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Need Healp Making A Decision

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by Violeta8, Jun 29, 2017.

  1. Violeta8


    Jan 19, 2017
    Hi Everyone!

    I am in a quandary.....

    I am wondering if I should apply to a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or to a Counseling Psychology PhD. I have been told that an LMHC will not get me anywhere and I should get an MSW instead but I am more clinically minded.

    I initially thought that I could get the MHC and then apply to a Counseling Psychology PhD afterwards but I am not sure if this makes any sense at all. I feel some pressure to do something quickly due to changes at my place of employment and the fact that I would like to grow within the company but would need a license to do so. However, my interests in the long-term are to do some counseling and psychological testing.

    My question in the end is do I apply for an MHC program or a Counseling Psychology PhD program? Or do I go with an MSW?

    Any help would greatly be appreciated.

    Thank you!
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  3. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    I've heard it said that the MSW is the more marketable and flexible of the two masters degrees you've mentioned. I should also note that MSW's are very clinically oriented. I imagine some programs may place more emphasis on case management or on therapy, but in the end, it's still clinical activity. However, folks here will be infinitely more informed than me and can likely offer better feedback in that regard.

    RE: a counseling psych Ph.D., the first question to ask is if you'd be competitive for such a program. If you don't have a decent GPA (3.4+), good GREs, at least a year or two of research experience, and three letters of recommendation (with ideally 2 or all 3 being from psychologists), the odds of you gaining admission to a funded program are slim. At that point, you'd need to decide if you wanted to instead focus on a terminal (i.e., licensable) masters, a non-terminal masters, or improving your credentials for 1-2 years in anticipation of applying to a doctoral program.

    I would not advise making a rushed decision.

    If you want to do psych testing, you'll need a doctoral degree. Assuming this is in the U.S.
    submarine1991 likes this.
  4. counselor2b

    counselor2b 7+ Year Member

    Jun 2, 2010
    Regarding which option is better is complicated and dependent on a few different things. Ultimately either masters degree can get you to practice therapy. However, certain MSW programs may not have a focus on Mental Health, such as child welfare, gerontology, medical, etc. so you will want to make sure your practicum and internship offer you the experiences you need to be prepared for a career more rooted in counseling as well as elective course work that will meet your goals. Also, for either path, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good clinical supervisor. They are not all created equally and can make a huge difference.

    You will also want to look at what your geographic location prefers. If your employer already has licensed staff within the company, check their credentials to see if there is a preference. If you do not see yourself retiring there, you may want to look up hospitals, clinics, mental health centers in your area to see if they tend to hire one license over another in case you ever decide to leave. For example, there are two major medical centers in my area and one will only hire MSW's for both case management and counseling positions.

    In general, the MSW is much more geographically flexible as it is much easier to transfer licenses across state lines. NASW and CSWE has done a wonderful job lobbying and ensuring uniformity for education than the ACA. However, if your counseling program is CACREP accredited that makes life much easier for reciprocity reasons and also shows you met certain educational criteria.

    If you have a BSW that can speed up the process of getting an MSW and bypass the general coursework. If you don't have the BSW will generally need to complete general SW courses before getting into the specialization coursework, where as a masters in counseling jumps into that coursework immediately.

    Regarding the doctorate, that is not my area, so I can't really comment but is sounds like AA gave you sage advice.

    Best of Luck!
  5. lms202


    Jun 30, 2017
    Do you like to do research? If the answer to this is not a resounding "YES!" do not pursue a PhD program. It is simply not worth it and you will be unhappy if research isn't a big area of interest for you. A counseling PhD is at least a 5-year commitment and PhDs are a lot riskier than MSWs or counseling related masters programs. With a PhD you could potentially invest years of your life and walk away without a degree. If your goal is to work as a counselor (vs. academia) you should really just be looking at lmhc programs and msws. There are MSW programs that are more clinically focused, you just have to find the right fit.
  6. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Board Certified Neuropsychologist Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    This advice is not accurate at all. Plenty of balanced and clinically-based PhDs out there, especially in counseling as opposed to clinical. Also, plenty of fully funded programs. Additionally, if the OP wants to do psychological testing, they will need a PhD. In some states, these billing codes are only available to PhDs/MDs.
  7. Violeta8


    Jan 19, 2017
    Thank you for all the helpful replies! I am sort of in a quandary because I am just about to get my PhD in general psychology and I have been wondering if I could do testing with this degree or if in fact I need to go back for a PhD in Counseling Psychology? Unfortunately, the reason I chose general psychology is because I was advised at that time to do so. My long term goals is to teach, do some research, administer psychological testing, and do some counseling. I am having a difficult time deciding what the best way to do so would be.

    Any advice and insight into my best options would be greatly appreciated! I am already so thankful to all of you who have responded to my inquiry.
  8. MAClinician

    MAClinician Masters level clinician

    Mar 19, 2016
    Is your "General Psychology " PhD from an online school? I have seen that from Walden University and my guess is you WON'T be able to do testing with that degree. You will need a Counseling or Clinical psychology PhD (which needs to be from an in-person program, not online). I personally don't know of any states that will grant licenses to practice psychology (testing and counseling) for a degree from an online school. It's unfortunate that you were so ill advised to spend your time and money on a degree that is not going to get you to your goal.

    As others have stated, if you want to conduct testing you will need to do a PhD. If you only plan on doing a few evaluations a month but focus more on therapy then it may make sense to forget testing and do a masters. Most people who do testing spend much of their work time on testing in order to keep their testing skills sharp. It's not something where you can do 1 evaluation every few weeks without potentially losing your competencies. If you want to teach full time in an academic setting you will need a PhD. Many schools hire adjunct faculty with only a masters in the relevant field.
  9. foreverbull

    foreverbull 2+ Year Member

    Sep 8, 2015
    I respectfully disagree. As a counseling psychologist, my graduate program was 50% research/50% practice oriented, and I knew going in that I wasn't going to want to do research career-wise at all. But I got through the program fine because I knew it was worth it to reach my career goals, and thus finished the required predissertation and dissertation research. Individual doctoral programs vary in terms of research requirements (i.e. scientist-practitioner vs. practitioner-scholar models more commonly found in clinical Psy.D. programs), so you might have to do some perusing to see what would be a good fit if research is an issue.

    More broadly, the OP's career goals are compatible with a counseling or clinical psychology doctorate. Psychological testing generally necessitates one of those degrees (or school psychology, but school psychologists don't typically counsel much).

    I was under the impression that general psychology doctorates can't be used for clinical work or assessments because they don't provide the same training and experiences as counseling/clinical programs. According to Capella U. "Upon successful completion of this specialization, learners are prepared to pursue careers as university professors, researchers, consultants, or program administrators. The requirements for this specialization are not designed to prepare graduates for licensure as professional counselors or psychologists."
    Walden says the following: "The PhD in Developmental Psychology, PhD in Educational Psychology, PhD in Forensic Psychology, PhD in Forensic Psychology (Fast Track), PhD in General Psychology (Research), PhD in General Psychology (Teaching), PhD in Health Psychology, and PhD in Social Psychology are not licensure programs and do not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology professional."

    Those caveats are a major red flag for anyone pursuing those degrees who wants to counsel (licensed psychologist) or be a licensed psychologist who specializes in forensic psychology, and their sites don't provide any job data about graduates (see this Forensic program data page that is terribly lacking).

    Sorry, OP, but it looks like you were VERY poorly advised. If you finish, you might try teaching and/or doing something to build up job experience prior to seeking your 2nd doctorate in counseling or clinical psychology, or save money and get a master's but let go of the testing idea.

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