A woman working

Master of Arts Degree in
Counseling Psychology (California)

Request Information
Programs > Master of Arts Degree in
Counseling Psychology (California)
  • $30 Million in Scholarships Explore NU's scholarship opportunities. Eligibility requirements apply.
  • YEAR ROUND ENROLLMENT Our team reviews applications year-round.
  • 180K Alumni Worldwide Become a part of NU's global alumni community.
Programs > Master of Arts Degree in
Counseling Psychology (California)

Help Guide Families, Couples, and Individuals to Mental Wellness

The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology degree at National University prepares you with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to be an effective counselor who can make difference. If you're called to give back to the community and help others seeking mental wellness, this is an excellent path for you. Upon completion of the program, you'll be well-prepared to sit for the Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) License mandated by the Board of Behavioral Sciences in the state of California.

You will choose from two specialization options based on your career goals: the standard Marriage and Family Therapist Option and the Combined MFT/LPCC Option.

The MA Counseling Psychology MFT option is for students committed to helping individuals, couples, families, adolescents, and children in psychotherapy. You'll learn how to assess, diagnose, and treat psychological stress or impairment, mental disorders, or problems that arise in couples and families, and how to work in various mental health settings. Only licensed MFTs may provide counseling to families and couples.

The MA Counseling Combined MFT/LPCC option is for students interested in also being licensed as a Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in California. It meets the academic requirements for both the LMFT and LPCC. The combined option adds three courses specific to the scope of practice for LPCCs, including career counseling, research, and assessment techniques. This option includes additional hours of practicum training experience to meet state requirements for PCC trainees. The specialization focuses on individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, and vocational counseling.

This master's in counseling psychology degree is designed for California only. Either option may not meet requirements in other states. Students should consult the licensing boards of the appropriate states for information about licensure outside of California.

Request Information

Course Details

Course Listings

Prerequisites for the Major

  • (2 courses; 9 quarter units)

Course Name

A study of the essential principles and theories of psychology. Topics include social, developmental, and cognitive psychology.

A study of the essential principles and theories in psychology. Topics include an overview of biological psychology, personality theory, and abnormal psychology.

Core Requirements I

  • (6 courses; 27 quarter units)

Course Name

This course examines the theories of development as applied to the clinical assessment, diagnosis,and treatment of children, adolescents, adults, and older adults. Areas considered will include diversity, gender, and multi-cultural issues as well as identifying normative developmental transitions and their differentiation from deviant developmental patterns.

An examination of professional issues in counseling psychology, including concepts of psychological health and disorder, critical thinking, evidence-based treatment, best practices, systems of care, the role of research and how to access/utilize it, and various models of diagnosis and treatment, including the medical model, recovery model, and the multicultural model. An emphasis is placed on exploring the current status of these issues and how they are impacting the practice of psychotherapy.

This course examines the concepts and principles of case management practice emphasizing strength- based approaches, the bio-psycho-social-spiritual and recovery models. It introduces the role of mental health case management including strengths assessment, development, and delivery of mental health services.

This course provides an overview of major current and evolving paradigms of psychotherapy and how they influence counseling theory and practice. Students acquire core skills related to effective therapeutic communication and to the therapist's role in promoting exploration, insight, and behavior change.

This course discusses clinical assessment from the bio-psycho-social-spiritual, resiliency, recovery and medical models. Interviewing skills and the use of assessment instruments are covered. Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment approaches for anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.

This course covers the assessment and diagnosis for Gender Dysphoria and Anxiety, Psychotic, Personality, and Dissociative Disorders in the DSM and other assessment systems. Students will practice assessment skills and development of treatment plans during the course. Outcomes assessment and case conceptualization processes will be discussed.

MFT Core Requirements II

  • (3 courses; 13.5 quarter units)

Course Name

Examines assessment techniques, perspectives, and strategies essential to the treatment of children and adolescents. It also includes the therapeutic relationship, assessment and diagnosis, evidence-based treatment, family systems perspective, and legal/ethical concerns related to working with children and adolescents. Public settings and treatment based on cultural awareness as well as the recovery/ resiliency model are covered.

This course provides a comprehensive review of the theories, strategies, techniques, and critical issues involved in clinical work with families. This course will discuss various treatment approaches including an emphasis on evidence-based, recovery, and resilience- based approaches. Students will have the opportunity to role play family sessions.

This course provides a comprehensive look at the theories, techniques, and critical issues involved in treating couples. It will provide a focus on major approaches to the treatment of married and unmarried couples, including resilience and recovery models, as well as a survey of research on marriage and marital therapy. Students will have an opportunity to practice counseling sessions with couples in a role-play format.

Core Requirements III

  • (11 courses; 49.5 quarter units)

Course Name

This course examines the laws and professional codes of ethics pertaining to the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. How legal and ethical issues impact the profession of counseling with an emphasis on current California law is discussed.

Focuses on integrating and applying the full range of theoretical models used in psychotherapy. Students gain practical experience with both process and content issues through in-class role playing and demonstrations and receive both instructor and peer feedback. Grading is H, S or U only.

First of a two-course field practicum where students work as MFT or LPCC trainees. Students participate in an academic seminar for six months at the university.

A comprehensive study of the major approaches, techniques and interventions used in group psychotherapy. Also emphasizes dynamics of group process including the types, stages and formation of groups.

Exploration of the role of culture in concepts of mental health practice. Students will examine how their own cultural background frames their understanding of themselves and others. Family heritage, culturally informed assessment and treatment, and the limitations of the dominant Eurocentric psychological world view to diverse populations is explored.

This course covers the theories, etiology, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of addictive and compulsive disorders from the resiliency, recovery, and medical models. This course also addresses the impact of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, other environmental factors and contemporary controversies on the development and treatment of addictive disorders.

Advanced introduction to the interdisciplinary field of human sexuality. Students in this course will engage in the mastery of theoretical and practical knowledge relating to sexual development, identity, relationships, and behavior. Students will develop an awareness of the range of sexuality across cultures and human development, and the application of clinical skills to human sexual behavior.

This course is an examination of trauma with a focus on the sources of trauma and the distinctions between them. Relational violence is studied as a specific example of trauma. An emphasis is placed on empirically-based assessment and intervention of the different trauma-related disorders. Crisis counseling and multi-disciplinary treatment is also covered.

Second of a two-course field practicum where students work as practicum trainees. Students participate in a four-month academic seminar at the university. Students must complete the remainder of the state- required practicum experience hours of face-to-face work with clients in a community agency. This course will meet outside of regular class hours.

This course explores the biological basis of human behavior as it pertains to professional counselors. An emphasis is placed on drugs used in the treatment of psychological disorders. Functional neuroanatomy and experience-dependent brain plasticity are explored.

Overviews contemporary concepts and practices related to psychological wellbeing and wellness. Emphases are on examination of, and coping with, stressors that affect psychotherapists as well as integration of wellbeing and wellness models into psychotherapy.

Optional Sequence IV: PCC Option

  • (3 courses; 13.5 quarter units)

Course Name

A comprehensive study of research and evaluation with an emphasis on research methods, the use of research to inform evidence-based practice, and the importance of research in advancing the profession of counseling. Statistical methods used in research, needs assessment, and program evaluation will be examined.

Acquaints students with the standard career interest measures used in clinical practice, including the psychometric principles of the measures. Emphasizes integrating conceptual, ethical, and practical information drawn from client background and assessment reports.

This course provides a general examination of current career development/ career education literature including theories and major concepts, career education programs and practices, resource materials, academic and career counseling skills, and the use of computerized career information systems. Practicum experience is required.

Degree and Course Requirements

To receive the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, students must complete at least 90 quarter units of graduate work. A total of 13.5 quarter units of graduate credit may be granted for equivalent graduate work completed at another institution, as it applies to this degree, and if the units were not used in earning another advanced degree. Students for whom English is a second language must take and pass an English Language Proficiency exam prior to beginning any coursework. Students should refer to the section on Graduate Admissions for specific information regarding additional application and evaluation requirements.

At National University, our programs are designed for working professionals, like you, who want to further their education to make a more meaningful contribution in the field. You'll have access to online and on-site programs, four-week classes, tuition scholarships, and a number of student resources.You will be working closely with professors who are also practicing professionals in their field, meaning you will gain skills that can be applied to your job right away. Faculty care about your success and are also mentors for you throughout your program, and even after you finish your program and progress in your career.

Although many of our programs are online and allow you the freedom to study at your own pace, you are never alone. You have access to the writing center, math tutoring, and the Veteran Center for those making the transition from military life to civilian life..

Psychology practitioners are essential to the health of communities across the nation. Now's your chance to make a significant difference in your community.Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings, such as private practice and mental health centers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029, and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is growing by 25% — both much faster than the average for all occupations.*

LPCCs may choose to pursue opportunities within school systems or at career centers, helping clients with academic plans and employment issues. You may also pursue a career as a marriage and family therapist, rehabilitation counselor, or mental health counselor which may practice in any of the following settings:

  • Private or group practices
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Universities and colleges
  • Substance abuse rehab facility
  • Military assisting with PTSD

*Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Candidates are strongly encouraged to conduct their research.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of National University's MA in Counseling Psychology program, graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate core psychological concepts and therapeutic skills that underpin counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health counseling.
  • Demonstrate current professional standards of ethics, values, and laws related to the practice of professional psychotherapists.
  • Demonstrate cultural competence in addressing the mental health needs of people of diverse backgrounds and circumstances, including an appreciation for the wide cultural diversity among California's multiple diverse communities.
  • Apply a working knowledge of a range of topics important to mental health practice, including (but not limited to) psychopharmacology, addictive and compulsive disorders, structured psychological assessment, relational violence, gender and sexuality, and trauma/crisis.
  • Understand norms and principles of public mental health work, including (but not limited to) case management, collaborative treatment, evidence-based practice, strength-based model, resiliency, and recovery-oriented care to work with clients.
  • Integrate professional development through self-reflection, emphasizing personal capacities such as self-awareness, integrity, sensitivity, flexibility, insight, compassion, imagination, and personal presence.


How long does it take to get a master's in psychology online?

Most online master's in psychology programs require 36 credits and take about two years to complete. The more specialized or tailored the program, or the more hours for field work or research required, the longer students take to earn their degree.

Is a master's in psychology worth it?

If you want to advance in the field of psychology, then yes, a master's is worth it. However, if you don't have strong motivation, then the challenge of a graduate degree may not be for you. It helps to talk to others in the field and gauge your level of interest prior to enrolling.

Can you earn a master's in counseling psychology online?

Students interested in earning the degree can choose to complete an online master's in psychology rather than a traditional on-site program.

Can you be a psychologist with a master's degree?

Master's programs in psychology will give you the foundation you need to conduct or apply psychological research that ultimately improves the lives of others. If you'd like to pursue a career as a psychologist, you must start with a graduate degree in psychology before earning your doctorate or sitting for a state licensure exam.

What is the difference between a master's in psychology and counseling?

While a Master's in Psychology is a typical path in obtaining a doctoral level degree in psychology, an MA in Counseling Psychology meets state licensing requirements and is a typical path to licensing.


Enrolling in a university is a big decision. That's why our dedicated admissions team is here to guide you through the admissions process and help you find the right program for you and your career goals.

To that end, we've simplified and streamlined our application process, so you can get enrolled in your program right away. Because we accept and review applications year round, you can begin class as soon as next month, depending on your program and location of choice.

Learn more about undergraduate, graduate, military, and international student admissions, plus admissions information for transfer students. You can also learn more about our tuition rates and financial aid opportunities.

To speak with our admissions team, call (855) 355-6288 or request information and an advisor will contact you shortly. If you're ready to apply, simply start your application today.

Request Information

4-week classes

Our course structure is built to make earning your degree accessible and achievable, one month at a time, so you can start sooner and finish faster.

Why Choose National University

  • Four-Week Classes
  • 75+ Degree Programs
  • Online or On-Site
  • Year-Round Enrollment
  • Military Friendly

We're proud to be a veteran-founded, San Diego-based nonprofit. Since 1971, our mission has been to provide accessible, achievable higher education to adult learners. Today, we educate students from across the U.S. and around the globe, with over 180,000 alumni worldwide.

What our students say
“Being able to assist in my community as well as advocate for those in need has been the biggest reward for me after completing this program.” - Brittney H., Class of 2021

Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate's application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual's criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state's/country's policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.

Read More

Flexible Schedule

We know your life may not happen on a 9-5 schedule, so we offer classes online or on-site at locations across California.
$30 million In new student scholarships

National University is dedicated to making higher education affordable, as well as accessible. Through NU scholarship offerings, eligible students are able to reduce the financial burden of college, start classes sooner, and finish their programs faster while focusing on achieving their goals.

In honor of our students, and in celebration of our 50th anniversary, National University is investing $30 million in new student scholarships. To learn more about our scholarships, how you can apply, and how much you can save, inquire today.

Learn More