The Department of Health and Human Development at Montana State University offers three counseling degree options: Marriage and Family Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and School Counseling. All three of our programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). We believe that as a prospective student, you should be interested in pursuing a counseling graduate program that is CACREP-accredited. The choices available to you as a beginning student may seem staggering. There are many aspects to consider in deciding which graduate training program to choose. Many programs across the nation are not CACREP-accredited. However, you must decide whether you will be acquiring a quality education and whether you will be adequately prepared to enter the work force upon graduation. Most states' professional counselor licensure rules require additional course work and/or supervision beyond the degree in order to practice. Furthermore, at least 23 states require CACREP or an equivalent curriculum as a basis for their educational requirements.
The CACREP standards have been developed through extensive cooperation with counselor educators, practitioners, and the public-at-large. Since accreditation is a voluntary endeavor, those schools with CACREP-accredited counseling programs have chosen to demonstrate their commitment to provide rigorous and high quality training to students. CACREP-accredited programs make continual evaluations and revisions to remain current and accredited.
Our programs include clinical experiences in practicum and an internship where students gain supervised counseling practice. Marriage/Family and Mental Health Counseling students are required to complete one semester of practicum (100 hours) and an internship (600 hours) for a total of 700 hours of supervised counseling experience. School Counseling students are required to complete one semester of practicum (100 hours) and an internship (600 hours) for a total of 800 hours of supervised counseling experience. In addition to the clinical experiences, students pursue a course of study that is founded on eight core academic areas as outlined by CACREP:
- Professional Identity Social and Cultural Diversity
- Human Growth and Development Career Development
- Helping Relationships Group Work
- Assessment Research and Program Evaluation
- Social and Cultural Diversity
- Career Development
- Group Work
- Research and Program Evaluation
*CACREP is the internationally recognized accreditation body for counseling programs. Course work from CACREP-accredited programs is typically transportable and leads to more specific licensure/certification varying from region to region.
Completing either the Marriage and Family or Mental Health Counseling program leads to a Master of Science (MS) degree in Counseling. Both programs consist of 60 semester credits and are typically completed in two years, attending classes summer, fall, and spring. Completing the School Counseling program leads to a Master of Education (MEd) degree in School Counseling, which consists of 48 semester credits and is also typically completed in two years, attending classes summer, fall, and spring. Students are encouraged to attend full-time; however, some students choose to plan their program of study on a part-time basis. The drawback to part-time progress is that certain courses are sequenced and if part-time students miss a sequenced cycle, they will have to wait (perhaps longer than hoped) for the cycle to repeat itself.
Because professional counseling--whether conducted in schools, agencies or private practice--requires high levels of professional maturity and interpersonal skills, our curriculum offers a number of learning courses which are designed to foster students' personal development, relationship skills, and professional orientation. The courses include self-exploration and skill acquisition regarding personal values, professional issues, personal and professional relationships, and group dynamics. Our counseling program appeals to a broad array of learners through a variety of curriculum formats to include in-person, blended (online/onsite), and fully online in the case of some of our electives. Faculty use their expertise to create a learning environment to best teach the topics of study. Additionally, our program has a full summer program. All courses in the summer are offered in a blended format to allow for more flexibility with work, clinical, and home life schedules.
At MSU, we firmly believe that competent counseling practice is informed and guided by theory. Our programs emphasize a thorough knowledge of clients' developmental and social contexts. Theory-based approaches to individual, family, and group counseling are covered in depth. Our training strives to provide the necessary self-awareness, knowledge, and skills for counseling students to become competent and capable professional counselors.
Anna Elliott, PhD
Asst Professor and Program Leader, Mental Health Counseling