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Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

There is an ongoing mental health crisis in the United States, and the need for licensed mental health counselors is growing at an exponential rate. Are you ready to meet this challenge and channel your passion for helping people with a rewarding career in mental health?

Unmatched Flexibility

Complete your M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling full time in two years or part time in three to four years. Students can choose from two distinct pathways to complete the program: asynchronous online courses or in-person courses on campus. Students work closely with Merrimack’s internship coordinator to identify and complete their 12-month onsite clinical practicum and internship.

Learn Relevant Skills Like Telecounseling

You’ll become proficient in trauma-informed counseling, clinical assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning, addictions, group counseling, telecounseling and more. Additional elective courses include Clinical Practice in Behavioral Health, LGBTQI+ Affirmative Counseling, and Introduction to Play and Expressive Art Therapy. 

Students develop population-specific competencies and learn counseling techniques through a social justice lens while acknowledging the role of privilege and oppression.

Become Licensed

This 60-credit program meets the educational requirements for application for the designation of licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts or New Hampshire and the LMHC or licensed professional counselor (LPC) designation in many other states.

Learn more about Merrimack’s M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

By submitting this form, I agree to be contacted via email, phone, or text to learn more about the programs at Merrimack College.

18% Job Growth for Mental Health Occupations

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors is forecast to grow 18 percent from now to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations (3 percent).

About 42,000 openings for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are projected each year, on average, over the next decade.

Alumni in the Field

The M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Merrimack College has graduated nearly 120 students since its on-ground inception in 2017.

Alumni Job Titles:

  • Child & adolescent mental health therapist
  • Child counselor
  • Clinical supervisor
  • Clinical therapist
  • Court liaison
  • Jail diversion clinician
  • Licensed mental health therapist
  • Mental health clinician
  • Outpatient clinician
  • Residential clinician

Alumni Employers:

  • Arbour Counseling Services
  • Arlington Police Department
  • Bay State Community Services
  • Beth Israel Lahey Health
  • Blueskies Wellness, Inc.
  • Bridgewell
  • Chapters Recovery Center
  • Clearview Horizons
  • Eliot Community Human Services
  • Lahey Health Behavioral Services
  • Lowell General Hospital
  • Northeast Family Services
  • Riverside Community Care
  • Spectrum Health Systems
  • St. Ann’s Home
  • Wayside Youth and Family
  • Whitney Academy

M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Coursework

100 Percent Online Coursework

Students will receive a foundational curriculum in counseling skills and techniques, diagnoses, assessments and interventions to meet the needs of culturally diverse individuals, families and communities.

In addition, students participate in live, small group, collaborative assignments, fostering community with peer learners.

They will be exposed to the practice of counseling that can be applied to work with individuals, couples, families and groups in a wide variety of settings including community mental health agencies, outpatient clinics, hospitals, schools and forensic institutions.

12-Month On-Site Practicum and Internship

Students engage in a 12-month clinical experience including 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship training. Students work in a wide variety of carefully selected clinical settings and engage in on-site clinical supervision. Students meet weekly with a faculty clinical supervisor to discuss experiences in a synchronous seminar format with other graduate students. Students will further hone their skills and evaluate their performance through self-critique and formal clinical case presentations.

Clinical Foundational I Coursework (24 credits)

This course begins by introducing and providing practice in the foundational counseling skills necessary to establish a counseling relationship with the client characterized by warmth, respect, empathy, and genuineness. These core skills include but are not limited to the following: invitational skills, attending, reflecting, paraphrasing, interpreting, confronting, self-disclosing, and summarizing. Students will engage in experiential exercises, including role plays, to develop the skills needed to create client-centered helping relationships and adhere to ethical standards. Individuals will learn to foster a therapeutic alliance, conduct an intake interview, and construct evidence-based treatment plans. Prevention strategies and strength-based approaches will also be examined. The various techniques will be discussed in reference to the diagnosis and treatment of the DSM-5 classifications. Credits: 4

This course equips students with an understanding of the different forms of trauma clients might experience and how these different experiences impact decisions regarding trauma-informed care. Topics will include the following: the neurobiology of trauma, attachment theory, understanding trauma through a developmental lens, stabilization, complex and acute trauma, trauma theories, dissociation, trauma processing techniques, vicarious trauma and self-care. Credits: 4

This skill-based course will further develop the students’ working knowledge and basic competency in multicultural counseling theory and application. To this end, the course will focus on the counselor on both a professional and personal level. Additionally, the course will examine salient client population-specific issues related to the life experiences and world view of the culturally different client and how such experiences impact the counseling relationship and therapeutic process. Underlying values and assumptions associated with widely used traditional counseling interventions and their appropriateness with disenfranchised populations will be explored. Traditional and nontraditional culturally competent counseling approaches will also be discussed. Credits: 4

This course introduces students to the etiology, presentation and treatment of mental health conditions that are stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Students will learn strategies for differential diagnosis as well as how to work with diverse client populations to create effective, strength-based treatment plans. Credits: 4

This course introduces students to major counseling theories that inform case conceptualization and practice in clinical settings. Students will learn to distinguish between different counseling interventions based upon client need and evidence-based research practices. Students will also examine how a counselor’s self-awareness, self-reflection and self-care impact both treatment and establishing a strong therapeutic alliance. Credits: 4

This is an online, self-directed course that provides students with an overview of the history and foundations of the counseling profession. This course is designed to teach and assess student competency in topics associated with the Council of Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs’ core area of Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice. Students will complete a five-module course that covers the history of the counseling field as well as ethical, legal, philosophical, technological and sociocultural trends in counseling. Specific topics include professional roles and functions, counseling specialty areas, preparation standards, licensing, credentialing, ethical standards and the impact of technology on the counseling profession. Credits: 0

Clinical Foundational II Coursework (24 credits)

This course focuses on physical, cognitive, and social-emotional continuity and changes that occur throughout the lifespan. An introduction to research and theories in human development is included. In addition, this course addresses the development and cognitive processes governing learning from conception to death. Normative, non-normative and historical effects within childhood, adolescence, adulthood and later life are presented. Formal developmental and learning theory is emphasized in conjunction with practical interpretation and application. The course provides an orientation and background for sound educational and clinical practices. Credits: 4

This course will focus upon the theories of career development with the objective of establishing a framework for the implementation of techniques and tools that can be employed by educators/counselors at every level to provide students with occupational, educational and social information designed to help them understand, analyze and select personal career goals. Credits: 4

This course trains counselors to be practitioner-scientists who are able to evaluate the efficacy of research studies and to understand study results in a way that informs evidence-based practice. Topics will include statistical analysis, needs assessment, program evaluation, and multifaceted research methodologies. Students will examine studies from recent journals as a way to further analyze recent developments in the fields that impact counseling practice. This course also will examine the ethical and legal obligations of researchers. Credits: 4

This course provides students with an opportunity to learn about group process by participating in experiential activities that demonstrate the basic principles of group counseling as well as advanced counseling techniques that facilitate therapeutic process in group counseling settings. Students will examine the various types of groups and the different techniques related to each. The course also allows students to understand the specific roles of group leaders and members, group dynamics in depth, facilitation techniques, group process, methods for selecting group members, counseling theories for group application, and the needs of population-specific groups (e.g., AA, domestic violence survivors, etc.). Emphasis will also be placed on the ethical guidelines related to group work. Credits: 4

This course provides students with an understanding of the process of psychological assessment, in both group and individual modalities. Students will learn about the assessment of interest, career, personality, intelligence, achievement and aptitude. In addition to this overview of the assessment process, students will learn about the conceptual underpinnings of assessment as well as the statistical analysis of such assessment, including basic concepts like measures of central tendency, validity, reliability, norm and criterion-referenced tests. Ethical guidelines, issues of diversity and procedural considerations will be discussed. Administration, scoring, and interpreting test results for report writing will be considered along with the writing of assessment reports. Credits: 4

This course examines the etiology, prevalence, treatment and consequences of substance addictions, including process addictions (i.e., behavioral addictions). Students will learn about assessing and treating co-occurring disorders. The course considers a strength-based, holistic model for assessment, conceptualization, and treatment planning. Pharmacological, physiological, and medical aspects of addictions along with current evidence-based research and treatment care models are reviewed. In addition, the course examines the role of trauma in addictions and mental health issues. Credits: 4

Clinical Applied Coursework (10 credits)

This course is distinctly defined as the practicum experience during the fall semester of the second year of the program. Students provide 100 hours of clinical work. The practicum provides the opportunity to integrate learning and develop skills in providing individual and group counseling, case conceptualization and treatment planning, as well as facilitative skills such as warmth, genuineness and empathy. Students will engage in the supervision process both on-site and on campus. Students will co-register for Internship I. Credits: 2

This course is distinctly defined as the clinical experience during the second year of the program. Students provide 300 hours of clinical experience after completing 100 hours of practicum. Students work in a wide variety of clinical settings and engage in on-site clinical supervision. Students meet weekly with a faculty clinical supervisor to discuss experiences in a seminar format with other graduate students/interns. This course enables students to further hone their skills and to evaluate their performance through self-critique and formal clinical case presentations. Credits: 4

This course is a continuation of CMH 6010 and takes place during the second year of the program. Students provide 300–350 hours of clinical experience, and by the end of the internship sequence, they will have completed 240 direct clinical care hours. Students continue at their Internship I placement during this course. Students continue to meet weekly with a faculty clinical supervisor to discuss their experiences in a seminar format with other graduate students/interns. This course enables students to further hone their counseling skills and to evaluate their own performance through self-critique and formal clinical case presentations. Credits: 4

Elective Coursework (2 credits)

This course is intended as an introduction to Play and Expressive Art Therapy in counseling when working with children, adolescents and families. An introduction to the meaning of play and art in children’s lives will be offered as well as an overview of the stages of play in the therapeutic process. Students will learn to distinguish between different play modalities and interventions based upon client need. Students will become familiar with the central principles of play and art therapy and engage in practical application. Key concepts of play and art therapy are introduced through readings and experiential activities. A variety of play and art modalities will be introduced. Emphasis will be placed on Play and Art, specifically Music, Painting, Clay, Craft, Drama, Dance, Stories, Poetry and Games. Credits: 2

The objective of this course is to introduce students to the practice of integrated behavioral health care in the primary care setting. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the roles of behavioral health providers working in primary care settings, theories and models of care, and cross-cultural issues. Students will develop skills in assessment, intervention planning, treatment implementation, and program evaluation that are specific to work in a behavioral health setting. Students will also develop competence in supporting primary care patients who present with a wide range of physical and behavioral health concerns, including considerations for diverse patients and those who face barriers to receiving care. Credits: 2

The purpose of this course is to enhance students’ multicultural competence by introducing students to major issues associated with sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and how these issues historically and currently are addressed in the counseling and psychological literature. Issues addressed include mental and physical health, identity development and the coming out process across the lifespan, psychosocial consequences of internalized homonegativity and heterosexism, family and relationship issues, spirituality, affirmative counseling, and professional ethics when working with LGBTQI clients. Mental health issues associated with LGBTQI individuals’ intersecting identities are also examined (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, social status, ability, etc.). Credits: 2

The directed study option allows students to work independently on a topic of interest under the close supervision of a faculty member. Given the nature of the directed study that focuses on personalizing learning, students are involved in co-creating a course syllabus with a faculty member. In the co-creation procedure, students are able to contribute to establishing what content and topic is covered. The directed study may consist of independent readings on a specific clinical intervention combined with practice implications, a comprehensive case study, a research study, or the development and application of a program evaluation. This course is aimed at students who want to explore and/or expand upon basic knowledge on a topic of interest in the field of counseling. The student must submit a directed study proposal and be approved by the faculty member who will provide supervision. The directed study will result in a formal paper. Credits: 1-4

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a continually broadening sense of self-awareness and self-monitoring across a spectrum as a means to foster: (a) Practice conducted within the boundaries of competencies, and (b) Commitment to lifelong learning.

  2. Engage in reflective practice (i.e., reflection on action) and self-assessment as a means to foster: (a) engagement with scholarship and critical thinking, and (b) a commitment to the development of the profession.

  3. Demonstrate knowledge of and respect for scientific knowledge of the bases for behavior (biological, cognitive-affective, and lifespan human development) and incorporate this knowledge into professional practice.

  4. Be familiar with and appreciate research methodology and techniques of data collection and analysis, and appreciate scientifically derived knowledge.

  5. Demonstrate an ability to form and maintain professional, productive and respectful relationships with clients, peers/colleagues and supervisors.

  1. Demonstrate awareness and sensitivity in working professionally with diverse individuals, groups and communities who represent various cultural and personal backgrounds and characteristics.

  2. Apply ethical concepts, codes, laws, rules and regulations to professional activities with individuals, groups and organizations.

  3. Articulate an awareness of multiple and differing worldviews, roles, professional standards and contributions across contexts and systems, and identify distinctive roles of related professionals.

  4. Assess and diagnose problems and issues associated with individuals, groups and/or organizations by utilizing systematic approaches to gathering data to inform clinical decision-making.

  5. Apply and evaluate interventions designed to alleviate suffering and promote the health and well-being of individuals, groups and/or organizations.

What Our Students Say

“I can reach out to professors at any time, whether I call or email. They’re extremely responsive. And I’ve also developed close relationships with certain students that I’ve worked with in class for different projects.”

– CMHC graduate

“I was looking for a program that would lead to professional licensure as a mental health therapist, and Merrimack’s online program is one that will prepare me to become licensed, which was most important.”

– CMHC graduate

“The clinical mental health program at Merrimack has given me this space to grow as an individual and also helped me advance my career goals in a way that fits my needs and current circumstances.”

– CMHC graduate

Hear from a current student in Merrimack’s Master of Science Clinical Mental Health Counseling and the program’s faculty Dr. Michael Mobley and Melissa Spencer.

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It’s Easy to Apply Online

A complete application includes:

  • Online application (no fee).
  • Official college transcripts from all institutions attended.
  • Resume.
  • Personal statement.
  • Contact information for one reference or one letter of recommendation.

GRE and GMAT scores are not required.

Key Dates and Deadlines

This program enrolls three times a year.

Application Deadline
Classes Begin
Fall I
Monday, August 12, 2024
Monday, August 26, 2024
Spring I
Monday, January 6, 2025
Monday, January 15, 2025
Summer I
Monday, April 28, 2025
Monday, May 12, 2025
Fall I
Application Deadline
Monday, August 12, 2024
Classes Begin
Monday, August 26, 2024
Spring I
Application Deadline
Monday, January 6, 2025
Classes Begin
Monday, January 15, 2025
Summer I
Application Deadline
Monday, April 28, 2025
Classes Begin
Monday, May 12, 2025

At Merrimack College, we’re proud of our long history of providing quality degrees to students entering the job market. Our faculty are more than just teachers. We are committed to helping you grow — academically, personally and spiritually — so that you may graduate as a confident, well-prepared citizen of the world.

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