Mental Health Counseling
The Mental Health Counseling program combines didactic and experiential course work to give students grounding in theories and principles of mental health counseling and extensive experience in supervised application of those theories and principles. The goals of the Mental Health Counseling program are the following: to enhance students' personal and professional development as counselors; to increase their ability to understand the characteristics and concerns of various client populations and their environments; to develop their knowledge and skills in use of theory based counseling models; and to train them in the use of scientific methods of inquiry and evaluation. The program is designed to achieve the following objectives:
Objective #1: Core education in counseling
A major objective of the program is to provide students with training which meets the American Counseling Association's Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) counselor education accreditation criteria for mental health counseling. CACREP criteria require that students complete a 60-credit program which includes 1000 hours of supervised practice at counseling and exposes them to knowledge and skills in the following areas which are described in more depth under the core program objectives.
The program includes a counseling skills course, two practica in our human development clinic seeing clients under the supervision of faculty (200 hours), and an internship (500 hours).
Objective #2: Mental health counselor's personal/professional development
A second objective of the program is to promote mental health counselors' personal, interpersonal, and professional development. The mental health counseling program is committed to encouraging persons from diverse cultural backgrounds to become counselors. Because mental health counseling requires high levels of professional maturity and interpersonal skills, the curriculum offers a number of experiential learning courses which are designed to foster students' personal development, relationship skills, and professional orientation. The course content includes self-exploration and skill acquisition regarding personal values, cultural heritage, professional issues, personal and professional relationships, and group dynamics. These experiences include opportunities for development of cohesive relations between students through self-disclosure, empathic listening, feedback, and role play. Fellow students are one of the outstanding learning resources in the mental health counseling program. Students are also expected to be in their own personal counseling while going through the program.
Objective #3: Foundations of mental health counseling
A third objective of the program is to help students acquire knowledge in the foundations of mental health counseling, including its history, philosophy, unique professional identity, professional organizations, training standards, credentialing mechanisms, ethical codes, and research and professional issues. Students will be encouraged to join ACA and the American Mental Health Counseling Association.
Objective #4: Mental health counseling in Montana's mental health system
A fourth objective of the program is to help students understand and prepare to fulfill mental health counseling roles in Montana's mental health care system. The program is designed to meet licensure requirements in Montana for professional counselors. The requirements include that the programs be at least 60 semester credits in length, and involve at least six credits of counseling practicum course work. Students can also acquire up to 1500 hours of supervised counseling experience prior to graduation which can be applied to the 3000 hours of supervised experience needed for licensure. Graduates of the program have equivalent status to persons from "core provider" professions (psychiatry, clinical psychology, clinical social work, and psychiatric nursing) when applying for clinical privilege with Montana 's mental health centers.
Objective #5: Clinical mental health services
The fifth objective of the program is that students acquire the comprehensive knowledge and skills needed for provision of mental health counseling clinical services. Studies in this areas include: 1) understanding the general principles which explain mental health; 2) becoming competent in appraisal methods including mental status exams, mental health history taking, testing, DSM IV diagnosis, and environmental assessment; learning models and techniques for promoting mental health; and treating disorders including mental health education, prevention, consultation, crisis intervention, psychotropic medication, and disorder specific individual, family, and group counseling.
Competent counseling practice is informed and guided by theory. The program emphasizes thorough knowledge of clients' developmental, cultural, and social contexts. Theory-based approaches to appraisal and individual, family and group counseling are covered in-depth. During counseling practica (600 hours), students are closely supervised by licensed mental health professionals about clients and counseling theories. Students counsel children, adolescents, adults, and elders, including persons suffering from serious mental illness. Supervised practice continues and is expanded during internship (600 hours). Upon completion of their internship, students will have met CACREP criteria for training experience in individual, family, and group mental health counseling and consultation.
Objective #6: Specific populations and settingsThe sixth objective is through the program, students develop their interests in particular populations or settings into expertise which will allow them to assume a professional role upon graduation. Students explore their interests early in their programs through course work on the orientations and ethics of mental health counseling. Students are also required to attend professional development workshops to help identify interests. Once interests have been identified, students can use each course in the curriculum to develop the knowledge and skills needed to acquire expertise at working within their interest areas. Supervised counseling experience during their practica allows application of acquired knowledge and skills. Students are encouraged to select internship placement at an agency which offers services that are congruent with their interests and long-range professional goals. The internship is considered a capstone educational experience during which students refine and consolidate their learning and achieve a professional role within an agency. Internships may be completed in agencies throughout Montana and out of state. Students are encouraged to select internship placement with an agency in a location where they would like to begin their post-graduate career.
Students are also encouraged to develop expertise by using their elective credits for in-depth study in a specific area. Students who are considering pursuit of a doctorate following their master's degree are encouraged to do research or professional projects.
|About the Curriculum
Required courses in the curriculum are intended to be taken sequentially to optimize students' acquisition of knowledge, skills and personal development. Permission of the instructor is also a prerequisite for all courses involving personal development, acquisition of skills, and/or counseling practice. Because progress through the curriculum is dependent on students taking courses in sequence, it is important that students carefully plan their course of study with their advisor. Practicum courses are both limited and restricted in enrollment. It is necessary to take courses in fall, spring and summer semesters. Course work in the Mental Health Counseling program is consistently rigorous. Student complete the program to allow more time for in-depth study and/or involvement in nonacademic commitments.