Counseling and Career Development changes from M.Ed. specialization to M.A. program

Student writer Andrea Day contributed to this story.

Counseling masters students in small group discussion

Colorado State University’s School of Education announced that its Counseling and Career Development program has officially changed to a Master of Arts degree. Originally a specialization of the School’s Education and Human Resource Studies Master of Education degree, the new M.A. is better suited to meet student needs, and more accurately reflects the curriculum and the preparation of the program’s students.

An overview of change

Program Coordinator and Associate Professor Laurie Carlson explained that the change in degree is an important reflection of the professional identity of the program’s faculty and students.

“Along with this more accurate identity comes the opportunity for enhanced collaboration with other mental health programs and organizations,” said Carlson. “The entire CCD faculty is excited about the ways in which program advances will improve training, and subsequently, health outcomes for clients of CCD students and alumni.”

The process of moving from an M.Ed. specialization to an M.A. included significant changes in curriculum, reflecting Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs – the accrediting body for counseling programs and licensure – standards. The changes include an increase in the number of credit hours required, from 38 to 60, and adding new courses on career and lifestyle design counseling, as well as courses on clinical mental health counseling and treatment. CACREP reviews all programs on a regularly scheduled basis, ensuring these programs are equipping future counselors properly.

Updating and adding specializations

Counseling masters students listen in classAs a specialization within the M.Ed. program, the former program of study offered three tracks: career, college, and school counseling; however, these tracks were not officially represented on student transcripts and created challenges for alumni seeking licensure. Moving to a Master of Arts allowed the program to offer three CSU-recognized specializations: career, clinical mental health, and school counseling. These new specializations require students to complete coursework specific to their selected area of focus, in addition to the general course of study composed of core curriculum, clinical practicum, and an internship.

In addition to the change in degree, the program added the new clinical mental health specialization. Undergoing its first CACREP accreditation review in 2019-20, this specialization’s curriculum is based on professional principles of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. Students learn to blend psychotherapy with practical tools, allowing them to work in a variety of clinical and community settings.

“The new clinical mental health counseling specialization was added to help meet the increased mental health needs of people locally, nationally, and internationally,” said Assistant Professor Jessica Gonzalez. “With this new track, our students will receive versatile training that will set them up to provide counseling services in diverse settings, including hospitals, community agencies, private practices, and beyond. We hope that our CMHC students will be able to provide evidence-based and culturally responsive treatment that helps clients become the best versions of who they want to be.”

An exciting future

Assistant Professor Jessica Gonzalez teaches a graduate course in Counseling and Career Development.

One aspect of the CCD program that hasn’t changed: The faculty make sure to emphasize their commitment to the wellness of CCD students, faculty, alumni, and clients while continuously improving the program.

“The best part of our program is our commitment to keeping wellness at the center of what we do,” said Carlson. “Whether it be faculty, students, alumni or clients, there is a dedication to engaging with each other in authentic, meaningful, and healthy ways.”

Looking to the future, the program strives to create the best educational experience for those interested in career, clinical mental health, or school counseling. With an increased opportunity for funding, research and better student opportunities, student learning and application is constantly improving. All of this combines to positively affect their clients.

“We have a wonderful gem of a program here at CSU,” said Carlson. “This is evidenced by stellar student outcomes, alumni professional success, and low faculty turnover. There is no other counseling program where I would rather spend my professional career.”

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.