In California, mental health counseling can be studied at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Programs are offered under the titles of clinical mental health counseling, clinical psychology or counseling psychology. Depending on the school, specializations may be available in applied behavior analysis, marriage and family psychology or mental health administration. Students learn therapeutic and intervention techniques to help patients overcome emotional and mental disorders. Additionally, programs typically integrate practicum and/or internship opportunities to allow students to gain hands-on experience in the field. At the doctoral level, students might be able to conduct field-specific research.
The following are ten of the largest public and private non-profit universities in this state that offer courses and degree programs in mental health counseling.
Alliant International University
Alliant International University has several locations in California, including a San Diego location that offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Clinical Psychology. The PsyD program emphasizes clinical practice through studies in statistics, personality theories, psychopathology, integrative psychology and cultural psychology. The PhD program includes both clinical training and opportunities to conduct relevant research in the field. Students can complete emphasis areas in child and family psychology, multicultural and international issues, forensic psychology, health, psychodynamics or applied behavior analysis. Aspects of both programs address mental health, including clinical methods for approaching individuals with mental illness and therapeutic practices.
California Baptist University
California Baptist University, which is located in Riverside, offers a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology degree program to prepare students for positions as clinical counselors or marriage and family therapists. The program is available in three formats: an online format that allows students to work at their own pace, a hybrid online and campus-based format and a format that allows students to participate in the class and class discussions entirely online.
Admittance requirements include a bachelor's degree, two letters of recommendation and a professional essay. Enrollees acquire clinical experience, explore legal issues and diagnose problems through courses in HIV and AIDS counseling, mental health and aging, counseling theories, psychodiagnostics and community mental health counseling. They can join the psychology club to interact with professionals in the field of psychology.
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco's California Institute of Integral Studies offers a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in community mental health that prepares counselors and therapists to meet the changing needs of individuals struggling with mental health issues. The program emphasizes the recovery model of mental health, which trains students to provide therapy to patients to help them recover from trauma or crises. Through the year-long program, which includes a summer semester, students explore theories and practice in community mental health, severe and persistent mental illness, family therapies and recovery-based practice. They also complete three supervised clinical practicums.
California State University - Bakersfield
The Bakersfield campus of California State University is the only public school in California that offers a degree program in counseling psychology or mental health counseling. Students can pursue a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology that meets the requirements to become a marriage and family therapist or a licensed professional clinical counselor.
The three-year program trains students to become mental health professionals who are able to apply therapeutic and intervention techniques. Learners complete clinical practice through practicums and traineeships and take courses in behavioral intervention, research methods in counseling, psychological testing, group counseling, family counseling and cross-cultural issues in counseling.
Holy Names University
Holy Names University, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church, is located in Oakland. Students can pursue a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology that emphasizes community and mental health. This program trains them to provide counseling and psychotherapy. Instructors are clinicians in the field and teach courses that include marriage and family counseling, treating children and adolescents, counseling theories, clinical neuroscience and three courses in community mental health. Students also complete a supervised practicum and join the campus psychology club.
John F. Kennedy University
Located in Pleasant Hill, John F. Kennedy University offers a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. The ninety-credit degree program consists of a traditional phase that allows students to apply counseling theories, a clinical training phase and a didactic training phase, where they work under licensed practitioners to provide counseling to groups and individuals. Students learn to assess the needs of the community, identify the best therapies for patients and develop a relationship with their clients. Course topics include theory and practice of community mental health, diagnosis and assessment of psychopathology, clinical skills training, human sexuality, family therapy, group therapy, couple therapy and two practicums.
Mount St. Mary's College
Los Angeles' Mount St. Mary's College is a private, liberal arts college that's affiliated with the Catholic Church and is primarily for women. Male and female students can pursue a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, which has specializations in mental health administration, marriage and family therapy and general counseling.
The mental health administration specialization is for individuals who are already working in the field of mental health and want to enhance their skills to transition into leadership and administration. Course topics for the specialization include community mental health, non-profit management, introductory counseling, counseling theories and multicultural counseling. In addition to managing current mental health programs, they should learn to design and implement mental health programs.
Located in La Jolla, National University is committed to providing students with a quality, student-centered and academically focused education. Through the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, students can pursue a specialization in marriage and family therapy or professional clinical counseling. The core of the program is committed to providing students with the skills to assist individuals suffering from mental health problems, including diagnosing disorders, conducting clinical assessments and applying current therapies and treatment plans. The marriage and family therapy specialization also addresses issues that affect families and couples stemming from mental health disorders and relevant therapeutic interventions.
University of San Diego
The University of San Diego offers a Master of Arts in Counseling in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. The program prepares students to become clinical counselors and treat people who are having difficulty with everyday issues or who are suffering from serious mental illness. Learners explore methods for encouraging wellness and personal growth, improving development and initiating preventative methods to decrease the risk of future mental health issues. They work with groups and individuals through courses in counseling assessment techniques, multicultural counseling, diagnostics and treatments in counseling and human sexuality. They also complete a practicum and two internships in community mental health, leading to the necessary requirements for clinical experience in clinical mental health.
University of San Francisco
Students at the University of San Francisco have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to make the world a better place. Individuals interested in mental health counseling can complete a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in behavioral health. The program prepares them to work in a variety of health settings and identify unmet needs, including for those suffering from mental illness. Course topics address disturbances that can lead to mental health issues, intervention strategies in mental health, clinical treatments in mental health and treating mental health issues in children, teens and families. Students also engage in supervised internships and practicums.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that counselors must have a master's degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy and that they need to earn a license by passing a state-recognized exam. To earn the license in California, students must apply to the Board of Behavioral Sciences and pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type and Setting||Mental Health Counseling Courses or Degree Programs Offered||Graduate Tuition and Fees (2015-16)|
|Alliant International University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city|| Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology,
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
|California Baptist University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Master of Science in Counseling Psychology||$11,942*|
|California Institute of Integral Studies||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology with a Concentration in Community Mental Health||$19,218*|
|California State University - Bakersfield||4-year, public; large city||Master of Science in Counseling Psychology||$8,077 in-state, $17,005 out-of-state*|
|Holy Names University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology||$17,348*|
|John F. Kennedy University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb||Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology||$24,276*|
|Mount St. Mary's College||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Master of Science in Counseling Psychology||$10,078*|
|National University||4-year, private not-for-profit; fringe rural||Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology||$10,962*|
|University of San Diego||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Master of Arts in Counseling in Clinical Mental Health Counseling||$25,192*|
|University of San Francisco||4-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology||$22,460*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator.