Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Mental health is a crisis in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 22.8 percent of adult Americans experience some form of mental illness (which is nearly 57.8 million people), but only 47.2 percent of diagnosed adults received care.

That’s part of why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for mental health counselors is set to grow 22 percent nationally between 2021 and 2031—a rate that’s over quadruple the national average for all professions (5 percent).

Clinical mental health counselors work with individuals and groups through diagnosis, treatment, and preventative care to promote optimum mental and emotional health. They can specialize in a particular area, such as substance abuse, family therapy, couples therapy, child therapy, or stress management.

This field requires strict educational and licensing requirements, many of which can be met by earning a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. While specific licensure requirements vary from state to state, all states require clinical mental health counselors to have a master’s degree in a relevant subject. An advanced degree like a master’s in clinical mental health counseling equips one with the foundational knowledge and hands-on skill necessary to treat a wide variety of mental health issues in various settings.

Clinical mental health counselors are integral to fighting back against the mental health crisis in America. Earning a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling can get you started on this in-demand career path. Furthermore, the online delivery of these advanced degrees makes it more convenient than attending a traditional brick-and-mortar campus. These programs generally match you with supervised clinical experiences in your area.

If you’re ready to join the fight for compassionate and equitable mental health care in the United States, read on to look at online master’s degrees in clinical mental health counseling.

Featured Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Programs
Methodist University MS - Clinical Mental Health CounselingGO
Northwestern University Online MA - CounselingGO
Grand Canyon University MS - Clinical Mental Health CounselingGO
Grand Canyon University MS - Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Childhood and Adolescence DisordersGO
Walden University MS - Clinical Mental Health CounselingGO
Walden University MS - Dual Degree: Clinical Mental Health & School CounselingGO
Pepperdine University Online MA - Clinical Psychology (LMFT or LPC prep)GO
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Typical Admissions Requirements for Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Admissions requirements for online master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling will vary from school to school, but typically include a combination of the following: a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited program; a competitive undergraduate GPA (2.7 or greater); GRE and/or GMAT scores; letter(s) of recommendation; a phone or in-person interview; and a personal statement.

Note that some programs may request that applicants complete specific undergraduate coursework in statistics, research methods, and/or psychology.

Courses in Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Online master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling will include core classes and elective options that prepare a student to understand and treat the wide spectrum of mental health issues they’ll encounter in the field.

Some common courses include:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Addiction counseling
  • Advanced counseling skills and crisis management
  • Assessment of counseling (adult/child)
  • Classification of mental & emotional disorders
  • Cross-cultural counseling
  • Ethics and legal issues in counseling
  • Foundations of family, marital, and couples counseling
  • Human growth and development
  • Psychopathology in counseling
  • Research and evaluation in behavioral sciences
  • Theory & technique of substance abuse
  • Trauma and crisis counseling

Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships – Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In addition to academic coursework, most online master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling include supervised hands-on experiences in the form of practicums (100 to 150 hours) and internships (600 to 700 hours).

These experiences give students a chance to put learning into practice and prepare them for state licensure and further certification. Despite the physical nature of these practicums and internships, the online learning modality is not a hindrance to completing them: most online master’s programs in clinical mental health counseling have faculty members working with students to select practicums and internships that match a student’s location and career goals.

Program Accreditation for Online Master’s Degrees in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Accreditation ensures that the content and quality of an educational program have been evaluated and meet the standards set by the profession. For online master’s degrees in clinical mental health counseling, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) are the two primary authorities.

While regional accreditations through the Center for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) are important at the undergraduate level, only CACREP- and MPCAC-accredited master’s programs have been vetted specifically for their mental health offerings.

Featured Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs

New York University – Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

NYU offers an online master of arts (MA) in counseling for mental health and wellness that equips graduates with the skills necessary to help people from all backgrounds live lives of health, wellness, and meaning. The curriculum comprises 60 graduate credits, an in-person immersion, a counseling lab, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship. GRE scores are not required for admission.

During the last term of the program, students will complete the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE). The State of New York has registered the online program as a license-qualifying program in mental health counseling, and the university maintains a list of how its curriculum aligns with other states’ licensing requirements as well.

The curriculum includes courses such as human growth and development; individual counseling: theory and process; foundations of counseling for mental health and wellness; professional orientation and ethics in counseling for mental health and wellness; cross-cultural counseling; research and evaluation in behavioral sciences; dynamics of vocational development; and interpretation and use of tests in counseling adults.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); MPCAC
  • Expected Time to Completion: 21 to 30 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,101 per credit

Northwestern University – The Family Institute

Counseling@Northwestern, the online master of arts (MA) in counseling program at Northwestern University, prepares its graduates to work as mental health, behavioral, and substance abuse counselors. The curriculum for the standard program includes 24 graduate-level courses, a 200-hour practicum, a 600-hour internship, and two in-person immersions in Chicago. Students may add a child and adolescent emphasis for their degree by completing two specialization courses in the subject.

For those without any background in psychology or counseling, Northwestern also offers a bridge program that brings students up to pace with prerequisite coursework in clinical interviewing and practice. Upon completing their degree at Northwestern, graduates are prepared and qualified for state licensure and employment as counselors.

The curriculum includes courses such as theories of counseling & psychotherapy; ethics and legal issues in counseling; assessment in counseling; group counseling theory and practice; psychopathology and diagnosis in counseling; multicultural counseling; family, marital, and couples counseling; addictions counseling; and professional topics in clinical mental health counseling.

  • Location: Evanston, IL
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,387 per unit

Wake Forest University – Department of Counseling

Wake Forest University’s master’s counseling program (MAC) offers a clinical mental health counseling concentration that puts students on the fast track to certification and industry expertise. Its graduates earn a 98 percent pass rate on the National Counselor Examination and a high acceptance rate in reputable doctoral programs.

The curriculum focuses on eight knowledge areas: human growth and development; social and cultural foundations; helping relationships; group work; career and lifestyle development; appraisal; research and program evaluation; and professional orientation. Wake Forest MAC students have worked in more than 60 different community agencies, mental facilities, and schools. The program consists of 60 credits, a 200-hour practicum and, a 600-hour internship.

The curriculum includes courses such as consultation and program development in counseling; appraisal procedures for counselors; issues in clinical mental health counseling; professional, ethical & legal issues in counseling; classification of mental & emotional disorders; addiction counseling; and clinical mental health counseling.

  • Location: Winston-Salem, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $1,510 per credit

University of Massachusetts, Boston – College of Education and Human Development

The online master of science in mental health program at UMass Boston prepares students for careers as licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs). The program consists of 60 credits, a two-week residency at the Boston campus, and supervised clinical fieldwork. Upon graduation, students will have fulfilled all the academic requirements for state licensure in Massachusetts and all necessary pre-graduation fieldwork. The UMass program also offers one of the most affordable tuition rates for an online, accredited, public research university.

The curriculum includes courses such as counseling theory and practice; group counseling and group dynamics; ethical standards and professional issues in counseling; psychopathology and diagnosis; child and adolescent counseling; vocational development and career counseling; trauma and crisis counseling; counseling families and couples: theories and practice; and sex and sexuality in counseling practice.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); MPCAC
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $575 per credit

Palo Alto University – Department of Counseling

The master of arts in counseling program at Palo Alto University includes an emphasis on clinical mental health counseling that prepares students for licensure as a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). Upon graduation, students will have fulfilled all educational requirements for licensure in California. Students in the distance learning section of this program will be required to attend two residential training experiences on campus.

The program, which focuses on culture, social justice, and families, consists of 94.5 quarter-credits, a 100-hour practicum, two 300-hour internships, and two residential training experiences on campus. In helping to connect students with hands-on practicum placements, the university works with agencies and practitioners in a student’s specific locale so that they obtain a high standard of culturally relevant mental health training.

The curriculum includes courses such as life span development; counseling theory; multicultural counseling theories and techniques; appraisal and assessment in counseling; crisis and trauma counseling; child and adolescent counseling; addiction counseling; psychopharmacology; couples counseling; and cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).; CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 27 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $580 per credit

University of Louisiana, Monroe – College of Health Sciences

The University of Louisiana, Monroe offers an online master of science in counseling program with a clinical mental health focus. Students who complete the clinical mental health track may call themselves clinical mental health counselors and go on to qualify for LPC licensure.

Within the clinical mental health track, students may specialize even further, in one of four areas: pediatric, geriatric, addiction, or marriage and family. The curriculum is designed to train students in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental and emotional disorders, and provide them with the skills to perform individual, group, couples, and family counseling. The program’s faculty operate under the scientist-practitioner model, wherein counseling interventions are taught based on a theory of personality supported by research.

This 60-credit program includes courses such as counseling theories; counseling methods; advanced counseling techniques; law and ethics in counseling; group counseling; clinical assessment and psychometrics; diagnostics in counseling; and multicultural counseling.

  • Location: Monroe, LA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $500 per credit

North Carolina Central University – School of Education

NC Central University’s online master of arts (MA) in clinical mental health counseling program prepares students for work in a variety of mental health settings. Upon completion of the program, graduates are qualified to apply for licensure in North Carolina. The program is also recognized as a Criteria C school for licensure as a licensed clinical addiction specialist (LCAS). The program consists of 60 credits and includes a practicum and internship.

The curriculum includes courses such as ethical & professional orientation to counseling; theories and techniques of counseling; crisis, trauma, and grief counseling; multicultural and gender issues in counseling; principles and procedures of group counseling; introduction to addiction counseling; and introduction to family counseling.

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($298.73 per credit); out-of-state ($1,038.07 per credit)

Montana State University, Billings – College of Health Professions and Science

MSU Billings offers an online master of science (MS) in rehabilitation and mental health counseling (MSCRMHC) that blends online coursework and hands-on fieldwork to prepare students for state licensure and national certification.

Online students will need to make visits to campus on three occasions: for an in-person orientation, for a class in advanced group counseling, and for a pre-practicum. The orientation takes place at the beginning of the program, while the other two on-campus requirements are scheduled in the summer over three days to allow for maximum flexibility. The program comprises 60 credits and includes practicum and internship experiences within a student’s local community.

The curriculum includes courses such as psychiatric rehabilitation; theories of counseling; multicultural & gender issues in counseling; advanced individual counseling; advanced group counseling; and principles of rehabilitation & mental health counseling.

  • Location: Billings, MT
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: On-campus (MT resident: $7,600 per semester; non-resident: $22,160 per semester); online (MT resident: $7,750 per semester; non-resident: $13,780 per semester)

Bellevue University

The online master of science in clinical mental health counseling (MSCMHC) program at Bellevue University is CACREP-accredited and modeled on national licensing standards. The program comprises 60 credits and includes a 100-hour practicum (with 40 hours of observation) and a 600-hour internship (60 percent of which involves direct client contact). Students will also need to complete two on-campus residency experiences. Graduates of the Bellevue program enjoy a 90 to 100 percent job placement rate.

The curriculum includes courses such as diagnosis of mental and behavioral disorders; foundations of addictions counseling; group processes and facilitation; couples and family counseling; advanced counseling skills, techniques, and practices; applied neuroscience and psychopharmacology; trauma, crisis, and traumatic stress counseling; and treatment of child and adolescent disorders.

  • Location: Bellevue, NE
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $649 per credit

Lock Haven University – Department of Social Work and Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Lock Haven University’s online master of science (MS) in clinical mental health counseling program requires no campus visits or residencies. The program’s primary goal is to prepare graduates to function independently as clinical mental health counselors in a variety of different settings.

Students may further specialize their education in one of two focus areas: counseling military/veterans and their families, or counseling children and adolescents. Specialty certificates are also available in trauma-informed care. The main program consists of 60 credits, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship. Upon graduation, students will be license-eligible in many states.

The curriculum includes courses such as clinical mental health counseling as a profession; counseling theories; assessment in mental health counseling; lifespan development implications for counseling; multicultural counseling; addiction counseling; psychopathology & differential diagnosis; advanced skills in mental health counseling; and family and couples therapy.

  • Location: Lock Haven, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: PA resident ($516 per credit); non-PA resident ($774 per credit)

Walden University

Walden University offers an online master of science program in clinical mental health counseling helping graduates become competent and compassionate counselors. Academically preparing students for state licensure or certification as professional mental health counselors, this online program allows students to choose either the general track or tailor their education through five optional specializations. These include addiction counseling, military families and culture, forensic counseling, marriage, couple, and family counseling, and trauma and crisis counseling.

This 90 to 96-credit program includes 80 credits of core courses; two 4-day pre-practicum labs, which include a 4-day face-to-face or virtual synchronous experience; a 100-hour practicum; a 600-hour internship, and the completion of a capstone. The curriculum includes courses such as introduction to clinical mental health counseling; techniques in counseling; theories of counseling; ethics and legal issues in counseling; multicultural counseling; couples and family counseling; and crisis, trauma, and disaster response.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 33 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $505 per credit

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online master of arts (MA) program in clinical mental health counseling preparing graduates to become licensed counselors. Included in this 60-credit program are two required face-to-face residencies to help students in strengthening their workforce abilities.

Featuring video components, two on-site residencies, a 100-hour practicum, and a 600-hour internship, this program includes courses such as diversity in counseling; theories of counseling; assessment and evaluation in counseling; career counseling; substance use disorders and process addictions; diagnosis of emotional and mental disorders; prevention and intervention of crisis and trauma; professional issues, ethics, and laws in clinical mental health counseling; and treatment planning in clinical mental health counseling.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $637 per credit

Liberty University

Liberty University offers an online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling equipping students with the specialized training they need for gaining state licensure and becoming Licensed Professional Counselors. Upon program completion, graduates can enhance their understanding of human psychology through field-tested techniques and learn best practices to promote the mental health and holistic wellness of clients in diverse communities.

This online program requires two on-campus intensive courses. Students in these courses will collaborate and meet with professors and peers while completing their online degree and progressing toward their counseling license. Made up of 60 credits, the program includes courses such as group counseling; theories of counseling; integration of spirituality & counseling; multicultural counseling; ethical & legal issues in counseling; crisis counseling; clinical diagnosis & treatment planning; and substance abuse: diagnosis, treatment & prevention.

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); CACREP
  • Expected Time to Completion: 30 to 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $565 per credit

Professors to Know in Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs

Dr. Mary Sue Richardson

Mary Sue Richardson, PhD 

New York University

Dr. Mary Sue Richardson is a professor of applied psychology at NYU’s Steinhardt, where she teaches and advises students in the school’s graduate mental health counseling program. In 2019, Dr. Richardson served as the course lead for the online sections of the foundations of counseling for mental health and wellness class, and she currently teaches the dynamics of vocational development course. She received her PhD in counseling psychology from Columbia University.

As both a licensed psychologist and a prolific academic researcher, Dr. Richardson’s work is heavily informed by social constructionist, feminist, and social justice perspectives. In recent years, she’s championed a counseling approach she calls “Counseling for Work and Relationship,” which places renewed emphasis on how one constructs their life with respect to social and vocational contexts.

Jinah Jimenez Rordam, PhD, NCC, ACS

Northwestern University

Dr. Jinah Jimenez Rordam is a core faculty clinical lecturer for Northwestern University’s Counseling@Northwestern program. She received her PhD in counselor education and supervision and her MA in counseling from the University of South Florida. She completed her BS in psychology from the University of Florida. Dr. Rordam is a board-certified counselor as well as an approved clinical supervisor.

She has several years of academic teaching experience in both traditional on-ground university settings, as well as virtual online facilities teaching and supervising both graduate and undergraduate programs. Her research efforts are focused on developmental theories, multicultural issues in counseling and counselor education, supervision, group work, and college and career counseling.

Ambrin F. Masood, PhD 

Montana State University Billings

Dr. Ambrin F. Masood is an associate professor for the Department of Rehabilitation and Human Services at Montana State University Billings, where she teaches classes in counseling mostly online. Some of the courses she teaches include advanced group counseling; multicultural and gender issues in counseling; theories of counseling; and individual and family adjustment to disability. She received her PhD in school psychology from Auburn University, and she also holds a master’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of South Alabama.

Dr. Masood has conducted cross-cultural research and authored articles in the areas of mental disability, personality, language, and resiliency in youth. Notably, she is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Montana, has years of experience in psychological testing as a psychometrician and school psychologist, and sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of Public Health Issues and Practices and the Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology.

Jobs for Those With an Online Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Mental Health Counselor

Those with a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling often go on to work as mental health counselors. As stipulated by the American Counseling Association, mental health counselors will work with individuals, families, and groups in diagnosing and treating mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders. Within that scope of practice is a deep reservoir of varying specializations, where a mental health counselor can center their focus around a particular patient demographic or mental health condition.

No matter what they choose to specialize in, mental health counselors often take a holistic, person-centered approach that may involve connecting a client with other care providers, social workers, and professional networks as needed. To that end, mental health counselors must work in multidisciplinary teams and be comfortable treating clients with a dual diagnosis. A master’s degree in mental health counseling is essential not just for meeting licensure requirements, but also for providing a comprehensive understanding of mental health’s varied and interconnected areas.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Mental health and substance abuse are heavily linked, and a master’s degree in mental health counseling can also prepare a graduate for work as a substance abuse counselor. Sometimes referred to as addiction counselors, substance abuse counselors guide clients through substance abuse and dependency issues. They teach their clients healthy coping mechanisms, help them regain control over their lives, and aid them in re-establishing personal and professional relationships.

Within substance abuse counseling, there are further distinctions: some substance abuse counselors focus on crisis intervention, while others work in non-crisis settings. And like mental health counselors, they will need to work in multidisciplinary teams and be comfortable with clients with dual diagnoses. A master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling can provide the foundation for understanding the different elements that factor into substance abuse and effective strategies for mitigating them.

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and researcher from Southern California. Since 2020, he’s written extensively about how counselors and other behavioral health professionals are working to address the nation’s mental health and substance use crises, with a particular focus on community-driven and interdisciplinary approaches. His articles have included detailed interviews with leaders and subject matter experts from the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American Mental Health Counselor Association (AMHCA), the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).