Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program: Frequently Asked Questions

Questions About the CMHC 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, unless a faculty member receives accommodation to move the course online/hybrid. In the event this occurs, counseling students will be notified to plan accordingly.

All students complete their practicum hours within our Counseling Training Clinic, which is located in our building on campus. Students provide free counseling services to members of the community under faculty supervision during winter and spring quarters of their first year in the CMHC program.

During their second year in the CMHC program, students are at their internship sites on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays throughout the academic year (i.e., fall, winter, and spring quarters.) The faculty member serving as CMHC Internship Coordinator supports students in finding internship placements at clinics and agencies in Bellingham and surrounding areas.

Questions About Applying to the Program

Successful applicants to our program typically have completed one year or more of work and/or volunteer experience in the helping professions after earning their undergraduate degree. There are many positions that can help applicants prepare for graduate study in clinical mental health counseling. As you seek out a relevant position, look for one that includes excellent training and supervision as you provide direct support to individuals living with mental health challenges, behavioral problems, or developmental disorders.

Examples of paid positions include: behavioral health technician, camp counselor for children with special needs, care coordinator, case manager, child life specialist, mental health technician, pediatric mental health specialist, psychiatric technician, registered behavioral technician (ABA), rehabilitation aide, social service specialist, wilderness therapy field instructor, and youth advocate.

Examples of volunteer positions include: advocacy counselor (e.g., with survivors of sexual and domestic violence), camp counselor for children with special needs, and crisis line volunteer. See link below for a list of local volunteer opportunities:


Complete applications are due February 1 of each year.  We do not begin reviewing any applications until after that date.

The faculty admissions committee will review all applications to the program and select approximately 15 applicants to invite for personal interviews. The interviews are typically scheduled for early March and may be conducted via Zoom or on campus, depending on the applicant's preference.

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 150 to 200 applications each year for our six available slots.


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, such as substantial evidence of cross-cultural experience (e.g., Peace Corps work abroad, working for Medecin Sans Frontiere [Doctor's Without Borders], service abroad in the military, etc). Successful applicants also typically have one or more years of work or volunteer experience in the helping professions following graduation. See list for Local Volunteer Experiences.

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.

Yes, we offer information sessions throughout the academic year to help potential applicants learn more about all three graduate counseling programs at WWU (i.e., Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling, and School Counseling). Dates and times for those sessions are posted on the Psychology Department website.

Information on applying to graduate school at WWU can be found here:

Apply to WWU Graduate School

Specific information on applying the CMHC program can be found here:

Application Information for CMHC program

Yes, we do accept applications from international students. International applicants can find important information here:

WWU International Students

No, we do not accept transfer students. Our program is very small and students progress through the two-year program as a cohort. Applicants who have completed graduate counseling coursework at other universities are welcome to apply to the program by the February 1st deadline. They would be considered for admission along with the other applicants and would need to complete all of the required courses here at WWU.

Prerequisite courses need to be completed prior to the Feb 1st application deadline. The admissions committee considers successful completion of those courses in the admission process.

It's fine to complete the prerequisite courses at any accredited college or university, including community colleges.

The required psychology research methods course (PSY 203 here at WWU) may have different names and course numbers at different schools. Below is a list of equivalent courses at schools in this region.

Bellevue College

PSYC 209

Cascadia College

PSYC 209

Central Washington University

PSY 300

Columbia Basin College

PSYC 209

Everett Community College

PSYC 209

SOC 209

Highline College

PSYC 250

North Seattle College

PSYC 209

Seattle Central College

PSYC 209

Shoreline Community College

PSYC 209

Skagit Valley College

PSYC 209

Tacoma Community College

PSYC 209

Univ Washington Seattle

PSYC 209

Bellevue College

PSYC 209

Cascadia College

PSYC 209

Central Washington University

PSY 300

Columbia Basin College

PSYC 209

Whatcom Community College

PSY 209

Yes. The Graduate School at WWU requires applicants to have "completed a Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited US college or university, or an equivalent degree from a foreign university, before the term in which you intend to begin their WWU graduate program." The Bachelor of Applied Science degree from an accredited community college fulfills this requirement. 

No, only students who have been formally admitted to the graduate counseling program (CMHC or SC) may enroll in graduate counseling classes, beginning in September following the spring admissions cycle.

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)

COVID-Related 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.

During the 2022-23 academic year, all graduate counseling classes returned to regular in-person meetings on campus. First-year practicum students in our Counseling Training Clinic provided both tele-mental health and in-person services during winter and spring quarters, depending on their clients' preferences. The Counseling Training Clinic is a health care facility, and thus all persons in the clinic were required to wear masks consistent with the Washington state Secretary of Health Order 20-03. When the statewide requirement was rescinded on April 2, 2023, the counseling faculty and staff chose to continue the mask requirement until the end of the academic year in June.

As of August 2023, our plans for the 2023-24 academic year are as follows:

  • Western no longer requires COVID vaccinations for students, faculty, and staff. 
  • Graduate counseling courses will be in person unless a faculty member receives an accommodation for a select course. All classes will be subject to guidance provided by the University. The University's COVID information can be found here: COVID Information
  • The counseling faculty and staff will make decisions regarding mask requirements in the Counseling Training Clinic based on COVID-19 Community Level and other factors.
  • The counseling program may continue to offer first-year practicum students opportunities to provide tele-mental health services (in addition to in-person services) through our Counseling Training Clinic. This decision will be finalized prior to the start of winter quarter.


No, when we admit students to the program in the spring, we expect that they will be ready to begin in the fall.