Types of Masters in Counseling Degrees

If you want to counsel individuals and families and help them to overcome various personal and behavioral problems, you should consider becoming a mental health counselor. As with the field of psychology, the future job demand for counselors is expected to increase quickly i the next 10 years; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that employment of counselors and therapists will increase by nearly 20%. This makes now a great time to earn your degree and become a counselor.

To move forward on this exciting career path, you must earn your master’s degree in psychology, or a master’s degree in counseling. Eventually, you also may earn your doctoral degree if individual private practice is your goal. The most common types of master’s degrees in this field are:

  • Mental health counseling: Offer mental health treatment to single people, families, groups and couples. Some may work with a specific type of population, such as the elderly, children, or teens. Mental health counselors assist their patients to deal with many serious mental and behavioral issues including anxiety, depression, grief, stress and suicide.
  • Marriage and family therapy: Also works with individuals, couples and families, but the focus is on treating the entire family and group, even when treating an individual person in the office. These therapists look carefully at family roles and development, and understand how the families of clients can affect their mental well being. The focus is on treating the relationship of the client and not merely the client.
  • Counseling psychology: Helps individual patients to deal with their problems, often including issues in a marriage or in the home. This professional works with patients to determine what their strengths and weaknesses are and the many resources in the home and local environment that can be used to deal with problems.

To become a counselor, you will be required to earn at least your master’s degree and also undergo extensive supervised clinical work, which may be referred to as a residency or internship. You will need to complete anywhere from 2000 to 4000 clinical hours.

Further, you must take a certified state examination and meet all requirements for licensure for your state . The body that regulates mental health counselors is the National Board for Certified Counselors.

If you are going to become a marital and family therapist, your licensure will be overseen by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Master’s in Counseling Curriculum Overview

A master’s degree in counseling builds upon your skills that you earned when you earned your bachelor’s degree in psychology. If you did not earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you may have to enter a specific type of master’s in psychology program; this program will provide you with the background courses you need in psychology to succeed in a master’s-level program.

Full time master’s in counseling programs usually consist of two years of classes, and a large clinical observation period of several thousand hours. You also may opt to earn an online master’s degree in counseling that allows you to continue with your regular work schedule; just note that many online programs do require you to visit campus on several occasions.

Master’s in Mental Health Counseling

For those who want to improve lives and make a difference for social justice, you should consider a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Antioch University. This online mental health counseling degree program will ready you to work as a licensed counselor to promote mental health for all people regardless of income or social background.

This is a three year, full time program that will provide you with the skills that you need to fully address personal, family and social problems that can interfere with patients’ abilities to live full lives. This program allows you to pursue one of two exciting and rewarding specialties:

  • Substance abuse and addiction counseling
  • Counseling military service personnel and their families

Other important aspects of this online three year program:

  • 60 credit hours that can be finished in three years
  • Supervised practicum that takes place in your second year
  • Fieldwork internship in your community in your third year

As recommended by the Council for Accreditation  and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), this degree is focused on eight critical areas:

  • Ethical practice
  • Cultural and social diversity
  • Human development and growth
  • Career growth and development
  • Assessment
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Assisting and helping relationships
  • Team work

Some of the courses that you will take include:

  • Fundamentals of Therapeutic Interaction
  • Group Approaches to Mental Health Counseling
  • Career and Lifestyle Counseling
  • Crisis and Trauma Informed Interventions
  • Family Counseling Approaches to Addiction

Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

The University of Southern California (USC) offers a two year degree that helps to teach you how to help others deal with relationship problems, dysfunction in the family, parenting issues and family behavior problems. Students who finish this Master of Marriage and Family Therapy are eligible for California’s marriage and family license.

Required classes are as follows:

  • The Counseling Process
  • Creating Communities of Interest
  • Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Theories in Counseling
  • Psychopathology for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Career Development Theory and Process

Also required is supervised field work where you have 1300 hours of clinical work, which goes towards the 3000 required for California state licensure. Your state requirements for licensure may vary. According to their website, 20-30% of graduates of USC go on to earn their Psy.D. or Ph.D.

Master’s in Counseling

You can earn your master’s in counseling online from Northwestern University. This two year, online program features the highest quality coursework with clinical training on site that allows you to develop your counseling skills without having to move to Indiana.

One of the most important parts of this accredited program is a complete immersion in clinical work that occurs in addition to your classes. This is a learn by doing model that allows you to apply critical counseling concepts as you learn them. This helps you to gain real world experience as you take your classes and to develop your identity as a counselor.

Your class schedule will consist of these courses:

  • Skills for Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Individual Systems: Psychodynamic Viewpoints
  • Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling
  • Strategies for Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Psychopathology in Counseling
  • Outreach, Prevention and Advocacy
  • Foundations of Family, Marital and Couples Counseling

This program also has a Bridge to Counseling program that is intended for the professional who does not have experience with the counseling profession. This program is made for the student who wants to enjoy a meaningful second career.

You also may specialize your master’s in counseling degree in the child and adolescent track. However, if you choose this program, you also will be prepared to work with adults, too.

The type of master’s in counseling degree that you select will have different emphases and classes, but all of them will lead to your becoming a licensed counselor. You will be able to work in mental health clinics, hospitals, doctors offices, public health centers and more. All of these places of employment will see major demand in growth in the next 10 years as more people focus on mental wellness as well as physical.