Online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Frequently Asked Questions
The MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MA-CMHC) program’s primary purpose is to prepare students to become Licensed Mental Health Counselors in the state of Washington. LMHCs are prepared to provide mental health counseling and are qualified to diagnose mental health disorders. LMHCs are likely to work in community health agencies and/or in private practice. Mental health counselors may work with individuals, groups, couples, families, and all ages. Counselors may qualify for other job opportunities in schools and/or businesses, but these tend to be secondary career choices.
To be licensed in the state of Washington, you will need to graduate with a Master’s degree in mental health counseling, complete 3,000 clinical hours of work (under supervision), and pass a state exam. Alumni of our programs work in professional settings (for example, in a mental health agency) to acquire the 3,000 hours of supervision.
Additional information may be found via the American Counseling Association (ACA) (www.counseling.org) and its divisions, the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) (www.nbcc.org), and Chi Sigma Iota (CSI) (www.csi-net.org). The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and available online (www.bls.gov/ooh) is an excellent resource providing information and statistics pertaining to the counseling profession.
The program is designed to meet Washington state standards for mental health counselors. For other states, please see our Licensure by State.
Yes, there are differences. We recommend exploring different online resources to get a better sense of what those differences are. Below we provide one resource for each area to help you get started:
- For more information about mental health counselors, visit: American Mental Health Counselors Association
- For more information about marriage and family therapists, visit: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- For general information about school counseling and other specialties, visit: American Counseling Association
We serve a diverse age range. Some of our students enroll in our program right after completing their bachelor’s degree. Others return to school after some time developing their careers or starting families. We also have students who join us as they are about to retire. Here is a breakdown of the age categories of NU’s 476 graduate students enrolled in 2023.
|65 and over||2|
Online Program-Specific Questions
It takes three years (7 to 8 semesters) of full-time enrollment to complete the program across three annual terms (fall, spring, and summer semesters). For information about the courses and when they are offered, see the Course Sequence and Descriptions document.
At the time of this document’s last update, our program fees are:
- $60 Residency Fee (For each of the three on-campus residency experiences)
- $80 Background Check fee (this occurs in the first semester as a part of the counseling skills course is for preparation for the clinical training portions of the program)
- $25 Qualtrics Fee (One time for Practicum and one time for Internship I. Qualtrics is the service we use to facilitate and document the clinical training experience)
- Please see the Grad catalog for a full list of the most up-to date -fees for our program: Graduate Catalog.
Yes, however it is a full-time program and a student’s ability to work full-time depends on multiple personal factors. Some students find that they are unable to work as much as they initially thought so we suggest having other options for how you might financially support yourself through school.
Typically, yes - we have a financial services team who can provide financial information specific to this program. You may contact them by e-mail, at email@example.com or call 425-889-5210.
Because counseling is a face-to-face experience, we want our students to get as much face-to-face experience as possible during their online training. Students gain hands-on practice experience and to learn how to apply the skills needed to do the work of counseling. Additionally, residency gives students and faculty the opportunity to build long-lasting professional relationships, learn from each other, and network before they step into the workforce.
The online program includes three required residencies that take place on our Kirkland, WA campus. Students will be on campus for 4 days starting on a Wednesday and ending on Saturday. The first residency occurs in the fall semester of the first year and is associated with the Counseling Skills course. The second residency occurs in the summer semester of the first year and is associated with the Group Counseling course. The third residency occurs in the summer semester of the second year and is associated with the Advanced Counseling Theories and Practice course (please see the Grad Catalog for the most up-to-date information regarding courses).
“It was such a great experience and a joy to work with my cohort during residency. I learned so much during those days and I was eager to use what I learned from working with my peers and faculty/mentors, in working with clients.”
“After looking back to my first mock counseling session, I can see the vast growth that has occurred after practicing counseling skills in the residency. During this session, I felt that my ability to listen to my client without prematurely forming responses in my head had grown significantly. I also noticed that I was less anxious going into this session compared to the first one, and this aided my ability to connect with my client.”
“What a difference last week (Residency) made for my confidence going into this session! I was able to tune into my client much more successfully. I found that I didn't even have to think about my basic attending skills. Residency taught me that the client/counselor space is also a place to develop and build the client/counselor relationship.”
“I can see a big improvement in this second session. I felt more comfortable during this session, which was because of all the practice during residency week.”
“After residency week practice, I feel more confident as a counselor.”
“The second mock counseling session was so much more comfortable after our residency experience and using basic attending skills came more naturally. I am so happy to hear/read that this is a common theme among our cohort!”
We will issue temporary parking permits for students during the residency experiences and you will not need to purchase one for the three times you are required to be on campus. However, if you desire to utilize on-campus resources on a more regular basis you should consider purchasing an annual pass to avoid a parking fine. You may learn more about parking on the Eagle website.
We teach in a cohort format, which means all the students go through the program together at the same pace. This is often something that our current students as well as our alumni state as their favorite aspect of the program. Students build trust, become a support system for each other, and often form life-long friendships. Many network well beyond graduation, and some have even started a joint private practice together. Our program’s cohorts are diverse. Student’s age typically ranges from 22 to 66. Many of our applicants have worked in different fields and now want to make a career change later in life.
The online and the on-campus CMHC programs are essentially the same program with same outcomes but they differ based on the modality offered (online vs. on-campus). Additionally, the course sequence varies i.e., the internship occurs during the third year of the online program and during the second year of the on-campus program. Both prepare you for licensure in the state of Washington and both teach the same courses. Because of the modality differences, the online program is a 3-year program and the on-campus program is a 2-year program.
Students will engage with the material in a number of ways. Typically, students will be assigned weekly, academic readings, watch multi-media clips supporting the readings, participate in online discussion forums with their cohort members, and complete applied learning activities offline. Applied learning activities include writing papers, conducting mock counseling session, creating presentations and more.
Students should expect to devote an average of 18–25 hours per week. At times students may expect to spend more time, depending on the requirements of the program, curriculum and their own individual work-pace.
Part-time study is possible on a case-by-case basis. Studying part-time will increase the length of the program to 48 or more months and may affect eligibility for financial aid. All student’s need to complete the program within 5 years.
Practicum is a distinctly defined clinical training experience in which students develop and practice basic counseling skills under the supervision of a qualified supervisor. Practicum is the first of two clinical training experiences in the program. Students complete their practicum before their internship. It is a 100-hour, semester-long, hands-on experience.
Like practicum, internship is a clinical training experience performed under supervision of a qualified supervisor but requiring more hours of experience over two semesters. The internship occurs during the third year of the program and includes 600 clinical hours.
The clinical director works closely with each student to help him or her find a site. While it is the student’s responsibility to submit their application, it is a faculty-guided and well-supported process.
The CMHC Clinical Directors provide mentorship and guidance throughout the clinical placement search process. Starting with an informational session during fall term, the Clinical Directors offer clear parameters for clinical requirements, provide updated manuals that outline all important information related to Practicum and Internship, offer helpful suggestions for contacting and interviewing with sites, and answer student questions about this process and the expectations.
Next, students submit an application to their Clinical Director and in turn each individual will receive suggestions and contact information for several sites that may be a fit for them. The Clinical Directors are in regular contact with students throughout the search process and are available to correspond with students as they go through interviewing and solidifying a site. It is the responsibility of each student to secure a clinical placement, however students are offered a great deal of support, encouragement, and direction throughout this process.