M.A. Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling Emphasis



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The M.A. Counseling program with an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CACREP accredited) prepares students to pursue a license as a Professional Clinical Counselor. The online format option makes it possible for students across the U.S. to complete master's in counseling degree requirements via distance learning and do their practicum placements locally, in their home communities. Palo Alto University works with agencies and practitioners in a student's locale so they obtain a high standard of culturally relevant mental health care training.

  • California: The Clinical Mental Health Counseling emphasis fulfills the State of California's educational requirements to pursue licensure as a Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). 
  • Other States & Territories: The Clinical Mental Health Counseling emphasis may also fulfill similar educational requirements to pursue licensure in other states and territories (please check with your individual state licensure board requirements).  

Practicum & Internship

A clinical practicum/internship experience is a required part of the Master's in Counseling program.  Practicum/internship provides students an opportunity to gain experience in the role of a clinical counselor. Students complete a minimum of 700 hours of counseling-related experience over a 9 to 12 month period. This experience includes a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling experience.  Palo Alto University provides guidance to students in securing a practicum/internship site.  Common types of placements include community and county mental health agencies, school-based mental health centers, and non-profit counseling centers.

LPCC Licensure

In California

The Palo Alto University M.A. Counseling with an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is designed to meet the educational requirements for graduates to pursue the Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) license with the Board of Behavioral Sciences in the State of California (Business and Professions Code §4980.36).

This degree is the first step to obtaining an LPCC license. The State of California requires graduates to accumulate two years (104 weeks) of supervision and 3,000 hours of post-Master's supervised work experience. Further information regarding licensure requirements and exams can be found on the California BBS website.

In Other States

This program and emphasis may fulfill the educational requirements for students seeking licensure in many other states and territories. Students who plan to seek licensure in another state or territory should research their region's specific laws and regulations before enrolling. Information on state counseling boards can be found on the AASCB website.


What LPCCs Do

Professional Clinical Counselors help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders as well as problems with their families and relationships.  By listening to clients and asking questions, licensed Professional Clinical Counselors help clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. They work with individuals or families, or with specific populations such as the elderly or children.

Licensed Professional Counselors manage the delivery of mental health care to individuals, couples and families, and other groups, incorporating the principles of recovery-oriented treatment. By listening to clients and asking questions, they help clients to understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives. They are directly responsible for ensuring client safety, remaining compliant with all laws, and regulations and moral and ethical guidelines for the profession.

Employment Outlook

In the United States, the job outlook for clinical mental health counselors is strongly positive.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of mental health counselors is expected to grow by 36 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Job Settings

Specific career tracks include a variety of options, such as:

  • Mental health counseling
  • Private practice
  • Addiction counseling
  • School-based counseling
  • Career and guidance counseling
  • Community-based agency practice and management
  • Rehabilitation counseling.

Non-Licensed Career Options

While most graduates of this program pursue licensure, students who defer seeking licensure may seek positions in education, research, publishing, administration, advocacy, business, and other fields, or pursue further educational opportunities at the doctoral level.

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