New counseling master's program begins this fall

June 2, 2015

A new master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is being launched this fall, partly in response to repeated requests from students, said Dr. Brenda Callahan, Assistant Professor of Psychological Science and the program's coordinator.

"Students kept telling us they wanted to go on to a master's program (in psychology) here at LaGrange," she said. "They didn't want to have to go somewhere else. The psychology faculty realized there is a need and an interest, so they started working on the new program."

A psychology degree is not a pre-requisite for enrollment – students can have a degree in any field, Dr. Callahan said. The 60-hour program can be completed in two years if courses are taken full time, including summer semester. Some of the classes scheduled are Theories of Counseling, Career Counseling, Life Span Development and Crisis, Trauma and Grief Counseling.

There is a wide array of careers available in the field, she said.

"They can work as marriage and family counselors, in mental health or even specialized areas such as eating disorders and addictions. Some work with adolescents with all kinds of issues, and some work with children, although some specialty courses are required for dealing with children."

Professional counselors must be licensed, and getting a degree from LaGrange will prepare students to become licensed professional counselors, Dr. Callahan said.

"They are required to have clinical experiences in a professional site while they are enrolled here, and will take the National Counseling Exam at the end of the program. They may apply to become Licensed Associate Professional Counselors as soon as they pass the NCE. They remain LAPCs while they are being supervised by a licensed professional. After three years of supervision, they may apply for full licensure."

Dr. Callahan said the program is intentionally designed to be small.

"This allows for mentoring relationships to form between faculty and students, and there will be a higher level of mentoring and supervision that just isn't possible at larger schools," she said. "We are committed to offering a close and supportive learning environment for our students."

An integral part of the program is a focus on advocacy and service. Students will be required to plan a service project and carry it out in their community.

"The very first course is Foundations of Clinical Mental Health Counseling," she said. "We will talk about advocacy and its meaning, and students will begin planning what they want to do and preparing for their project that will be carried out during the interim (Jan) term."

A large part of that preparation will involve the simple act of listening.

"Advocacy is all about talking with community residents and finding out what they need, not what we think they need," she said. "Our goal is to be able to say, 'This is your problem. What is your solution and how can we help you achieve it?' To be successful, people must feel ownership of their problems and the solutions."

Provost David Garrison said the new master's program will provide great opportunities for interested students.

"It also will provide well-educated and experienced mental health professionals to serve this community and others," he said. "Our feasibility study made clear a definite need in Troup County for such a program, as well as strong interest among potential students.

"We're eager to see just how transformative this graduate program will be."

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