Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program: Frequently Asked Questions
Despite the disruptions caused by the global pandemic, the WWU Counseling faculty and staff continued to meet all the program requirements outlined by our accrediting body, CACREP. Students continued to accrue the necessary Practicum and Internship hours and complete their course requirements. In spring quarter 2020, we moved all our classes to a synchronous Zoom-based model in alignment with U.S. Department of Education guidelines. We also created secure systems and training procedures for students and supervisors to provide tele-mental health services through our Counseling Training Clinic. During the 2021-22 academic year, some graduate counseling classes met in person on campus, and others met on Zoom. First-year practicum students in our Counseling Training Clinic provided tele-mental health services during winter quarter and provided a mix of tele-mental health services and in-person services during spring quarter.
As of September 2022, our plans for the 2022-23 academic year are as follows:
- Western continues to require COVID vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff. The University’s COVID Information page can be found here: https://www.wwu.edu/coronavirus
- Consistent with Washington’s Secretary of Health Mask Order, masks are required in our Counseling Training Clinic regardless of vaccine status.
- Graduate counseling courses are in person. All classes will be subject to the guidance provided by the University.
- We are not yet certain whether 1st year practicum students will be conducting counseling sessions via tele-mental health or by meeting face-to-face in our Counseling Training Clinic. We are well-prepared for either option.
No, when we admit students to the program in the spring, we expect that they will be ready to begin in the fall.
Questions About the CHMC Program
The program requires a minimum of 91 quarter credits (comprehensive option) or 97 quarter credits (thesis option) to be completed in two years of full-time graduate study. The degree is a Master of Science (M.S.) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
A thesis is not required. Students may complete a thesis or pass a written comprehensive examination, or they may do both if they desire.
Students who choose the thesis option typically require more than two years to complete the program due to the heavy time commitment of practicum and internship. In these cases, the student completes all program coursework, including practicum and internship, in two years as scheduled, and then continues working on their thesis until the research project is successfully completed.
No, the program does not lend itself well to part-time study because of the highly structured nature of the practicum and internship experiences. All classes meet during the day. Program classes are not offered during the summer.
No, the program is offered on the campus in Bellingham only. Some second-year students have completed internships as far away as Seattle, but they still must take courses on campus. WWU does offer a CACREP-accredited Rehabilitation Counseling Program in the Everett, WA area.
We accept six students per year. The program is intentionally small in order to maintain small student/faculty ratios and class sizes. We have a CACREP-accredited program in School Counseling that also accepts six students per year, and several classes include students from both programs.
No. All courses are in person at the Bellingham campus.
Questions About Applying to the Program
Complete applications are due February 1 of each year. We do not begin reviewing any applications until after that date.
The faculty screening committee will review all applications to the program and select a group of about 15 applicants for personal interviews. Those interviews are usually scheduled for late February or early March.
Admission offers are typically made by mid-March and teaching assistantship decisions are typically made by mid-April.
Recommendation letters should address the academic, professional, and personal qualities that make you a strong candidate for graduate training in counseling. Recommenders who can speak to these issues are the ones you should seek. Relatives and personal friends should not serve as recommenders.
It is advisable to have a mix of recommendations. Identify at least one faculty member who can address your ability to complete graduate level work. It is also advisable to select a reference who can discuss your potential as a counselor.
When you apply through the Graduate School’s application system called CollegeNet, you will have the chance to enter contact names and email addresses for your recommenders. Please notify your recommenders that an email will be sent directly to them with a link for uploading their reference letter. They may need to check their junk mail folder for this email.
You do not need to include any additional materials beyond what is required in the application. Visit Westerns Graduate Admissions page to apply.
In recent years, we’ve received 70 to 80 applications each year for our six available slots. Most recently, February 2021, the number of applications to graduate programs across the university was much higher than usual, and we received 158 applications.
Our program is small, and we receive many strong applications. However, this should not necessarily discourage you. If you believe that you have special qualities that we should consider, be sure to let us know. We do consider grades, but we consider other things as well. Successful applicants typically have one or more years of work or volunteer experience in the helping professions following graduation.
The Graduate School states that, in order to be eligible for full admission, applicants must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA (on 4.0 scale) calculated over all post-secondary coursework. Applicants with advanced degrees from accredited institutions are considered to have met GPA requirements.
The Counseling Program average GPA for admitted students for the past several years has been in the range of 3.4-3.5.
No, we will not consider GRE scores in the admissions process
We welcome applications from people who have been working, volunteering, and/or parenting in the years following their undergraduate degree. Please be sure to highlight your personal and professional development experiences in your statement of purpose.
Questions About Tuition, Fees, and Work
A breakdown of tuition and fees for the Counseling Program can be found on the Graduate Tuition and Fees page.
Teaching assistantships are available on a very limited basis. Some students will receive a teaching assistantship for one quarter during their first year in the program. During that one quarter, the student will receive a stipend and substantial tuition waiver. For more information please see the Teaching Assistantships page.
If you are interested in being considered for teaching assistant positions, be sure to submit a current resume with your application that includes your work and volunteer history.
The counseling program is a full-time program, and classes are typically held during business hours during the week. Some students find that they are able to work at part-time, flexible jobs during their first year in the program. Due to the time demands of internship, it is typically not possible to work during the second year in the program.
Our goal is to provide students with a solid foundation in counseling knowledge and skills during their two years in our program to prepare for work in a range of clinical settings as they complete supervised hours required for licensure. Graduates of the program can then build on this foundation as they gain more experience and specialized training.
Questions About Accreditation & Licensure
The WWU Counseling Programs are nationally accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) which is the main accrediting body for counseling programs in the US.
Accreditation is important for several reasons:
1) Accredited programs must demonstrate that they meet high standards for curriculum content, practice hours, faculty qualifications, and student support services.
2) Accredited programs are required to post key indicators on their websites including retention, graduation and national exam passing rates. This allows potential students to assess program quality and compare programs.
3) In some states, graduation from a CACREP-accredited program is required for clinical mental health counseling licensure.
4) As of November 2020, three federal agencies (Department of Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, and Army Substance Abuse Program) have made graduation from a CACREP-accredited program a requirement for independent practice in counseling.
Every state has its own requirements for licensing of mental health professionals. You will need to contact the state licensing board for specific information about each state. Graduates of a CACREP-accredited program in one state are typically eligible for licensure in other states. Note that states differ in the titles they give to licensed counselors. Washington, for example has Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC). Titles in different states include Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), and others.
Upon completion of a counseling program, one needs to complete 3 years or 3000 hours of postgraduate full-time counseling, complete 100 hours of supervision, and pass a national licensing exam. Because we are a CACREP-accredited program, graduates of our program who are pursuing licensure in Washington State are granted credit for 50 hours of supervision and 500 hours of postgraduate work experience and may take the licensing exam (NCE or NCMHCE) during their second year in the program. (WA State Department of Health)