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Counseling Psychology

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Complete your studies on your own time.

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Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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Finish your PhD-PSY in just 20 courses.

PhD in Counseling Psychology

The Counseling Psychology specialization was created for mental health professionals who are licensed or pre-licensed having a foundation of clinical knowledge and skills at the master level. The program is designed to provide for the meaningful integration of theory, practical application, research, and scholarship, culminating in a dissertation. Students enrolled in this specialization will learn about clinical supervision, psychopharmacology, program evaluation, research, and cognitive and personality assessments. Additionally, students can choose to deepen their knowledge and skills in specific areas by selecting courses to match their interests, including psychopathology, addiction assessment and treatment, multicultural psychology.

To enroll in this program, students must have a conferred clinical master’s degree in a mental health or related field that included a practicum/internship, from a regionally accredited institution.


Unmatched Flexibility

NU offers weekly course starts, no scheduled lecture hours, no group assignments, weekly assignments, and the ability to schedule courses around your personal and professional obligations.

100% Doctoral Faculty

No matter the degree level you pursue, you can rest assured that you will be mentored by doctors in your field of study.

One to One Engagement

You won’t have to fight for facetime as one of many within a classroom. At NU, you’ll have the opportunity to interact one to one with your professor, receiving personalized mentoring.

Course Details


Credit Hours : 60

Courses: 20

Estimated Time to Complete: 48 months

*Credit hours and courses reflect new students meeting credit requirements and utilizing no transfer credits. Est. Time of Completion reflects new students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for the program.

Course Name

Students in this course will be prepared for success in the psychology doctoral program at the University. Students are introduced to relevant academic communities, professional standards, and doctoral-level expectations. Essential skills needed to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology are emphasized, including critical thinking, comprehending complex scholarly texts and research articles, and effective written communications. Students will identify and begin to explore potential research topics for use in their doctoral studies and complete the course with a roadmap to navigate their way to degree completion.

This course focuses on scholarly and academic writing with an overarching goal of critically analyzing and thoughtfully synthesizing research findings while adhering to APA style and the principles of Academic Integrity. The emphases in this course are on how to (a) conduct effective literature searches; (b) critically review and summarize research studies; (c) write comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature; (d) formulate ideas and convey them in an ethical fashion; and (e) use feedback to revise and improve one’s work.

This doctoral-level course focuses on the fundamentals of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches to psychological research. Students gain an understanding of the strengths and limitations of each approach, and how these methods apply to a research topic. The concepts of critical evaluating, published research, research ethics, and developing a research proposal will also be explored and practiced. In addition, it provides a foundation for subsequent research courses in preparation for successfully completing a dissertation at the University.

This course provides an introductory exploration of statistics for the graduate student. It includes instruction on the calculation, use, and interpretation of descriptive statistics, and introduces inferential statistical analysis. The emphasis of this course is on providing a working knowledge of basic statistical concepts to help the student understand statistical methodology used in psychology, and also more generally, developing a working knowledge of statistical usage in everyday life.

This doctoral course in tests and measurements provides the student conceptual as well as practical guidelines in test and scale construction. This course will expose the students to concepts and theories including: the nature of psychological constructs and concepts, measurements and measurement error, item construction and analysis, Classical Test Theory, and the different approaches to establishing instrument reliability and validity. Students will have the opportunity to apply the skills and concepts to a construct relevant to their own research interests.

This doctoral-level course will introduce the student to psychological test construction, administration and interpretation as well as current research in the area. Commonly used tests to assess cognition and personality will be studied.

This course will provide a foundation for knowledge of quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the social sciences, including psychology. Knowledge of research methods is essential both for successful completion of the dissertation and for being a skilled consumer and creator of scholarly knowledge in your field. Topics explored will include the purposes of the two basic research methods (quantitative and qualitative), the nature of multiple research designs within each method, analytic strategies used within each method, factors in quality research within each method, and ethical issues in research methods. Scholarly writing and appropriate use of the scholarly literature will also be reinforced through all topics. This course is intended to provide a broad understanding of research methods to support deeper exploration and application using more refined resources in future courses.

The purpose of this course is to acquire deeper knowledge of the quantitative and qualitative designs. The focus is on active learning to develop applied research skills that will help you in design development, data collection, and data analysis reporting phases. During the course, you will also examine how your research reflections and analysis are grounded in the empirical literature.

This course focuses on how to conduct effective literature searches, specifically in preparation for the dissertation, develop a plan for writing comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature, and critically review and write about underlying theoretical frameworks that lay the foundation for future research. The overarching goal of this course is for students to conduct an extensive search of the peer-reviewed empirical and theoretical literature in their topic area and identify potential areas of inquiry for their dissertation.

The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is intended to ensure students have mastered knowledge of their discipline prior to candidacy status and demonstrated the ability to design empirical research as an investigator before moving on to the dissertation research coursework. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize empirical, peer-reviewed research to support all assignments in this course. The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is completed only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

*The Elective course in the PhD in Psychology degree can be satisfied by any 8000-level course in the Department of Psychology.

Specialization and Elective Courses

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology specialization in counseling psychology is designed for mental health professionals who are licensed or pre-licensed having a foundation of clinical knowledge and skills at the master level. The program is intended for professionals who seek to improve their theoretical knowledge and clinical skills, while preparing them to advance their career in the mental health field. In addition, the program is designed to provide for the meaningful integration of theory, practical application, research, and scholarship, culminating in a dissertation.

PhD-PSY specialization students will learn about clinical supervision, psychopharmacology, program evaluation, research, and cognitive and personality assessment. In addition, students in this program can choose to deepen their knowledge and skills in several areas of their interest. For example, students can choose courses in psychopathology, addictions assessment and treatment, multicultural psychology, and other areas of interest.

Required Courses

Course Name

This doctoral-level course presents an overview of psychopharmacology, alternative therapies, and principles that focus on helping to identify those individuals who can benefit from the use of pharmacologic intervention, as well as useful methods of evaluating treatment efficacy. Research on neurophysiology, and biologic actions and side effects of psychopharmacological and alternative agents will be reviewed. DSM-5 is used for disorder classifications throughout this course. This course may serve as a foundation for further study for individuals planning to prescribe or consult, within their scope of practice, as a non-physician mental health professional.

This doctoral-level course presents an overview of the assessment of personality and cognition throughout the lifespan. The course will provide a conceptual base for psychological assessment, define cognition and personality according to current research, review commonly used assessment measures, and discuss the interpretation of findings. DSM-V is used for disorder classifications. Considerations of diversity in assessment practices and ethical issues are highlighted. This course serves as a foundation for further study for individuals planning to assess personality and cognitive functioning.

Select 4 courses from the following:

Course Name

This doctoral-level course is designed to increase awareness of multicultural issues in psychology, including some issues of social diversity, with a focus on theoretical models, research, and techniques and interventions for working with culturally diverse populations in various settings from therapy to the workplace.

Group work, including group counseling, group therapy, and other type of change-oriented groups, involves special dynamics and processes and requires specific leader behaviors and characteristics. In this course, the student will examine, apply, and analyze these factors of group work. Videotapes of group therapy sessions conducted by expert and beginning therapists will form a basis for learning.

In this course, you will explore child and adolescent psychology including both normative development and psychopathology. Through reading, research, and interaction with fellow students and faculty, you will be provided with opportunities to experience concepts and theories of both healthy and unhealthy cognitive, emotional, and social development from childhood into adolescence. Prevention, intervention, and recovery from unhealthy experiences will be addressed. Professional ethics will also be examined.

This course addresses the way psychopathology is conceptualized as well as how adult psychopathology is diagnosed. You will make critical appraisal of current diagnostic systems and consider the cultural and social contexts of psychopathology and its clinical application.

In this course, you will gain an understanding of the different theoretical approaches to counseling and psychotherapy, along with an understanding of how these psychological theories developed and unfolded historically throughout time. Additionally, you will consider some of the newer models and methods of practice, along with the concept of the scholar-practitioner model. After completing this class, you will be able to analyze and consider the different models of treatment, and make the best selection given the unique client needs. Throughout the course, you will apply and reflect on your learning, and begin to develop your own integral and personalized approach to treatment.

This course examines the diverse intervention approaches that have been used effectively in special populations, including women, the elderly, veterans, LGBT, and ethnic minorities. Focus will be placed on phases of the therapeutic process from intake/assessment to treatment planning and implementation. The heterogeneity of and within the special populations and the need to ensure appropriate care is provided to this individuals will be emphasized.

Students seeking a PhD in Psychology with specialization in Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration are required to take this course. This course covers ethics and cultural diversity as it relates to mental health and wellness. The history of ethics as well as how ethics relates to legal standards are addressed. Cultural diversity, sensitivity, and competence are also covered.

This doctoral-level course will provide an overview of grant writing for dissertation and post-doctoral research on psychology-related topics. Basic grant writing skills such as researching, reading and responding to a Research Funding Proposal (RFP); as well as, developing the grant proposal inclusive of writing the rationale, purpose, problem statement, letters of support, budget and/or plan of work will be discussed. Assignments and projects will be available to engage and strengthen doctoral learners grant writing skills.

This doctoral-level course focuses on the fundamentals of evaluating and monitoring human services programs. The purpose of this course is to familiarize you with the theory of program evaluation so you can conduct quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods program evaluations. You will further develop your abilities to collaborate with stakeholders in developing evaluation plans that ensure evaluation processes meet the needs of multiple stakeholders. You will consider the various ethical implications of program evaluation and will identify ethical considerations in implementing an evaluation plan and reporting results.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Design clear and effective communication for fellow professionals and the public
  • Critique diversity issues in professional contexts
  • Evaluate ethical principles of psychology in academic and professional issues
  • Select psychological principles and research for application to personal, social, and organizational issues
  • Evaluate research methods and data analysis in psychology
  • Appraise theories and principles in psychology to inform professional contexts
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.