Graduate Certificate Programs in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling are non-degree academic programs that provide professional training and instruction in the principles and practices of clinical counseling. These programs are designed to prepare graduate students and mid-career professionals who hold or are in the process of earning a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a closely related behavioral/social science field to qualify for a state license to practice clinical mental health or rehabilitation counseling. They are also an option for doctoral students and health professionals who hold a doctorate and who want to add clinical mental health and/or rehabilitation counseling proficiencies to their skillset.
Students in clinical counseling graduate certificate programs generally complete a relatively small cluster of graduate courses that focus exclusively on the knowledge and skills required to provide clinical counseling services to individuals, families, and groups. Many programs also require students to complete supervised clinical hours in an approved mental health or rehabilitation counseling setting. However, unlike master’s degree programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling, which typically require a commitment of two to three years of full-time study and the completion of 60 or more graduate credits, counseling graduate certificate programs require fewer credits (15, 18, or 21 credits is common) and can be completed in one to two years of part-time enrollment. As a result, for qualified applicants, graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling represent a more affordable, convenient, and efficient means of qualifying for state licensure in clinical counseling, compared to full master’s programs.
Note: Licensing requirements for professional mental health and rehabilitation counselors vary by state. However, most state require applicants for licensure to hold a master’s degree and graduate training in counseling and to have completed a specific number of supervised clinical hours as part of a graduate degree or certificate program. For more information on licensing for clinical mental health and rehabilitation counselors, refer to the section below on licensing and accreditation, or contact your state’s licensing board.
Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling Explained
Clinical mental health and clinical rehabilitation counseling are closely related fields in which licensed professionals deliver clinical counseling services, including psychotherapy, to individuals, families, and/or groups in order to assess and address developmental and behavioral issues, provide mental health and wellness guidance, and help clients cope with a variety of personal problems and professional challenges. Anger and stress management, anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma are among the more common problems for which individuals and families seek clinical mental health counseling services. Clinical mental health counselors may also see clients who are struggling with issues related to addiction and substance abuse, eating disorders, domestic violence and abuse, and other problems that have significant mental health impacts.
In contrast, rehabilitation counseling involves the provision of mental health counseling services to individuals with physical, mental, cognitive, developmental, and/or emotional disabilities. While rehabilitation counselors draw on the same foundational principles and practices as mental health counselors, their concerns and treatment goals are defined by the population group with which they work. Thus, rehabilitation counselors use the tools and techniques of clinical mental health counseling to help their clients adjust to living and working independently and/or managing their disabilities in integrated settings.
Identifying and Classifying Graduate Certificate Programs in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling
GraduateCertificates.com researches graduate programs and classifies programs as graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling based on several key criteria. For example, these programs must be offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities and they must provide graduate-level training and instruction in the professional practice of clinical mental health and/or rehabilitation counseling. In addition, while many graduate certificate program curricula draw on and overlap with master’s in clinical and rehabilitation counseling program coursework, the academic requirements of a graduate certificate program must focus primarily on the training and instruction needed to prepare students who already hold a master’s degree to apply for a license to practice clinical counseling.
Programs that meet the requirements detailed above are commonly designated as graduate, post-graduate, post-master’s, or advanced certificate programs in one or more of the following areas: mental health counseling; professional counseling; and rehabilitation counseling. There are also a limited number of post-baccalaureate graduate certificate programs in mental health and rehabilitation counseling that are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities. It is important to note that while these programs do consist of graduate/master’s-level coursework in counseling and can serve as a steppingstone to a full graduate degree in counseling, students who earn a post-baccalaureate certificate must then also complete a master’s degree in counseling in order to qualify for licensure.
Clinical Counseling Graduate Certificate Coursework
Graduate certificate programs in counseling vary in terms of the specific courses they require students to complete. However, most programs are comprised of several core courses from master’s program curricula that align with standards developed and administered by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), an independent accreditation organization for master’s and doctoral programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling. These courses typically cover topics in the accepted theories of clinical counseling; the assessment and treatment of common mental health issues; and the ethical and professional application of psychotherapy and other evidence-based therapeutic practices to work with individuals, families, and groups.
Some certificate programs may also include required and/or elective courses in addiction and substance abuse treatment, trauma counseling, psychopathology and pharmacology for non-medical professionals, and other counseling topics. Finally, many programs provide students with the opportunity to complete supervised clinical hours or require clinical internships/practicums that may be applied toward qualifying to sit for the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), the two most common licensing exams used by states.
The list below draws on actual graduate certificate programs in clinical counseling and offers a representative overview of the types of courses students typically complete as part of a clinical counseling graduate certificate program.
- Assessment Techniques in Counseling
- Crisis, Trauma, and Clinical Mental Health
- Foundations of Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders for Professional Counselors
- Individual and Group Methods for Counselors
- Medical and Psychological Aspects of Disability
- Principles and Practices of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
- Psychopathology Across the Lifespan for Mental Health Professionals
- Psychopharmacology for the Nonmedical Mental Health Professional
- Theories of Counseling and Personality
- Treatment Planning
Accreditation and Licensing in Clinical Counseling
There are two additional factors regarding graduate certificate programs in counseling that can be important considerations for students. The first concerns accreditations. As noted above, CACREP serves as the primary accreditation board for master’s and doctoral programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling. Master’s programs in counseling may also apply for and receive accreditation from the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC), which is a separate accrediting body from CACREP.
At this time, graduate certificate programs are not eligible for programmatic accreditation from either CACREP or MPCAC. However, many graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and/or rehabilitation counseling are offered by colleges and universities that have CACREP and/or MPCAC accreditation for one or more master’s in counseling programs, and it is common for graduate certificate program curricula to be comprised of several courses that are part of a master’s program curriculum. CACREP and MPCAC accreditation serve as an assurance that a graduate program in counseling has been formally assessed and found to meet accepted standards for professional training and instruction in clinical counseling. In addition, programmatic accreditation can be advantageous when it comes time to apply for a state license to practice clinical mental health or rehabilitation counseling.
Eligibility to apply for a counseling license is generally extended to graduates of accredited master’s programs in counseling who meet a number of other requirements, including didactic instruction and clinical training in core areas that CACREP and MPCAC require for accreditation. Thus, completing a graduate certificate program in clinical counseling from a college or university that offers a CACREP or MPCAC accredited program can make the process of establishing eligibility for licensure easier in many states.
Nevertheless, students who are considering a graduate certificate in clinical counseling program as a means of qualifying for licensure should review their state’s requirements in order to determine whether or not a particular graduate certificate program will meet those requirements. In addition, students may want to contact their state’s board of licensing for state-specific information on licensing procedures and requirements.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling
It has become increasingly common for schools to offer clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling graduate certificate programs using online instructional tools and technologies. This allows colleges and universities to expand the reach of their programs to students who live and work beyond commuting range of the school’s campus. It has the additional benefits of providing mid-career professionals with a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional campus-based programs.
Online graduate certificate programs in clinical counseling provide the same general training and instruction as traditional on-campus programs. They do so via online instructional platforms, often referred to as learning management systems (LMSs). These technology platforms allow programs to stream live and/or prerecorded lectures, virtual classes, and training sessions to students located anywhere with a secure internet connection, and to provide those students with a range of other instructional assets. In some programs, students are required to log on to the program’s LMS at specified times for classes, which is a component of what is known as synchronous instruction. In contrast, some programs use only asynchronous instructional methods, which encompass a broad range of learning activities that do not have a real-time component, including pre-recorded lectures and instructional modules that can be accessed at a student’s convenience, 24-7.
Synchronous instruction offers less scheduling flexibility than asynchronous instruction, but it provides more structure, which some students may find preferable. Asynchronous instruction is a less rigidly structured mode of online learning, but it requires more self-discipline and self-motivation to keep up with course materials and readings in the absence of weekly scheduled classes.
There are fully online graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling, which offer all of their didactic instruction online and do not require students to attend any campus visits. There are also online programs that hold a limited number of campus-based sessions that students are required to attend. GraduateCertificates.com classifies programs that require two or fewer campus visits per year as online programs, and programs that require three or more campus visits as blended or hybrid programs. While blended/hybrid programs can be a good option for students who live near the school offering the program, they are generally not a practical option for students who are not within commuting range of a school’s campus.
Note: In addition to coursework and assignments that can be completed online, many graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling require students to complete in-person clinical hours at a site approved by the program. Online programs generally allow students to complete these face-to-face requirements in their geographical area. However, students may want to contact a program administrator regarding potential clinical placements prior to applying to an online certificate program in order to ensure that a convenient clinical practice site can be found.
Examples of Online Clinical Mental Health and Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Certificate Programs
The programs listed below are examples of online graduate certificate programs in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling that are offered by accredited colleges and universities. They are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of programs that are currently offered in an online format.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers a Post-Master’s Certificate in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that can be completed entirely online or through a mix of online courses and in-person courses at the university’s Baltimore campus. The part-time program is designed for students who hold a master’s degree in counseling or a related field and who are interested in establishing eligibility for licensure in clinical counseling. Students in the program must complete a minimum of 15 graduate credits by taking courses that draw on a Master of Science (MS) in Counseling program that is offered by JHU and accredited by CACREP. The certificate program includes an optional internship for students who need to complete supervised clinical hours in order to qualify for licensing. For more information on the program, visit the Johns Hopkins School of Education at education.jhu.edu.
The University of South Dakota (USD) offers an online Certificate in Mental Health Counseling through its School of Education. The program is designed for students who have completed or are in the process of completing a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field and who need additional training in clinical counseling in order to qualify for licensure. Students in the program complete 12 credits of graduate coursework that draw on USD’s CACREP-accredited Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling program. All four of the courses required by USD’s certificate program are offered online and can be completed without having to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit USD’s online division at www.usd.edu/usd-online.
The University of North Texas (UNT) offers an online Post-Graduate Advanced Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling program through its College of Health and Public Service. The program can be completed 100% online and requires seven courses for a total of 21-credits of graduate coursework. This is a post-master’s certificate program that requires applicants to hold a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree in counseling, psychology, behavioral health, social work, or a related field. The certificate program draws on coursework from UNT’s CACREP-accredited Master of Science (MS) in Rehabilitation Counseling program. For more information on the certificate program, visit UNT’s online division at online.unt.edu.
Rutgers University is an example of an accredited public university that offers several options for earning a graduate certificate in counseling, including three programs that are offered online. The Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at the Rutgers School of Health Professions has a 12-credit postbaccalaureate Bachelor’s Certificate in Counseling that consists of four courses that can serve as a steppingstone to Rutgers’ CACREP-accredited Master of Science (MS) in Rehabilitation Counseling program. The postbaccalaureate certificate program can be completed online or on campus.
Rutgers also has two post-master’s certificate options that are offered online: an 18-credit Advanced Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling program for students who hold a master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree in counseling, psychology, or a related behavioral or social science field; and a nine-credit Post-Master’s Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling program for students who already hold a master’s degree in counseling from a CACREP-accredited program and who need only to complete three courses in rehabilitation counseling in order to qualify for a license to practice rehabilitation counseling. For more information on the Rutgers programs, visit the Rutgers School of Health Professions at shp.rutgers.edu.
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