Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
School of Arts and Sciences
The CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program prepares students to work as counselors and therapists in hospitals, clinics, private practices, treatment centers, and other community settings. The program provides an important theoretical framework and hands-on professional training for students interested in becoming clinical mental health counselors. With a strong base of ethical behavior, counseling theories, professional counseling identity, treatment planning, counseling research, assessment, and professional development, students graduate with a capacity for critical thinking and counseling effectiveness that can be translated into practice with adults, children, families, and groups from diverse backgrounds. Over two dozen clinical internship and practicum sites are available, providing students with the opportunity to select from a variety of supervised training experiences while cultivating relationships with licensed clinical mental health counselors and other mental health professionals.
Average class size (2020–21)
Who It's For
The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling is designed for students who are interested in becoming a mental health therapist, and specifically a clinical mental health counselor. Students are not required to have an undergraduate major in the social sciences (e.g., psychology). Many students work in mental health-related jobs while enrolled in the program (not required). About 20 students are admitted each year.
- Fully residential
- Your cohort is an active, collaborative, and interpersonal learning community that fuels learning and growth.
- Small class sizes facilitate active discussion and interactive learning.
- The program’s 8-year accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Education Related Programs (CACREP) is considered a “gold standard” for counselor training.
- Core faculty and adjunct instructors are licensed mental health professionals from the community who are actively engaged
in the practice of counseling.
- Core faculty are seasoned clinicians with experience working in many work settings and serving a wide variety of clients.
- Core faculty have leadership roles with the Utah Mental Health Counselors Association, National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, Outdoor Behavioral Health Care Center, and International Psychotherapy Institute.
- Adjunct faculty are licensed professionals currently in practice in a variety of clinical settings, with a variety of clinical specialties.
- Faculty work one-on-one with students to provide training, supervision, instruction, and feedback.
- The small size of cohorts promotes close, supportive peer relationships and connection that lasts long after graduation. Many alumni report that they rely on each other for consultation and professional networking.
- Curriculum is based on the nationally recognized CACREP training standards.
- The program will help you to build a strong theoretical foundation. You'll learn to rely on theory as a way to “think actively” and make sense of the complex issues clients bring to counseling.
- You have access to over two dozen carefully selected clinical internship placements and practicum sites.
- There are opportunities for research, including paid opportunities. You can get involved with core faculty’s research labs and work on the editorial team of a scholarly journal.
- Faculty maintain close connections with agencies in the community, allowing them to connect you with employers and provide a list of job openings related to mental health.
- You will have many opportunities to attend professional conferences at reduced costs and may even be able to present at a conference.
Accreditation Employers Trust
The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling (MSMHC) program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This is a prestigious accreditation for counseling programs that is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
There are a variety of reasons to attend a CACREP-accredited counseling program, including:
- A guarantee that you are being taught a nationally agreed upon counseling curriculum
- Curriculum aligns with state licensure exams and national accreditation exams
- An advantage when applying to doctoral degree programs
- A streamlined state licensing application process
- Increased likelihood of being accepted on some insurance provider panels and hired by some employers, such as the Veterans Administration
- The ability to meet an eligibility requirement for becoming a National Certified Counselor—the premier counselor credential.
- Increases chances of "portability" of your license to other states
Learn more about CACREP and the importance of applying to a CACREP-accredited program.
How Long It Takes
This 3-year program requires 60 hours of graduate work on a full-time basis during the academic year. Classes typically run Monday–Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
"The ongoing, constructive feedback from core and adjunct faculty on my academic performance and developing counseling skill set greatly enhanced my ability to succeed in the classroom and clinical placements. I always found that faculty members were willing to support me directly or connect me with resources both on and off campus when needed to help me progress through the program."
About the Program
The MSMHC program—accredited under CACREP—offers a broad curriculum that meets or exceeds national standards as well as Utah licensure requirements for clinical mental health counselors, and balances professional knowledge with practical experience and skill development. Based on a scientist-practitioner model, the program helps students understand the relationships between counseling theory, research, and practice as they relate to effective mental health counseling.
The plan of study is designed to develop a student’s ability to:
- Understand counselor professional identity and demonstrate skill in applying ethical and legal considerations in professional counseling
- Demonstrate the awareness, knowledge, and skills to counsel clients from diverse backgrounds
- Apply theories of human development to clients’ needs and issues
- Have knowledge of career assessment and planning principles and theories
- Demonstrate skills necessary to be an effective counselor while applying a theoretical approach
- Demonstrate knowledge and skills to facilitate psychoeducational and process groups
- Select and interpret assessment measures (i.e., academic/educational, career, personality, diagnostic, and developmental)
- Critically evaluate research in a manner that informs counseling practice
- Demonstrate the knowledge and ability to diagnose and design treatment plans for a broad range of mental health issues
- Engage in critical thinking and demonstrate a heightened sense of self-awareness in the counseling role
Plan of Study
Students must complete at least 60 hours of graduate course work. The 60-credit hours fulfill Utah licensure requirements as well as CACREP requirements. It is a planned program of study that requires full time enrollment for 3 years (except summers).
Throughout the program, your studies will revolve around 8 core curricular areas:
- Professional counseling orientation and ethical practice
- Social and cultural diversity
- Human growth and development
- Career development
- Counseling and helping relationships
- Group counseling and group work
- Assessment and testing
- Research and program evaluation
To complete your degree, you’ll participate in clinical training. During clinical training, you’ll receive supervised training from faculty and other licensed mental health professionals and expand your applied counseling knowledge and skills.
Practicum must total a minimum of 100 hours, of which 40 hours must be completed in direct service. An internship must total a minimum of 900 hours, of which 360 must be completed in direct service. The combined hours from practicum and internship exceed Utah licensure and CACREP requirements.
Westminster has more than two dozen carefully selected clinical internship placements and practicum sites that give you valuable hands-on training and help you build a professional network in the mental health field. Sites are in a wide variety of clinical settings (e.g., hospital, residential, outpatient, private practice, wilderness therapy, day treatment, university counseling center, and state prison) and serve a wide variety of client populations (e.g., LGBTQ communities, children, adolescents, seriously mentally ill, clients with trauma, clients experiencing substance abuse, clients with autism, university students, and clients with co-occurring conditions). Sites include Hope and Healing Child and Family Counseling, Volunteers of America, Rape Recovery Center, Weber State University Counseling Center, Salt Lake Behavioral Health, YouthCare, and other highly regarded agencies throughout the area.
Students are required to take and pass comprehensive exams during their third year. You must earn a satisfactory score on the CPCE exam and write an adequate case conceptualization that follows program guidelines.
Graduates immediately qualify for licensure as an Associate Clinical Mental Health Counselor (ACMHC) in Utah, assuming their legal/criminal history is not problematic. After about 2 years of supervised experience and passing 2 state licensure exams, graduates qualify for full licensure as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC). Licensing requirements vary by state. To become licensed as a CMHC in Utah, graduates must apply with the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. Westminster has not determined whether it meets the educational requirements for licensure in all other states within the United States, including U.S. territories. Students will need to inquire with additional states for information.
An appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures and systems is critical to all mental health counseling fields. This course explores the complexities of culture and its influence on the client/counselor relationship. You’ll develop cultural sensitivity, learn culturally responsive intervention strategies, and increase your awareness of how cultural backgrounds, experiences, belief systems, attitudes, values, and biases influence the counseling process.
Child and Family Counseling
This course provides an overview of current research and practice in child psychotherapy. Through this course, you will achieve the following competencies at an introductory practitioner level:
- Ability to assess and diagnose a child client/patient between the ages of 3–14, considering relevant developmental, familial, and cultural contexts
- Ability to select and construct an appropriate treatment plan for the child
- Awareness of effective treatment approaches, including psychopharmacology, behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, ecological, and psychodynamic intervention strategies
- Knowledge of relevant research on treatment outcome and effectiveness for common childhood referral problems
Psychopathology and the DSM
In this course, we’ll provide an overview of adult psychopathology, including major psychological disorders, associated symptom clusters, etiological factors, accepted treatments, and relevant research findings. We will also examine the empirical challenges to diagnostic accuracy and the social and cultural factors that affect diagnosis and counseling.
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Curriculum prepares students for clinical practice and licensure as a clinical mental health counselor. Students will graduate with a solid understanding of a broad range of theoretical perspectives, research knowledge, and clinical skills they need to provide counseling to diverse treatment populations.
Upon completing your degree and obtaining full licensure, you will be qualified to pursue a career as a clinical mental health counselor, clinical director, administrator, or owner of a private practice, mental health clinic/agency, intensive outpatient treatment/day treatment program, residential program, college counseling center, or psychiatric hospital.
Your license as a CMHC will allow you to work with people of any age and to conduct individual, group, couples, and family therapy as well as to conduct mental health assessments and evaluations.
2018–21 Alumni Data (N=57)
- 98% of alumni are working in a job related to counseling.
- 98% of alumni are licensed as clinical mental health counselors or associate clinical mental health counselors (or the equivalent in another state).
- Alumni work in a variety of settings. The majority work in outpatient/private practice (77%), while others work in day treatment programs (32%), residential treatment programs (19%), and hospitals (3%).
- Alumni provide a variety of clinical services. Specifically, 98% provide individual counseling, 70% provide group counseling, 63% provide family counseling, 67% conduct assessments, 44% provide couples counseling, and 12% do administrative work.
- Alumni work with a variety of clinical populations. In terms of developmental stages, 89% work with adults, 66% work with adolescents, 46% work with children, and 16% work with the elderly.
- Alumni are members of professional counseling associations. Specifically, 67% are members of the American Counseling Association, 56% are members of the Utah Mental Health Counselors Association, and 37% are members of the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
The faculty helped me both in my professional career and personal life by helping me overcome my fears and step outside of my comfort zone by bringing attention to my strengths and abilities. The Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program helped shape who I am today, and I could not have done it without the encouragement and kindness of my cohort and faculty.
The practice of mindfulness improves memory, decreases stress and anxiety, increases self-esteem, boosts immune-system function, and more. Ellen Behrens, program chair and core faculty in Westminster’s Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program, has tips for how you can practice it yourself.
Tuition and Fees
At Westminster, we are committed to making your education affordable.
Westminster Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program alumni can qualify for $20,000 in loan repayment through the Behavioral Health Workforce Reinvestment Initiative. To be eligible, you must commit to work for 3 years in a professional shortage area at an agency that receives public funding. Your site will be required to match 10% of the award amount.
Westminster works with all students to determine the financial aid opportunities available to them. Federal financial aid is available and will be awarded on an individual basis to students who have filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some federal financial aid programs require students to maintain the equivalent of full- or part-time enrollment.
Students who completed an undergraduate degree at Westminster are eligible to receive the Westminster Alumni Scholarship.
Graduate students are eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct (grad) PLUS loans through the U.S. Department of Education’s federal student loan program.
Federal Work Study
Federal Work Study is a federally funded program that provides job opportunities for students to earn money to help pay for college. Westminster employs hundreds of students each year in different areas.
Jan. 31, 2022
Dec. 15, 2021—early submission is strongly encouraged