Study Counseling in California
Whether you are a resident of California or not, you can take advantage of one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation. The state has more than 750 institutions of higher learning, including the University of California System, the California State University System, and a robust community college system with campuses throughout the state.
California is also home to more than 300 private institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees or higher. Combined with a trade school system with more than 30,000 students, California’s collection of colleges, universities, and trade schools provide an education to more than three million students each year.
There are many colleges and universities in California that offer online graduate degrees. You can become one of those students by pursuing your graduate degree in counseling online.
Online Master’s in Counseling in California
Listed below are some of the popular schools offering online master’s in counseling in California:
- Palo Alto University
- Southern New Hampshire University
- University of Southern California
- Pepperdine University
- San Diego State University
- Loma Linda University
- Capella University
- Grand Canyon University
Palo Alto University
Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Palo Alto’s MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is a two-year, licensure-track program that prepares you for work as a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) or a marriage and family therapist (MFT). Though most graduates pursue licensure, this is not a requirement. Instead, you can use your graduate education to advance your career in other fields, such as mental health research, administration, or advocacy.
You complete your coursework online, however, this program requires you to attend two residential training experiences. These experiences focus on intensive studies of counseling theories and techniques. They also include skills training seminars that prepare you for the required clinical interviewing assessment, which must be completed before you are assigned a clinical fieldwork placement.
Palo Alto University is on the quarter system, so you will take classes year-round broken into four quarters. Some of the courses you will take include the following:
- Counseling Skills
- Multicultural Counseling Theories and Techniques
- Crisis and Trauma Counseling
- Addiction Counseling
There are several practicum and internship experiences as well. These field experiences place you in a clinical mental health counseling setting where you’ll observe and participate in counseling activities while being supervised by an experienced and licensed mental health counselor. You will spend at least 700 hours in the field, including 280 hours of client contact time.
This program is fully accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Your coursework can lead to licensure in California and many other states. The program is also an approved pathway for National Certification as a counselor.
You can apply to this program online. To qualify, you must have an undergraduate degree from a regionally-accredited college or university. If you live outside of California, you must live in a state in which Palo Alto University is authorized as an online educator.
There are no prerequisites to apply to this program. However, Palo Alto University strongly recommends that you have related work experience (paid or volunteer) in the field of mental health.
University of Southern California
Online Master of Education in School Counseling
The M.Ed. in School Counseling from the University of Southern California is a part-time or full-time online program that offers you the flexibility of getting a high-quality degree at your own pace from one of the best universities in the nation. The program requires about two years of studies if you attend full-time or up to three years of studies if you are a part-time student.
This program has three key areas of emphasis that guide your development as a school counselor: restorative justice, trauma-informed practice, and college and career readiness. You will also gain an understanding of school counseling techniques and interventions and get valuable hands-on experience during field placements.
One of the advantages of this program is that you get the benefit of weekly live online classes while also having the flexibility to complete self-paced coursework. This best-of-both-worlds situation allows you to participate in interactive courses, work with your peers, and get your professors’ assistance while completing assignments according to a schedule that works best for you.
Of course, the fieldwork component is a crucial aspect of this program. Rather than requiring you to come to campus to complete fieldwork, you can participate in field training in or near the community where you live. USC must approve the location where you complete the fieldwork.
USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This program leads to a Pupil Services Credential in the state of California.
To apply, you must have an undergraduate degree from a regionally-accredited college or university. When applying, you must submit the following:
- An application fee
- Two letters of recommendation
- A resume or curriculum vitae
- Transcripts from each college or university you’ve attended
- A personal statement
- Answers to two short answer questions
- An essay (optional)
Online Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
The MA program in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University prepares you for a career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in California and many other states in as few as 27 months. As an LPC, you can take on various job duties, from counseling individuals and couples to treating people with mental health disorders to working with families experiencing hardships.
To become a competent practitioner in these and other areas, you will participate in a varied curriculum in its approach and study materials. This includes taking classes like:
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Multicultural Counseling
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
- Theory of Counseling and Psychotherapy
- Trauma in Diverse Populations
In all, you will complete 62-68 units of study, which takes anywhere from eight to 12 sessions. Additionally, you will complete four field placements at approved practicum and internship sites. Your placements will be in or near where you live and will be selected with the help of Pepperdine’s placement team.
It’s important to note that the amount and type of field training you must complete depends on your specialization and the state in which you intend to seek licensure. In addition to preparing you for becoming an LPC, this program also qualifies you to seek the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist credential, provided you take the appropriate coursework. These specializations have differing training requirements. Check with your faculty advisor for more information.
You can apply to this program only if you already have a bachelor’s degree. Your degree need not be in a mental health field. GRE scores are not required either. When applying, you must submit the following:
- Official transcripts from every college or university you have attended
- A statement of purpose
- Two letters of recommendation
San Diego State University
Master of Arts in Education in Counseling
MA in Education in Counseling at San Diego State University is a 42-unit hybrid program with online coursework and several three to five day in-person workshops. Your studies will focus on modern counseling techniques, particularly trauma-informed care, strength-based approaches, and integrated recovery. The program also emphasizes the importance of multicultural counseling and meeting the unique needs of diverse populations.
To achieve these ends, you will gain advanced skills in areas like the following:
- Mental health research
- Systemic counseling paradigms
- Effective counseling techniques for educational settings
- Social responsibility and social change
- Working with diverse populations
A capstone experience is also required. The capstone is an integrated course that brings your work in research, theory, and counseling techniques together as a demonstration of your competency of seminal topics from the program.
A unique feature of this program is that you earn a graduate degree and a graduate certificate simultaneously. The certificate, which is in Restorative Justice Practices and Trauma-Informed Care, accounts for 12 units of the 42-unit curriculum. Coursework for the certificate includes the following:
- Restorative Justice Practices and Trauma-Informed Care
- Mental Health Recovery
- Trauma-Informed Care in Multicultural Contexts
- Law and Ethics in the Counseling Profession
This program does not include a fieldwork component and is, therefore, a non-licensure track. However, the training it provides can supplement your experience as a current professional counselor and help you expand your understanding of critical counseling theories and techniques.
Likewise, this program is appropriate for you if you intend to continue your education in a doctoral program in counseling.
You must apply to SDSU’s graduate school to enroll in this program. To do so, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. You must also supply the following documentation:
- Unofficial transcripts from every college or university you have attended
- Three letters of recommendation
- A resume or curriculum vitae
- A personal statement
- A five to six-minute video in which you describe why you want to become a counselor, what you hope to learn, and what you hope your contributions will be to this field.
Loma Linda University
Online Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy
Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy degree at Loma Linda University is a fully online 77-credit program requiring about three years of study. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and is the only such online program in the United States.
The program focuses on four primary areas of practice: clinical practice, program development, program implementation, and program evaluation. To gain skills related to these areas, you will take courses in topics like:
- Program Development for Families and Communities
- Advanced Qualitative Research Methods
- Advanced Theory in MFT
- Advanced Quantitative Research Methods
- Research and Practice with Couples and Families
Some courses are synchronous, meaning you have set times each week to meet live online with your professor and classmates. Other courses are asynchronous, giving you the flexibility to complete your studies at times that are most convenient for you.
This program also requires you to complete several practicum and internship experiences. However, unlike traditional programs, these experiences are conducted online synchronously. This means you can complete this degree online without campus visits or field placements.
Another unique feature of this program is that it embeds professional development and professional self-care opportunities throughout the curriculum. Both of these activities supplement your coursework and help you graduate with a greater sense of your abilities as a counselor and your needs for maintaining good mental health.
You can apply to this program online if you have a bachelor’s degree. When applying, you must submit three letters of reference and submit to a background check. An interview with a faculty member is also required.
What are the Counseling Work Opportunities in California?
Counseling, like other helping professions like psychology and social work, offers many different career paths, each with unique applications in differing settings. On the one hand, you can use graduate training in school counseling to prepare for a career as a certified school counselor.
In this setting, you are not only responsible for providing individual and group counseling services for students, but you’re also responsible for developing a school-wide counseling program that addresses topics like academic achievement, respect and diversity, and career and college readiness.
On the other hand, you might use a graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling as a springboard for a career in community mental health. For example, you might work at a non-profit mental health center where you counsel clients with mental or behavioral health issues. You might specialize in working with certain populations (e.g., children and adolescents), or you might offer a broad range of services to clients of all ages.
Yet another career path you might pursue in California is to specialize in marriage and family counseling. Two of the graduate counseling programs described above focus on this field and prepare you to work with couples in individual counseling, couples counseling, and family counseling settings. This might be done in a community mental health setting, an inpatient mental health setting, or in private practice if you choose to be self-employed.
These are just a few options to consider as a counselor in California. Like your educational opportunities in the Golden State, the job opportunities ahead of you are extremely diverse. The most difficult part of the process might be deciding which field of counseling you want to pursue!
Can You Be a Therapist With a Master’s in California?
Yes, you can become a therapist with a master’s degree in California! Here’s a simple guide for you:
- Choose the Right Master’s Program: In California, you will need a master’s degree in counseling, social work, marriage and family therapy, or a related field. Make sure the program you choose is accredited, so it will be recognized when you are seeking licensure later on.
- Complete Your Internship/Practicum: As part of your master’s program, you will likely need to complete a certain number of supervised hours working with clients. This is like hands-on training where you gain practical experience under the guidance of a licensed professional.
- Graduate: Once you have completed all the requirements and courses, you will earn your master’s degree.
- Get Additional Supervised Experience: After graduation, you will need more supervised experience before you can become fully licensed. The exact number of hours will depend on the specific therapy license you’re pursuing. For instance, a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) will have different requirements than a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).
- Pass the Licensing Exam: Once you have got your required hours, you will take a state licensing exam.
- Get Your License: After passing your exam, you will apply for and receive your license.
- Continue Learning: Even after you are licensed, California will ask that you keep up with your education through periodic continued learning. This ensures that you stay updated with the latest in therapy practices.
Remember, the exact steps and requirements might vary depending on the specific license you are aiming for.
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