M.A. Counseling Psychology

About the Program

The M.A. Counseling Psychology program is designed to prepare students to serve their communities as licensed Marriage and Family Therapists or licensed Professional Clinical Counselors. The professors draw from their academic studies and professional experience to provide students with the background they will need to be successful to practice professionally.

Program Objectives

This program specifically prepares students to:

  • Acquire, refine, and demonstrate appropriate Master’s level knowledge and skills as a clinician, researcher, and academic.
  • Develop a professional identity as a counselor and the personal qualities intimately related to effective practice including integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion, and personal presence.
  • Become an organizational leader, a group process expert, and a positive force in achieving high levels of participation, cooperation and cohesion.
  • Develop the ability to work cross culturally in both the United States and elsewhere on the world stage.
  • Develop an understanding of various cultures and the implications for social justice.
  • Develop an understanding of the social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position, and how poverty and social stress impact an individual’s mental health and recovery.
  • Incorporate the principles of mental health recovery-oriented care and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments.
  • Manage the risks of a professional counseling practice, to ensure client safety and to remain compliant with all laws, regulations, moral and ethical guidelines.
  • Integrate the principles and practices of marriage and family therapy throughout the professional practice of counseling and mental health.
  • Become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or Professional Clinical Counselor.

Learning Format

Students learn through lecture, discussion, and research, and apply new knowledge in their internship, all guided by their professors. This program also has a unique multicultural focus with an emphasis on culture, social justice and families. Instructors equip students to serve individuals from different backgrounds with widely different needs. Learning objectives that cut across the entire curriculum include:

  • The mission of Palo Alto University to reduce suffering and improve lives through education and research anchored in psychology, clinical training and practice in a diversity of cultures, and service to communities around the world.
  • The development of personal qualities that are intimately related to effective practice including integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion, and personal presence.
  • An understanding of the principles and practices of marriage and family therapy.
  • The recognition of principles of mental health recovery-oriented care and methods of service delivery in recovery-oriented practice environments.
  • An understanding of various cultures, the social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position, and an understanding of how poverty and social stress impact an individual’s mental health and recovery.

Time Frame and Format

The program is designed to be completed in two years and one quarter. Because the degree includes practicum or field work experience, many students desire to take three years to complete their program. Students study residentially in Palo Alto, Monterey Bay, or San Mateo on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, in addition to one online course. Beginning in Fall 2014, students will also have the option to attend classes all day Saturday at the Palo Alto campus.

See: Program Format

Transferring in Units

Students can transfer up to 15 units of prior graduate work.  Generally, the coursework cannot be more than 5 years old.  Transfer coursework is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Students need to submit the course description with supporting documentation (e.g., syllabus).  Documentation will be reviewed by a PAU faculty member who will either accept or reject the course for transfer credit.

Academic Advisor

Students are assigned to an academic advisor upon entering the M.A. Counseling Psychology program. The primary role of an advisor is to discuss professional development issues (e.g., practicum decisions, internship preparation, etc.) and any personal/interpersonal issues that may arise.. Students are also strongly encouraged to be proactive and contact their advisor earlier rather than later should any difficulties arise.

Psychotherapy Suggestion

In a Counseling Psychology training program, evaluations of competence must be based not only on academic achievement but on personal and professional qualities as well. These include a commitment to self-understanding and self-awareness and a capacity for good relationships. The two are obviously related; understanding and acceptance of others depend in part on understanding and self-acceptance. Students are expected to demonstrate maturity, good judgment, discretion, and respect. If their effectiveness is compromised by personal problems or illness, they are expected to seek competent professional help to determine whether to suspend, terminate, or limit their scope of professional studies within the M.A. Counseling Psychology program.

Whenever possible, the M.A. Counseling Psychology program will seek to identify available high-quality, low-cost options for students’ personal psychotherapy experience. Further, the Counseling Psychology Leadership is committed to increasing opportunities for personal exploration and growth in a safe, confidential, professional environment.

Commitment to Diversity

The M.A. Counseling Psychology is committed to providing an educational environment that respects cultural and individual differences. It seeks both to foster a diverse student body and to support the aspirations of all of its students. It supports the kind of critical debate over important ideas that are central to the academic enterprise. At the same time, it encourages the respect and cooperation that are also central to an academic community. The program’s commitment to diversity requires a commitment on the part of all members of this academic community to acknowledge the range of human variability and to respect difference.

As counselors, an understanding and appreciation for human diversity is especially critical. The broader PAU community, for instance, sponsors two student organizations committed to cultural awareness and diversity: Students for Ethnic and Cultural Awareness (SECA) and Student Association for Sexual Orientation (SASO). These organizations are designed to build community and provide education and outreach, with the goal of furthering awareness and appreciation of diversity.

Whenever relevant, courses are designed to address explicitly the implications of ethnic and cultural diversity factors on the assessment and treatment of patients. Students are encouraged to appreciate and experience the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the diversity within their own cohort.

Academic Requirements

Each entering class moves through the 2-year experience of didactic coursework as a cohesive cohort, attending all classes together and in the same sequence. There are no electives, thus, students receive the same curriculum regardless of previous education or experience. Students are encouraged to explore personal areas of interest by tailoring their counseling and research experiences.

Students are expected to achieve a grade of B- or higher in didactic course work. Any student who receives two or more grades of B- in a given quarter is expected to meet with his or her advisor to discuss and attempt to resolve any academic difficulties. Students must resolve all incomplete grades prior to advancing to candidacy (following satisfactory completion of all comprehensive exams.)

The Counseling Psychology training program provides students with experiences with increasing amounts of time devoted to supervised Counseling practicum work during each year of graduate training. All practicum sites must be formally approved by the student's advisor and the Practicum Coordinator. Students are evaluated no less than twice annually by their practicum supervisors. Students must maintain satisfactory practicum ratings to maintain good academic standing.

Academic Curriculum

See: Curriculum

Good Academic Standing

Good academic standing is specific to the year of matriculation. All students must pass all required courses, receive no more than two grades of B- in any quarter, have satisfactory practicum evaluations, and pass all comprehensive examinations. Students are independently responsible to monitor their incomplete grades and to satisfy course requirements prior to the close of the subsequent quarter. Two grades of B- or below in any Quarter mandates a compulsory review by the Master’s Student Evaluation Committee. Unsatisfactory practicum evaluations necessitate a meeting with the Master’s Clinical Training Director, and due process or other actions may be required by the practicum site and the Master’s Student Evaluation Committee.

Awarding of the M.A.

A student approaching completion of the requirements for the M.A. must file a “Graduation Application” form with the Registrar whether or not they plan to participate in commencement exercises. Students should contact the Registrar Assistant to request this form.

  • Financial Clearance: Financial clearance from the Business and Finance Department and an exit interview with the Financial Aid Coordinator must also be completed.
  • Course Work: All course work and unit requirements have been completed with a grade of B- or higher.
  • Fees: Submission of all graduate forms and fees, including the graduation fee and the Application for Graduation.
  • Grade Reports: It is the responsibility of each student to make sure that all grade reports have been received by the Registrar’s Office and that his or her transcript is cleared of any outstanding grades or incompletes.
  • Time Limits for Completion of Program:  A student has a maximum of five (5) years to complete the program.

Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) and Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensure

See: MFT/PCC Licensure

Program Costs

Effective 2014-15, tuition is charged at $447/unit and fees are charged at $27/unit.  Thus the total tuition and fees for the program comes to $42,660.  In addition to tuition and fees, students cover their costs of books and supplies. Based on the recently adopted tuition stabilization plan, once  students are in the program your tuition and fees won’t increase from the time they enter the program.  Please see the tuition and fee schedule on the PAU website for current year tuition and fee rates. 

Program Director

The Program Director is Dr. William Snow (wsnow@paloaltou.edu).  Dr. Snow received his B.A and M.A. from Pacific Lutheran University and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Prior to joining Palo Alto, Dr. Snow served at Bethany University for over 25 years where he was Professor of Psychology, Director of Institutional Research, Vice President for Academics and Chair of the Department of Psychology.

For Further Information

For further information, you can email our Assistant Director of Admissions, Deanna Berger at dberger@paloaltou.edu or phone her at 650-417-2023.

1791 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304
(800) 818-6136
(650) 433-3888 FAX