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Where to attend for Spring 2021 MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Bongo Boy

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I have been accepted into several online master's programs for Spring 2021 and am wondering if you guys can give me some advice on which to choose. I know that online programs are generally seen as inferior to brick and mortar programs, but for a variety of reasons I must go the online route. My goal is to become a *private practice* therapist, so please keep that in my mind. Here are my options:

  1. University of the Cumberlands online master's in clinical mental health counseling. This is CACREP accredited and likely the cheapest option, coming in at around $25,000 total. One negative for me is that the classes (2 per bi-term) meet synchronously once a week, meaning that two days a week I will need to be in class at a particular time. I would prefer the classes to be asynchronous so that I could take them whenever I want. I also haven't found any reviews online from people who have went through this program.

  2. Capella University Clinical Mental Health counseling. CACREP - $42,000. I know that for-profit programs have a bad reputation, but given that I'm going the private practice route eventually, I'm not sure how much it will matter. In other words, I have little intention of applying to work at an agency or hospital where this degree would make me less competitive. One major benefit of the Capella program is that I could start in November (the other programs start in January)

  3. West Virginia University Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. CACREP - $39,000. This program combines clinical rehab and mental health counseling. I'm not too interested in the clinical rehab stuff but it seems interesting...

  4. University of Kentucky MSW. This would be around $40,000 if I did a normal pace and around $25,000 if I did the "accelerated" pace. I know that the MSW degree is generally more respected and transferable than the LPC, but I'm much less interested in the MSW curriculum than the LPC curriculum which is why this program isn't higher on my list.

Does anyone have any experiences with any of these programs? Right now I think my top two choices are University of the Cumberlands because of the price and Capella because of the November start date and asynchronous classes.

Thank you!

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I would strongly advise against any of these. The fact that you want to do private practice means it is even more important that you get good training, since there will be 0 oversight in your clinical practice. Graduate training in therapy, in terms of importance, is about 5% reading, 75% doing, and 20% class discussions, so an asynchronous online course will not really teach you much. The most I have learned in my courses is in the students and faculty discussing different cases and how we could have approached things differently and what we think we did well, etc. Also, going to an online program means it will be far more difficult for you to get clinical placements since the school will not have pre-established partnerships with sites in your area. You can not learn how to effectively do therapy behind a computer and graduate school is not at all like undergrad. If it, that's a problem.

If you want to be a good clinician, I would strongly advise against online study. If you truly don't care, I'd go with whichever one is cheapest because you want to minimize your debt-load. But honestly, poor training can result in harm to clients, not for any malice, but because people don't know what they don't know. 

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Hey, I graduated from a CMHC program and I think these are somethings that you should consider in making a decision.

  • CACREP programs typically consist the same coursework, and should not differ significantly between programs. Most programs would use a mix of asynchronous and synchronous teaching, but core courses like counseling techniques, theories, diversity, ethics, human development, diagnosis, psychopathology, practicum and internship should almost always be taught synchronously. But you should consider cohort size and class size to get the best out of the program. Some programs are exceptionally large which makes practicum and internship placement a headache, and not getting enough support from the program both as a student and as a new counselor. 
  • Available practicum and internship opportunities. Most programs should have a list of internship sites, you can try ask the program coordinator for it to see if any site you think can provide the training you need (i.e.specific populations, settings, etc.). 
  • Figure out how the program will provide your practicum and internship supervision. You should receive supervision from both your site and the program, and the class size should be as small as possible (4 or 5 should be good numbers). Ask about aside from the weekly practicum/internship classes, what is the frequency of dyadic/triadic supervision with the program faculty, and what this process look like. 
  • Think ahead about where you would want to start your private practice. School reputation may play a factor (not sure how large tho) in getting clients when you start working. Also, some states may require extra courses to be eligible to apply for your license. Check the requirements of the state you want to work in, and see if you can meet the requirement for the coursework from the program.
  • Make sure to check the CACREP.org website to check the CACREP accreditation status of the program. Check how long the program is accredited and the expiration date. In the "status information" section of the program, if the program does not meet certain standard codes it will be listed there. Read it with reference to the "2016 CACREP Standards" document to see what exactly the issue is. One thing I learned from my experience is that no matter how little the issue may sound, you should absolutely address and ask for clarification from the program about the status of this issue and their plans for securing they will resolve the issue for future site visits from CACREP. Some programs may not inform the applicants voluntarily about this type of concern. In the worst case scenario, they failed to address the concern and the program WILL lose accreditation. Some states are very strict about CACREP and do not allow graduates from non-CACREP accredited programs to even apply for licensure. In that case you wasted your time, money and effort just to find yourself stuck in a legal quagmire with your program (real life story). 

This is all I can think about at the moment.

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