Study Mental Health Counseling in Pennsylvania
Are you eager to help people navigate their mental health challenges and lead happier lives? Pursuing an online master’s degree in mental health counseling in Pennsylvania could be your path to making a real difference. This educational path equips you with the essential knowledge and skills to become a licensed counselor.
Pennsylvania offers a range of traditional and CACREP accredited online mental health counseling programs, letting you study from the comfort of your home. Studying online gives you flexibility, making it easier to balance other responsibilities. So, get ready to make a real difference in people’s lives!
Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling in Pennsylvania
Listed below are some of the popular schools offering online master’s in mental health counseling in Pennsylvania:
- Eastern University
- Clarion University
- Pennsylvania Western University
- Saint Joseph’s University
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Capella University
- Arizona State University Online
- Grand Canyon University
Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Counseling
At Eastern University, you have an option to enroll in the 60-credit Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling program. This program helps you understand the deeper layers of the human mind and learn how to bring positive change to individuals and communities. Based in the peaceful neighborhood of St. Davids in Philadelphia, the program offers the flexibility to take classes 100% online or in the evening, adapting to your convenience.
The program offers 3 tracks: General, Trauma Studies concentration or Applied Behavior Analysis Certification concentration (ABA).
During the program, you will be following a detailed study plan that is set by the Pennsylvania Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, preparing you to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania. This includes earning 60 credits through a combination of lectures and hands-on experiences. The subjects you will be learning about include:
- The basic rules and ethics of counseling.
- Understanding how society and culture affect counseling.
- Learning about how people grow and develop over time.
- Helping people build their careers and lifestyles.
- Studying different theories and group work strategies in counseling.
- Learning how to assess and appraise a person’s mental state.
- Understanding how to research and evaluate different programs.
You can choose to complete your studies at a pace that suits you, opting for a two-year, three-year, or four-year plan, each including summer sessions. A vital part of your learning will be a 100-hour practicum, a kind of training where you spend around seven hours each week for 15 weeks at a designated place. This practicum allows you to observe and interact with different clients under the guidance of experienced supervisors, giving you a firsthand understanding of a counselor’s role.
Towards the end of your studies, you will need to complete a 600-hour internship during your final year, splitting your time across the fall and spring semesters. This means you will be working about 20 hours a week, getting real-life experience in a counseling role. Since this is a considerable time commitment, you are encouraged to plan your schedule well in advance, and in special cases, you may start your internship in the summer before your final year.
Under the supervision of skilled mentors both from Eastern University and your work location, you will learn how to apply the knowledge gained from your classes in real-life settings. This practical experience will help you grow professionally, ready to take on your role in the counseling field with a strong foundation and understanding.
This program aims to help you become not just a counselor, but a well-rounded professional, ready to positively influence individuals and communities through your knowledge and skills in counseling.
Admission requirements for the program include:
- A bachelor’s degree in any field from an accredited institution.
- An overall undergraduate GPA of at least a 2.8 (3.0 required for online option)
- Six (6) credit hours of behavioral science courses (e.g., psychology, educational psychology, social work, etc.) with a grade C or higher.
Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
At Clarion University, you have the opportunity to deepen your understanding and skills in the field of mental health through the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. This 60-credit program is designed according to the guidelines set by the Pennsylvania state board, preparing you to work as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Pennsylvania. It is a great choice for graduate students looking to improve their career prospects.
After finishing this program, you will be ready to work in many different areas helping people. You might work with:
- Children and young people, either helping them directly or overseeing teams.
- Helping young people who have gotten into trouble.
- Working with the courts to supervise people.
- Assisting people with intellectual disabilities.
- Helping people with substance abuse issues or dual diagnosis.
- Working in psychiatric rehabilitation or with older people.
During your studies, you will take courses in different subjects to build your skills in counseling, including:
- Case management
- Group therapy
- Different types of therapeutic and crisis interventions
- Understanding different cultures
- Clinical instruction
You can take most courses online, but some are offered in a hybrid format which means you will have a few in-person classes in the evening or on weekends.
This master’s program is ideal for students who aim to pursue careers in human services. You woll gain experience working with a wide range of individuals, including:
- Those diagnosed with mental health or addiction issues.
- Older adults.
- Individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Both adult and juvenile individuals involved with the legal system.
- Various public and private human service agencies.
A key part of your learning experience will be the practicum and internship courses, where you will work at agencies offering counseling and other services. Here, you will learn from experienced professionals in real-world settings, getting hands-on experience in the counseling profession. While gaining this experience, you will be covered by malpractice insurance provided by Clarion University, though you will also need to have your own personal liability insurance.
If you are interested, you can select Directed Studies/Thesis option may be taken to meet part of your elective requirements. This involves working closely with faculty members on a research project in the counseling field. This is a chance for you to dig deep into a topic you are passionate about. Thesis may be completed over one or two semesters.
To successfully complete your master’s degree, you will have to pass a written comprehensive exam that covers what you’ve learned in your courses. This test happens during the second part of your internship and involves writing short essays to answer questions from your main courses. You can refer to your books and notes while taking this test.
To enroll in this program, you should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with at least a 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is below 3.0, you will need to take additional tests like the GRE or MAT. While this program doesn’t require any specific courses before joining, having a background in psychology can be helpful.
You also have the option to transfer up to 12 credits from other recognized institutions towards this program, following the university’s rules for transferring credits and after getting approval from the concerned department and dean.
Pennsylvania Western University
Online Master’s in Counseling
Do you have a passion to assist and guide others? Are you eager to aid them in facing and overcoming their challenges, helping them to be more resilient? By enrolling in PennWest’s online Master’s in Counseling program, you are preparing yourself for a lifetime dedicated to the service of others.
This program, which is exclusively online, not only equips you to have a positive impact on others but also helps you build a career around this noble goal.
PennWest University’s Counseling Department has the mission to shape professional counselors who are committed to ethical and culturally aware practices, who champion social justice, and foster a strong counselor identity. As a student here, you will be nurtured to enhance the lives of families, groups, couples, and individuals, while also advocating for the betterment of the counseling field and its clients.
You will have the opportunity to specialize in one of the following areas (concentrations):
- Art Therapy: In this path, you will be prepared to address various needs of diverse groups through the medium of art. The program appreciates the multifaceted role of art therapists and provides opportunities to learn and hone your skills in both individual and group counseling settings using art therapy.
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Here, you join a vibrant learning community where both students and faculty work hand in hand towards academic excellence, leadership, and service. You will provided with the knowledge to design, implement and evaluate psychoeducational programs and clinical interventions to effectively facilitate change in the community. The ultimate goal is to ready you to be a skilled clinical practitioner who is ethical and capable of enhancing mental health and well-being in diverse settings.
- School Counseling: This track is designed to equip you to be an efficient school counselor in elementary and secondary public schools, fulfilling all prerequisites for school counseling certification in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, it opens doors for you to become a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania and beyond.
The Clinical Mental Health Counseling concentration prepares you to work in a variety of mental health settings serving individuals, couples, families, and/or groups. Some of the core courses of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling concentration include:
- Counseling & Consult Theories
- Career Development
- Group Counseling & Group Work
- Multicultural Counseling
- Addictions Counseling
- Crisis and Trauma Counseling
- Lifespan Development
An integral part of the program, irrespective of your chosen concentration, is the completion of a practicum that facilitates a deeper understanding and firsthand experience in the field with a requirement of a minimum of 120 hours at the practicum site.
Moreover, a compulsory clinical field internship is part of this program. This internship requires 600 hours of on-site experience, following the successful completion of all core courses. You can discuss the possibility of splitting your internship over two semesters with your advisor. It is mandatory to adhere to the 15-week semester timeframe for completing your internship hours.
At PennWest, you will be trained by a diverse group of educators proficient in counseling and art therapy. They foster development through dynamic teaching methods, nurturing not just knowledge but also self-awareness, effective counseling abilities, and an ethical approach to a multi-cultural society.
Upon graduating from this program, you will be:
- Well-versed with essential knowledge and skills related to the counseling profession.
- Competent in counseling across different cultural and social contexts.
- Skilled in navigating various cultural and social contexts proficiently.
- Ethical in your professional field.
- Capable of combining theory and research with professional skills and techniques.
- A self-reliant and accountable professional.
Admission requirements for the program include:
- Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution
- Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or greater.
- Two letter of recommendation.
- GRE/MAT if GPA is below 3.0.
Saint Joseph’s University
Online Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
If you are passionate about helping others, the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Saint Joseph’s University could be the right path for you. This program, mainly offered online, teaches you how to support people facing various challenges including addiction, relationship issues, anxiety, and depression.
During this 60-credit online program, you will go through 700 hours of supervised fieldwork, with an optional focus on addiction counseling. You will be learning how to understand, assess, and help individuals dealing with mental health issues and life hardships, such as grief, loss, and wellness concerns.
Guided by expert teachers who have real-world experience, the program meets the Pennsylvania standards for becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and getting the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification, a well-recognized credential by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
The design of this program keeps in mind the busy lives of working individuals. You have the option to study at a pace that suits you, allowing you to manage work, family, and other responsibilities smoothly. While most of the coursework is available online, you will need to attend practical sessions and internships in person. You have the freedom to finish the program in two years if you study full-time, or take it slower if you prefer.
During the program, you will explore various important topics in mental health counseling. Some of the courses that you will take include:
- Counseling Across the Lifespan
- Counseling Theories & Techniques
- Group Counseling
- Counseling Skills & Techniques
- Assessment Practices for Counseling
- Family & Couples Counseling Techniques
- Addictions Counseling
- Crisis Counseling Trauma, Violence
Once you graduate, a range of job opportunities may open up for you in settings like healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and community agencies. Some of the roles you might take up include:
- College Counselor
- Family Counselor
- Addiction Counselor
- Mental Health Specialist
Overall learning outcomes of the program include:
- Gaining a deep understanding of the foundational knowledge and skills essential in the counseling field.
- Learning the specifics of working in clinical mental health settings.
- Being able to make ethical decisions using proper clinical judgment.
- Developing a professional attitude suitable for counseling, involving ongoing learning and understanding of oneself and others.
- Becoming an advocate for your clients and the counseling profession.
- Building capabilities needed to excel as a professional counselor.
To be considered for admission you must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and have earned an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
What is the Difference Between an MA and an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling?
Both the Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Science (MS) degrees in clinical mental health counseling aim to prepare students to become licensed mental health counselors, but they can differ slightly in terms of their focus and coursework. Below, we outline the general differences between the two:
MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Holistic Approach: Generally has a broader, more holistic approach that may incorporate a substantial amount of coursework on counseling theories and therapeutic techniques along with a strong focus on human behavior and psychology.
- Research Component: May offer fewer opportunities for scientific research compared to an MS.
- Liberal Arts: Usually falls under the category of liberal arts, and may require you to take courses in humanities or social sciences.
- Skills: Tends to focus more on developing interpersonal skills and understanding the client from a holistic perspective.
MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Scientific Approach: Typically involves a more rigorous focus on research and the scientific aspects of psychology. You might be expected to engage in substantial research projects, possibly culminating in a thesis.
- Research Component: Generally has a stronger emphasis on research methods and statistical analysis, preparing students for roles in research or clinical settings.
- Science and Math: Might require more courses in science and math, reflecting its more technical and research-oriented nature.
- Skills: While still focusing on counseling skills, might provide a deeper understanding of the scientific basis of mental health issues, and often prepares you for roles in both clinical settings and research.
- Licensing: Both degrees are designed to meet the educational requirements for licensure as a mental health counselor in most jurisdictions.
- Core Courses: Both MA and MS programs generally include core courses on counseling theories and techniques, ethics in counseling, multicultural counseling, etc.
- Fieldwork: Both require supervised fieldwork experiences, including practicum and internship experiences, to give students hands-on experience in the field.
Your choice between an MA and an MS might depend on your career goals, whether you are more interested in practicing as a counselor or engaging in research. Your personal interest in research and scientific analysis vs. a holistic understanding of individual behavior could also influence your choice.
Can I Practice Counseling in PA Without a License?
In Pennsylvania, as in many other states, you generally cannot practice as a “licensed” counselor without obtaining the necessary licensure, which is regulated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors. The title “licensed professional counselor” or “LPC” is a protected title in the state, and using this title without the appropriate licensure is against the law.
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