Guide to Bilingual & Culturally Diverse Counseling Programs & Careers

The United States is home to many cultures and many languages, but its therapeutic care hasn’t always been as heterogeneous. Historically, the study and practice of psychology and mental health have been dominated by a single demographic, leaving it ill-equipped to address the concerns of other ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives. But the nation is more diverse than ever, and the counselors of today and tomorrow need to be attuned to cultural and linguistic differences in their clients. 

According to a 2019 survey by the US Census Bureau, more than a fifth of all households speak a language other than English at home. Pew Research Center estimates that by 2050, nearly a fifth of all Americans will be foreign-born. The behavioral health professions need to grow their capabilities—and quickly: a 2015 survey by the American Psychological Association found that only one-tenth of US psychologists could provide services in a language other than English. And a lack of cultural understanding can be as detrimental as a language barrier: it’s one of the reasons why Black Americans are significantly less likely than white Americans to seek mental health services. 

In many ways, counselor education is improving: it’s becoming more diverse, more culturally sensitive, and more accessible. But some areas are still seriously lacking, particularly in resources for counseling indigenous groups, an area where Canada maintains a significant lead. Counseling programs, on the whole, are incorporating more multicultural and bilingual options. But even more importantly, they’re offering add-on modules for counselors who wish to add an emphasis or a basic understanding of counseling a particular demographic.

Every counseling career can be made into a bilingual and/or culturally diverse one; and, in the future, every counseling career ideally will be. But this transformation requires new and aspiring counselors to broaden their education and training, and widen their perspective accordingly. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to do so. Read on to learn more about counseling programs that include a bilingual and/or multicultural focus.

Bilingual Counseling Programs

New York University

NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers an online MA in bilingual school counseling. Students will learn counseling practices and techniques championing equity, social justice, and diversity. 

Graduates will be prepared to support students throughout their development following the American School Counselor Association National Model. The program consists of between 48 and 51 credits and is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC).

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: 2.5 years
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $2,020 per credit

University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley

UTRGV offers an online bilingual counseling certificate for mental health professionals interested in enhancing their Spanish language proficiency, developing cultural awareness, and applying appropriate cultural counseling skills when working with Spanish-speaking populations. 

Students may be working mental health professionals, or even current counseling students in other programs. The program consists of 15 credits.

  • Location: Edinburg, TX
  • Duration: Six to 12 months
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $13,162 in total

Black Mental Health Counseling Programs

William James College

William James College offers an online MA in clinical mental health counseling program. The school is also home to the Black Mental Health Graduate Academy, an academic pipeline program designed to recruit, mentor, and support Black students in master’s and doctoral programs in mental health counseling and psychology. 

The online MA program prepares students to become licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) and includes classes on psychological assessment, family therapy, lifespan development, and trauma treatment. In addition to didactic learning, students will complete 600 hours of internship experience. The program consists of 60 credits.

  • Location: Newton, MA
  • Duration: Three years
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $1,195 per credit

Latinx Counseling Programs

California State University Fullerton

The Ánimo: Latinx Counseling Emphasis is a new component of CSUF’s MS in counseling program. The Ánimo emphasis focuses on developing self-awareness as bilingual and bicultural counselors, developing knowledge of Latinx cultures and therapeutic Spanish, familiarity with interventions appropriate to the Latinx community, and social justice advocacy issues relevant to the Latinx community. 

Those who complete the program will meet the requirements for licensure as marriage family therapists or professional clinical counselors in California. The MS program with the Ánimo emphasis consists of 63 credits in total. 

  • Location: Fullerton, CA
  • Duration: Three years
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $3,588 per semester

Sexuality, Women, and Gender Counseling Programs

New York University

NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers an MA in counseling for mental health and wellness, including a post-master’s advanced certificate in LGBT health, education, and social services. 

This dual-degree option prepares students for licensure as mental health counselors while expanding their knowledge of issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. Courses include topics such as sexual decision-making and risk-taking in adolescence; gender and sexuality in US policy formation; counseling gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth; and LGBT heath disparities. The program comprises 66 credits and is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC).

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: Three years
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $2,020 per credit

Teachers College, Columbia University

Teachers College offers an advanced certificate program in sexuality, women, and gender in psychology and education. Provided in conjunction with the Sexuality, Women, and Gender Project, the program is the first approved program of its kind in New York. 

The program’s specialized training increases awareness and understanding of oppression, fosters and disseminates research relevant to serving marginalized populations, and creates liaisons between counseling professionals working with underserved groups. In addition to didactic coursework, students must complete a research project that increases their knowledge and awareness in a domain of interest. The program consists of 12 credits.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: Three to six months
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $22,068 in total

Southern Methodist University

SMU offers an on-campus MS in counseling that students may choose to augment with an emphasis in affirmative therapy for LGBTQ+ clients; the emphasis may also be taken as a standalone certificate program. The program aims to review the most current understandings of the field, focus on evidence-based social science, spotlight LGBTQ+ competency guidelines, and challenge the heteronormative bias in the therapy room. 

Emphasis courses include advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals across the lifespan; affirmative therapy for transgender & GN-C clients; and affirmative therapy for LGBTQ+ couples and families. The MS program consists of 63 credits; the emphasis program consists of three classes in total.

  • Location: Dallas, TX
  • Duration: Three years
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $868 per credit

Multicultural Counseling Programs

Antioch University

Antioch University offers a certificate in multicultural counseling at its Seattle campus. Students will be equipped with an advanced understanding of multicultural dynamics and strategies when promoting clinical change and social advocacy within diverse communities. 

Electives include topics such as attunement skills in multicultural counseling; American Indian counseling experiences and practices; diversity in sexual expression; and treating internalized oppression. The program consists of 15 quarter-credits.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Duration: 15 months
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $797 per credit

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University offers an on-campus graduate certificate in systemic multicultural counseling. Housed within the school’s marriage and family therapy program, it focuses on inclusion and social justice issues in the therapeutic space. 

Required courses include social and cultural diversity in counseling and therapy; theories of marriage and family therapy; and advanced social justice and inclusion in systemic therapy. Students also choose an elective from a list that includes topics such as individual and family development across the lifespan; substance abuse in family systems; and counseling the addicted person. The program consists of 12 credits.

  • Location: Boone, NC
  • Duration: Three to six months
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $1,102 per credit

University of Missouri

The University of Missouri College of Education offers a graduate certificate in multicultural and social justice counseling. Designed for students who want to add a multicultural or social justice focus to their counseling credentials, the certificate may be pursued in a standalone format or as part of a broader mental health program (such as a master’s in education in counseling, or a master’s in social work). 

Students may choose from a list of electives that includes classes such as integrating spirituality in counseling; counseling African American clients; counseling sexual and gender minorities; and social class and poverty issues in counseling. The program consists of 12 credits.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Duration: Three to six months
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $2,083 per credit
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California, and he believes a strong society demands a stronger mental health system. Since early 2018, he’s written extensively about emerging topics in counseling, research, and healthcare education. Drawing upon interviews with hospital CEOs, healthcare professionals, professors, and advocacy groups, his writing and research are focused on learning from those who know the subject best.