A doctorate in counseling is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself in a particular area of the profession. A counseling PhD qualifies you as an expert in a clinical arena, prepares you for tenure-track positions at universities, primes you to train other counselors and to also conduct and publish valuable research. The terminal degree also positions you to become a leader in professional organizations. While a PhD is not essential for practicing therapeutic counseling, the impressive credential will help you attract clients, stand out from other applicants when applying for clinical jobs, and designate you with a prestigious title.
What to Expect
A PhD is a massive commitment that should not be taken lightly. A PhD program requires a five to six year commitment of study, full-time internships and dissertation. A master's degree in counseling, psychology or a related field is required for admission to any counseling PhD program. Completion of a doctorate in counseling psychology requires 66 credit hours of coursework, though some prerequisites may have been met by your master’s level work.
In addition to core and elective courses, counseling PhD programs may include the following:
Passing a comprehensive examination
Writing and defending a dissertation
Creating a developmental action plan and/or professional portfolio
Conducting research with faculty
Contributing presentations of your findings
Working in an intensive pre-doctoral internship
What You’ll Gain
Beyond the expanded career options that come with the cache of the big credential, a PhD in counseling will also fortify your professional abilities with advanced teaching and counseling skills. A PhD is ideal for those interested in program evaluation and advanced research methods. Students are prepared to emerge as research and instructional experts who can bring their skills to a university setting or as counselor education leaders in hospitals, private practices, clinics, government agencies, rehabilitation centers, and more. Counseling PhD graduates are also well positioned to become diplomats or fellows of the American Psychotherapy Association, an impressive accolade that opens a lot of doors in research and broadens your audience when you want to present your findings and research.
Choosing a Program
Counselor supervision and education is the most common PhD program in this area. In fact, most of the CACREP accredited programs are of this designation. This particular degree qualifies you to train counselors in a supervisory role and positions you for professorial work as a university instructor and researcher. The counselor supervision and education PhD typically includes hours spent supervising master's degree candidates and teaching graduate level courses. Programs of this nature allow for specialization, whereby you can focus some of your courses, internship and dissertation on one area of counseling, such as marriage and family therapy, or adolescent and child counseling. Some programs allow students to zero in on a niche area through research on specific types of treatments or patients.
If you are seeking a PhD strictly to enhance your professional counseling career and don’t plan to teach or conduct research, some universities offer a comparable program in mental health counseling or counseling psychology.
Begin your program search by speaking with your advisors and/or colleagues. Then explore the options accredited and recognized by CACREP and the American Psychological Association. Most of the highest ranked private and public universities offer counseling PhD programs on campus. There are online options recognized by CACREP as well, though due to the immersive nature of a doctorate program, these are really hybrid programs and not wholly online.