Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
School of Arts and Sciences
The CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program prepares students to work as counselors and therapists in hospitals, clinics, private practices, treatment centers, and other community settings. The program provides
an important theoretical framework and hands-on professional training for students interested in becoming clinical mental health counselors. With a strong base of ethical behavior, counseling theories, professional counseling identity, treatment planning, counseling research, assessment, and professional development, students graduate with a capacity for critical thinking and counseling effectiveness that can be translated into practice with individuals, families, and groups from diverse backgrounds. More than 20 clinical internship and practicum sites are available, providing students with the opportunity to select from a variety of supervised training experiences while cultivating relationships with licensed clinical mental health counselors and other mental health professionals.
Who It's For
The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling is designed for students who are interested in becoming a mental health therapist, and specifically a clinical mental health counselor. Entering students must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or a recognized international college or university. Students are not required to have an undergraduate major in the social sciences (e.g., psychology).
- The MSMHC program's 8-year accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Education Related Programs (CACREP) is considered a “gold standard” for counselor training.
- MSMHC core faculty and adjunct instructors are licensed mental health professionals who are actively engaged in the practice of counseling. Each core faculty member has about 20 years of counseling experience. You’ll also learn from adjunct faculty who are licensed professionals currently in practice in a variety of clinical settings, with a variety of clinical specialties.
- Only 15 students are admitted each year, which enables one-on-one mentoring from faculty. Given our small class sizes, faculty work closely with students to provide training, supervision, instruction, and feedback.
- The small cohorts promote close, supportive peer relationships. Cohorts “stick together,” taking nearly all their classes together, allowing you to form connections with fellow student-colleagues that often last long after graduation. Many alumni report that they rely on their former classmates for consultation and professional networking.
- The curriculum is based on the nationally-recognized CACREP training standards.
- The MSMHC program uniquely focuses on many counseling theories, including cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, interpersonal process, family systems, and multicultural counseling theories. You'll learn to rely on theory as a way to “think actively” and make sense of the many complex issues clients bring to therapy.
- A broad menu of carefully selected clinical internship placements and practicum sites gives you valuable hands-on training and helps you build a professional network in the mental health field. Placements include Hope and Healing Child and Family Counseling, Volunteers of America, Rape Recovery Center, Weber State University Counseling Center, Salt Lake Behavioral Health, YouthCare, and other highly regarded agencies throughout the area.
- Core faculty have leadership roles with the Utah Mental Health Counselors Association, National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, Outdoor Behavioral Health Care Center, and International Psychotherapy Institute which means you'll be able to connect with and draw from the clinical expertise of professionals from the community and around the world.
- There are opportunities for you to do research, including paid research opportunities. You can get involved with core faculty’s research labs and work on the editorial team of a scholarly journal. Faculty who have authored and edited numerous articles and book chapters will guide you through conducting valuable research.
- Many students work in mental health-related jobs while enrolled in the MSMHC program. Because the program faculty maintain close connections with many agencies in the community, they can connect you with employers and provide a list of job openings related to mental health.
- You will have many opportunities to attend professional conferences at reduced costs and may even be able to present at a conference.
The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling (MSMHC) program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This is a prestigious accreditation for counseling programs that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
There are a variety of reasons to attend a CACREP-accredited counseling program, including:
- A guarantee that you are being taught a nationally agreed upon counseling curriculum
- Curriculum aligns with state licensure exams and national accreditation exams
- An advantage when applying to doctoral degree programs
- A streamlined state licensing application process
- Increased likelihood of being accepted on some insurance provider panels and hired by some employers, such as the Veterans Administration
- The ability to meet an eligibility requirement for becoming a National Certified Counselor—the premier counselor credential.
- Increases chances of "portability" of your license to other states
Learn more about CACREP and the importance of applying to a CACREP-accredited program.
How Long It Takes
This 3-year program requires 60 hours of graduate work on a full-time basis during the academic year. Classes typically run Monday–Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
“The Westminster program gave me a far greater clinical-knowledge base than comparative programs. We learned to really relate and engage in a therapeutic relationship. As I have interacted with other programs, I have seen the difference that makes in providing counseling, decision making, treatment planning, and conceptualizing a client. I am able to engage with a client in ways that other programs don't even teach.”
About the Program
The MSMHC program—accredited under CACREP—offers a broad curriculum that meets or exceeds national standards as well as Utah licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors, and balances professional knowledge with practical experience and skill development. Based on a scientist-practitioner model, the program helps students understand the relationships between counseling theory, research, and practice as they relate to effective mental health counseling.
What You'll Learn
- Articulate the fundamental knowledge of research, theory, and practice in the field of counseling in areas including professional counseling orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, counseling and helping relationships, group counseling, assessment and testing, and research and program evaluation.
- Assess clients and apply appropriate intervention strategies to help clients resolve their problems of living.
- Establish your professional identity as a clinical mental health counselor.
- Engage in critical thinking and demonstrate a heightened self-awareness.
- Counsel clients in a manner that is informed by your preferred counseling theory.
- Practice counseling with an acute sensitivity to issues of diversity.
Plan of Study
Students must complete at least 60 hours of graduate course work. The 60-credit hours fulfill Utah licensure requirements as well as CACREP requirements. It is a planned program of study that requires full time enrollment for 3 years (except summers).
Throughout the program, your studies will revolve around 8 core curricular areas:
- Professional counseling orientation and ethical practice
- Social and cultural diversity
- Human growth and development
- Career development
- Counseling and helping relationships
- Group counseling and group work
- Assessment and testing
- Research and program evaluation
To complete your degree, you’ll participate in clinical training. During clinical training, you’ll receive supervised training from licensed mental health professionals and expand your applied counseling knowledge and skills.
Practicum must total a minimum of 100 hours, of which 40 hours must be completed in direct service. An internship must total a minimum of 900 hours, of which 360 must be completed in direct service. The combined hours from practicum and internship meet Utah licensure requirements and exceed the requirements of CACREP.
Students are required to take and pass comprehensive exams during their third year. You must earn a satisfactory score on the CPCE exam and write an adequate case conceptualization that follows program guidelines.
Graduates generally pursue licensure as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) after a few years of work under a supervisor. Licensing requirements vary by state. To become licensed as a CMHC in Utah, students must apply with the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
An appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures and systems is critical to all mental health counseling fields. This course explores the complexities of culture and its influence on the client/counselor relationship. You’ll develop cultural sensitivity, learn culturally responsive intervention strategies, and increase your awareness of how cultural backgrounds, experiences, belief systems, attitudes, values, and biases influence the counseling process.
Human Sexuality and Counseling
This course examines the role of sexuality in human life, including the influences of cultural, familial, psychological, biological, and spiritual factors. We’ll explore the dynamic complexities of sexuality through a variety of mediums from text and film, to dialogue and experiential exercises.
Psychopathology and the DSM
In this course, we’ll provide an overview of adult psychopathology, including major psychological disorders, associated symptom clusters, etiological factors, accepted treatments, and relevant research findings. We will also examine the empirical challenges to diagnostic accuracy and the social and cultural factors that affect diagnosis and counseling.
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Our curriculum prepares students for clinical practice and licensure as a clinical mental health counselor. Students will graduate with a solid understanding of a broad range of theoretical perspectives, research knowledge, and clinical skills they need to provide counseling to diverse treatment populations.
Upon completing your degree, you will be qualified to pursue a career as a clinical mental health counselor, clinical director, administrator, or owner of a private practice, mental health clinic/agency, intensive outpatient treatment/day treatment program, residential program, college counseling center, or psychiatric hospital.
Your license as a CMHC will allow you to work with people of any age and to conduct individual, group, couples, and family therapy as well as to conduct mental health assessments and evaluations.
2012–18 Alumni Data (N=46)
- 94% of alumni are working in a job related to counseling.
- 98% of alumni are licensed as clinical mental health counselors or associate clinical mental health counselors (or the equivalent in another state).
- Alumni work in a variety of settings. The majority work in outpatient/private practice (58%), while others work in day treatment programs (23%), residential treatment programs (20%), hospitals (11%), and college counseling centers (4%).
- Alumni provide a variety of clinical services. Specifically, 100% provide individual counseling, 76% provide group counseling, 72% provide family counseling, 74% conduct assessments, 51% provide couples counseling, and 16% do administrative work.
- Alumni work with a variety of clinical populations. In terms of developmental stages, 100% work with adults, 69% work with adolescents, 41% work with children, and 25% work with the elderly.
- Alumni are members of professional counseling associations. Specifically, 65% are members of the American Counseling Association, 37% are members of the Utah Mental Health Counselors Association, and 32% are members of the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
“I loved everything about my time in the MSMHC program: the small, collaborative cohort; professors who were highly educated and professional; thorough and intensive studies; and exposure to incredible clinical internships in the community. I graduated with a strong foundation that helped me feel confident and prepared to enter the counseling field.”
There's No Better Investment Than You
Tuition and Fees
At Westminster, we are committed to making your education affordable.
Westminster works with all students to determine the financial aid opportunities available to them. Federal financial aid is available and will be awarded on an individual basis to students who have filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some federal financial aid programs require students to maintain the equivalent of full- or part-time enrollment.
Graduate students are eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct (grad) PLUS loans through the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program.
Federal Work Study
Federal Work Study is a federally funded program that provides job opportunities for students to earn money to help pay for college. Westminster employs hundreds of students each year in different areas.
The practice of mindfulness improves memory, decreases stress and anxiety, increases self-esteem, boosts immune-system function, and more. Ellen Behrens, assistant professor in Westminster’s Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program, has tips for how you can practice it yourself.