Master of Arts Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Put Your Passion for Helping Others to Work

Rigorous standards. Diverse community. Flexible learning. Unique opportunities.

If you are ready to prepare for your helping career, expand your employment options or retool your career path, the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Palo Alto University is the place to start.

You can earn your degree from a fully accredited, world-renowned university in just two years – online or hybrid formats avaiable.

MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Admission Information
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Accept Only the Highest Standards in Counseling

PAU is a diverse and dynamic community dedicated to developing highly effective licensed mental health counselors, future leaders, and innovators in the counseling profession. We strive to reduce human suffering by promoting mental health, wellness, social justice, education, and vocational well-being.

Our program's mission is to prepare you for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Clinical Counselor, or both, depending on your area of emphasis and your home state.

We are committed to five core values:

  • Creating and nurturing a diverse and inclusive learning community for all students, faculty, and staff.
  • Providing excellent education and clinical supervision for students.
  • Promoting healing and empowerment by addressing social privilege and oppression.
  • Generating knowledge through research and scholarship of the highest level.
  • Providing services to the local, national, and international community informed by science and scholarship.

Training in the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at PAU focuses on ten key outcomes, including: professional identity and ethical practice, social justice and cultural diversity, human growth and development, counseling and systemic practice, career development, leadership, and more.


Areas of Emphasis
Mental Health Session
Clinical Mental Health

Are you interested in helping people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders? Become a professional clinical counselor, focusing on recovery-oriented treatment.

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Marriage, Family & Child Emphasis photo
Marriage, Family & Child

If you are interested in counseling families and couples, earn your license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), or a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in California.

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Fully Accredited Training

PAU’s CACREP-accredited programs and faculty training meet or exceed quality standards, reflecting our commitment to providing the highest level of care for all students. Palo Alto University was most recently accredited in January 2017 and received the maximum of eight (8) years CACREP accreditation.

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CACREP Accreditation Logo

CACREP Accreditation

What is CACREP?Toggle Accordion

In the field of mental health counseling programs, the accreditation most often associated is CACREP: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program. In order for any organization to get CACREP accreditation, they must adhere to the standards set forth by the council.

Visit the CACREP website to learn more

What are the benefits of being CACREP accredited?Toggle Accordion

  • Universities that are accredited reflect meeting or exceeding the standards of quality within their program as set forth by the council
  • Accreditation also reflects the institution's commitment to providing the highest level of care for its student
  • CACREP provides guidance to institutions in determining acceptability of transfer credits into a CACREP program
  • Graduates from a CACREP program have the tools to perform better on their licensure exam and certification
  • CACREP programs are easily portable across other states to meet the education requirements for licensure
  • Various government agencies, such as the Veterans Health Administration, primarily hire CACREP graduates 
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PAU CACREP Accredited Counseling Program DetailsToggle Accordion

  • Palo Alto University was accredited in January 2017 and received the maximum of eight (8) years CACREP accreditation
  • Palo Alto has two areas of emphasis accredited in its MA in Counseling program
    • Clinical Mental Health
    • Marriage, Family and Child 
  • Palo Alto University has faculty that is CACREP trained which supports the organization's commitment to high quality education
  • The MA in Counseling program is offered both online and on-campus
  • The MA in Counseling program is designed to provide the tools for individuals to become qualified and trained clinicians
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State AuthorizationsToggle Accordion

California graduates of this program can pursue both the Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)  and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) licenses. Graduates living in other states can pursue similar licenses (see your state's licensure board regulations for qualifying degree requirements).  

Due to US Department of Education Regulations, the MA in Counseling program currently cannot enroll students from several states. Please see the list of those states on our State Authorizations page. Please check back regularly for updates.

State Authorization Details

Student's ResponsibilityToggle Accordion

PAU does not guarantee that the completion of this program will result in state licensure or certification. In addition to successfully completing the educational requirements, graduates of the MA in Counseling program will need to meet other state licensure requirements.

Graduates are also responsible for understanding if a background check is required to apply for licensure and for determining if their own circumstances pose any barriers to licensure.

It is a student’s responsibility to understand the specific requirements of the state in which they intend to apply for licensure and to be aware of any changes to those requirements. If they move to another state, the requirements for licensure will likely be different from the state where they currently reside, and they are responsible for determining the licensure requirements in the state to which they relocate.

The American Counseling Association provides a directory of all state professional licensure boards.

Contact Faculty To Assist
Faculty Experts at Palo Alto University
Expert Faculty

Your PAU professors have expertise in nearly every counseling discipline, including clinical practice, family therapy, child/adolescent development, counselor education, and more.

Meet Your Professors

Multicultural and Multidimensional Learning

Our unique multicultural focus emphasizes culture, social justice, and families. Faculty, instructors, and staff prepare you to serve individuals, families, and communities of different backgrounds with widely different needs. 



NBCC Certification Logo
Become a Nationally Certified Counselor upon Graduation

Our MA in Counseling program has been evaluated and determined to provide the necessary educational coursework for eligibility for national certification.

More on our National Certification Program Outcomes

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Board Certification ExamsToggle Accordion

When you graduate from PAU’s MA program, you will be eligible – and more than prepared – to get board-certified in professional counseling. 

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Academic RequirementsToggle Accordion

Get all the details about how the MA in Counseling program works, including academic advising, degree requirements, learning outcomes, and more. 

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Program and Student Learning Outcomes Toggle Accordion

  • Outcome 1 - Professional identity and ethical practice. Graduates will have developed a professional identity as a counselor in alignment with ethical and legal standards of practice as well as the dispositions related to effective practice including integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion, and personal presence. (2.F.1.i, 2.F.1.k.)

  • Outcome 2 - Social justice and cultural diversity. Graduates will have developed an understanding of various cultures and the implications of diversity for social justice and advocacy. Graduates will have demonstrated insights into the social and psychological implications of socioeconomic position and how power, privilege, and oppression can affect an individual's mental health and recovery. (2.F.2.c, 2.F.2.e, 2.F.2.h)

  • Outcome 3 - Human growth and development. Graduates will have incorporated the theories and principles of optimal lifespan development towards promoting resilience and wellness across the lifespan. (2.F.3.a, 2.F.3.i.)

  • Outcome 4 - Career development. Graduates will have demonstrated the ability to advocate for clients’ diverse career needs and educational development using theories and models of career development (2.F.4.a., 2.F.4.g.)

  • Outcome 5 - Counseling and systemic practice. Graduates will have applied theories and models of counseling through essential interviewing, counseling, and case conceptualization skills and will have integrated a systems approach to conceptualizing client development, presenting issues, and counseling strategies and approaches. (2.F.5.a, 2.F.5.b, 2.F.5.g)

  • Outcome 6 - Group counseling and effective leadership. Graduates will have incorporated theoretical foundations of group work to become a group process facilitator and a positive force in achieving high levels of participation, cooperation and cohesion in group counseling settings. (2.F.6.a, 2.F.6.b)

  • Outcome 7 - Assessment and testing. Graduates will have acquired, refined, and demonstrated appropriate ability to assess client issues for diagnosis and treatment planning.  (2.F.7.b, 2.F.7.e)

  • Outcome 8 - Research and program evaluation. Graduates will have demonstrated the ability to critique research in order to incorporate evidence-based counseling practices in a variety of settings. (2.F.8.a, 2.F.8.b)

  • Outcome 9 (MFC track only) - Professional practice. Graduates will have acquired, refined, and demonstrated appropriate knowledge, skills, and dispositions to effectively work with couples, families, and other systems in a variety of settings. (5.F.1.f, 5.F.2.a, 5.F.3.c)

  • Outcome 10 (CMHC track only) - Professional practice. Graduates will have acquired, refined, and demonstrated appropriate knowledge, skills, and dispositions to effectively assess, diagnose, and treat clients in a variety of settings. (5.C.1.e, 5.C.2.d, 5.C.3.b)
On campus student
Choose Your Format: Online or In-Person

Are you ready to get your Master’s degree without uprooting your life? Palo Alto University’s MA in Counseling program program offers both online and in-person class options. This give you the flexibility you need while working or raising a family.

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