Curriculum

A Rigorous, CACREP-Accredited Master’s Program

The online Master of Arts in Counseling Program requires you to meet high academic standards so you can become an effective practitioner who works successfully with diverse clients.

As a student, you will gradually build your knowledge as you explore topics such as ethics, multiculturalism, advocacy, outreach, life span development, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum introduces you to many counseling approaches but focuses on psychodynamic theory and application, which examines the conscious and unconscious forces that may affect your work with clients.

The Counseling@Northwestern curriculum is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which evaluates counseling programs nationwide. Many states require you to earn a master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program as part of the counselor licensure process.

Programs

Counseling@Northwestern offers two programs so you can earn your master’s degree no matter how much counseling experience you have. Both programs are offered on an accelerated, traditional, and part-time basis.

Standard Program

The Standard Program comprises 24 graduate-level courses, a Practicum, and an Internship. You may be eligible for the Standard Program if you have any of the following:

  • An undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field
  • Volunteer or internship experience in psychology or counseling
  • Paid employment at a counseling center or related setting

See sample Standard Program course schedules.

Bridge to Counseling Program

The Bridge Program enables you to earn your MA in Counseling even if you didn’t earn an undergraduate degree in psychology or you haven’t worked with clients in a counseling setting. As a Bridge student, you will take three introductory courses during your first quarter, designed to ease you into the graduate-level concepts and clinical training component of the Standard Program curriculum.

See sample Bridge to Counseling Program course schedules.

Specialization

As a Bridge or Standard Program student, you may declare a Child and Adolescent specialization, which prepares you to work effectively with young people facing mental illness. Specialization courses are included in the total number of courses required to earn your MA in Counseling degree.

Learn more about the Child and Adolescent specialization.

Self-Reflective Experiences

“It was such a powerful experience, and it was so formative in my counselor identity that I really wish it continued. It was such a great space and a comfortable environment to share stories that you were unsure about both clinically and in your own personal life.”

—Gina Martin, ‘17

“My only complaint is that it doesn’t go on throughout the entire program.”

—Hayley Hoffman, ‘17

Before you can facilitate healing as a counselor, you need to fully understand yourself and how your background could affect the therapy you provide. Counseling@Northwestern offers two self-reflective experiences that help you understand what you bring to the counseling relationship to maximize your clinical efficacy with clients.

Reflective Practitioner Supervision:
During your Practicum year, you will meet weekly with two to four other students and a group supervisor to discuss how your experiences, biases, and personality dimensions can interfere with or contribute to the therapeutic process.
Psychodynamic Case Conference Experience:
During your Internship year, you will work with a supervisor to examine challenging client cases, provide a case consultation in the psychodynamic perspective, and articulate areas of concern that can increase your effectiveness as a counselor.

Hands-On Clinical Training

Clinical training is critical to your development as a counselor, and the Counseling@Northwestern curriculum gives you six full quarters of Practicum and Internship experience at suitable, faculty-approved sites. During each clinical experience, you will also complete relevant coursework and attend in-person immersions that support what you are learning at your field sites.

The 200-hour Practicum introduces you to the various responsibilities of a professional counselor. You will spend 50 hours working face to face with clients while supervised by a licensed counselor.

Learn more about the Practicum.

The 600-hour Internship enables you to assume all the functions and characteristics of a counselor as you continue to provide supervised, direct services to clients. 

Learn more about the Internship.

In-Person Immersions 

While enrolled, you will make two brief trips to Chicago, where you will continue to develop your counselor identity while strengthening your relationships with peers and faculty. The Group Dynamics Immersion prepares you to effectively lead and participate in group counseling sessions, while the Capstone Immersion Experience enables you to share your competencies and your overall counselor growth with your colleagues and other faculty members.

Learn more about the immersion experiences.