Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Department of Counseling & Marital and Family Therapy

Mission Statement

  • To create a supportive and collaborative learning environment for students from diverse backgrounds and cultures to acquire knowledge, attitudes, and skills essential in the practice of counseling.
  • To help students become exemplary in applying essential counseling knowledge and skills in a variety of settings with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
  • To promote, model, and develop our students to become leaders and advocates for ethical practice of counseling.

Program of Study

The master’s degree in counseling first trains students to become professional counselors. Professional counseling is the application of mental health, psychological and human development principles. Professional counselors prevent, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional or behavioral disorders and provide services when clients experience life stresses that interfere with mental health. Some goals of counseling interventions are:

  • To promote optimal development throughout the lifespan
  • To apply preventative interventions that decrease the potential for future problems by providing clients with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to work constructively with life challenges
  • To provide services that promote wellness, personal growth, career development, lifelong learning and planning for life transitions as well as services that address mental health problems or concerns.

Professional counselors serve at all levels of schools and universities, in hospitals, mental health agencies, rehabilitation facilities, business and industry, correctional institutions, religious organizations, community centers and private practice. They work with people of all ages, races, cultural backgrounds and circumstances to help them maximize their potential, make positive changes in their lives, and achieve their goals. You may wish to visit the American Counseling Association for additional information.

The Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) specialization is a 60 semester-unit graduate program which provides graduates with a comprehensive training experience at the master's level that prepares them for independent clinical counseling practice in a variety of settings. Students learn individual and group counseling techniques, as well as clinical consultation skills found to be effective with a variety of mental health issues ranging from life adjustment problems to serious mental illnesses. Students are trained to be culturally responsive. The CMHC program uses a research-based clinical practice approach in coursework and internship and students develop competencies and professional identity as clinical mental health counselors. This specialization offers broad training and leads to eligibility for licensure as a licensed professional counselor in most states.

The American Mental Health Counseling Association (AMHCA), a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA), provides more information about mental health counseling.

International Experience

At SOLES, all masters and doctoral students participate in an international experience designed to support the growth of cultural competency. Our goal is to inform best practices in working with culturally diverse populations locally, nationally and globally.

For many students, this experience will include a one- to two-week, faculty-led course abroad. For students who prefer to stay in southern California, this experience may be fulfilled through research or coursework on international issues. Service trips and site visits across the border in Tijuana are offered regularly.

Counseling courses with an international component include:

  • Career Development Across the Lifespan in Jamaica (Summer 2015) 
  • Multicultural Counseling in Jamaica (Summer 2015) 
  • Advanced Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Bali (Summer 2015) 
  • Risk Assessment and Trauma in Bali, Indonesia (Summer 2014)
  • Career Counseling Across the Lifespan in Jamaica (Summer 2014)
  • Multicultural Counseling and Group Counseling in Spain (Summer 2014)


Counseling Core Curriculum (27 units)

COUN 502 * Professional Orientation and Law and Ethics in Counseling 3
COUN 505 *Human Development 3
COUN 508 *Research Methods in Counseling 3
COUN 510 *Career Development Across Lifespan 3
COUN 515 *Multicultural Counseling 3
COUN 520 *Counseling Psychology: Theory and Practice 3
COUN 526 *Group Counseling 3
COUN 530 *Assessment Techniques In Counseling 3
COUN 540 *Clinical Interviewing 3

Clinical Mental Health Counseling Core Curriculum (24 units)

COUN 541 Advanced Counseling: Diagnosis & Treatment Plan 3
COUN 542 Addictions Counseling 3
COUN 544 Introduction to Family Counseling 3
COUN 547 *Risk Assessment and Trauma Intervention in CMHC 3
COUN 549 Psychopharmacology 3
COUN 550 Advanced Human Sexuality Counseling 3
COUN 555 *Evidence Based Theories and Techniques in Counseling 3
COUN 562 Positive Psychology: Theory and Applications 3

*Courses Required Before Enrollment in Practicum I-III

Clinical Instruction in Counseling and Mental Health Practice (9 units)

COUN 587P Practicum I 3
COUN 597P Practicum II 3
COUN 598P Practicum III 3
*Courses Required Before Enrollment in Practicum I-III

*Students complete a total of 6 or more units until they complete a minimum of 725 hours of supervised experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will the program take me?

Full-time students complete their degree in 3 years. Part-time students complete their degree in 3.5-4 years.

How many units are included?

This program consists of 60 Graduate Units.

When are classes scheduled?

Classes typically meets once per week with starts times between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. for 2 hours and 50 minutes, for three unit classes. Some classes are held in the morning hours. Most students take three or four classes per semester. Summer and intersession classes typically hold more frequent class meetings.

Students also participate in practicum and fieldwork experiences that generally take place during the school day.

Can I work while completing this program?

Working full-time is often not possible as courses meet throughout the days and field experiences are during daytime hours.

Some students choose to hold part-time jobs on- or off-campus while completing the program.

Is this program offered online?

No, this program is offered on campus at the University of San Diego only. There is no online, hybrid, or distance learning option available.