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Degree Type: MA

Northwestern University’s nationally-renowned Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, offered in sites on-ground and online, is dedicated to the cutting edge preparation of tomorrow’s  professional counselors. Our degree program stands on several pillars of excellence:

  • The Dynamic Clinical Training  Model of The Family Institute at Northwestern University –  The Family Institute (TFI) is a world-renown organization with a  long tradition of integrating mental health education, practice  and research. In TFI's approach,  students are educated in mental health practice and apply their skills with real clients in TFI's onsite clinic and 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 innovative scholarship, teaching and practice and this drives our students to rapidly gain therapeutic knowledge and skills. 
  • The Counseling Profession – Influenced by the 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. Students complete education and supervised practice experiences that are required by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP is the body that accredits our program and currently we are in an 8-year accreditation cycle.  We frame coursework in the context of ethics, multiculturalism, lifespan development, advocacy/outreach, and evidenced-based practice. These powerful pedagogical  traditions lead to the development of a strong professional counselor identity, preparing students to seek licensure across the United States.
  • The Program’s Historical Foundation – Our  master of arts degree program grew out of a doctoral program in Counseling Psychology  and the intensity and rigor of advanced education are still embedded in our pedagogy and training.   Our program is psychodynamically-informed  and emphasizes the centrality of  the therapeutic alliance  and the importance of therapist self reflection.  Students are trained to be practitioner-scholars and delve into research and other scholarship in mental health, culminating in their own Capstone  project.  The Capstone intermingles the program’s rich academics with current best practices in the field and students become informed consumers whose Capstone presentations showcase the research base of our  profession and also help to expand it with new ideas. We also encourage students to offer their ideas about mental health and wellness in conferences presentations and academic publications. We take pride in our student clinicians-in-training research ideas that  generate future scholarship that will advance our  field.

Our Program's Vision

We are leaders in preparing psycho-dynamically-informed, culturally-responsive, clinical mental health counselors to promote 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.

Program Objectives 

Students will:

  1. Possess an in-depth understanding of Clinical Mental Health Counseling 
  2. Understand strategies to integrate psychodynamic thought and emerging best practices into clinical work
  3. Demonstrate self-reflective, counseling skills honed through extensive and closely supervised clinical work
  4. Demonstrate rich multicultural awareness that embraces and advances diversity and social justice values
  5. Embody a professional counselor identity
  6. Showcase a scientific mindset, interest in scholarship and profession-centered activities.

The Essence of Our Vision, Mission and Objectives

Our psychodynamic foundations influence the cornerstone education and training experiences that facilitate counselor idevelopment. The psychodynamic flavor of the program encourages students to explorate and acknowledge the forces outside of awareness,  often rooted in the past,  that can exert profound influences on identity, values and experiences.  We train students to become aware of
how their past, as well as their clients'  past dynamically affect their present lives. 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

While academic coursework is integrated and therapeutically potent skills are emerging, we offer students  opportunities to reflect on their training experiences in a supportive environment. It is here that students' understand their personal and professional strengths, examine  struggles and barriers to learning, and identify strategies for navigating the training process.  Three powerful reflective experiences are the building blocks  of a reflective training foundation.

  • Reflective Practitioner Supervision (RPS)- During the Practicum experience, students meet weekly in small groups with a seasoned practitioner.  Students examine their emerging therapeutic skills to  separate what is a therapeutically powerful tool from what needs to be sharpened. RPS also focuses on understanding client transference and therapist countertransference, identifying biases that affect therapeutic objectivity, and removing personal barriers to staying fully present with clients.  Students are also encouraged to becoming highly aware of their own social and cultural identities, power and privilege, to pave the way for cross-culturally proficient work with clients.
  • Case Conference Supervision (CCS)– During the Internship experience, students meet weekly with a seasoned practitioner to discuss challenging cases and receive consultation that integrate psychodynamic and multicultural perspectives. Here our rich coursework comes alive  to facilitate students' engagement in the therapeutic process. Through the exploration of challenging or difficult cases, students learn how to assess their therapeutic effectiveness and articulate areas of concern that can be addressed in consultation in order to increase efficacy.
  • Group Relations Immersion– During Practicum students participate in Group Dynamics immersion,  a three-day group experience guided by  teams of seasoned practitioners.  Both on-campus and online sites meet separately on the Evanston campus. The group immersion is a living laboratory in which students experience and examine group, institutional and diversity dynamics. Embedded in our Group Dynamics course, the immersion generates powerful experiential learning that  reverberates throughout students' time in the program.  Students are encouraged to apply knowledge of their unconscious and covert processes, as well as inter- and intra-personal dynamics to work with clients.

Comprehensive Immersion in Clinical Work

From the moment most students enter the program (in a majority of curricula tracks) they are immersed in clinical work. The “learning-by-doing” approach exposes students to clinical practice while providing complementary academic experiences. At each stage in their development as professional counselors, students are equipped with the necessary clinical skills and knowledge. Our program caters to students entering the counseling field with academic and experiential background in psychology or human services and prior paraprofessional experiences and we also offer a program designed for those entering the counseling field for the first time,  following a career in another discipline and/or with minimal academic and experiential background in psychology or human services.

  • In the practicum training year students spend 16-20 hours per week immersed 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. Students often draw on clinical training to formulate their Capstones.

Additional resources:

Program Statistics

Visit Master's Program Statistics for statistics such as program admissions, enrollment, student demographics and more.

Program Contact

Contact Deidre Hicks
Coordinator of Education Programs
847-733-4300 ext 205

Degree Requirements

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


Total Units Required On-ground: Standard Curriculum 24 units, Two-Plus Curriculum 27 units 

Total Units Required Online: Standard Curriculum 24 units, Bridge Curriculum 27 Units

Course Title
COUN 406-0Research Methods in Counseling
COUN 406-6Research Methods in Counseling
COUN 411-0Psychodynamic Counseling: Individuals and Systems
COUN 411-6Psychodynamic Counseling: Individuals and Systems
COUN 412-0Group Counseling Theory and Practice
COUN 412-6Group Counseling Theory and Practice
COUN 413-0Human Growth and Lifespan Development -2
COUN 413-6Human Growth and Lifespan Development -2
COUN 414-0Human Growth and Lifespan Development
COUN 414-6Human Growth and Lifespan Development
COUN 415-0Psychopathology and Diagnosis in Counseling
COUN 415-6Psychopathology and Diagnosis in Counseling
COUN 416-0Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
COUN 416-6Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
COUN 417-0Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
COUN 417-6Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
COUN 419-0Contemporary Issues in Career Counseling
COUN 422-0Family, Marital and Couple Counseling
COUN 422-6Family, Marital and Couple Counseling
COUN 423-0Assessment in Counseling- 2
COUN 423-6Assessment in Counseling- 2
COUN 425-0Advanced Research Methods in Counseling
COUN 425-6Advanced Research Methods in Counseling
COUN 426-0Assessment in Counseling
COUN 426-6Assessment in Counseling
COUN 427-0Career and Lifestyle Planning
COUN 427-6Career and Lifestyle Planning
COUN 429-0Human Sexuality
COUN 429-6Human Sexuality
COUN 430-0Vocational Assessment in Counseling
COUN 436-0Counseling Children and Adolescents
COUN 436-6Counseling Children and Adolescents
COUN 440-0Play Therapy Methods
COUN 440-6Play Therapy Methods
COUN 451-0Special Topics in Counseling
COUN 451-6Special Topics in Counseling
COUN 452-0Addictions Counseling
COUN 452-6Addictions Counseling
COUN 453-0Evaluation and Treatment of Trauma
COUN 453-6Evaluation and Treatment of Trauma
COUN 454-0Evaluation and Treatment of Trauma - 2
COUN 454-6Evaluation and Treatment of Trauma - 2
COUN 455-0Introduction to Psychopharmacology
COUN 455-6Introduction to Psychopharmacology
COUN 479-1Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
COUN 479-2Introduction to Clinical Interviewing
COUN 479-3Contemporary Topics in Counseling
COUN 479-6Introduction to Clinical Mental Health Counseling
COUN 479-7Introduction to Clinical Interviewing
COUN 479-8Contemporary Topics in Counseling
COUN 480-1Methods 1: Introductory Counseling Skills
COUN 480-2Methods 2: Advanced Counseling Skills
COUN 480-3Methods 3: Skills for Social Justice Advocacy, Outreach and Prevention
COUN 480-6Methods 1: Introductory Counseling Skills
COUN 480-7Methods 2: Advanced Counseling Skills
COUN 480-8Methods 3: Skills for Social Justice Advocacy, Outreach and Prevention
COUN 481-0Supervised Practicum in Counseling-0
COUN 481-1Supervised Practicum in Counseling-1
COUN 481-2Supervised Practicum in Counseling-2
COUN 481-3Supervised Practicum in Counseling-3
COUN 481-6Supervised Practicum in Counseling -1
COUN 481-7Supervised Practicum in Counseling -2
COUN 481-8Supervised Practicum in Counseling -3
COUN 482-0Supervised Internship in Counseling -0
COUN 482-1Supervised Internship in Counseling-1
COUN 482-2Supervised Internship in Counseling-2
COUN 482-3Supervised Internship in Counseling-3
COUN 482-4Supervised Internship in Counseling-4
COUN 482-6Supervised Internship in Counseling 1
COUN 482-7Supervised Internship in Counseling -2
COUN 482-8Supervised Internship in Counseling -3
COUN 483-1Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling
COUN 483-2Multicultural Counseling
COUN 483-3Professional Topics in Counseling
COUN 483-6Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling
COUN 483-7Multicultural Counseling
COUN 483-8Professional Topics in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
COUN 484-1Individual Diagnosis and Assessment
COUN 484-2Individual Diagnosis and Assessment
COUN 484-3Individual Diagnosis and Assessment
COUN 485-1Advanced Internship In Counseling
COUN 485-6Advanced Internship In Counseling
COUN 489-6Advanced Research Colloquium
COUN 491-0Colloquium in Counseling
COUN 491-6Colloquium in Counseling
COUN 499-0Capstone in Counseling
COUN 499-6Capstone in Counseling
COUN 540-0Play Therapy Methods in Counseling
COUN 540-6Play Therapy Methods in Counseling
COUN 582-2Supervised Internship in Counseling
COUN 582-3Supervised Internship in Counseling
COUN 584-0Advanced Internship in Counseling

Last Updated: August 26, 2021