Degree Type: MA
The Master of Arts degree in Counseling delivered on-ground and online, is dedicated to the cutting edge preparation of tomorrow’s clinical mental health counselors nationwide. We are proud of our degree program which stands on several pillars of excellence:
- The Family Institute at Northwestern University – The Family Institute (TFI) is a highly-regarded organization with a long tradition of integrating mental health service delivery, education, and research. TFI's clients include children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. In TFI's approach, students are trained to understand the mental health and wellness needs and challenges of people from all walks of life. Then students are encouraged to apply knowledge and skills in practice with real clients in TFI's onsite clinic or in clinical centers around the country. Students work under the supervision of seasoned practitioners, many of whom are leaders in professional counseling and psychotherapy. TFI sets a high standard in integrating mental health practice and scholarship, which helps our students to value the same qualities in their professional lives.
- The Counseling Profession – Grounded in the historical, theoretical, and intellectual traditions of the Counseling field, our students are prepared to protect the mental health and wellness of those who use counseling services. Our program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) which is a solid foundation for independent practice licensure in most states. In the best traditions of the Counseling field, our coursework emphasizes ethics, multiculturalism, lifespan development, diversity, equity and inclusion, advocacy/outreach, and evidenced-based practice. These powerful traditions are connected to our students' development of strong professional counselor identities which prepares them to address the mental health service gaps in vulnerable groups and communities.
- The Program’s Historical Foundations – Our Master's degree program grew out of a doctoral program and the intensity of advanced education is embedded in our education. Still present is the historical legacy of psychodynamic thought and an emphasis on the centrality of a strong therapeutic alliance driven by therapist self-reflection. Students are trained to be reflective practitioner-scholars and to offer ideas about improving mental health services. Students are also mentored to expand and improve the scholarly base of our profession with new and innovative ideas. Our students' ideas about mental health and wellness culminate in the Capstone Project that is required to earn our degree. Students present Capstone projects in a conference-style setting, in the final quarter of studies. We encourage students to maintain an emphasis on scholarship throughout their careers and the Capstone symbolizes this trajectory.
Our Program's Vision
We are leaders in preparing culturally-responsive, psycho-dynamically-informed, Clinical Mental Health Counselors to promote and advocate for the mental health and wellness of people.
Our Program's Mission
Our mission is to deliver innovative, clinical mental health counselor training that is grounded in contemporary psychodynamic theory, best practices from multiple perspectives, and a multicultural worldview, preparing students to become competent counselors, mental health advocates, and leaders nationwide.
On completion of our degree students will:
- Possess an in-depth understanding of Clinical Mental Health Counseling
- Understand strategies to integrate psychodynamic thought and emerging best practices into clinical work
- Demonstrate self-reflective, counseling skills honed through extensive and closely supervised clinical work
- Demonstrate rich multicultural awareness that embraces and advances diversity, equity, and social justice values
- Embody a professional counselor's identity
- Showcase a scientific mindset, interest in scholarship, and profession-centered activities.
The Essence of Our Vision, Mission, and Objectives
Our educational approach has the capacity to accelerate a capacity for cognitive complexity in clinical judgments. The psychodynamic values of the program encourage students to explore the forces outside of awareness, often rooted in the past, that can exert profound influences on identity, values, and experiences. We encourage students to attend to the ways in which the past—their own and their clients’—is woven into the present. Through intentional consideration of the past, students can more fully empathize with their clients’ experiences and better help them to live freely and intentionally in the present. The goal is to liberate the shackles of the past for a more enriching, authentic life in the present. To amplify the psychodynamic lens our program emphasizes two core experiences: Reflective practice and comprehensive immersion in multiculturally- competent clinical work.
Emphasis on Reflective Practice
We offer students opportunities to reflect on their training experiences in a supportive environment. In this context, students explore their personal and professional strengths, examine struggles and barriers to learning, and identify strategies for navigating the training process. Three powerful experiences are the building blocks of reflective-practice training.
- Reflective Practitioner Supervision (RPS)- During the Practicum experience, students meet weekly in small groups with a seasoned practitioner for RPS. We emphasize a need to understand client transference and therapist countertransference, identify biases that affect therapeutic objectivity, and remove personal barriers to staying fully present with clients. Students are encouraged to become highly aware of their own social and cultural identities, power, and privilege, to pave the way for cross-culturally proficient work with clients.
- Group Dynamics Immersion– During Practicum students participate in the Group Dynamics Immersion (GDI), a three-day group experience guided by teams of seasoned practitioners. The GDI is a living laboratory in which students examine their personal, cultural, and social identities, intra-and interpersonal styles, and dynamics that play out in groups and institutions. The GDI is an aspect of the group dynamics coursework that creates powerful experiential learning that reverberates in other program experiences. Students are encouraged to apply knowledge and awareness of their unconscious and covert processes, as well as inter-and intra-personal dynamics, in their professional and personal lives.
- Case Conference Supervision (CCS)– During Internship students meet weekly with seasoned practitioners in CCS. In CCS, students (as clinicians-in-training) discuss challenging cases and explore how their personal and social identities and their clients, influence case conceptualization and the treatment process. Here our coursework comes alive as students explore the challenges of real-world mental health practice. In CCS, students reflect on their therapeutic effectiveness and receive mentorship to address areas of concern.
Comprehensive Immersion in Clinical Work
Early in their degree path or often while pursuing courses in Counseling methods, students are immersed in clinical work. This immersive approach exposes students to real-world practice, buttressed by experiential coursework and reflective supervision. At each stage in their development as professional counselors, students are equipped with the necessary clinical skills and knowledge to quickly learn. Our program caters to students entering the counseling field with academic and experiential backgrounds in psychology or human services and paraprofessional experiences. Such backgrounds enable quick uptake of mental health knowledge and skills. We also offer a "career-changers" pathway that begins with introductory courses designed for those entering the counseling field following other career paths or education with minimal academic and experiential backgrounds in human and social sciences or human and social services. Students pursuing our part-time degree paths complete a variety of academic courses before entering the immersive clinical training phase described above.
- In the practicum training year, students spend 9-16 hours per week in clinical work. They complete a minimum of 50 hours of face-to-face counseling and receive close to 100 hours of group and individual supervision. Additionally, students meet weekly in Reflective Practitioner Supervisor groups and participate in the Group Dynamics Immersion.
- In the internship year, students spend 20-24 hours per week at a clinical field site. They complete a 600-hour internship experience with a minimum of 240 hours of face-to-face counseling and spend a minimum of 85 hours in clinical supervision and the Case Conference Supervision. To the extent possible, the internship placement is tailored to the student's choice of specialization.