Curriculum

A Rigorous, CACREP-Accredited Master’s Program

The online Master of Arts in Counseling Program sets high academic standards so graduates become effective clinical practitioners who work successfully with diverse clients.

Students gradually build their knowledge as they explore licensure required topics such as ethics, multiculturalism, advocacy, outreach, life span development, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum introduces students to many counseling approaches and and focuses on psychodynamic theory and application, which examines the conscious and unconscious forces that may affect 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. Some states require an earned master’s degree from a CACREP-accredited program as part of the counselor licensure process.

Programs

Counseling@Northwestern offers two Programs to earn a master’s degree in clinical mental health no matter how much counseling experience applicants’ 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. Applicants are eligible for the Standard Program by meeting the following criteria:

  • An undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field
  • At least 2 years of clinical mental health experience

See sample Standard Program course schedules.

Bridge to Counseling Program

The Bridge to Counseling Program enables students to earn their MA in Counseling even if they didn’t earn an undergraduate degree in psychology or if they haven’t worked with clients in a clinical mental health counseling setting for at least two years. Bridge students take three introductory courses during their first quarter, designed to ease them into the graduate-level concepts and clinical training component of the Standard Program curriculum.

See sample Bridge to Counseling Program course schedules.

Child and Adolescent Specialization

Bridge and Standard Program students may choose a Child and Adolescent specialization, which prepares them to work effectively with young people facing mental illness. Beginning in Fall 2022, specialization courses are included in the total number of courses required to earn your Master of Arts in Counseling degree.

Learn more about the Child and Adolescent Specialization.

Self-Reflective Experiences

“The program is grounded in psychodynamic theory and helped deepen my understanding of how traumatic events can shape an individual’s life experiences. Counseling@Northwestern also helped me develop practical, hands-on expertise working with clients seeking to overcome trauma and to more effectively advocate for them in their journeys.”

—CHRISTI JOHNSON, ‘21

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, Reflective Practitioner Supervision and Psychodynamic Case Conference, 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 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.

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.

In-Person Immersions 

While enrolled, you will make two brief trips to Chicagoland, where you will continue to develop your counselor identity while strengthening your relationships with peers and faculty. The New Student Immersion (NSI). The NSI is designed to orient students to the many resources offered for student success. Students also have the opportunity to meet and greet Core Faculty, program staff, and their peers.

Group Dynamics Immersion prepares students to effectively lead and participate in group counseling sessions. Participants practice both group membership and leadership skills while examining life experiences within a group counseling session. While students learn group dynamics skills and strategies, they have the opportunity to examine themselves in a group counseling setting, which aligns to the program’s self-reflective practices.

Learn more about the immersion experiences.