College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

School of Applied Human Sciences

Clinical Mental Health Counseling


Program Overview



"Clinical mental health counseling is a distinct profession with national standards for education, training and clinical practice. Clinical mental health counselors are highly-skilled professionals who provide flexible, consumer-oriented therapy. They combine traditional psychotherapy with a practical, problem-solving approach that creates a dynamic and efficient path for change and problem resolution."

[Definition of Mental Health Counseling developed by the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA),]

Among mental health provider groups, Clinical Mental Health Counseling is unique in its insistence on a balance between prevention and psychoeducational, developmental approaches on the one hand and its insistence on clinical competencies for the treatment of psychopathology on the other hand.

Program Overview

The UNI Clinical Mental Health Counseling program has an outstanding reputation and received the NCACES Innovative Counselor Education Master's Degree Program Award in 1999. Our program is based on long-standing tradition and is delivered by highly energetic faculty who are extensively involved in research, practice and professional service at the local, state, regional and national levels. Graduates of this program will be prepared to practice in a variety of mental health and community agencies, including hospitals, clinics, substance abuse agencies, hospice organizations and mental health centers.

The UNI Clinical Mental Health Program:

  • Prepares graduates with knowledge and skills in diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.
  • Exposes students to theory-based counseling models to apply to individuals, groups and families.
  • Emphasizes practical applications of concepts in all coursework.
  • Includes a site-based practicum at the UNI Counseling Center, Wartburg College, or Hawkeye Community College. On site supervision with UNI and Counseling Center staff make this an exceptional training opportunity.
  • Includes a two-semester internship with a weekly seminar, as well as individual and group supervision by the faculty.
  • Provides multiple opportunities to interact with and learn from mental health practitioners in the field.
  • Provides numerous opportunities for professional growth and development through UNI-sponsored conferences.
  • Includes 54 hours of CACREP-required coursework and 6 hours of electives (total, 60 semester hours). This program reflects the national trend for longer preparation programs that more adequately prepare future practitioners to address the many challenges in work settings.

The program includes a practicum totaling a minimum of 100 (40 of which are direct client contact hours), a two-semester internship totaling a minimum of 900 hours of clinical practice (including a minimum of 360 hours of DIRECT contact) under the supervision of a credentialed mental health professional, and course work related to each of the core areas designated by CACREP. A program planning sheet which lists all required courses and their appropriate sequencing within the program is available on this website under COURSES. Within the 60 semester credit hour program required by CACREP, 54 hours are required and 6 hours are elective. This program reflects the trend in the profession for longer preparation programs. 

The program meets the academic requirements for licensure for mental health counselors in Iowa. Students are eligible to sit for the National Counselors Examination (NCE) during their final semester of enrollment and thereby meet the examination requirement for becoming licensed. Iowa licensure requires two years of post-coursework experience as a mental health counselor, including 200 hours of required supervision, 100 of which must be one-to-one face-to-face supervision. According to the Iowa Board of Behavioral Sciences Examiners, supervision accrued during internship may count towards licensure if all coursework except electives has been completed prior to internship. Contact the Board at [515] 281-7074 for more information.

General Objectives of the Clinical Mental Health Program-Measured through Coursework Assignments and Projects (Aligned with CACREP Standards)

To prepare professionals who:

  1. Have knowledge and skills related to counseling needs in the mental health setting: etiology, diagnosis (including co-occurring disorders), assessment, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders [II.C.2].
  2. Can conceptualize problems from a developmental and cultural perspective and can employ developmentally/culturally appropriate prevention and intervention techniques [III.E.3].
  3. Know how to develop treatment plans, manage multiple client loads and work with managed care [II.D.1].
  4. Can effectively counsel individuals, small groups, couples and families [II.D.5].
  5. Can function as consultants in various mental health settings [IV.H.2].
  6. Can network and work effectively with a variety of human service delivery systems, including schools and community agencies [II.F.1].
  7. Have the awareness, knowledge and skills to work with individuals, families and groups from diverse populations [III.F.3].
  8. Are beginning to develop and consistently apply a counseling theory and are knowledgeable about career and development theories [II.C.7].
  9. Are sensitive, genuine and show positive regard for others [II.D.3].
  10. Have high levels of self-awareness and a commitment to personal growth [II.D.3].
  11. Are able to communicate effectively with others and express themselves effectively in writing using APA standards [V.J.3].
  12. Can accurately interpret research and apply it to practice [V.J.1].
  13. Are committed to on-going professional development, will practice legal and ethical behavior and will apply ethical decision making at all times [I.B.1].
  14. Will assume leadership and advocacy roles as clinical mental health counselors [III.E.4].
  15. Are academically qualified to become certified, licensed and registered [I.A.1-10.B.1-2].

[These objectives were revised Fall 2013 by the Counseling Faculty with input from the Mental Health and School Counseling Advisory Committee and the Student Advisory Committee.]

A major objective of the program is to provide students with educational experiences that address the American Counseling Association's (ACA) accreditation (CACREP) training standards for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. These standards require that students complete a program that exposes them to knowledge and skills in the following core areas:

  1. Professional Identity
  2. Social and Cultural Diversity
  3. Human Growth and Development
  4. Career Development
  5. Helping Relationships
  6. Group Work
  7. Assessment
  8. Research and Program Evaluation

UNI's counseling faculty expect that graduates of this program will:

  • Be highly competent MA counselors
  • Advocate for quality mental health services for clients and families
  • Have a strong knowledge base as well as clinical skills
  • Be sensitive to and knowledgeable about multicultural issues
  • Become accepted as credible mental health professionals
  • Promote counselor accountability with the public and the profession
  • Be psychologically healthy persons who use high levels of self-awareness in their work
  • Adhere to the ethical standards of the profession

Ethical Behavior

Students entering Counseling programs are required to adhere to ethical standards as presented in the ACA Code of Ethics. Any behavior which is deemed unethical will be grounds for dismissal from the program. Copies of the standards are on reserve in the Counseling Resource Room.

Academic Conduct

Cheating on examinations, submitting work of other students as your own, or plagiarism in any form (i.e., failure to document research according to APA guidelines) will result in penalties ranging from an "F" in the assignment to other measures.