Frequently Asked Questions about the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
How many credits is this degree?
The program is completed in 90 quarter credits. Some state licensing boards use semester credit language (usually 60). To convert from semester to quarter credits, multiply your state’s semester credit requirements by 1.5. (60 semester credits x 1.5 = 90 quarter credits).
How long is the program?
Students can complete the program in two to three years. The 2-year option requires students to take three courses per term. The 3-year option requires students to take two courses per term, most terms. Please see our MS curriculum page for links to our degree planners.
Will completing the program help me become licensed as a counselor in my state?
Becoming licensed as a counselor in any state is a multi-step process and the educational program you choose is just the first step. Every state has different requirements for licensure including number of credit hours, types of courses, clinical experience hours, an application with fee, completion of post-master’s clinician hours under professional supervision, state exam, and national exam. This program was designed to meet the educational requirements of a majority of states. However, applicants should find and review their state requirements for comparison and come prepared to ask those question of the admissions advisor or during the applicant’s interview.
What makes this program unique from other online counseling programs?
The use of the Standardized Patient Program is unlike any other comparative programs and allows us to use trained actors to portray mental and behavioral health clients so students can practice applying their skills in a controlled environment. Other unique features of the program include the incorporation of a systems approach by including courses on marriage, couple and family counseling. Recognizing that clients are presenting with more trauma experiences, the program also includes a crisis, trauma, and suicide course.
Is this program accredited?
Programs at UWS are regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). NWCCU is a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Students should check with their state licensing agencies to confirm the accreditation requirements. At this time, the program is pursuing accreditation by the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
What if my GPA is below the stated minimum?
Applications with a GPA that falls below the 2.75 minimum will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require submission of a General Waiver Form. You may request this form from your admissions advisor. The MS-CMHC program does not require or accept GRE/MAT scores in lieu of the minimum GPA. UWS Admissions uses a holistic application processing approach, wherein the committee evaluates each element of your application on its own merits. Please include all relevant skills, experiences, and education in your application via the written essays, resume, references, and interview.
When can I start the program?
Entry points for this program are Fall (October), Spring (April) and Summer (July) terms. Check with the admissions advisor about application deadlines so you know when you have to have your application completed.
What happens after I apply?
Once you have completed the application process, the admissions office will schedule an interview with the clinical mental health counseling faculty. The admissions office will forward your application materials to the faculty, who will review your essays, prior academic records, and the term you would like to start. Admission is competitive so faculty consider the number of students they admit during each entry point. You will then participate in an hour-long interview, including time for you to ask questions to determine whether the program is the best fit for you. Based upon the faculty recommendation, the admissions office will then notify the applicant of the outcome.
Can I transfer master’s-level courses in if I have started a counseling program elsewhere?
The current policy allows students to apply for transfer credit after admission and within the first three terms of the program. The policy requires the student to complete a detailed application that includes a comparison of the course learning outcomes, the provision of syllabi from the time period during which the student completed the courses, and specific grades in those transfer courses. If all requirements are met, students may transfer up to 16 quarter credits (equivalent of 10.67 semester credits).
What can I do with this degree?
Check your state to ensure the program meets the academic requirements that allow you to pursue licensure. Once your state license application is approved, you will be able to work as a counselor in your state. Some colleges and universities may allow you to teach. Experienced counselors become counseling or administrative supervisors. Counselors can also work as consultants to organizations interested in improving mental health for their employees.
Do students need to set up their own practicum and internship?
Students participate in practicum and internship in their own communities. Students are prepared for the search via foundational assignments in the Pre-Practicum courses. These assignments include development of an appropriate counseling resume, a guided site search, development of dynamic answers to clinically focused interview questions, and a review of required site documentation and orientation. Additionally, faculty work with each student, individually, to offer guidance and suggestions, review agency websites, and check site supervisor credentials to ensure potential sites can provide the types of clinical experiences that lead to student development.
Are students able to maintain their employment while completing the practicum and internship?
Yes. Most students in the program work part or full time, though this requires significant attention to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This work/life balance is encouraged in the program. The program advisor will work with you to adjust your program plan if you find you need to take fewer courses per term or if you think you can take on a greater course load.
Can students use their employer as their practicum/internship site?
Generally, no. There is a potential for students to be placed in dual role situations when relying on an employer to provide opportunities for a separate, clinical role. Some large corporations may have divisions that might allow a student to be supervised in a different facility by a different administrator. In those cases, students are welcome to make the request and faculty will review the option.
Can my practicum and internship be at the same site?
Yes. Traditionally, students complete all five clinical terms at one site. This, however, is not required. Students may have multiple sites – either consecutively or concurrently. We will review every site request submitted by each student.
What is the structure and format of the online courses?
Terms are 11 weeks long. Our online learning platform is presented in a weekly format, with clear information about requirements and assignments. Links to resources and assignments are clear. Each course template looks the same. The program’s goal is to reduce cognitive load by creating a familiarity from course to course. Students will learn how to understand the format in our online orientation prior to their first term. Common types of assignments include engaging discussion forums, article reviews, case study evaluations, literature reviews, reflection papers, and creative presentations.
How many hours per week should students dedicate to homework and study?
We suggested that students plan for 2 – 2.5 hours or work for every enrolled credit hour. For example, a student taking 12 credits should plan for 24 – 30 hours of reading, review, assignment preparation, activities, and submission.
Are international students eligible to apply for this program?
Currently, we are unable to admit international students who live abroad. The program prepares students for counseling licensure in the United States, and we cannot guarantee licensure internationally. Additionally, we cannot guarantee that practicum/internship hours completed outside of the U.S. will be accepted for licensure within the U.S. Since the program is online and does not have location-bound requirements, University of Western States cannot issue student visas for the purposes of completing practicum and internship requirements domestically.
I am a permanent resident of the United States. Would I apply as a domestic or international student?
As a permanent resident you would apply as a domestic student.