suburban Manchester, NH, the majority of students are enrolled in an online capacity. U.S. News & World Report ranks SNHU the number one most innovative school in the northern United States. The university offers a primarily online program leading to a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The curriculum consists of 60 credits of study and includes virtual video components. Students can expect to gain face-to-face experience through two required residencies, 100 hours of practicum experience, and 600 hours of internship work.

Courses Include:

  • Diagnosis of Emotional and Mental Disorders
  • Diversity in Counseling
  • Human Development
  • Prevention and Intervention of Crisis and Trauma
  • Substance Use Disorders and Process Addictions

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $18,810
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: N/A

#24 Eastern University 

St. Davids, PA

Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling

Eastern University began in 1925 as a department in a conservative Baptist theological seminary. It has since become a comprehensive private Christian university in St. Davids, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Though it is officially affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA, the school welcomes an interdenominational administration, faculty, and student population. It offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling through its College of Health and Sciences. Applicants must have already completed two prerequisite undergraduate behavioral science courses. The degree program can be completed entirely online, or in an accelerated blended format of online and evening classes. Students can choose from three concentrations: Applied Behavior Analysis Certification, General Track, or Trauma Studies. Students in the accelerated program can complete their degree in two years, while fully online students usually need three years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. The degree program is designed to prepare students for Philadelphia licensure as professional counselors.

Courses Include:

  • Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Grief and Loss
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Personality Dynamics and Psychosocial Assessment
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling Practice

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $16,560
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

#23 Bradley University

Peoria, IL

Master of Arts in Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Philanthropist Lydia Moss Bradley began Bradley University to create meaning from tragedy: Moss founded the school in 1897 in memory of her late husband and their six children. Originally a polytechnic institute, the school later expanded to include education in the classics, industrial arts, and home economics. Today, the private university prepares independent, useful students through programs like its Master of Arts in Counseling with a major in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Students can complete their required practicum experience in their local area with their selected site supervisor. The program is designed to prepare graduates for the National Counselor Exam and to provide a direct path to licensure.

Courses Include:

  • Career and Life Planning Across the Life Span
  • Consultation in the Helping Professions
  • Couples and Family Counseling
  • Neurocounseling: Bridging Brain and Behavior
  • Psychopharmacology in Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $15,660
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

#22 Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Even though it is headquartered in the Capella Tower skyscraper in Minneapolis, MN, Capella University delivers its education online. The school began in 1993 as The Graduate School of America. Today, Capella primarily serves adult learners: the majority of students study at the master's level, and the average student age is 39 years. Most students are enrolled in the university's Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, which houses programs such as the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program's curriculum consists of 22 required courses, including ten core courses and seven specialization courses. It covers topics in professional counseling such as addictions, ethics, and human sexuality. Students can expect to gain hands-on experience through a practicum experience, two internships, and two six-day residencies. The program follows Capella's GuidedPath model, which features a structured schedule with Sunday deadlines.

Courses Include:

  • Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations
  • Human Sexuality
  • Survey of Research in Human Development for Professional Counselors
  • Theories of Psychotherapy

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $14,365
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

#21 St. Bonaventure University

Allegany, NY

Master of Science in Education Clinical Mental Health Counseling

St. Bonaventure University is named after Bonaventure, a Franciscan cardinal and theologian, and was founded in 1858 by the Franciscan Brothers. Today, it is a private, Franciscan Catholic university in rural Allegany, NY. U.S. News & World Report ranks St. Bonaventure No. 19 in the northern United States and third in the region for best value. Students can personalize their studies based on their related experience and their future goals. The program's online environment includes interaction through email, phone, online discussion boards, and video conferencing. The curriculum includes counseling coursework in areas such as addiction counseling, crisis counseling, and research methods. Students can expect to complete 300 hours of internship work and attend two four-day, on-campus residencies. The program is designed to prepare graduates for the licensed professional counselor exam, and graduates have a 98% pass rate on the exam.

Courses Include:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Advanced Human Growth and Development
  • Introduction to the Profession of Counseling
  • Research Methods
  • Theories and Techniques of Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $13,194
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#20 Regent University

Alexandria, VA

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Regent University was founded in 1977 by televangelist Pat Robertson as Christian Broadcasting Network University. The private, evangelical Christian university delivers education both on its suburban campus in Virginia Beach, VA, and from a distance through online technologies. U.S. News & World Report ranks Regent among the top 50 schools in the nation for awarding Pell Grants to economically disadvantaged students. The university offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its School of Psychology & Counseling. The program incorporates biblical principles into its approach to mental health counseling. Students who pursue the degree online must attend two week-long residencies over the course of the program, and can complete their internship placements in their local area. Each student can choose one of three program pace options to best suit their schedule. An exit exam is required for all students in order to graduate.The degree program is designed to prepare graduates for careers as licensed counselors.

Courses Include:

  • Career & Lifestyle Development
  • Concepts of Family Systems
  • Counseling & Christian Thought
  • Crisis, Trauma & Clinical Mental Health
  • Multicultural Counseling

Unique Features: 

    • Cost: $12,726
    • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#19 Colorado Christian University

Lakewood, CO

Master of Arts in Counseling

Colorado Christian University began in 1914 as the Denver Bible Institute. Today, it is a private, Christian liberal arts university located in suburban Lakewood, CO. Psychology is the university's most popular major. CCU offers a Master of Arts in Counseling through its College of Adult and Graduate Studies. The degree program can be completed primarily online, but it does have a residency requirement. Online cohorts begin each year in July. The degree program follows a Christian framework and blends coursework, hands-on learning experiences, and mentorship in the counseling realm. The curriculum consists of core counseling courses, a Bible and theology component, a practicum and internship, a residency, and electives. It covers areas of counseling such as career development, developmental psychology, family systems, and group therapy. Most classes in the curriculum are offered in seven-week course sessions. Students can complete their degree in as few as two and a half years of full-time study. 

Courses Include:

  • Anxiety and Mood Disorders
  • Empathy Training
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Spiritual Formation for Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $12,511
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#18 Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Master of Counseling in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Oregon State University is one of the nation's four land-, sea-, space-, and sun-grant universities. It was established in 1868 and designated as Oregon's agricultural college. Today, it is a public research university with Carnegie classifications for "highest research activity" and "community engagement." Located in Corvallis, OR, it is the state's largest university. U.S. News & World Report ranks OSU No. 64 among public universities nationwide, and No. 33 in innovation. The university offers a Master of Counseling with an option in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its College of Education. The program is delivered in a hybrid format with online and in-person components, and it follows a collaborative cohort group model. In-person classes are held over two weekends per term in Wilsonville, OR. Students can expect to complete two terms of practicum experience and five terms of internship work. The degree is designed to be completed in three and a half to four years of part-time study.

Courses Include:

  • Appraisal of Individual
  • Crisis, Trauma, & Grief Counseling
  • Cross-Cultural Counseling
  • Developmental Perspectives in Counseling
  • Family Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $12,339 in-state; $22,761 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#17 Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania

Lock Haven, PA

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In its early years, Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania was a teacher training school. Established in 1870, it later became a state college and a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Today, LHU is a public university that offers 69 undergraduate programs and four graduate programs. U.S. News & World Report classifies it as one of the top 100 universities in the northern United States, and No. 24 among public universities in the region. LHU offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its College of Business, Information Systems, and Human Services. The degree program is delivered entirely online on a year-round schedule, and it does not have any residency requirements. Course material is delivered synchronously, meaning students must tune in to live virtual course sessions. Each student must complete 100 practicum hours and 600 internship hours on approved sites. Students are able to complete the degree on a full- or part-time basis. The program also meets the Pennsylvania requirements for professional counselor licensure. 

Courses Include:

  • Addiction Counseling
  • Differential Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
  • Ethical, Legal and Professional Issues in Counseling
  • Individual, Family, Couples, and Group Counseling
  • Theories and Models of Counseling Across the Lifespan

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $12,000 in-state; $18,000 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#16 Thomas University

Thomasville, GA

Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling

The Primitive Baptist Church chartered Birdwood Junior College in 1950. The school has since evolved into Thomas University, a private, independent university in Thomasville, GA. U.S. News & World Report ranks the university No. 96 nationally for its graduate rehabilitation counseling program. The university's Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling is delivered entirely online, with no residency requirements. It is designed to meet licensure in all 50 states, and to prepare graduates for national rehabilitation counselor certification. Students complete a fieldwork placement in their area of residence. The program requires 100 hours of clinical practice and 900 hours of internship work. Students can expect to interact one-on-one with an assigned academic advisor to ensure their success in the program. Students may pursue a specialization in Addictions that requires an additional 12 credits of study.

Courses Include:

  • Behavioral Research Methods
  • Case Management & Community Resources
  • Human Sexuality
  • Medical Aspects of Disability
  • Psychosocial & Multicultural Aspects of Disability

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $11,790
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#15 Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home was founded in 1909 in Harrisburg, PA, by the Brethren in Christ Church. The school is now a private Christian college called Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. It has a nondenominational Christian affiliation that manifests in required theology courses, Chapel services, and a biblically guided student honor code. U.S. News & World Report ranks Messiah No. 13 for best value in the northern United States. The college offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, which can be earned primarily online. Courses are offered in accelerated eight-week sessions online, and through one-week intensive courses in January and July, which are held on campus. The program offers personalized advising, live course meetings, and interaction through email, phone, and Skype. Students must complete 100 practicum hours and 600 hours of internship work in order to graduate. Students can follow a track to complete their degree in two, three, or four years. The degree program prepares students to take the Licensed Professional Counselor Exam for Pennsylvania and many other states.

Courses Include:

  • Advanced Techniques: Anger, Ostracism, Forgiveness and Reconciliation
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Counseling Children and Adolescents
  • Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling
  • Spiritual Formation and Faith Based Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $11,610
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#14 Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion, IN

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Indiana Wesleyan University is the largest private university in Indiana, measured by student enrollment. It grew from Fairmount Bible School, which added a teacher education program and became a liberal arts school in 1920. The school was established on the former campus of the Marion Normal College in Marion, IN. Today, it is a private Christian university with students enrolled on the Marion campus, online, and at learning centers throughout Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. The university also operates the evangelical Christian Wesley Seminary. U.S. News & World Report ranks IWU No. 25 in the Midwest. The university offers a Master of Arts with a major in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The major follows a licensure track to prepare licensed counselors through faith-based learning and professional practice. A supervised internship is required, as well as supervised practicum experiences to be completed on the university's Marion campus or Indianapolis site. The program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. 

Courses Include:

  • Ecological Counseling and Prevention
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Issues in Addiction Recovery
  • Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues
  • Multicultural Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $10,764
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#13 Malone University

Canton, OH

Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In 1892, Quaker religious leaders J. Walter and Emma Malone founded a small Bible school called Cleveland Bible College. The school's original mission was to train young people for urban ministry and social service. It is now a private liberal arts university called Malone University and is located in Canton, OH. The school is affiliated with the Evangelical Friends Church, but it serves a student community from a variety of religious backgrounds. U.S. News & World Report ranks Malone No. 53 in the Midwest and No. 12 in the region for economic value. The university offers a master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program can be completed entirely online or in a hybrid format of online and onsite learning. Designed to prepare students to take the National Counselor Licensure Examination, the program has been approved by the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. The curriculum includes counseling coursework and hands-on internship and practicum experiences. Students can complete their degree in two to three years.

Courses Include:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Counseling Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Populations
  • Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
  • Group Dynamics, Process, and Counseling
  • Spirituality and Religion in Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $10,710
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#12 Bellevue University

Bellevue, NE

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Since its 1966 founding, Bellevue University has focused on providing flexible, affordable education for working adults. The private, non-profit university has a suburban campus in Bellevue, NE, and a variety of online offerings. It has an open enrollment policy, meaning all applicants with a high school diploma or GED can be admitted. However, all applicants to the university's Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program must have completed six prerequisite credit hours in the behavioral sciences. The MS degree program can be completed online, but each student must attend two on-campus residency experiences throughout the program. Students are also responsible for completing 100 supervised practicum hours and 600 hours of supervised clinical internship. Upon university approval, these clinical hours may be completed in the student's home state. The degree program is designed to prepare students to take the National Mental Health Counselor Licensing Exam. 

Courses Include:

  • Applied Neuroscience and Psychopharmacology
  • Helping Relationships and Orientation to the Counseling Profession
  • Human Development Throughout the Lifespan
  • Orthodox Judaic Theoretical Perspectives
  • Social and Cultural Diversity

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $10,170
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#11 Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, KY

Master of Education in Counseling & Human Development, specialization in Mental Health Counseling

Lindsey Wilson College was named in memory of the late stepson of one of the school's donors, Catherine Wilson of Lebanon, KY. Founded in 1903, the school was originally a grade school focused on preparing students to study at Vanderbilt University and to become teachers. U.S. News & World Report ranks LWC among the top 100 schools in the South, and No. 49 for supporting economically disadvantaged students through Pell Grants. The college offers a Master of Education in Counseling & Human Development with a specialization in Mental Health Counseling. The program emphasizes applied learning through clinical instruction, group activities, 150 practicum hours, and 600 hours of internship work. However, it is not designed to prepare graduates for school counselor licensure. Students in the program may additionally choose to pursue the college's graduate certificate in Substance Abuse Counseling.

Courses Include:

  • Evaluation of Mental & Emotional Status
  • Personal Growth & Development Group
  • Play Therapy
  • Systemic Family Therapy

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $9,899
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#10 Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Measured by student enrollment, Grand Canyon University is the largest Christian university in the world. Since its 1949 establishment by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, GCU has grown into a private, evangelical Christian university. U.S. News & World Report ranks GCU No. 42 in the nation for awarding Pell Grants to lower-income students. The university's College of Humanities and Social Sciences houses a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program's intensive curriculum emphasizes ethics and incorporates evidence-based theories and practical application in counseling. All students complete a Career Counseling course, a counseling practicum, and two internship experiences. The degree program is designed to meet the academic requirements for the National Certified Counselor credential, the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential, and the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. 

Courses Include:

  • Assessment of Mental and Emotional Health Status
  • Counseling the Culturally Diverse
  • Human Sexuality and Issues of Aging
  • Psychopathology
  • Substance Use Disorders and Addictions

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $9,737
  • Credits Required: 62
  • Accreditation: N/A

#9 West Virginia University

Morgantown, WV

Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling

West Virginia University was established in 1867 as the Agricultural College of West Virginia. It has since grown into a public, research-intensive, land- and space-grant university. A Carnegie-classified top-tier research university, WVU is affiliated with the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute, which researches diseases that affect the brain. It is a multi-campus institution with three main sub-campuses in suburban Morgantown, WV. U.S. News & World Report ranks WVU No. 109 among public universities nationwide, and No. 37 nationally in graduate-level rehabilitation counseling studies. The university's Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling is delivered through online learning with a residency requirement. The program prepares graduates to help individuals recover from chronic health conditions, mental health disorders, neurological events, and beyond. The curriculum consists of 18 required courses for a total of 63 credits of study. It includes a supervised counseling practicum and clinical practice internship.

Courses Include:

  • Addictions Counseling
  • Career Development and Job Placement
  • Crisis Trauma Grief Counseling
  • Cultural Issues
  • Disability Across the Lifespan

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $9,450 in-state; $24,390 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 63
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#8 North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

North Carolina State University is the largest university in the Carolinas, and one of the largest in the United States as well, based on student enrollment. It was established as a land-grant college in 1887, and it is now a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university. Located in Raleigh, NC, NC State makes up one corner of the region's Research Triangle, along with Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. U.S. News & World Report ranks NC State No. 69 for best value, No. 34 among public schools, and No. 31 in innovation nationally. The university offers a Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its department of Online and Distance Education. All students who apply for the online option must live in North Carolina. The program's online learning environment incorporates a cohort group learning model and multimedia technologies, including online discussion boards and lecture videos. However, some on-campus courses are required during the students' final year of study. The curriculum emphasizes multicultural counseling and the design and implementation of preventative interventions. The degree program is designed to be completed in three years of part-time study and can lead to professional licensure in select states. 

Courses Include:

  • Group Counseling
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Multicultural Lifespan Development in Educational Context
  • Special Problems in Guidance
  • Theories and Tech of Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $8,492 in-state; $23,967 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#7 Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Based on student enrollment, Liberty University is one of the largest private, non-profit universities in the United States, and one of the largest Christian universities in the world. Founded by Baptist pastors in 1971, the university now has an evangelical Christian affiliation and serves a primarily online student population. It has a main campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains in suburban Lynchburg, VA. Liberty offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through its School of Behavioral Sciences. The program is delivered primarily online, with two required intensive courses with flexible scheduling. Students can expect to observe professional counselors at work during the counseling practicum and to exercise their own skills through two semesters of internship work. All students must culminate their studies by successfully completing a comprehensive exam. The program is designed to prepare students to gain state licensure and become licensed professional counselors.

Courses Include:

  • Counseling Techniques & the Helping Relationship
  • Ethics & Legal Issues in Counseling
  • Integration of Spirituality & Counseling
  • Substance Abuse: Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention
  • Theories of Family Systems

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $8,217
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#6 Grace College and Seminary

Winona Lake, IN

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Grace College began in 1948 as a two-year undergraduate division of Grace Theological Seminary. It has since expanded into a private, four-year, liberal arts college. The seminary and school have historically been affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, but they now have an evangelical Christian affiliation, and both serve and employ individuals from various denominations. In its rankings of institutions in the Midwest, U.S. News & World Report ranks Grace No. 75 in the region and No. 10 for awarding Pell Grants. The college offers a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through online learning. Coursework is delivered fully online, but each student must attend an annual, week-long, on-campus residency in Winona Lake, IN. The curriculum applies biblical principles to the study and practice of counseling. Students can expect to complete three fieldwork courses, including practicum and internship components. 

Courses Include:

  • Contemporary Issues and Trends in Counseling
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Personality and Counseling Theories
  • Psychotherapy with Children and Adolescents
  • Spirituality in Counseling

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $7,888
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#5 University of Louisiana at Monroe

Monroe, LA

Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In the decades following its 1931 establishment, the University of Louisiana at Monroe evolved from a junior college to a Louisiana State University center to its own state college. Located in Monroe, LA, it is now a public university and part of the University of Louisiana System. ULM offers a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The degree program is delivered entirely online through the university's College of Health Sciences, and it does not require students to attend any in-person residencies. However, some online courses are delivered through live course sessions. The curriculum covers clinical areas such as anxiety and mood disorders, domestic violence, eating disorders, and trauma. Students can expect to engage in one year of clinical experience, which includes two semesters of clinical internship work and a single-semester counseling practicum supervised by a licensed professional counselor. Students who complete the program may qualify for professional counselor licensure in certain states.

Courses Include:

  • Addictions
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Counseling
  • Maladaptive Psychopathology
  • Multicultural Populations
  • Trauma

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $6,490 in-state; $18,590 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#4 Lamar University

Beaumont, TX

Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In 2010, the Washington Post ran the tagline, "Forget Harvard and think Lamar." The line was based on an American Council of Trustees and Alumni study that gave Lamar University an "A" rating for core curriculum standards. Founded in 1923 as a junior college, Lamar is now a comprehensive, public, space-grant state university. The university offers an online degree program leading to a Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. With multiple start date options, the program is designed to offer flexibility for individuals with personal and professional responsibilities. The curriculum includes coursework in multiple therapies, and clinical experience through a practicum and two internships. Each student must attend two five-week, on-campus residencies during their studies. Students can earn their degree in as few as two and a half years.

Courses Include:

  • Abnormal Human Behavior
  • Counseling Skills
  • Crisis Prevention & Intervention
  • Professionalism, Ethics and the Law
  • Psychopathology and Basic Pharmacology

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $6,174 in-state; $13,644 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#3 University of the Cumberlands

Williamsburg, KY

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Williamsburg Institute was established in 1888 in response to the efforts of 18 eastern Kentucky Baptist churches. Today, it is known as the University of the Cumberlands, a name that reflects its location along the Cumberland River in rural Williamsburg, KY. The private, non-profit college focuses on providing a liberal arts education rooted in Christian principles. U.S. News & World Report ranks University of the Cumberlands No. 17 nationally in awarding Pell Grants to support low-income students. The university offers an online degree program leading to a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program's core curriculum prioritizes ethical leadership and explores areas such as grief and crisis, human growth and development, and psychological assessment. Courses are offered in eight-week sessions, and students can choose to take one or two courses per term.

Courses Include:

  • Counseling During Grief and Crisis
  • Etiology and Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Psychological Assessment in Clinical Practice
  • Theories & Techniques for Treatment of Process Addictions & Substance Abuse

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $5,670
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#2 North Carolina Central University

Durham, NC

Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling

North Carolina Central University was the United States' first state-supported liberal arts college for black students. It was affiliated with the Chautauqua educational movement, which aimed to bring entertainment and culture to rural areas around the early 1900s. The school is now a public, historically black university and a member institution of Thurgood Marshall College Fund. In its southern rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranks NCCU No. 54 in the region, No. 44 for best value, and No. 21 among public schools. NCCU offers a fully online program leading to a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling. The program curriculum is designed to prepare students to apply for North Carolina professional counselor licensure. It is structured in three curriculum phases, beginning with foundational counseling coursework, then diving into assessment and statistics courses, and culminating in a supervised practicum, internship, and research methods course. Students may choose to take three additional courses in order to pursue Clinical Addictions Specialist licensure.

Courses Include:

  • Ethical & Professional Orientation to Counseling
  • Introduction to Family Counseling
  • Multicultural and Gender Issues in Counseling
  • Psychosocial Development and Behavioral Dynamics
  • Vocational Theory and Career Development

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $4,740 in-state; $17,694 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

#1 Adams State University

Alamosa, CA

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Adams State University was founded in 1921 as a teacher's college to educate teachers in rural areas of Colorado. Today, it is a public university in Alamosa, CO, in the San Luis Valley. U.S. News & World Report ranks Adams State No. 36 in the western United States for awarding needs-based Pell Grants. The university's Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is Best Counseling Degrees' top most affordable online master's program in the field. The degree program features fully online coursework and two week-long, on-campus, intensive summer residencies. The online learning environment includes live courses that use a two-way interactive audio chat, as well as non-live, text-based courses. The Clinical Mental Health emphasis requires two internships and one practicum. The program is designed to be completed in five consecutive semesters of full-time study. 

Courses Include:

  • Counseling Theories & the Helping Relationship
  • Couple/Family/System Counseling
  • Crisis, Disaster, and Trauma
  • Ethics & Professional Issues
  • Multicultural & Diversity Issues

Unique Features: 

  • Cost: $4,590 in-state; $10,746 out-of-state
  • Credits Required: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs