Best Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2021

Best Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2021

| Staff Writers

Best Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs 2021
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With more and more people seeking mental health counseling services in the U.S., the counseling profession continues to grow.

In fact, the number of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors could increase by nearly 80,000 professionals from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a projected growth rate of 25% — much faster than the national average for all occupations.

If you want to become a clinical mental health counselor, first you need to meet the requirements for licensure. That includes a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. These programs typically last 1-2 years, depending on the program format and the student’s past experience. Online degrees often offer more flexible options, allowing distance learners to enroll in accelerated programs or study at their own pace.

This page lists the best online master’s in mental health counseling programs, all of them accredited and offering students a valuable education.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

Advertisement BestCounselingDegrees.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Best Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree Programs

Rank School Location
1 Bradley University Peoria, IL
2 Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ
3 Lock Haven University Lock Haven, PA
4 Houston Baptist University Houston, TX
5 Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake, IN
6 North Carolina Central University Durham, NC
7 University of Jamestown Jamestown, ND
8 Malone University Canton, OH
9 University of West Alabama Livingston, AL
10 Lamar University Beaumont, TX
  1. Bradley University
    Location

    Peoria, IL

    Bradley's MA in counseling prepares students to sit for the National Counselor Examination and earn Illinois state licensure. Graduates go on to work in clinical mental health settings, hospitals, private practice, and military and veterans' facilities.

    The master's in mental health counseling includes 54 credits of required general counseling coursework and six credits within the clinical mental health counseling specialization. Students also complete 750 hours of supervised work experience during two required internships and one practicum. In the past, students have worked at local medical centers, hospitals, and a research and training clinic. Learners may participate in networking events and professional mentoring through the Chi Sigma Iota honor society.

    Prospective students should submit undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 GPA or higher, two recommendation letters, a short admission essay, and their GRE scores.

    Courses Include

    • Loss and Grief Counseling
    • Counseling Diverse Populations
    • Career and Life Planning Across the Lifespan
    • Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders
    • Psychopharmacology in Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $930/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  2. Seton Hall University
    Location

    South Orange, NJ

    Located in South Orange, New Jersey, Seton Hall offers an online professional counseling program as a joint MA/education specialist (Ed.S.) degree. The program presents counseling and intervention skills within a theoretical groundwork.

    The curriculum combines 48 credits of MA coursework and 12 credits within the Ed.S. component. Students complete internships and one practicum over the course of three semesters. Distance learners also attend two four-day on-campus residencies at the beginning of each school year.

    Seton Hall states that it "has opted not to pursue accreditation through CACREP at this time" because the accreditation "is not in line with the goals and mission of our program." However, the university does possess regional accreditation. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, three recommendation letters, and a personal statement.

    Courses Include

    • Psychology of Human Development
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Counseling and Community Agencies
    • Appraisal and Assessment in Counseling
    • Counselor Ethics in Practice

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $765/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: American Psychological Association; Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy; Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation
  3. Lock Haven University
    Location

    Lock Haven, PA

    Pennsylvania's Lock Haven University offers an online MS in clinical mental health counseling that prepares students for state counselor licensure and the National Counselor Examination.

    Degree-seekers can enroll in the program on a part- or full-time basis. Full-time students take three classes each semester, while part-time students enroll in two. The program includes both asynchronous and synchronous course components, and distance learners must sometimes log on at specific times for lectures or class discussions. The program follows a cohort model, and candidates remain with the same group of classmates throughout their studies.

    Distance learners may pursue a child and adolescent counseling track, a military/veteran track, or a general clinical mental health track. All specializations require 600 internship hours and 100 practicum hours.

    Applicants should submit undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 GPA or higher, three recommendation letters, and a professional goal statement. The admission process also includes faculty and group interviews.

    Courses Include

    • Skills and Techniques in Mental Health Counseling
    • Psychopathology and Differential Diagnosis
    • Creative Therapies for Children and Adolescents
    • Reintegration and Recovery for Veterans and their Families
    • Trauma and Crisis Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $516/credit for Pennsylvania residents; $774/credit for out-of-state residents
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  4. Houston Baptist University
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Graduates of HBU's MA in clinical mental health counseling program go on to work at private practices, clinics, and hospitals, or pursue doctoral study. While distance learners complete most of the counseling master's program online, Texas law requires certain classes to take place on campus.

    Students complete 57 credits of required coursework and one elective course covering topics like sexual addiction and resilience. The curriculum also includes two counseling internships and one practicum. Upon graduation, students must pass the National Counselor Exam and the Texas Jurisprudence Exam before applying for the state's licensed professional counselor credential.

    Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree, participate in an admission interview, and submit two recommendation letters with their GRE scores. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA over 3.0 can bypass the GRE requirement.

    Courses Include

    • Counselor Professional Identity and Function
    • Spirituality, Theology, and Counseling
    • Group Counseling and Psychotherapy
    • Marriage and Family Counseling
    • Substance Abuse and Addictive Disorders

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $575/credit + $250/semester online student fee
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  5. Grace College and Theological Seminary
    Location

    Winona Lake, IN

    Indiana-based Grace offers six biblically-focused graduate degrees online, including a master's in clinical mental health counseling. The fully accredited program prepares students to seek state licensure.

    The online mental health counseling degree is presented synchronously, with set virtual class times and discussions and includes a seven-day residency on campus every summer. During residencies, candidates participate in counselor training, skills evaluation, and spiritual growth activities. Students can pursue the degree part or full time, and most graduate in 2-3 years.

    Applicants should submit undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA and a professional reference. While the college does not require GRE scores, prospective students must participate in an interview.

    Courses Include

    • Theological Foundations in Counseling
    • Psychopathology
    • Personality and Counseling Theories
    • Lifestyle and Career Counseling
    • Marriage and Family Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $577/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  6. North Carolina Central University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    NCCU's three counselor education programs include an online MA in clinical mental health counseling. The degree prepares candidates to become licensed professional counselors in North Carolina, and many graduates go on to work at nonprofit and mental health organizations. The program is recognized as a Criteria C school for licensure as a clinical addictions specialist.

    The online program includes both asynchronous and synchronous components, and students must log on at specific times for some classes. During the group counseling and pre-practicum in counseling courses, distance learners must attend two 2-3 day residencies at the university's Durham campus. Students also complete an orientation through video conferencing.

    Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7. They should also submit GRE scores and two recommendation letters.

    Courses Include

    • Crisis, Trauma, and Grief Counseling
    • Psychosocial Development
    • Multicultural and Gender Issues
    • Introduction to Family Counseling
    • Introduction to Addiction Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $274/credit in-state; $921/credit out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  7. University of Jamestown
    Location

    Jamestown, ND

    Established in 1883, the University of Jamestown offers an educational experience rooted in Christianity. The school's MS in clinical counseling is a distance learning program for students who wish to earn counseling licensure in the state.

    The program's format allows students to take two courses at a time, with each course lasting two weeks. Distance learners complete most of the program online and travel to the university's North Carolina campus for one week-long residency. They also complete a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of internship experiences.

    The program prepares graduates for the National Counselor Examination and state licensure. The university maintains a partnership program that offers a 10% discount on tuition for students who work at organizations like the Bank of North Dakota and the Fargo Park District, among many others.

    Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree with at least 18 psychology credits and a 3.0 GPA. They should write a brief personal essay, provide two references, and participate in an in-person or virtual admission interview.

    Courses Include

    • Counseling Theory
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Career Counseling and Testing
    • Social and Cultural Diversity
    • Trauma, Sexual Functioning, and Abuse

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $655/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  8. Malone University
    Location

    Canton, OH

    Malone is a Canton, Ohio, institution affiliated with the Evangelical Friends Church. The university's online offerings include an MA in education - clinical mental health counseling that explores the discipline from both Christian and holistic perspectives. Graduates go on to earn Ohio counseling licensure.

    Distance learners complete 60 credits of coursework, a practicum, and a two-part internship. Once they have completed required courses, students may choose from electives like spirituality and religion in counseling or counseling the LGBTQI population. The self-paced program is ideal for working professionals who need flexibility in their school schedules.

    Admission materials include undergraduate transcripts, two professional references, and an autobiography detailing the applicant's significant life experiences and their reasons for pursuing a counseling career.

    Courses Include

    • Group Dynamics, Process, and Counseling
    • Theories and Techniques of Counseling
    • Tests and Appraisals in Counseling
    • Diagnosis of Mental Disorders
    • Management and Advocacy in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $625/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  9. University of West Alabama
    Location

    Livingston, AL

    Students at UWA Online can earn a master's in clinical mental health counseling in 2-3 years. The counseling master's program includes nine credits of professional coursework, 39 credits of concentration courses, and 12 elective credits. Electives cover topics like play therapy, addiction counseling, trauma, and distance therapy.

    Distance learners participate in three clinical experiences: a residency, a 100-hour practicum, and an internship. Internships consist of 600 supervised clinical hours, including 240 direct contact hours. Prior to graduation, candidates must pass a comprehensive exam.

    Prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts, an essay outlining their professional goals, and three references. The university evaluates applicants according to their graduate school readiness, the relevance of their career goals, and their respect for cultural differences.

    Courses Include

    • Family Issues in Counseling Addicted Clients
    • Administration and Practice of Distance Counseling
    • Theory and Treatment of Trauma
    • Play Therapy with Special Populations
    • Personality Assessment

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $429/credit
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
  10. Lamar University
    Location

    Beaumont, TX

    Beaumont, Texas' LU offers a master of education in clinical mental health counseling for candidates interested in counseling multiple demographics. Graduates find jobs at school-based mental health programs, clinics, hospitals, and private practices.

    The 60-credit online master's in mental health counseling includes a required residency, practicum, and internship. During the five-day on-campus residency, students participate in skills development exercises, group projects, and learning modules. The practicum combines 40 clock hours of direct service and 60 indirect hours, while internships require 120 direct service and 180 indirect hours. Students complete field experiences at behavioral health inpatient hospitals, local mental health facilities, and substance abuse treatment programs.

    All applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and demonstrate an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.25. Prospective students should include short essays and a professional reference list with their application.

    Courses Include

    • Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
    • Abnormal Human Behavior
    • Individual Counseling Theories and Techniques
    • Measurement and Assessment
    • Crisis Prevention and Intervention

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $518/credit in-state; $927/credit out-of-state
    • Credits Required: 60
    • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Applying to a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

In order to apply to counseling master’s programs, prospective students need at least a bachelor’s degree. Schools typically prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in psychology, education, or a related field. However, some schools consider applicants who studied something entirely different. If you chose an unrelated undergraduate major, you can always boost your application by volunteering at a mental health services agency.

Applicants should also possess a minimum undergraduate GPA ranging from 2.5-3.0. They should submit their official transcripts, resume, and recommendation letters. Some programs also require a personal essay in which students describe their education and career goals. Many schools expect prospective students to submit standardized test scores from the GRE or MAT as well. During the application process, candidates may need to participate in an admissions interview.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do clinical mental health counselors do?

    Clinical mental health counselors provide mental health services to patients. Unlike nonclinical counselors, these professionals work with patients who have more serious mental or behavioral issues. They can also assess, diagnose, and treat patients with psychotherapy or other mental health approaches.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Within the higher education system, accreditation is put into place to ensure that students receive a quality education. Aspiring mental health counselors can only obtain state licensure if they possess an accredited degree. Employers look for job candidates with accredited degrees, as well. When searching for accredited programs, look for credentials from agencies like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

  • Is an online master’s in mental health counseling a good degree?

    An online master’s in mental health counseling is a good degree for anyone who wants to become a mental health counselor. It can also serve as a good degree for students who eventually hope to earn their Ph.D. Remember to make sure you find an accredited online mental health counseling program, which guarantees that your degree will have value when looking for jobs.

  • What can I do with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling degree?

    A master’s in clinical mental health counseling prepares graduates to become licensed clinical professional counselors. Some students prefer to go into a certain specialty, like substance abuse and addiction, school counseling, or geriatric counseling. Others might aim to work in academia as a professor, while others might go into social and community services.

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Advertisement BestCounselingDegrees.net is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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