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Department of Counseling

Master of Arts in Counseling Areas of Emphasis:

  •  Marriage, Family, and Child (CACREP accredited)
  •  Clinical Mental Health (CACREP accredited)

What is CACREP?

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.

What are the benefits of being CACREP accredited?

  • Universities that are accredited reflect meeting and/or exceeding those 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 primarily hire CACREP graduates, for example, the Veterans Health Administration

Palo Alto University CACREP Accredited Counseling Program

  • 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 adds to the institutes commitment in providing education at the highest levels of quality 
  • 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

MA in Counseling Program


CACREP Accredited


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Palo Alto University’s MA in Counseling prepares students to serve their communities as licensed mental health professionals. This MA in Counseling degree can expand career options or retool a career in a profession that makes a difference to the community. The MA in Counseling program became CACREP accredited in January 2017. 

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.

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.

In addition to the 93 quarter credits required for degree completion, students must complete at least a 100-hour practicum and two 300-hour internships during the program. Please note that some states require additional hours of clinical training for licensure. In those states where additional practicum/internship hours or coursework is required, PAU will work with students to obtain the additional hours and coursework.

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 M.A. 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.

Mission of the MA in Counseling Degree Program

The MA in Counseling program is a diverse and dynamic community dedicated to the development of highly effective mental health counselors, future leaders and innovators in the counseling profession. In and through its training of burgeoning counselors, the program strives to benefit society and reduce human suffering by promoting mental health, wellness, social justice, education, and vocational well-being. The program is 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; and providing services to the local, national and international community informed by science and scholarship.

Program and Student Learning Outcomes of the MA in Counseling Degree Program

  • 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)

MA in Counseling Program Contact and Application Information

Call or email the Master's program staff today to find out more, or apply online.


Palo Alto University's main campus in Palo Alto, CA

Palo Alto Campus

1791 Arastradero Road

Palo Alto, CA 94304

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