Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
While mental health awareness is growing, it largely remains taboo. As society increasingly pressures people into being more productive and excelling in every sphere of their professional and personal life, more and more of us become prone to developing mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and other conditions.
The role of a mental health counselor is both challenging and fulfilling. They teach individuals to navigate their day-to-day life in a healthier and more meaningful and mindful way. A master’s degree in mental health counseling can provide the right start toward this rewarding career.
These mental health counseling master’s programs generally comprise 60 to 90 credits and are taught by experienced faculty members, many of whom are renowned authors and licensed mental health professionals. The courses help students develop an understanding of counseling techniques, promote mental health and well-being, and learn counseling skills.
The programs prepare graduates to earn their license as mental health counselors and practitioners. These professionals can work with children or adults, with groups or individuals and in a wide range of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, addiction centers, and other treatment facilities.
The following guide profiles six exceptional master’s programs in mental health counseling as well as three notable faculty members teaching them.
Featured Online Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs
The NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers an online master of arts program in counseling for mental health and wellness. The program prepares students to pursue a license and employment as a mental health counselor. Graduates can work in various settings, such as community agencies, private practice, and addiction treatment centers. The program empowers students to help their patients lead a fulfilling life and make a positive contribution to their community.
Made up of 60 credits, the program equips students with skills to help people from varied backgrounds achieve wellness, health, and meaning in their life. Students take courses on the foundations of counseling for mental health and wellness, the theory and process of individual counseling, human growth and development, abnormal psychology, cross-cultural counseling, and group dynamics.
Students learn to assess groups and individuals of different races, ethnicities, and genders. They also become well-equipped to apply counseling skills, such as practice, case conceptualization, and advocacy. At the end of the program, graduates have gone into work as mental health counselors, advocates, and facilitators of social justice. They can help children and adults express the challenges they face and show them ways to improve their mental wellness.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, a statement of purpose, a current resume or CV, transcripts from every postsecondary school, two letters of recommendation, and TOEFL scores for international students. GRE scores are not required for admission. While not a requirement, some experience in the mental health field is preferred.
- Location: New York City, NY
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Tuition: $1,726 per credit
- Program length: 21-30 months
The University of West Alabama offers an online master’s in clinical mental health counseling that provides students with a thorough understanding of counseling principles, theories, and techniques so that they can successfully promote the mental health and well-being of their clients. The fully online program is taught by experienced faculty members who are also licensed mental health counselors.
The 60-credit curriculum covers an introduction to clinical mental health counseling, techniques of counseling, strategies for crisis intervention, diagnostic techniques for school counselors, and lifespan development and learning. Throughout the program, students are introduced to different counseling techniques, principles, and theories.
Upon completion of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in a variety of settings such as private practice, managed behavioral healthcare organizations, hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, and community agencies.
Admission requirements include a completed online application form and official college and institution transcripts, among other documents.
- Location: Livingston, AL
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Tuition: $429 per credit
- Program length: One to two years
SNHU offers an online master of arts in clinical mental health counseling. The program is enriched by a wide variety of practical opportunities, such as working with clients and gaining experience on a range of emotional and behavioral issues, such as trauma, child development problems, addiction, and even major mental illness. While the program is available online, it requires two face-to-face residencies.
The program comprises a total of 60 credits where students explore diversity in counseling, theories of counseling, assessment and evaluation in counseling, career counseling, and group counseling. Graduates are well-versed in development theory and treatment plans as well. They learn how to assess counseling research, apply strategies of clinical mental health to plan and assess treatment for mental health issues, evaluate the needs of their clients, and apply techniques for facilitating and establishing group counseling.
Upon successful completion, the program can open up roles as professional counselors, professional clinical counselors, and clinical mental health counselors.
Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, a completed online graduate application form, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation.
- Location: Manchester, NH
- Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
- Tuition: $627 per credit
- Program length: Three years
The William & Mary School of Education offers an online master of education in counseling with a concentration in clinical mental health counseling. The program trains students to become licensed professional counselors and the faculty, comprising best selling authors, is the same as that of the on-campus counseling programs.
The 60-credit program includes courses on theories of counseling and psychotherapy, techniques of counseling, group theory, theory and practice of multicultural counseling, human growth and development, and marriage and family counseling. Students get an opportunity to participate in various practical learning activities (e.g., roleplay exercises emphasizing cultural responsiveness). They also practice incorporating key competencies into professional practice, explore feedback received from faculty and peers, and attend lecture series on diversity and social awareness.
Graduates of the program can work in hospitals, community-based mental health centers, and other treatment organizations.
Admission requirements for this program include a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent), a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and GRE scores. Students must also submit academic transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal essay, a resume, and TOEFL scores (for international students).
- Location: Williamsburg, VA
- Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
- Tuition: $665 per credit
- Program length: Three years
UMass Boston offers an online master of science degree in mental health counseling that provides the necessary prerequisites for a successful career in mental health counseling. The program is taught by experienced and knowledgeable faculty members.
Made up of 60 credits, the online program includes the same courses as the on-campus program as well as a two-week in-person intensive at the UMass Dartmouth campus. Curriculum topics delve into the ethical standards and professional issues in counseling, research and evaluation in psychology, abnormal psychology, diversity in counseling, and psychopharmacology.
Students acquire in-depth knowledge of current counseling and therapy theories and learn a wide variety of counseling and therapy techniques. They also gain an understanding of the counseling process, the issues of transference and countertransference, and learn how to avoid bias when using standard diagnostic, assessment, and treatment tools. The program can open up several opportunities for graduates to work as mental health counselors in clinics, hospitals, and other similar centers.
Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree, two to three undergraduate social science courses, at least one year of human services experience, a distinguished undergraduate transcript with at least a 3.0 GPA, a minimum of two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores, which can be waived in certain cases.
- Location: Boston, MA
- Accreditation: New England Association for Schools and Colleges, Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council
- Tuition: $575 per credit
- Program length: Two years
Oregon State University offers an online master of counseling in clinical mental health counseling. The program trains students in theoretical concepts and allows them to practice delivering professional counseling sessions in hospitals, agencies, groups, residential facilities, and other clinical mental health settings. The program includes online coursework and in-person classes.
The program consists of 90 credits across courses in professional counseling orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, and assessment and testing, among others. Students gain clinical experience to work in various settings such as hospitals and rehabilitation facilities and learn how to deliver effective mental health counseling, promote mental wellbeing and health, and make a positive difference in their clients’ lives.
At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in a wide range of settings, such as rehabilitation facilities, primary care facilities, college counseling centers, community counseling agencies, and private practice offices.
To get accepted, students must submit a baccalaureate degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0, a statement of purpose, and several letters of recommendation from professors. Coursework in psychology is preferred but not required.
- Location: Corvallis, OR
- Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
- Tuition: $538 per credit
- Program length: 42 months
Professors to Know in Master’s in Mental Health Counseling Programs
Shabnam Javdani, PhD, New York University
Dr. Shabnam Javdani is an assistant professor of applied psychology at NYU. She teaches courses on the introduction to behavioral research, the introduction to community psychology, risk and resilience, and research methods in applied psychology.
Presently, Dr. Javdani's research is focused on community collaboration, examinations of human behavior from an ecological point of view, intervention development, and adolescent health disparities. A member of the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science, she has published her research in top journals, such as the Journal of Prevention and Intervention in the Community, the American Journal of Community Psychology, and the Journal of Adolescent Health. She is the recipient of the NYU Steinhardt Research Development Award and the NYU Steinhardt Gabriel Carras Research Award.
Dr. Javdani completed her doctorate and master's degree in clinical-community psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Arien Muzacz, PhD, Oregon State University
Dr. Arien Muzacz coordinates the clinical mental health counseling program at Oregon State. She teaches courses in the hybrid master’s of counseling in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling programs. Before joining OSU, she worked at various other institutions such as Lewis & Clark College, Montclair State University, and the City College of the City University of New York.
Dr. Muzacz is a member of several professional organizations including the American Counseling Association and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. She has published her research in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling and the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. She also has received several awards, including the Mental Health Counseling Student Scholar Award and the Children’s Aid Society’s Staff Excellence Award.
Dr. Muzacz completed her doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Oregon State University, her master of arts in mental health counseling from the City College of the City University of New York, and her bachelor of arts in psychology and political science from Columbia University.
Steven Vannoy, PhD, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Dr. Steven Vannoy is an associate professor in the mental health and in the counseling psychology doctoral program at UMass Boston where he teaches abnormal psychology, research in counseling psychology, and advanced career and group counseling, as well as an independent study course and a practicum in counseling.
Dr. Vannoy's primary research covers suicide prevention, alternative and evidence-based psychotherapies, and mental health care in medical settings, which has appeared in the Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, the Journal of Head and Trauma Rehabilitation, and the Journal of Neurotrauma. He is a part of the American Association of Suicidology and American Psychological Association and has won the Department of Counseling Psychology Dissertation Research Award and the Ray W. Strowig Award.
Dr. Vannoy earned his doctorate and master's in counseling psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; his master of public health from the University of Washington; and his associate degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.