Earn an MA in Counseling Online
- CACREP accredited
- $627/credit (60 credits total)
- Prepare to be a licensed counselor
- Experienced and diverse faculty
- 24/7 online accessibility
- Innovative combination of online and face-to-face work
Online Master’s in Counseling Program Overview
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 47 million American adults battle mental illness problems annually.1 Embrace an active role in improving mental health by earning your online Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Southern New Hampshire University.
As you gain the skills to become a clinical mental health counselor, your clients will find comfort in the compassion and applicable knowledge you provide. Seize the opportunity to learn to effectively work with clients experiencing a range of behavioral and emotional issues, from child development problems and trauma to addiction and major mental illness.
Included in our 60-credit online master's in counseling program are two required face-to-face residencies to help strengthen your workforce abilities. [Note: because of Covid-19 precautions, counseling residencies will be held virtually until early 2022.]
SNHU's MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) through 2028.
Learn how to:
- Develop a professional counseling identity
- Cultivate socially, culturally and spiritually appropriate skills and practices
- Promote optimum wellness for diverse clients across the lifespan
- Develop strategies for supporting and advocating for clients
- Develop professional skills for client consultation, treatment, intervention and prevention
- Effectively form and facilitate group counseling and group work
- Assess the needs of counseling clients validly and reliably
- Advance the counseling profession and incorporate evidence-based, data-driven approaches into current practice
- Apply strategies, techniques and theories to the assessment and treatment planning of mental health issues
Learn Online – and in Person
As a mostly online program, SNHU gives you the opportunity to enjoy the convenience of online courses, but also the residency experiences that can help you connect with your clients.
SNHU Counseling Program Mission
We transform our students’ lives, and through them, the lives of the clients and communities they serve. To achieve this, we deliver innovative, experiential counselor education, create an inclusive environment and nurture authentic relationships. As a result, we empower new generations of counselors who are well-poised to take the next step in their professional journeys, well-prepared to have a positive impact on the lives of others, and grounded in ethical practice that promotes unconditional positive regard and cultural humility toward themselves and their clients.
"Counseling is always changing, it's always growing and it's about connecting with the person in front of you," said Dr. Eric Jett, clinical faculty member at SNHU.
And with 1 in 5 U.S. adults suffering from mental illness – and more people working to reduce the stigma that's often attached to it – there's plenty of room and need for more counselors to join the field.1
That's why the online master's degree in clinical mental health counseling at SNHU is intended to set you up for success. Our goal is to position you for the workforce, post-graduate fieldwork and licensure by helping you establish the educational foundation necessary to prepare for the required professional counseling exams and licensing process.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, career opportunities for mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are expected to increase 25% through 2029, much faster than the average of all jobs.2 Potential career paths include:
- Licensed professional counselor
- Licensed professional clinical counselor
- Licensed clinical mental health counselor
The Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling offered by Southern New Hampshire University is designed to prepare students to meet the educational requirements for licensure in most states.
SNHU's MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree does not currently meet the requirements for licensure in Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin. We are not enrolling students from these states at this time.
It is a student's responsibility to understand the specific requirements of the state in which they intend to apply for licensure and to be aware of any changes to those requirements. If they move to another state, the requirements for licensure will likely be different from the state where they currently reside, and they are responsible for determining the licensure requirements in the state to which they relocate. Learn more about SNHU's counseling programs and state-by-state counseling licensure requirements.
In addition to the 60 required academic credits, students must attend two 5-day residencies, either in New Hampshire or in additional locations that may be named later. They must also complete at least a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships during the program (some states require additional hours for licensure). In those states where additional practicum and/or internship hours or coursework is required, SNHU will work with students to obtain the additional hours and will make electives available to fulfill additional course requirements wherever possible.
SNHU does not guarantee that the completion of this program will result in state licensure or certification: In addition to successfully completing the educational requirements, students will need to meet other state licensure requirements. Students are responsible for understanding if a background check is required to apply for licensure and for determining if their own circumstances pose any barriers to licensure.
Start Your Journey Toward an Online Mental Health Counseling Degree
Why SNHU for Your Master's in Counseling
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, Southern New Hampshire University has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
- “Most Innovative” regional university honors from U.S. News & World Report each year since 2015
- A $1 million grant from Google.org to explore soft skills assessments for high-need youth
- Recognition as a 2017 Digital Learning Innovator by the Online Learning Consortium
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 200,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate your industry. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
96.5% of students would recommend SNHU.3 Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials — with no GRE or GMAT required.
Requirements specific to this program include:
- A personal statement
- Two letters of recommendation
- A form acknowledging awareness of both the program requirements and the state licensure requirements applicable to you
To apply, use the online application.
How to Apply
Simply contact an admission counselor, who can help you explore financial options, answer all your questions, and walk you through the application process, which includes:
- Completing a graduate application
- Providing undergraduate transcripts
Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Residency
Counseling’s strength lies in forming connections. And those relationships can best be developed in a face-to-face setting. That’s why SNHU’s CACREP-accredited online clinical mental health counseling master’s degree incorporates two in-person residencies into its program. [Note: because of Covid-19 precautions, counseling residencies will be held virtually until early 2022.]
To better prepare you for the face-to-face counseling environment, Southern New Hampshire University's online master's in clinical mental health counseling requires that students complete two in-person residencies. You'll work closely with SNHU instructors and fellow students to develop your identity as a counselor.
The residency is an exciting opportunity for students to connect and collaborate with peers and faculty, through one-on-one and small group sessions. The residency will enhance the learning process by allowing students to take their theoretical knowledge and apply it under the supervision and guidance of skilled clinical faculty.
Students must complete two five-day residencies, one in the first year of their program and one before they begin their practicum and internship courses.
"I absolutely love the residency experience," said Dr. Stacee Reicherzer, clinical faculty member of the MA Counseling program at SNHU. "It brings all that students are learning in their courses to a whole other level because they're getting real-time counseling practice. Also, the residency exposes students to new people, new ways of thinking, new ideas."
"As counselor educators, we love interacting with our students face to face, watching first hand as they experience learning breakthroughs and develop in their roles as professional counselors," she said. "Sharing our experiences with and connecting to our students is the greatest reward of our profession."
In the end, Dr. Reicherzer said, these experiences result in "one of the best memories a counseling student will take from their program of study."
Each residency is five days long and will require the student to travel to New Hampshire. Lodging and most meals will be arranged by SNHU and covered under a separate residency fee. Student financial aid can be used to cover travel expenses.
The residencies are part of a full 10-week course (see descriptions below). The online instruction before and after the residency will be structured to prepare students to get the most out of the in-person experience.
These residencies consist of:
- COU-540 Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency I: This course presents the basic skills and techniques that form the foundation of the counseling process. The course includes a five-day, in-person laboratory in which students meet with the counseling faculty for an intensive learning experience to practice and demonstrate their competence in these skills. (To be completed in the first year of the program.)
- COU-690 Advanced Individual and Group Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency II: This course is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their competence in integrating and applying the knowledge and skills acquired in the curriculum in preparation for the practicum experience. The course includes a five-day, in-person laboratory in which students will participate in a group counseling analog experience. (To be completed prior to the practicum.)
Courses & Curriculum
With our 60-credit master's in mental health counseling, you'll immerse yourself in development theory and treatment plans through the guidance of our experienced counseling faculty – licensed counselors with national reputations. Coursework dives into understanding disorders, group dynamics, career assessments, addiction counseling and diverse populations.
The program emulates the profession, as you'll learn by observing, listening and talking. To prepare you for the face-to-face environment that the field requires, this program features video components, 2 on-site residencies, a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. (Some states may require additional fieldwork hours.)
This online master's in mental health counseling is ideal for busy adults who want to begin a transformational career path – because 90% of the coursework can be done online.
"We're really mindful of the fact that our students are often coming to us because they need some flexibility," said Dr. Kristi Cannon, associate program director of clinical counseling at SNHU. "The online component really addresses that. Then, at the same time, the residency components allow us the chance to have students interact with us in a more meaningful way one-on-one. They get the benefit of engaging with each other and building some bonds that I think are probably one of the best benefits of residency as a whole."
The program's residencies allow you to take what you've learned online and apply knowledge and strategies in role-play simulations.
"Residency 1 is really focused on micro-skills and it comes earlier in the program," said Dr. Karena Heyward, clinical faculty member at SNHU. Students are "just trying on these skills for the first time, and they're really just sitting with another person as a counselor for the first time."
The second residency builds off the first experience, as well as the courses students take in between. It's also well timed, as it's right before students begin their fieldwork.
"We revisit the topics again, only in a little bit of a different setting, because we begin to look at group counseling," said Dr. Eric Jett, clinical faculty member at SNHU.
Students in the counseling program notice the differences in the two residencies, both because of the types of counseling and because of how far in the program they've come and how much they've advanced in their counseling skills.
"Leading a group in therapy is a bit different than individual or one-on-one," said student Larson Viljanen. "Seeing how that's done, in-person – and also doing that myself, and seeing my peers do it – was great just for gaining confidence and learning great ways to manage a group of people."
Between the online courses and in-person residencies, students are excited to work with counselor educators who have firsthand experience working with clients.
"The faculty have been amazing," said student Tanheya Small. "They put themselves in their coursework."
Heyward attributes SNHU's passionate instructors to the variety of people who make up the counseling faculty.
"We have diversity in terms of who we are as faculty, but also our experiences as counselors and our research interests," she said. "We have some of the top counselor educators in the United States working right here in our clinical mental health counseling program."
Jett agreed that the people students interact with at SNHU are ready to use their expertise to help you succeed.
"One of the greatest things that this program offers – and the university offers – is support, not only in the program, but outside of the program," he said. "The university does an amazing job of making sure students feel like they're part of the university, regardless of where they are in the United States or beyond. It is about being here, even when they're at home."
|View Full Curriculum in the Catalog|
|MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling|
|Courses May Include|
|MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Online|
|COU 500||The Counseling Profession: Orientation, Identity, and Ethics||Study the historical trends that led to the establishment of counseling as a profession (as distinct from other helping professions), the impact of the profession on society, and the importance of ethical decision-making in the counseling process. Explore personal motivations for wanting to become a professional counselor and begin to articulate a personal identity as a member of the counseling profession. Essential questions addressed include, 'how am I as a counselor?', and 'what is the role of the counselor in facilitating/supporting behavior change?'|
|COU 510||Human Development||This introductory course surveys the major theories of social and emotional development throughout the life-span, including grief and loss. Emphasis is given to the developmental stages and transitions and their relevance to the counseling process.|
|COU 520||Diversity in Counseling||The course addresses the theories of diversity in counseling. Students examine their assumptions and biases about cultures different from their own and explore their own sense of "otherness." Students discuss these issues with their classmates as a means for developing the ability to converse with and relate to clients with backgrounds other than their own. Student learning in this course is guided by the essential question 'how do I, as a counselor, relate to others who are different from me?'|
|COU 530||Theories of Counseling||This course surveys the major theoretical approaches used in counseling. Attention is paid to the nature of theory, and the process of building and validating theories of counseling. Students begin process of formulating their own personal theory of counseling, taking into considering how their values influence who they are as counselors and how their backgrounds may inform their client relationships. Students address essential questions such as, 'How do counselors facilitate change?', 'How does theory inform treatment?' and 'How do the theories that counselors use both clarify and limit their understanding of clients?'|
|COU 540||Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency I||This course presents the basic skills and techniques that form the foundation of the counseling process. The course includes a 5-day, in-person laboratory in which students meet with the counseling faculty for an intensive learning experience to practice and demonstrate their competence in these skills.|
|COU 600||Research Methods and Program Evaluation||Apply the principles of the scientific method to evaluate the efficacy of counseling techniques and community counseling programs. Learn to access and critically evaluate scientific literature and apply the findings to one's work with clients including making determinations/recommendations, writing proposals, and implementing plans.|
|COU 610||Assessment and Evaluation in Counseling||Learn to identify appropriate assessments, interpret their reliability and validity, and understand how assessment fits in to the broader picture of intake, interviewing, diagnosing, and treatment. Administer several common assessments and evaluate and interpret the results.|
|COU 630||Career Counseling||Review the major theories of career development. Learn how to help clients explore issues including career choice, leisure, retirement planning, rehabilitation, mid-life career changes, and work-life balance. Learn to administer several commonly utilized career interest assessments.|
|COU 640||Substance Use Disorders and Process Addictions||Explore substance and process addictions with ethical and multicultural considerations. Address scope of practice, current trends and issues related to the field of counseling, distinctions related to licensure, co-occurring disorders, and relevant assessments.|
|COU 650||Diagnosis of Emotional and Mental Disorders||Understand the value of and controversies involved in using medically based systems of diagnosis in the counseling profession. Learn to make diagnoses using the DSM and relevant standardized assessment methods and to consider client issues from alternative perspectives. Consider the legal, ethical, and multicultural issues inherent in diagnosing clients.|
|COU 660||Group Counseling||Address the theoretical foundations of group counseling and the stages of group development. Demonstrate an initial understanding of the dynamics of group sessions. Explore ethics and multicultural aspects specific to the various types of groups.|
|COU 680||Prevention and Intervention of Crisis and Trauma||Explore various forms of crisis, trauma, and disaster that may impact the lives of clients across the lifespan, as well as intervention and treatment methods that are commonly used. Gain exposure to counseling strategies for triaging immediate or recent events as well as long-term and chronic conditions that may hinder individuals and communities.|
|COU 690||Advanced Individual and Group Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency II||Demonstrate competence in the integration and application of micro-, advanced individual, and group counseling skills acquired throughout the curriculum in preparation for the practicum experience. Participate in a 5-day, in-person residency for advanced skills practice and a 10-hour group experience.|
|MHC 500||Professional Issues, Ethics, and Laws in Clinical Mental Health Counseling||Focus on the role of the counseling profession in the variety of mental health systems, including community, state, and federal agencies, hospitals, and private-practice. Explore HIPAA and related laws, informed consent policies, internal procedures, populations served, relevant laws and state statutes, funding, and ethical considerations counselors' role in the legal system, consultation, operationalizing of a practice, grants and program evaluations. Consider questions such as, 'where do I fit in the profession?' and 'how does the counseling profession impose structure on the mental health system?'.|
|MHC 610||Treatment Planning in Clinical Mental Health Counseling||Integrate the content learned throughout the program regarding evaluation, assessment, and diagnosis so that it may be utilized in practicum. Develop treatment plans that include risk assessment, goal setting, and treatment intervention strategies. Communicate treatment plans to clients.|
|MHC 670||Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practicum||Integrate skills and knowledge by working with actual clients under the supervision of a licensed clinician. Meet weekly in a required synchronous small group session in a seminar-style course led by a faculty supervisor. A minimum of 100 hours at an approved counseling site is required. Demonstrate success in field experience through a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade evaluation.|
|MHC 680||Clinical Mental Health Counseling Internship||Integrate skills and knowledge by working with actual clients under the supervision of a licensed clinician. Meet weekly in a required synchronous group session in a seminar-style course led by a faculty supervisor. A minimum of 600 hours of total internship time split between Internship and Advanced Internship at an approved counseling site is required. Demonstrate success in field experience through a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade evaluation.|
|MHC 690||Advanced Internship in Clinical Mental Health Counseling||Integrate skills and knowledge by working with actual clients under the supervision of a licensed clinician. Meet weekly in a required synchronous group session in a seminar-style course led by a faculty supervisor. A minimum of 600 hours of total internship time split between Internship and Advanced Internship at an approved counseling site is required. Demonstrate mastery of program outcomes and success in field experience through a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade evaluation.|
|Total Credits: 60|
Tuition & Fees
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer a 25% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
|Online Graduate Programs||Per Course||Per Credit Hour|
(U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)*
*Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.
Application Fee ($40), Graduation Fee ($150), Books (course by course), Residency Course Fee (currently $1,400: covers lodging, most meals & other expenses), Travel for Residencies (varies).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get a master's in counseling online?
Yes! Like so many other college subjects, most counseling courses can be completed online.
At Southern New Hampshire University, we offer a master's in counseling online. This program was launched in response to the growing need for mental health counselors: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 25% increase through 2029 in mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors – much faster than the average for all occupations.2
You may wonder how an online master's in mental health counseling works – specifically the part where it's online. At SNHU, our program is technically a bit of a hybrid. While about 90% of your work is done online, the rest happens in 2 face-to-face residencies – weeklong, intensive experiences that allow you to be with the students and instructors you've been learning with, to practice the skills needed to be a counselor.
"We have 2 residencies for each of our students in their master's program," said Dr. Kristi Cannon, associate program director of clinical counseling at SNHU. "One is in their second term, starting them off early in the program, and then one is later before they move into field experience."
Courses like Human Development, Career Counseling and Diversity in Counseling give you a deep dive on theories that you can put into practice in your career. The residencies give you the hands-on opportunity to hone your counseling skills before you jump into the profession.
"It really is the best of both worlds," said Dr. Stacee Reicherzer, clinical faculty member at SNHU. "It offers, of course, the convenience of online education, but then we take it to the residency to be with people that they've been learning with and meet faculty for the first time."
What can I do with a master's in counseling?
Beyond helping others, a master's in counseling can help position you for success in a growing field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are set to grow 25% through 2029 – much faster than the national average for all occupations.1
As a substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselor, you'll lead individual or group sessions to help clients cope with stressors, manage relationships and discuss their addiction or other problems with friends and family members.1 You may even employ 12-step program principles (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) to lay the groundwork for your practice.1
You may focus on specific populations, such as LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans or persons with disabilities.
Mental health counselors, on the other hand, provide treatment for individuals, families, couples or groups.1 Clients may need help navigating any variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, stress or suicidal thoughts.1
You could work in a number of environments. BLS notes that the largest employers of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are:1
- Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers
- Individual and family services
- State, local, and private hospitals
- Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, such as halfway houses or rehab centers
- Government, such as Veterans Affairs (VA) or correctional facilities
In other words, those who earn their MA in Counseling can be prepared for any number of career tracks.
For Tunisian-born SNHU grad, Fatma Salem Pease '19, a master's offered an opportunity to not only forge her own path, but also to inspire others along the way.
“I think my degree is impacting a lot of people, myself included. It’s certainly going to change my life,” she said.
“It’s also impacted a lot of my family members, other kids in Tunisia who look up to me. A lot of little girls in Tunisia [reach] out to me through social media and tell me how much I inspire them.”
As part of her program, Salem Pease also pursued an internship at a counseling agency in Manchester, New Hampshire. She had the opportunity to work with clients of all ages and a variety of diagnoses, including anxiety and depression, ADHD and a history of trauma.
This firsthand experience motivated her to keep going. As she neared the end of her internship, she started applying to doctoral programs and putting in the hours she’d need to become a licensed mental health counselor.
This is just one option. Those earning their master's in counseling will be positioned to improve lives in any number of ways.
And as the need for mental health care grows across the globe, you'll be prepared to answer the call. As the World Health Organization (WHO) notes: "Faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues, it is important that we look after our mental, as well as our physical, health."4
What does it mean to be CACREP accredited?
CACREP – aka the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs – establishes the standards that it wants counseling programs to meet. By being awarded accreditation, that means a counseling program has fulfilled specific, rigorous requirements – and it makes for a less risky career choice for prospective students.
Southern New Hampshire University was first awarded CACREP accreditation for the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2020. We designed our online program from the ground up based on the curriculum standards put in place by CACREP.
All CACREP-accredited programs must ensure students master the 8 core curricular areas5:
- Professional counseling orientation and ethical practice
- Social and cultural diversity
- Human growth and development
- Career development
- Counseling and helping relationships
- Group counseling and group work
- Assessment and testing
- Research and program evaluation
It's also important to note that many states require completing a master's program that is CACREP accredited before you can apply for licensure. You'll need to check your state's licensing requirements to see how you can become a counselor where you live.
All of this means that when you choose a CACREP-accredited program, you can be sure that the program has been evaluated, students will be taught what they need to know to be successful and the program is stable – both professionally and financially.
Where can I get my master's in counseling?
Schools around the country offer master's in counseling programs. However, to help you narrow it down, the college you choose truly needs to be right for you and your goals.
Southern New Hampshire University is one such school that offers a master's in mental health counseling program.
Why might you consider choosing SNHU for your master's in counseling program?
- It's accredited. In 2020, our master's in counseling online program was awarded accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Accreditation through CACREP shows that the program has met the high standards that this premier counseling organization has put forth. In addition, SNHU has earned regional accreditation through the New England Commission of Higher Education. Regional accreditation is the most accepted type of accreditation, typically recognized throughout the entire U.S.
- It's convenient. Online education was built and developed for busy adults, whose schedules have often not left them with time to attend traditional class schedules at brick-and-mortar schools. At SNHU, you'll have 24/7 access to your assignments – as well as the ability to work on assignments throughout the week when it's most doable for you, whether that's at noon or midnight.
- It's affordable. Our programs have been recognized as having some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation. In fact, we haven't even raised our online tuition since 2011. Plus, our Student Financial Services team is on hand to help create a customized payment plan for you – ensuring that you're only borrowing the money that you need to cover costs.
- It's nonprofit. One reason we're able to stay so affordable is because we're a nonprofit university. Because our mission revolves around access to education, we put our money right back into programs and resources for our students.
- It's taught by leaders in the field. Not only do our counseling faculty and instructors have extensive field experience and a passion for counseling, but 95% of them also have PhDs, which means you're learning from talented and accomplished individuals.
Contact an admission counselor today to learn more about SNHU and how our online counseling program can work with your professional goals.
How much does it cost to get your master's in counseling?
Costs vary per school. So can your financial aid award. Both are important to consider when choosing between master's in counseling programs.
Southern New Hampshire University is considered one of the most affordable schools in the country. For this 60-credit online program, it costs $627 a credit – or just $37,620 in total tuition costs for the full degree program.
Financial aid may also help reduce the cost of your online master's in mental health counseling. If you're eligible for aid, our Student Services team is on hand to talk you through your award and can help you make the best decisions on what aid to accept.
How do I become a licensed counselor?
There are a few steps you need to take to become a licensed counselor.
First, you'll need your bachelor's and master's degrees. Earning your bachelor's in psychology or sociology degree, among similar majors, can be beneficial, but it's not necessary. SNHU's online master's in counseling program welcomes students from a wide range of academic backgrounds.
You'll then need to earn your master's in clinical mental health counseling. Most states require 60-credit hours of coursework – which Southern New Hampshire University also asks of its students. SNHU's curriculum has 18 courses typically required by states, then gives you the opportunity to tailor your other 2 courses based on any requirements in your state or your own interests.
Counseling programs typically require residencies, practicums and internships. During SNHU's online master's program, you'll take part in 2 face-to-face week-long residencies with your classmates. This gives you the hands-on training needed for your practicum and internship experiences.
You'll also need to understand your state's own requirements for licensure, because application processes vary. Your state may specifically require the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) or the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) – or even both.
In many states, before students sit for an exam and apply for their licenses, they must demonstrate hours of supervised post-graduate work. States typically require somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 documented hours for licensure. (To learn more about your state's requirements, visit the websites for the American Counseling Association or the National Board of Certified Counselors.)
What is a counseling residency like?
At Southern New Hampshire University, a residency is an exciting, face-to-face experience that allows you to meet with, interact with and learn from the other students in your cohort, as well as from your instructors.
“I think … the residency component is a really important piece that allows us that face-to-face. There’s real value in being able to work one-on-one with our students in a direct format,” said Dr. Kristi Cannon, associate program director of clinical counseling at SNHU. “Certainly, as a faculty member, it’s valuable to me to get some eyes and ears directly on my students and be able to self-correct in the moment as they’re practicing their skills throughout the week.”
The mental health counseling program takes place chiefly online, with students often interacting with one another and faculty members via video. The two residencies serve as a chance for students to further develop relationships with classmates, while faculty have the opportunity to more closely observe students and provide real-time feedback during roleplay and other simulated counseling activities. This is valuable to both students and faculty.
And at SNHU, you get this residency opportunity twice throughout your 60-credit program.
The residencies at SNHU are:
- Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency I. This residency, completed in the first year of the program, presents the basic skills and techniques that form the foundation of the counseling process.
- Advanced Individual and Group Helping Skills and Techniques: Residency II. This residency, completed prior to the practicum, is an opportunity for students to integrate and apply the knowledge and skills they built throughout the program, in preparation for the practicum experience.
These residencies are each part of a full 10-week course, so students are working with the same instructors and classmates during the whole residency process. The online instruction before and after the residency is structured to prepare students to get the most out of the in-person experience.
Student Larson Vilajnen said that the face-to-face components of the program helped him demonstrate what he's learned. It's also given him the opportunity to receive immediate feedback that allows him to correct himself.
“Doing it in person is just a good way of getting really good feedback and really consolidating everything you’ve learned, in-person, and just feeling more confident in it,” he said.
Can you be a counselor without a master's degree?
No. A master's degree is the minimum amount of education you can have to enter the counseling field. It is one of the necessary requirements to become a licensed mental health counselor.
That's why Southern New Hampshire University offers a master's in mental health counseling – so that you can be on your way to beginning a meaningful career. And with more than 47 million U.S. adults suffering from mental illness, it's a crucial time to be part of the counseling field.1
When you enroll in a master's in mental health counseling at SNHU, you'll be pleased to learn that the program is also CACREP accredited. Because many states require counselors to have earned a CACREP-accredited degree as part of their licensure process, your SNHU master's can put you one step closer to your counseling career.
Your SNHU master's can also prepare you to become a counselor because of the coursework that makes up the program. This 60-credit degree was designed to align with CACREP curriculum standards, so that your education can prepare you for the future. A few of the classes you'll take include:
- Career Counseling
- Diagnosis of Emotional and Mental Disorders
- Prevention and Intervention of Crisis and Trauma
- Substance Abuse Disorders and Process Addictions
Our master's degree meets the educational criteria for licensure in almost all states. It's important to do your research to determine if the program you choose can help you earn licensure where you live.
Also needed to be a counselor are practicum and internship hours, which SNHU includes as requirements in its program. These can also help set you up for success because of the hands-on experience they offer you.
Your state may also require you to take an exam. The combination of your master's coursework and experiential learning should position you for licensure.
What is the salary for a mental health counselor?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the salary for employees in mental health, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling roles was $47,660 in May 2020.2
That said, several factors can impact your overall salary – including years of experience, industry, employer and geographic location.
BLS notes that government is the highest-paying industry for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors, reportedly earning median annual wages of $54,070 in 2020.1 Counselors working in state, local and private hospitals, closely followed with median annual wages of $50,450 in the same time period.1
The highest 10% earned more than $78,700.2
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
The MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program (PCMH) is now offered by Northern Vermont University.
Sources & Citations (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
1National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health by the Numbers, on the internet, at https://nami.org/mhstats (viewed April 30, 2021)
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, on the internet, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm (viewed April 30, 2021).
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
3According to more than 9,200 SNHU online students in survey responses from the fall of 2019.
4World Health Organization, Mental Health & COVID-19, on the internet, at https://www.who.int/teams/mental-health-and-substance-use/covid-19 (viewed April 30, 2021)
5Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, on the internet, at:
- https://www.cacrep.org/for-students/student-faqs-2/ (viewed April 30, 2021)
- https://www.cacrep.org/for-students/why-should-i-choose-an-accredited-program/ (viewed April 30, 2021)