Online master's degree programs in counseling are offered as hybrid programs with online and traditional instruction. Some courses require students to complete on-campus residencies and on-site practicums. Courses in a counseling program may include abnormal psychology, group counseling and counseling in community agencies, and students learn about research methods and engage in internships.
Those seeking a fully online option can find graduate certificates in integrative holistic health and wellness or holistic health care. These online programs supplement traditional counseling training with coursework in holism and topics in alternative health techniques.
Licensing requirements for counselors vary from state to state. All counselors must hold at least a master's degree. School counselors must meet state certification requirements, and career counselors generally must be licensed.
Master's Degree in Counseling
An online master's degree in counseling engages theories of mind and develops the practical competence of students to perform as advisors and confidants. Students learn methods for working with individuals, groups and families to resolve emotional turmoil and interpersonal disputes. When possible, students interested in a more holistic approach can seek courses that emphasize a mind-body-spirit whole systems orientation to the profession. A bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology, and a 3.0 grade point average are minimally required for admission to a counseling master's degree program.
Program Information and Requirements
For the online segment of these programs, students may access course readings, lectures and other materials day-round through a school's website and submit finished assignments the same way. Communication with faculty and other students takes place in online forums and by e-mail or phone. Students are required to have a relatively new Windows or Mac personal computer and broadband Internet access to participate in an online program. Schools may use a course management system, such as Moodle or Blackboard.
Common Counseling Courses
Many master's degree programs in general counseling are structured as a broad list of required courses, rather than as a set of core courses and a set of electives as in other master's programs.
Students examine major theories of counseling and their applications in real world settings. In the process of engaging the theory, students begin developing their own theoretical and practical orientation to counseling.
This course aims to clarify the interaction of biological, psychological, social, cultural and environmental factors that influence human development. Course work covers the human life-cycle from the pre-natal to geriatric stage.
Health and Dysfunction
This course reviews psychology literature that critiques the discipline for focusing excessively on individual factors when analyzing the causes of mental illness and considers alternative perspectives that attempt to present comprehensive explanations. Students examine ways of incorporating structural approaches to analysis in their clinical work.
Students learn various approaches to research methodology and research design in this course as well as data analysis and statistics. Manuscript preparation, diversity issues and ethics are among the topics considered.
Graduates of an online master's degree program in counseling are qualified to work as mental health counselors, provided they meet state licensing requirements. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projects employment of mental health counselors will grow 20% from 2014-2024. Growth will be facilitated by expanded health insurance coverage of counseling services and a greater willingness by people to seek counseling. The median salary of mental health counselors as of 2015 was $41,880.
Several schools offer doctoral degree programs in counseling and a small number offer them online. Although they aren't specifically dedicated to holistic counseling, given the heavy research demands of doctorate programs, students may be able to focus on a holistic approach to counseling in their research.
While traditional counseling programs require partial in-person attendance, graduates can specialize with a fully online graduate certificate in holistic health. Mental health is an expanding field, and a growing interest in holistic practices may provide an edge for specialists.