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Mental Health Counseling

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Master of Science (MS) Degree in Mental Health Counseling

The Mental Health Counseling degree program prepares master’s-level graduates to pursue further doctoral training and/or credentialing to work in the mental health field. Our program is designed to meet the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) educational requirements in many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

For the summer 2021 term, a limited number of courses and/or classes within a course will be delivered via live face to face delivery. Details regarding these courses have been communicated with all current students. The remainder of summer courses will be delivered virtually. We anticipate a full return to campus in the fall. Please read an important message from Dean Robert A. DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP for additional information.

Elective courses provide the opportunity to receive advanced training in addictions treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling in medical settings.

Designed to be completed in two years by full-time students, the program also offers part-time options. Most courses meet in the evenings, and a few courses meet on Saturdays.

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About the MS in Mental Health Counseling Program

The mental health counseling master's program provides specialized training in cognitive behavioral therapy and training in empirically supported treatment techniques.

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PCOM offers two MS counseling programs:

Program Mission and Objectives

The mission of the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program is to prepare highly skilled, self-aware, compassionate counselors who provide evidence-based, culturally sensitive, and collaborative treatment using a whole person approach.

Grounded in the cognitive-behavioral tradition, this program trains practitioner-scholars to offer assessment, therapeutic interventions, consultation, program evaluation and follow-up services using a collaborative integrative approach. Incorporating knowledge of the biopsychosocial model, the program provides a foundation for ethical practice and advocacy that facilitates the well-being of individuals, families and communities. The program also trains students to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary settings as health service professionals and to engage in self-care and self-reflection.

The program prepares master’s level graduates with the attitudes, knowledge and skills to obtain credentialing as a licensed professional counselor in many states, become advocacy-oriented practitioners and/or pursue further doctoral training.

Program objectives

The MS in Mental Health Counseling program:

  • Meets the requirements for licensure as a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and many other states.
  • Graduates students who have a strong counseling identity and are competent in clinical skills and interventions.
  • Facilitates standardized patient (SP) experiences for students as a way to assess students’ clinical skills.
  • Provides students with Interprofessional Education (IPE) experiences in which they collaborate with students and faculty across disciplines as a way to learn with, from and about each other.

Student Learning Goals

Our program is designed to graduate practitioner-scholars who are able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the multiple professional roles and functions of counselors across specialty areas.
  • Analyze individual and family development theories and models across the lifespan.
  • Practice counseling in an ethical and legal manner that aligns with the American Counseling Association (ACA).
  • Evaluate career development theories and models as they relate to the interrelationships of the clients world of work, mental well-being, relationships and other life roles and factors.
  • Demonstrate application of multicultural counseling competencies and social justice advocacy efforts.
  • Utilize counseling theories to guide case conceptualization, treatment planning and clinical practice.
  • Apply the theoretical foundations of group counseling and group work to maximize group effectiveness and address the cultural needs of clients.
  • Select, administer and interpret assessments and test that are grounded in evidence-based counseling practices.
  • Use ethical and culturally relevant strategies for conducting, interpreting and reporting the results of research.
  • Employ a professional counseling identity that includes the integration of self-awareness and reflective practices.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in theory and practice.
  • Apply the principles of working in an Inter-professional collaborative team aimed at treating the whole person.

Standardized Patient Program

PCOM offers a standardized patient program where students practice counseling skills in a simulated environment with faculty review sessions.

Students participate in multiple clinical interviews using the Standardized Training and Evaluation of Psychologists and Psychotherapists (STEPPS) program. STEPPS is a performance-based program that provides the opportunity for students to practice their clinical skills and receive feedback. The STEPPS program consists of standardized patients (SPs), who are individuals specifically trained to accurately simulate medical and mental health conditions in a standardized way that facilitates the assessment of the student's counseling skills.

Each STEPPS video is digitally recorded. Students are able to review their STEPPS clinical interviews, track their progress, and use feedback to inform personal learning goals. Additionally, each student is assigned a PCOM faculty member/supervisor who will evaluate and review each of his or her STEPPS interviews. Students then have the opportunity to receive feedback from their supervisor in a face-to-face conference. Finally, students write a reflection paper following each STEPPS interview wherein they reflect on their performance, including strengths and areas they would like to improve.

Advocacy

Advocacy project and poster session

A student pursuing a degree in mental health counseling presents details of his advocacy project as part of a poster presentation.The student advocacy project and poster session was developed to embody the essence of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics which suggests that counselors should advocate at individual and systems levels to help reduce barriers to client growth and well-being. To that end, students will identify a social advocacy need, cause, and/or a vulnerable population for which they will develop and implement a manageable action plan over three semesters.

Careers in Mental Health Counseling

  • This curriculum fulfills the course requirements for becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in many states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. [Watch video: "What Can I Do With an LPC?"]
  • The addictions and correctional counseling specialization provides students with a foundational curriculum, additional coursework, and specialized practicum experiences to prepare them to work in addiction recovery and correctional settings.
  • According to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis Behavioral Health Workforce Projections, demand for mental health counselors is projected to exceed supply by 2030.
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Student Support

Student mentors

Each incoming first-year student chooses a second-year student as their mentor. Second year students serving as mentors meet with first-year students as often as the two would like but at least once a month. This mentoring relationship often lasts as long as the mentee is a student but often extends after graduation. This mentorship program was created as a result of student interest and is sustained by the program director and an interested student.

Mental Health Counseling Support Group for People of Color

People of color remain a highly underrepresented group in graduate level programs across the United States. Many researchers have reported that people of color have a tendency to isolate and struggle in silence when they are considered the minority. The Counselors of Color support group was created with the intention to diminish the desire for people of color to matriculate through the graduate process alone and promote intentionality through connection, support and collaboration. This group aligns with the College's stance on its commitment to diversity as well as the Counseling Department's mission and learning objectives. Monthly meetings are facilitated by a faculty advisor with the goal of addressing the unique challenges of graduate school and other important life areas. The purpose of this group is to provide monthly support regarding unique challenges of graduate school and other important life areas for people of color.

Personal growth group

Three students pursuing a degree in mental health counseling are pictured in a classroom with a professor.Many of us are drawn to the counseling field because empathy is part of our way of being, knowing, and understanding. However, it can be a challenge to translate our natural interpersonal skills into the counseling setting. The personal growth group provides students who are looking to grow in this area the opportunity to continue developing their empathy and interpersonal skills as well as see group processes in action. Members of the group engage in this growth opportunity with their fellow students to be able to meet goals with the support of their peers and the facilitator. The group functions like a closed counseling group and runs for 6 to 8 sessions depending on the changing needs of the group members.

Visit the application requirements page to learn about admissions requirements, the application process and the admissions process for PCOM's counseling and psychology programs.

PCOM is committed to helping students maximize funding sources and minimize student debt. Visit our Office of Financial Aid section to learn about cost of attendance, types of aid available and how to apply for financial aid.

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Learn more about PCOM School of Professional and Applied Psychology and view frequently asked admissions questions about PCOM's psychology programs.

Program Highlights

Mental Health Counseling (MS)

Curriculum and Training

Students complete a foundation curriculum and electives in the program. They receive specialized training in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Electives

Electives can be in a variety of topic areas, such as marriage and family therapy, trauma and others, or can focus on health counseling/behavioral medicine, cognitive-behavior therapy, or addictions and correctional counseling.

Treating the Whole Person

Our programs emphasize treatment of the whole person, incorporating knowledge of mind and body to promote health and wellness.

Faculty Role

Faculty mentorship is a key component of our programs.

Convenience

All courses are offered in the evenings and on some weekends.

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