Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

The Clinical Mental Health Counseling program prepares counselors to address the wide array of intersecting psychosocial, cultural, vocational and systemic circumstances that are barriers to the health, wellness, and quality of life of those served. Clinical Mental Health Counseling students are trained to work with some of the most vulnerable, marginalized communities who experience disabling health and behavioral health conditions that are often complicated by histories of poverty, trauma, homelessness, substance abuse, oppression, and criminal justice involvement. Students entering our program are social-justice oriented, embrace difference and inclusion, exhibit a desire for ongoing self-examination, and are expected to continually work towards cultural and disability competency.

Trained through a biopsychosocial and pluralistic lens, students are oriented towards conceptualizing clients' multiple, intersecting identities, contexts, vulnerabilities, and assets, using contemporary classification systems relevant to today's practicing counselor. Students learn and apply a broad spectrum of traditional and post-modern theories and modalities, including the Mental Health Recovery Model, and are expected to integrate health promotion, wellness, and evidence-based practices into their work. Our program strives to graduate students who are not only therapeutically skilled and culturally competent counselors, advocates and clinical case managers, but who also understand and challenge the political, sociocultural, and systemic factors that negatively impact the health and well-being of our clients, their families, and their communities. 

Students graduating from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program work in a diverse range of community-based health and behavioral health organizations, agencies serving particular populations (e.g., LGBTQ, Transition Age Youth, College Students, Older Adults), or persons with specific conditions or circumstances (e.g., substance abuse, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and other health or behavioral health conditions), county behavioral health agencies, hospital-affiliated programs, educational settings, state and federal institutions, and private practice. Graduates meet all the academic and pre-degree fieldwork requirements for the California Professional Clinical Counselor License (LPCC) as set forth in Section 4999.33 of the Business and Professional Code for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors. To become an LPCC, graduates must obtain 3,000 post-graduate hours under a qualified supervisor, and pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) and the California Law and Ethics Exam. Please refer to CALPCC for more information. Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduates are also positioned to become a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC)

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. Human development. To understand concepts of normal development including physical, sexual, emotional, social, cultural, personality, cognitive, and career development; and to understand concepts of abnormal development, including behavior disorders and substance abuse.
  2. Theoretical Framework. To understand theories of counseling.
  3. Generic Counseling. To provide knowledge and training in individual and group counseling methods; consultation and basic interviewing and helping skills.
  4. Socio-cultural Factors. To understand the characteristics and trends related to various cultural, economic, and ethnic groups, including such factors as disability, gender, and life style.
  5. Career Development. To provide knowledge of career information, job satisfaction, job-seeking skills, and instruments used to assist career choice.
  6. Assessment, Evaluation, and Research. To provide a working knowledge of assessment tools and research findings useful to the practitioner.
  7. Professional Development. To provide knowledge about the professional, legal, and ethical foundations of counseling, and to be aware of the community resources and cultures of the various agencies service the public.
  8. Personal Growth Factors. To learn the appropriate use of insight into self and others in the development of empathic, helping relationships. The DoC strongly suggest that students consider some kind of counseling hat will enable them to focus upon themselves in a meaningful way.

Graduate Programs in Counseling

General Information

At least 60 units of approved graduate work are required for the Master of Science degrees. All students go through a basic core sequence of academic courses including four semesters of supervised counseling practicum and internship. Students select electives according to their area of specialization. Two different academic year field placements are required. The department works collaboratively with over 150 community agencies, schools, colleges and universities that provide service and training opportunities for our students. These sites are carefully screened to meet our standards. Fieldwork placements are viewed as an integral part of the training of prospective counselors.

Once admitted to the program, students may petition the department’s program coordinator and chair for up to 12 units of appropriate post-baccalaureate degree work taken in other institutions within seven years from the date students plan to graduate. Courses taken for another degree or credential may not be counted toward the master’s degree. Courses taken at other institutions after admission to the graduate program may not be counted toward the master’s degree. Refer to Graduate Admissions and Graduate Studies, Transfer Credit from Other Institutions for more information.

It may be possible to complete the M.S. program either as a full-time student or as a part-time student. Students must, however, expect that their personal and work schedules will need to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate fieldwork requirements and department class schedules (must be able to take daytime, late afternoon, and evening classes at various times in the program).

Admission to Program

Applicants are admitted as conditionally classified graduate students in the fall semester only - there are no spring admits. Admission to the department involves the following procedures:

  1. Submit the Cal State Apply application by January 15 including all supplementary materials.

Recommended Preparation

Prior to enrolling for classes, it is recommended that an applicant complete the following undergraduate courses: theories of personality/counseling, development through the lifespan, and a psychopathology course and an undergraduate course providing an introduction to the field of counseling. The Department uses a holistic admissions process that considers past academic success, work and volunteer experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and other factors. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 units is required by Graduate Studies. Paid or volunteer experience working with people of diverse backgrounds is an important factor for admission. Selection of students is based on academic as well as personal background.

Access to Counseling Courses Prior to Admission

Applicants may request to take a course in the department by submitting a formal request. These requests will be considered on a case by case basis. 

Students shall not take any courses numbered 700 or above and count them toward their SF State bachelor's degree; however, SF State students may indicate on their graduation application that they wish to have these courses applied to their graduate work if taken in the final semester before graduation. Completion of these courses does not guarantee admission into the program.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One

All applicants must successfully demonstrate writing proficiency through a writing sample that is evaluated by the department after being admitted to the program but before enrolling. Those who do not meet the minimum writing expectation upon admission will be required to take a writing course, usually at an additional cost.

Level Two

Satisfied by demonstration of English competency on the culminating experience paper for COUN 892.

Clinical Proficiency Requirement

Students must earn a grade of B or better in the following courses:

COUN 705Counseling Practicum3
COUN 706Counseling Skills and Process3
COUN 736Advanced Counseling Process3
COUN 890Integrative Counseling and Internship3
COUN 891Case Studies and Internship Seminar3

Clinical Mental Health Counseling  — Minimum 60 units

Required Courses (60 units)

COUN 700Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy3
COUN 702Developmental Foundations for Counselors3
COUN 703Psychological Foundations for Counselors3
COUN 704Biopsychosocial Aspects of Health, Behavioral Health, Aging, & Disability3
COUN 705Counseling Practicum3
COUN 706Counseling Skills and Process3
COUN 715Assessment in Counseling3
COUN 736Advanced Counseling Process3
COUN 720Career Counseling3
COUN 737Psychopharmacology in Counseling3
COUN 738Addictions3
COUN 741Crisis Counseling for Counselors3
COUN 794Seminar in Research3
COUN 811Group Counseling Process3
COUN 833Social and Cultural Foundations in Counseling3
COUN 857Law and Ethics for Counselors3
COUN 870Professional Issues, Clinical Case Management and Systems of Care3
COUN 890Integrative Counseling and Internship3
COUN 891Case Studies and Internship Seminar3
COUN 892Culminating Experience for Counselors3