Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

Updated June 27, 2023

Learn about the best small colleges with counseling psychology programs that meet your needs. Explore information on careers, qualifications, and available degrees. 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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When searching for the best colleges for counseling, students may want to consider how the size of an institution impacts their learning. A small college generally hosts less than 5,000 enrolled students at a time. Attending a small college provides multiple benefits, including smaller class sizes, more opportunities for one-on-one engagement with instructors, and greater access to financial assistance.

Counseling majors learn how to work with individuals who struggle to solve personal problems. Students develop advanced interpersonal and crisis management skills that help them to provide effective guidance to clients. Courses may include theories and models of counseling, basic counseling skills and techniques, and group processes.

Therapist colleges typically require a capstone project or an internship. Schools also may offer concentrations, including school counseling or clinical mental health counseling. Counseling students can earn a bachelor's degree in four years with full-time attendance, while graduate students can earn their degree in 2-3 years.

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Top 10 Best Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree

  1. Clarks Summit University

    South Abington Township, PA

    A Baptist institution located in Johnson City, New York, CSU enrolls just 990 students across more than 40 academic programs. The college emphasizes community and faith, incorporating Baptist teachings into its undergraduate curricula.

    CSU offers multiple counseling degrees, including a 123-credit . The BS track prepares students to seek counseling licensure or to pursue graduate studies. Though not required, candidates are encouraged to complete an internship. Bachelor's degree-seekers may also select a dual enrollment option, completing CSU's MS in counseling program as they earn their BS.

    The program emphasizes biblical ideologies and philosophies in counseling. Students who reside near CSU's Johnson City campus may also complete training and observation experiences at the university's Foundations Christian Counseling Center.

    Courses include:

    • Adolescent and Adult Psychology
    • Marriage and Family Dynamics
    • Personality Theory
    • Human Growth and Development


  2. Lancaster Bible College

    Lancaster, PA

    Located west of Philadelphia in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, LBC serves a student body of just over 2,045 through more than 50 academic programs. Students at LBC enjoy the advantage of small class sizes, with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Learners seeking a small college with a counseling psychology program can earn their at LBC. The 130-credit hour program features a Christian-centered curriculum that emphasizes biblical studies and practices in counseling. Preparing students for entry-level positions or graduate-level counseling studies, the curriculum includes a required field experience and optional internships.

    LBC's counseling program boasts a faculty made up of experienced counselors who assist students with supervised practice experiences. Past students have completed internships at private practices, church counseling centers, and homeless shelters.

    Courses include:

    • Theories of Personality
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Group Leadership Skills
    • Intercultural Counseling Experience
    • Christian Systems of Counseling


  3. Emmanuel College

    Boston, MA

    Originally founded as a Catholic women's college in 1919, Boston's Emmanuel College now enrolls more than 2,200 students across over 70 academic programs. Emmanuel focuses on the liberal arts and sciences, aiming to embody a Catholic identity and ethics through its programs.

    Emmanuel's School of Science and Health features an undergraduate program in psychology with an available . The program explores empirical assessment, providing students with a wide base of knowledge in diagnostic and treatment practices. Students develop a broad understanding of key ideas, concepts, and theories in psychology and counseling.

    The program emphasizes strong communication skills, including clinical interviewing practices and various research methodologies. Candidates develop a working knowledge of information and technology commonly used in the field. Prior to graduation, learners complete either a research internship or an applied clinical internship.

    Courses include:

    • General Psychology
    • Methods and Statistics
    • Health Psychology
    • Counseling Theories and Techniques


  4. Alaska Pacific University

    Anchorage, AK

    Established in 1960 in Anchorage, APU continues to provide higher education in the Methodist tradition. The university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in an ongoing mission to embody its Alaska Native heritage through its academic offerings. With a student body of just over 500 individuals, APU maintains very small class sizes, offering a personalized and individual education.

    APU's prepares graduates to immediately enter careers in areas like behavioral health or addiction treatment. Students may apply program coursework toward certifications in chemical dependency and behavioral health. Emphasizing the connection between body and mind, the program employs a positive psychology perspective in treatment.

    Students complete a field experience and a senior project. The 128-credit curriculum includes 60 major credits. A transfer-friendly college, APU allows students to transfer in up to 32 credits earned through previous college coursework or work experience.

    Courses include:

    • Lifespan Human Development
    • Counseling Skills
    • Health Psychology
    • Crisis Intervention and Community Resources


  5. Kansas Wesleyan University

    Salina, KS

    Founded in Salina in 1886, KWU now offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. This small Christian college in the Methodist tradition enrolls just 716 students, keeping class sizes small with an 11:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

    Learners seeking small colleges with counseling psychology programs can pursue KWU's and choose from a variety of concentrations, including addictions and substance abuse counseling and educational counseling. The program prepares students for both entry-level work in the field and graduate study.

    The core curriculum includes courses in psychology, human services, and counseling, preparing students for practice with skills in counseling, research methods, and theory. All candidates complete a 150-hour internship during the program. Students who select the addictions counseling track complete 400 supervised practice hours to earn licensure.

    Courses include:

    • Psychological Research Design
    • Professional Ethics in Psychology
    • Principles of Counseling Practice
    • Psychopharmacology
    • Theories of Counseling


  6. Oak Hills Christian College

    Bemidji, MN

    An interdenominational school founded in 1946, OHCC is a small institution located in Bemidji, Minnesota. The college enrolls just 100 students in 14 academic programs, and all of OHCC's bachelor's degrees center around a biblical studies major.

    Students seeking the best colleges for a counseling degree can earn their at OHCC. The program explores the various causes of addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, examining addiction through a Christian viewpoint. The program prepares students to become licensed drug and alcohol counselors in Minnesota, and many graduates go on to work in treatment and counseling centers.

    The BS in addictions counseling includes a full, 30-credit-hour major in biblical studies and 47 credit hours in addictions counseling. Students also complete at least 880 hours of field experience to fulfill Minnesota licensing requirements.

    Courses include:

    • Diagnosis, Intervention, and Treatment of Chemical Dependency
    • Integration of Psychology and Theology
    • Foundations of Addiction
    • Psychopharmacology


  7. Lesley University

    Cambridge, MA

    Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley serves just over 2,700 undergraduate students across more than 35 academic programs. Originally founded in 1909 as a teacher's college, Lesley now offers 483 unique bachelor's degrees, maintaining small class sizes with a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

    Lesley's introduces basic foundations in psychology and human development. Designed to take around four years to complete, the program includes specialization options in expressive arts therapy and holistic psychology. Students complete two internships, and often work at Cambridge-based locations like the Franciscan Hospital for Children or Horizons for Homeless Children. Most internships take place during learners' final two years of study.

    The 120-credit-hour program prepares students for both entry-level counseling positions and graduate study. Students may also pursue Lesley's dual degree option and earn both a BS and MA in counseling.

    Courses include:

    • Lifespan Development
    • Abnormal Psychology
    • Foundations and Systems in the Helping Professions
    • Trauma and Crisis


  8. Kentucky Christian University

    Grayson, KY

    Located in Grayson, KCU enrolls only 500 students, boasting an average class size of just 14 individuals. KCU offers 28 unique academic programs across five schools, including degree options for learners seeking undergraduate counseling courses.

    Presented through KCU's School of Social Work and Behavioral Health, the requires a minimum of 120 credit hours. The curriculum includes courses in counseling psychology, along with foundational courses in biblical studies. The program's 400-hour internship component provides students with interactive experience in the field.

    The department offers minors in areas like child and family studies and general psychology. The program prepares students for further study in counseling, careers in human services settings, and church-based service positions.

    Courses include:

    • Developmental Psychology
    • Techniques of Counseling
    • Social Sciences Research Methods
    • Marriage and Family Therapy
    • Crisis Management, Prevention, and Intervention


  9. Maryville College

    Maryville, TN

    A Presbyterian-affiliated school located just north of the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee, Maryville enrolls 1,148 students across more than 60 majors. The college boasts an atmosphere of community and personalized, individual instruction, with an average class size of 17.

    Maryville offers a BA in psychology with an . The program emphasizes human cognition and behavior, providing foundational knowledge in different mental processes and behavioral patterns. The counseling track prepares students to pursue relevant graduate studies, and to eventually work in clinical settings.

    The counseling track in Maryville's psychology program offers a strong knowledge base in areas like human behavior, along with applications in different helping professions. Students in this concentration may enter the field upon graduation, working in various social service professions, although many go on to pursue a graduate degree for clinical practice.

    Courses include:

    • Theories of Personality
    • Contemporary and Professional Issues in Psychology
    • Cognitive Psychology
    • Advanced Counseling


  10. Johnson University Florida

    Kissimmee, FL

    Johnson was originally founded in 1893 as the School of Evangelists. Today, the university maintains campuses in both Tennessee and Florida, enrolling a total of 1,270 students across all majors and programs. Located in Kissimmee, Johnson's Florida campus serves a tight-knit student body of just 184 undergraduates, making it one of the state's best small colleges.

    Johnson offers both a . Both are ideal for students seeking a counseling degree that emphasizes biblical studies, ministry, and skills in church leadership. The programs prepare students to lead churches and provide ministry development as they apply psychological theories and concepts to pastoral practice.

    The key difference between the BA and BS options are the core arts and sciences course requirements: the BA core includes 52 credits, while the BS requires 50. Both degrees require 27 and 30 credits in biblical studies, respectively.

    Courses include:

    • Encountering Cultures
    • Biblical Teaching and Preaching
    • Introduction to Counseling Ministry
    • Pastoral Counseling


Applying to a Counseling Program at a Small College

Undergraduate applicants typically need a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate, official transcripts, American College Testing (ACT) or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, and a minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement. Competitive programs may look for candidates with a 3.0 GPA or higher, while other programs may accept a 2.0-2.5 GPA. Other requirements may include a personal statement and letters of recommendation.

Admission requirements for a master's in counseling differs slightly. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. However, programs do not typically require students to hold a bachelor's degree in counseling for admission.

Master candidates with background in a relevant field may stand out among other applicants. Other requirements may include the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), professional references, a resume, or work experience. Graduate counseling programs may also require a career goal statement or an interview.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average salary for a counselor?

The counseling field offers career opportunities at multiple levels. Students should research a particular job title to determine an accurate average salary. For instance, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn $46,240 on average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS).

Is there demand for counselors?

The number of patients who require the expertise of licensed counselors continues to increase. BLS data projects a 25% increase in job outlook from 2019 to 2029 for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors. General counselors, social workers, and other community social service specialists can also anticipate an increase in job outlook.

How long does it take to become a counselor?

Undergraduate students can earn their degree in four years with full-time attendance, while part-time students should plan for twice as long. Graduate students can earn their degree in about two years with full-time attendance. However, therapist colleges may offer accelerated programs that typically take about 1.5 years to complete.

Why is it important that a counseling program be accredited?

Accrediting institutions create minimum standards that colleges and universities use to develop quality programs. Counseling majors earning a master's degree need to pass a state licensing exam, which requires specific coursework and a minimum number of field experience hours. Students should consider both schoolwide and programmatic accreditations.

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