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What university should I attend to get my Master’s Degree in Counseling?

By Floyd Else, Webmaster

As you are reading this, it is my hope that you have not yet enrolled in a master’s degree program to become a counselor. Your first question should be: “What type of counselor do I wish to become?” In Washington State there are three common licensed counseling fields, (Mental Health Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Clinical Social Worker.)

Each field has slightly different counseling approach, each field has a different accrediting body that has approved the course of study you chose, and the accreditation of the university you chose can make a big post-graduate difference (after you get your Master’s Degree.  One example: If your Master's Degree transcripts of credit do not include an internship or counseling practicum, you can't get a Master's Level Counselor's license in Washington State.)

First, do you know the difference between a College and a University in the U.S.?  Colleges are often smaller institutions that emphasize undergraduate education in a broad range of academic areas. Universities are usually larger institutions that offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. But it can be confusing.  At the University of Iowa, which I attended as a graduate student, you will find it’s College of Education closely allied with the Collage of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which includes the "School of Social Work', which offers both undergraduate programs and graduate programs.  (It’s probably related to the history of the educational institution.  It can really be confusing to foreign students.)

Based on your field of study, you will decide what university to attend—and it’s best to attend a university with the right accreditation to smooth your way to licensure in your chosen field in Washington State.  (Information on finding university programs accredited to match your choice of counseling field will follow, below.)

 After receiving your Master’s Degree, you cannot practice independently and offer your services for a fee unless you are licensed by the state.  If you wish to be a licensed counselor in Washington State you need to obtain a temporary license by entering into a post-graduate supervision agreement with a “Washington State Approved Supervisor.”  Then you can apply to the Washington State Health Department to become a Licensed Associate, in your chosen field.   Post Master’s Degree associate applicants are not required to have supervised postgraduate experience prior to becoming an “Associate”. Associate applicants must declare they are working towards full licensure.  (Essentially, being an Associate is a period of internship.

"Associate" means a pre-licensure candidate who has a graduate degree in a mental health field under RCW 18.225.090 and is gaining the supervision and supervised experience necessary to become a licensed independent clinical social worker, a licensed advanced social worker, a licensed mental health counselor, or a licensed marriage and family therapist. Associates may not independently provide social work, mental health counseling, or marriage and family therapy for a fee, monetary or otherwise.  Associates must work under the supervision of an approved supervisor. [WAC 246-809-010 (1)]

Associates are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education (CEUs), (6 of which must be in the subject of professional ethics) [each year], as required in RCW 18.225.090. Applicants for licensure will be required to attest on the [renewal] application form that they have completed the required continuing education hours.

And here’s a major point of this article:  If the university you attended was properly accredited, this can sometimes decrease the number of supervised post-graduate client hours required and decrease the number of hours of supervision meetings required, so as to become eligible for “full licensure” in Washington State more quickly and with less expense.

As an Associate, you are required to complete all your post-graduate supervision requirements within seven years. [Under state law, you can renew your Associate’s license annually, ONLY six times.] So, any reduction in post-graduate hours of client counseling and direct supervision hours is a saving of both time and money to you, because, if you do counseling in private practice as an Associate, you will be paying for your own supervision.  If you miss that seven year deadline you can’t be licensed but there are still employment opportunities available for example, as an “Agency Affiliated Counselor”.

So, you decide:  

1. Do I wish to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?
 https://www.cacrep.org/home/why-become-a-professional-counselor/

2. Do I wish to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor? Or... 
https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/marriage-and-family-therapy/job-description/

3. Do I wish to become a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker?
https://msw.usc.edu/lcsw/

 

1.  LMHCA = Licensed Mental Health Counselor—Associate.


WAC 246-809-130:  Supervised postgraduate experience.  (Emphasis provided in following paragraphs.)
     (1) The experience requirements for the mental health counselor applicant's practice area include successful completion of a supervised experience requirement. The experience requirement consists of a minimum of thirty-six months full-time counseling [or] three thousand hours of postgraduate mental health counseling under the supervision of a qualified licensed mental health counselor or equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner in an approved setting. Of the three thousand hours:

(a) One hundred hours spent in immediate supervision with the qualified licensed mental health counselor or equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner; and

(b) At least one thousand two hundred hours must be direct counseling with individuals, couples, families, or groups.

(2) Applicants who have completed a master's or doctoral program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) will be credited with fifty hours of postgraduate supervision and five hundred hours of postgraduate experience.  (Leaving you to complete a reduced total of fifty hours of post-graduate supervision, and 700 hours of direct counseling to complete.)  

 
Your CACREP accredited university program bonus.

1,000 client hours minus – 500 hours credit = 500 hours of direct client contact required.

100 hours supervision minus – 50 hours credit = 50 hours of qualified supervision required.

CACREP Website: https://www.cacrep.org/

CREP > Directory – Washington Universities

Below: mental health counseling programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)—located in Washington State.


Antioch University Seattle
https://www.antioch.edu/seattle/degrees-programs/psychology-degree/clinical-psychology-psyd/
M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Central Washington University
http://www.cwu.edu/psychology/counseling-program-home
M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Central Washington University
http://www.cwu.edu/psychology/counseling-program-home
M.S. Mental Health Counseling

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City University of Seattle
https://info.cityu.edu/counseling/masters/
M.A.  Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Eastern Washington University
https://www2.ewu.edu/css/programs/psychology
M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling

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Eastern Washington University                                                
https://www2.ewu.edu/css/programs/psychology/psych-degrees/ms-cmhc
M.S.  Mental Health Counseling

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Gonzaga University
https://www.gonzaga.edu/school-of-education/departments/graduate/counselor-education
M.A. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and
M.A. Community Counseling

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2.  LMFTA = Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist—Associate.

WAC 246-809-130: Supervised postgraduate experience.  (Emphasis provided in following paragraphs.)

The experience requirements for the marriage and family therapist applicant's practice area include successful completion of a supervised experience requirement. The experience requirement consists of a minimum of two calendar years of full-time marriage and family therapy. Total experience requirements include:

     (1) A minimum of three thousand hours of experience that includes one thousand hours of direct client contact with at least five hundred hours gained in diagnosing and treating couples and families;

     (2) At least two hundred hours of qualified supervision with an approved supervisor.

          (a) Of the two hundred hours, one hundred hours must be with a licensed marriage and family therapist with at least five years of clinical experience; the other one hundred hours may be with an equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner;

          (b) At least one hundred of the two hundred hours must be one-on-one supervision; and

          (c) The remaining hours may be in one-on-one or group supervision.

3) Applicants who have completed a master's program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE) boards will be credited with five hundred hours of direct client contact and one hundred hours of qualified supervision with an Approved

Supervisor.   

Your COAMFTE accredited university program bonus.

1,000 client hours minus – 500 hours credit = 500 hours of direct client contact required.

200 hours supervision minus – 100 hours credit = 100 hours of qualified supervision required.

COAMFTE website = www.coamfte.org

Below: Marriage and Family Therapy programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy—located in Washington State. Use the COAMFTE website to find accredited out of state universities. The following from 
https://www.coamfte.org/COAMFTE/Directory_of_Accredited_Programs
/MFT_Training_Programs.aspx
 are

COAMFTE accredited programs in Washington State.

Name Degree Type
Antioch University Seattle (MA) Masters Campus Based
Pacific Lutheran University (MA) Masters Campus Based
Seattle Pacific University (MS) Masters Campus Based
Seattle University (MA) Masters Campus Based
Whitworth University Masters Campus Based

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1.  LICSW- A = Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker—Associate.

WAC: 246-809-330:  Supervised postgraduate experience requirements.

     (2) Licensed independent clinical social worker: The experience requirement consists of a minimum of four thousand hours of experience, over a period of not less than three years. Of those four thousand hours:

          (a) One thousand hours must be direct client contact supervised by a licensed independent clinical social worker;

          (b) One hundred thirty hours of direct supervision as follows:

                 (i) Seventy hours must be with an independent clinical social worker;

                 (ii) Sixty hours may be with an equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner as defined in WAC 246-809-310(3);

                 (iii) Sixty hours of the one hundred thirty hours of direct supervision must be in one-to-one supervision. The remaining seventy hours may be in one-to-one supervision or group supervision; and

                 (iv) Distance supervision is limited to sixty supervision hours.

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NOTE:  “For licensed independent clinical social worker Associate or licensed social worker associate-independent clinical--Graduation from a master's or doctorate level social work educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)... is a graduate education requirement, and “no credit” supervision hours are offered for graduating from an accredited program.”  (I confess to not recording the source of this quote, but it seems to agree with the WAC requirements.    I invite you to “Contact Us”, if you know the source or have information to refute the quote.)

CSWE website: https://www.cswe.org/

https://www.cswe.org/Accreditation/Directory-of-Accredited-Programs.aspx

Below: social work graduate educational programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education--located in Washington State.  Information on out-of-state programs can be found on the CSWE site.

Eastern Washington University
Website: http://www.ewu.edu/basw
Program Level: Master's
Degree: M.A.S.W.

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Seattle University
Website: http://www.seattleu.edu
Program Level: Master's
Degree: MSW

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University of Washington
Website: http://depts.washington.edu/sswweb/
Program Level: Master's
Degree: M.S.W.

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Walla Walla University
Website: https://www.wallawalla.edu

Program Level: Master's
Degree: M.S.W.

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To our Viewers: In closing, let me say, you’ll never get rich with a career in public service.  I recommend applying for full-time counseling jobs with appropriate supervision for your field of counseling...  Licensed Mental Health Agencies are set up to help people with their problems, and by just doing their job, they are providing you clients to counsel—individually and in groups.

Beware of quotes of median salaries.  Average or Median salaries represent “the middle” of the salary range-- and that means half the salaries are lower and half are higher.  As a new employee, expect to be at the lower level of the salary schedule.  Look for employment that will provide a supervisor who meets the requirements of a Washington State Approved Supervisor [WAC 246-809-134], you need for full licensure.  Some employment opportunities offer stability, benefits, and some employment, especially with government bodies, offer pensions that are especially welcome when it comes time to retire.   

 Counselors in private practice are their own boss and set their own fees, but you are also paying to be supervised in your practice, have other practice expenses, market conditions rule fees, and you are facing lots of competition for clients, you have to market your practice to find clients, plus facing time limitations to qualify for full licensure.  You may need to take another job to support your private practice expenses.

We hope this information is of assistance to you in your career planning.  You may also find the internal links, listed below to be instructive, and of additional help.  If you review these offerings and still have questions additional questions about counseling, please feel free to “Contact Us.”   By helping you with your questions, we may find additional information to better help potential counselors in the future.

Floyd Else, MA, LMHC (ret.), NCC, MAC.
Owner/webmaster: Counseling Washington
Note:  Counseling Washington is a privately owned site, and not a part of any State or local government entity.

 

 RELATED INTERNAL LINKS:

What is a Licensed Associate -- in WA State?https://www.counselingwashington.com/Therapist/Resources/What-Is-A-Licensed-Associate/

Counseling Acronyms

https://www.counselingwashington.com/Acronyms-Library/A/

Find a WA. State Approved Supervisor for Associates.

https://www.counselingwashington.com/Therapists/Find-An-Approved-Supervisor/

WAC (Washington Administrative Code) Counseling terms defined

https://www.counselingwashington.com/Therapist/WAC-Definitions.php

External links:

Report to the legislature as to time for Associate to reach full licensure. Be sure to look at tables at the bottom of the report.

https://app.leg.wa.gov/ReportsToTheLegislature/Home/GetPDF?fileName=Mental%20Health%20Associates_ebecc3ae-163a-47c0-82d4-71ad0ea36928.pdf

 

 

 

AND COMING SOON:

JOBS FOR ASSOCIATE COUNSELORS

HIRING HINTS FOR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH AGENCIES

 

 

 

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