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The courses required for the Master of Arts in Counseling degree reflect the national counseling program standards. These program requirements are based on the 2009 Standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). 

Curricula Options

We offer two options, Standard Curriculum and Two-Plus Curriculum.

Standard Curriculum

Two Year Program

Requires 24 courses

The Standard Curriculum is an intensive program for students with an academic background in psychology or human services and prior clinical experience. Immediately upon starting the program, the Practicum fieldwork experience begins at The Family Institute. This first year includes closely supervised client counseling while taking courses and participating in the Preceptorship experience. It is this closely supervised experience that allows students to participate in a "learning-by-doing" model.

Coursework Details

The Standard Curriculum is a full-time two-year program with 24 courses to complete.

Practicum Details

In the Practicum year, you will enroll in the three-quarter Counseling Methods course along with two additional courses, meet weekly with a preceptor and complete the Practicum at The Family Institute, where a minimum of 60 hours of direct client contact is accrued. 

Internship Details

In the Internship year, you will work at an external field site to accrue a minimum of 600 hours of experience, with 240 hours spent in direct client contact. Two additional courses per quarter and attendance at a weekly Case Conference is required during your internship.

Two-Plus Curriculum (For Career Changers)

Three Year Program

Requires 21 courses

Two-Plus is a special curriculum designed for qualified students entering the counseling field for the first time following a career in another discipline and/or with minimal academic and experiential background in psychology or human services. It is unique to the Northwestern Counseling program and reflects the program's appreciation of the value of a "second career," while recognizing the importance of adequate preparation for practice in this highly complex and challenging field.

Course Details

Attend the program full-time and complete 27 courses over three years. The 27 course Two-Plus Curriculum consists of the same 24 courses as the Standard Curriculum, plus an additional three-quarter course – "Introduction to Clinical Practice," which serves to introduce and orient you to the key theories, concepts and applied aspects of the counseling field. 

Pre-Practicum Details

In conjunction with this introductory course, in the first year or pre-practicum year of the Two-Plus Curriculum, you will spend a minimum of 12 hours per week at a clinical field site and enroll in two additional courses per quarter. 

Practicum Details

In the second year, the Practicum fieldwork experience begins at The Family Institute. This second year is a closely supervised experience of counseling clients while taking courses and participating in the Preceptorship experience. It is this closely supervised experience that allows you to participate in the "learning-by-doing" model. Students take two additional courses per quarter.

In the third year, you will work at an external field site where a minimum of 600 hours are accrued, of which 240 hours are spent in direct client contact. Students take one additional course per quarter and attend a weekly Case Conference.

Full-Time Student Status in the Third Year of the Two-Plus Curriculum

In order to maintain your status as a full-time student, you will be enrolled in "499: Independent Study" during your third year. This will happen automatically and will not result in any tuition cost. 

The course is pass/fail and will not count toward your GPA.

Specialization Courses in Child & Adolescent Counseling

By the Winter Quarter of the first year of the program, you can declare an interest in the Child and Adolescent Specialization. This specialization is designed to to gain expertise in the area, increase your marketability as an expert and become professionally identified during your training. This specialization requires enrollment in a "cluster" of courses that include:

  • An assessment (COUN 426-20 Assessment in Counseling [Child & Adolescent Focus])
  • Development (COUN 414-20 Human Growth & Development [Child & Adolescent Focus])
  • Therapy (COUN 436 Child and Adolescent Counseling & Psychotherapy) 
  • Complete fieldwork experience related to the area of professional interest

Specialization courses are included in the 24 courses required for the Standard Curriculum and the 27 courses required for the Two-Plus Curriculum. 

If you desire to complete child and adolescent coursework but do not want to declare a full specialization, you advisor will work with you to choose one or two child and adolescent courses. In addition, if you are not sure if this specialization is right for you, discuss your options with your advisor before the end of Winter Quarter of the first year of the program.

Rae Anne McLaughlin

When applying to graduate schools, I was looking for programs that emphasize the necessity of clinical training with extensive coursework. Northwestern's unique counseling program has exceeded these expectations in so many ways. The clinical training has exposed me to many educational opportunities and learning experiences that have shaped me as a growing clinician. Having to engage in clinical training while taking classes enhances the learning of the practicing clinician and gives space to apply the material and concepts within your clinical work. These same opportunities open the door for professional networking, allowing you to build resources that will help establish and further your career as a growing clinician. Lastly, the reflective practitioner component was extremely vital and necessary to promote growth as a clinician as it pushes you to know yourself and how that can impact treatment for clients. Reflecting on all of these components, I can confidently say I will leave this program prepared and well educated to embark in a career as a practicing counselor.

Rae Anne McLaughlin
Courses & Curriculum

The Counseling: On-Campus Learning program is a cohort model where all students enter at the same time and take the same sequence of courses.

Standard Year 1
Fall Quarter

411 Individuals and Systems: Psychodynamic Viewpoints

Psychodynamic theories of personality and social systems. Application to analysis of interpersonal and helping relationships; personality development and dynamics; psychopathology, assessment and intervention in relation to individuals and organizations.

416 Theories of Counseling & Psychology

In-depth examination of the basic theoretical frameworks that inform the practice of counseling and psychotherapy.

480-1 Counseling Methods: Skills for Counseling & Psychotherapy 

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-1: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

Winter Quarter

412 Group & Organizational Dynamics

Understanding of group dynamics and intergroup relations, including purpose, development, dynamics, theories, methods and skills in a multicultural context. Application to decision-making groups, educational groups, therapy groups and human-service delivery groups and systems. Participation in a weekend group relations conference.

415 Psychopathology in Counseling

Development of diagnosis skills using the DSM-IV. Developmental vulnerabilities, transitions and tasks will be discussed. Application of diagnostic information for case conceptualization and treatment planning.

480-2 Counseling Methods: Strategies for Counseling & Psychotherapy

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-2: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

Spring Quarter

406 Research Methods in Counseling

Understanding of types of research methods, basic statistics and ethical considerations in research; principles, practices and applications of needs assessment and program evaluation.

Pick either 414-20 OR 414-21

  • 414-20 Human Growth & Development (Child & Adolescent Focus) 

Provides an understanding of the nature and needs of persons at all developmental levels and in a multicultural context. Implications for assessment and preventive and/or supportive intervention strategies. This course has an additional specific focus on child development 

  • 414-21 Human Growth & Development (Adult Focus) 

Provides an understanding of the nature and needs of persons at all developmental levels and in a multicultural context. Implications for assessment and preventive and/or supportive intervention strategies. This course has an additional specific focus on adult development.

480-3 Counseling Methods: Outreach, Prevention & Advocacy

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-3: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

Standard Year 2
Fall Quarter

422 Foundations of Family, Marital & Couples Counseling

Theoretical foundations of family, marital, and couples therapy. Systematic examination of major models, theories, skills and practices. 

Select either 417 OR 436

  • 417 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Adults & Children (1) 

Application of cognitive behavioral approach with a broad range of populations. An integrated approach is emphasized.

  • 436 Child and Adolescent Counseling & Psychotherapy

Examination of central issues in child psychotherapy and the mainstream treatment approaches including psychoanalytic, play, cognitive-behavioral and behavioral therapy. Emphasis on high frequency problems for which children enter therapy.

483-1 Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

Understanding of the ACA ethical standards and their applicant to treatment; review of ethical decision-making models and major ethical and legal issues in the practice of professional counseling.

482-1 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation.

Winter Quarter

Pick either 426-20 OR 426-21

  • 426-20 Assessment in Counseling (Child & Adolescent Focus) 

Understanding of individual approaches to assessment in a multicultural society across the lifespan, Review of commonly used assessments in counseling including rationale, characteristics, administration and interpretation. This course has an additional specific focus on child and adolescent assessment. 

  • 426-21 Assessment in Counseling (Adult Focus) 

Understanding of individual approaches to assessment in a multicultural society across the lifespan, Review of commonly used assessments in counseling including rationale, characteristics, administration and interpretation. This course has an additional specific focus on adult development. 

452 Theory & Technique of Substance Abuse Counseling

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the theory and practice of addiction counseling. This course includes screening, assessment of dependence, change and recovery, co-occurring disorders, prevention, intervention and treatment.

483-2 Cultural Diversity in Counseling

Introduction to the process of providing counseling from a multi-cultural perspective; understanding of issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society.

482-2 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation.

Spring Quarter

427 Career Development

Theories of career choice, career commitment and life-course development applied to research and practice in career counseling.

Pick either 453 OR MSFT 429-0

  • 453 Evaluation & Treatment of Trauma Disorders

Review of the nature of posttraumatic conditions; the psychobiology underlying stress, trauma and dissociation and the treatment of posttraumatic conditions.

  • MSFT 429-0 Sex Therapy

A multidimensional, biophysical approach to the diagnosis and treatment of sexual difficulty in individuals and couples. Sexual problems discussed include disorders of desire, aversion, arousal, orgasm and pain.

483-3 Advanced Topics in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 

Review of all aspects of roles of professional counselors including history, roles, organizational structures, counselor identity and licensure requirements. Review of current treatment topics.

482-3 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation

Two-Plus Year 1
Fall Quarter

479-1 Introduction to Clinical Practice

Three-quarter in-depth orientation to the counseling profession for "Two Plus" students entering the counseling field for the first time following a career in another discipline. 

411 Individuals and Systems: Psychodynamic Viewpoints

Psychodynamic theories of personality and social systems. Application to analysis of interpersonal and helping relationships; personality development and dynamics; psychopathology, assessment and intervention in relation to individuals and organizations.

416 Theories of Counseling & Psychology

In-depth examination of the basic theoretical frameworks that inform the practice of counseling and psychotherapy.

Winter Quarter

479-2 Introduction to Clinical Practice

Three-quarter in-depth orientation to the counseling profession for "Two Plus" students entering the counseling field for the first time following a career in another discipline. 

412 Group & Organizational Dynamics

Understanding of group dynamics and intergroup relations, including purpose, development, dynamics, theories, methods and skills in a multicultural context. Application to decision-making groups, educational groups, therapy groups and human-service delivery groups and systems. Participation in a weekend group relations conference.

415 Psychopathology in Counseling

Development of diagnosis skills using the DSM-IV. Developmental vulnerabilities, transitions and tasks will be discussed. Application of diagnostic information for case conceptualization and treatment planning.

Spring Quarter

479-3 Introduction to Clinical Practice

Three-quarter in-depth orientation to the counseling profession for "Two Plus" students entering the counseling field for the first time following a career in another discipline.

406 Research Methods in Counseling

Understanding of types of research methods, basic statistics and ethical considerations in research; principles, practices and applications of needs assessment and program evaluation.

Pick either 414-20 OR 414-21

  • 414-20 Human Growth & Development (Child & Adolescent Focus) 

Provides an understanding of the nature and needs of persons at all developmental levels and in a multicultural context. Implications for assessment and preventive and/or supportive intervention strategies. This course has an additional specific focus on child development 

  • 414-21 Human Growth & Development (Adult Focus) 

Provides an understanding of the nature and needs of persons at all developmental levels and in a multicultural context. Implications for assessment and preventive and/or supportive intervention strategies. This course has an additional specific focus on adult development.

Two-Plus Year 2
Fall Quarter

480-1 Counseling Methods: Skills for Counseling & Psychotherapy 

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-1: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

422 Foundations of Family, Marital & Couples Counseling

Theoretical foundations of family, marital, and couples therapy. Systematic examination of major models, theories, skills and practices. 

Select either 417 OR 436

  • 417 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Adults & Children (1) 

Application of cognitive behavioral approach with a broad range of populations. An integrated approach is emphasized.

  • 436 Child and Adolescent Counseling & Psychotherapy

Examination of central issues in child psychotherapy and the mainstream treatment approaches including psychoanalytic, play, cognitive-behavioral and behavioral therapy. Emphasis on high frequency problems for which children enter therapy.

Winter Quarter

480-2 Counseling Methods: Strategies for Counseling & Psychotherapy

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-2: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

Pick either 426-20 OR 426-21

  • 426-20 Assessment in Counseling (Child & Adolescent Focus) 

Understanding of individual approaches to assessment in a multicultural society across the lifespan, Review of commonly used assessments in counseling including rationale, characteristics, administration and interpretation. This course has an additional specific focus on child and adolescent assessment. 

  • 426-21 Assessment in Counseling (Adult Focus) 

Understanding of individual approaches to assessment in a multicultural society across the lifespan, Review of commonly used assessments in counseling including rationale, characteristics, administration and interpretation. This course has an additional specific focus on adult development. 

452 Theory & Technique of Substance Abuse Counseling

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the theory and practice of addiction counseling. This course includes screening, assessment of dependence, change and recovery, co-occurring disorders, prevention, intervention and treatment.

Spring Quarter

480-3 Counseling Methods: Outreach, Prevention & Advocacy

Focused on the development of skills, concepts and core competencies related to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. This course includes evaluation of practice sessions with actual clients and must be taken in conjunction with 481: Supervised Practicum in Counseling.

481-3: Supervised Practicum in Counseling

Practicum supervision and practicum preceptor supervision group.

427 Career Development

Theories of career choice, career commitment and life-course development applied to research and practice in career counseling.

Pick either 453 OR MSFT 429-0

  • 453 Evaluation & Treatment of Trauma Disorders

Review of the nature of posttraumatic conditions; the psychobiology underlying stress, trauma and dissociation and the treatment of posttraumatic conditions.

  • MSFT 429-0 Sex Therapy

A multidimensional, biophysical approach to the diagnosis and treatment of sexual difficulty in individuals and couples. Sexual problems discussed include disorders of desire, aversion, arousal, orgasm and pain.

Two-Plus Year 3
Fall Quarter

483-1 Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

Understanding of the ACA ethical standards and their applicant to treatment; review of ethical decision-making models and major ethical and legal issues in the practice of professional counseling.

482-1 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation.

499-1 Independent Study

No tuition is paid for this course.

Winter Quarter

483-2 Cultural Diversity in Counseling

Introduction to the process of providing counseling from a multi-cultural perspective; understanding of issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society.

482-2 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation.

499-2 Independent Study

No tuition is paid for this course.

Spring Quarter

483-3 Advanced Topics in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 

Review of all aspects of roles of professional counselors including history, roles, organizational structures, counselor identity and licensure requirements. Review of current treatment topics.

482-3 Supervised Internship in Counseling

Internship supervision and internship case consultation.

499-3 Independent Study

No tuition is paid for this course.