An Online Masters in Mental Health Counseling: The Basics

Perhaps you are considering a career change or want to take the next steps in your counseling career journey. A masters in mental health counseling online could be the perfect way to help you achieve these goals. Becoming a mental health counselor is a very rewarding yet demanding job, and you will need many different skills, both technical and personal, in order to succeed. If you love working with and helping people, becoming a mental health counselor may be the perfect career choice for you. Here are a couple of basics about studying online for a masters in mental health counseling.

What is a masters in mental health counseling online degree?

Undertaking a masters in mental health counseling online can help you on your journey to becoming a fully licensed mental health counselor. It is a masters degree that is taught through a mixture of in-person fieldwork and online course work. A masters in mental health counseling online prepares you for the various licensing exams you will need to take in order to progress into the next stage of your career. The majority of positions and jobs within mental health counseling require a masters as a minimum, so a masters in mental health counseling online is a great first step in pursuing this career path.

Who is it for?


A masters in mental health counseling online is for those who already hold a bachelors degree, and wish to continue their education in the field of mental health counseling. There are many modules that are studied, and these can include topics such as research methods, abnormal psychology, human development, and internships. As well as the educational skills and knowledge that a masters in mental health online will provide you with, there are certain characteristics and qualities that make a great mental health counselor. These can include:




When people think of a counselor, they generally think of them as a person to talk to. You will need great listening skills to be a successful counselor, as you will have to communicate, listen and understand the specific needs and issues that your client is facing. A good listener is some who does not let their personal beliefs cloud their judgement, is present in the moment, and is focused on what the other person is saying.


Empathy and compassion are two very important qualities in a mental health counselor, but so is objectivity, and the ability to not let your biases or personal preferences interfere with your work and the way you interact with a patient. Impartiality is a very important trait, as you may be working with people who have negative histories, for example, if you are working as a counselor in a correctional facility.


This is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another to try and understand their situation and emotions. You need to be able to do this effectively as a mental health counselor, as you won’t be able to directly identify with every emotion or experience your clients have had, but you will need to try and understand their feelings. However, it is important that you do not take this too far; be aware of your own biases and preferences, and maintain your professional distance. Being empathetic can be incredibly valuable, but it can also cause your client’s emotions to spill over into your own, which can affect your work and life.


Communication and listening go hand in hand, as part of good communication is listening properly. You will also need to have the knowledge and skills to eloquently explain certain things, like diagnoses, treatments, and difficult concepts to your clients, so that they fully understand what you are saying. You will also need to pick up on body language and forms of non-verbal communication. This is very important, as some patients may not want to talk to you, but a lot of information can be understood through their body language.

Collaboration and teamwork

In some fields of mental health counseling, such as working with veterans, you will be working as part of a multidisciplinary team. This means that there may be many different people working on one case, such as probation officers, medical professionals, and social workers. Collaborating with them is essential in order to treat the patient correctly and effectively, so you should be able to work as part of a team.

Why study online?

The difference between a masters in mental health counseling online, and other types of mental health counseling degrees is that it is studied mostly online. There is a combination of in-person teaching and practical work like internships, combined with online coursework and study. There are many benefits to studying online, as it can make education more accessible, reduce costs and allow you to work at your own pace.


masters-psychology-counseling-mental-healthIt is no secret that there a many different costs involved in becoming a student. From travel to accommodation, tuition fees to textbooks, the financial requirements of a degree are one of the most common reasons why people do not pursue further education. However, a masters in mental health counseling online can allow you to study whilst reducing some of these costs. In some cases, the tuition fees of online courses are less than those for in-person courses, institutions still offer online students financial support, and you can still get the benefits of being a student. When you study online, you will most likely be studying from home, which means you may have to pay less for accommodation and transport. Being able to work at home can reduce travel and living costs, as well as allowing you to work and maintain your current job, fitting your studies around your prior commitments.


Are you limited to what your local college or university offers you? If you want to study something that is not offered locally, and you are unable to travel or commute, a masters in mental health counseling online can make this type of course much more accessible to you. With much of the coursework completed online, your location matters much less. Furthermore, working at home means you will need to create a productive study environment, and develop skills such as discipline and self-motivation to ensure that you can complete your work.

Soft skills

A masters in mental health counseling online will arm you with plenty of technical knowledge and skills that you will need to succeed, but it will also allow you to develop your soft skills. These are non-technical skills that help you stand out in the workplace, and are looked upon favorably by employers. They include time management, problem-solving, motivation, and adaptability. Studying online helps boost all of these skills and more and provides you with practical examples to give to employers during an interview. When you study online alongside your usual daily commitments, you will have to be organized, disciplined, and manage your time incredibly well to make sure you stay on top of everything. This is a very useful set of skills to have in any career, but especially as a mental health counselor, where you may have multiple cases and clients at the same time, and will need to treat each one with the same levels of care, expertise, and compassion.

Learning style

Online courses are often designed for those with prior commitments, such as jobs or a family, who want to fit their education around this. They are flexible and allow you to work at your own pace, which can make the learning experience more enjoyable and efficient. Some people may find a physical learning environment does not work for them, as they may find it too overwhelming or may simply not have the time and availability to attend in-person lectures full time. A masters in mental health counseling online can provide you with a great level of education that you can adapt to your lifestyle, requirements, and preferences. It can also help you understand what type of learner you are and how to implement learning techniques that work best for you. There are many different styles of learning, and when you have worked out what kind you are, you can adapt your learning so that you absorb as much information as efficiently as possible.

What are the career outcomes?

masters-psychology-counseling-mental-health-guidance.jpgWhen studying for a masters in mental health counseling online, you will gain plenty of skills and experiences that are used in the many various types of mental health counseling. There are many different locations you may work in, and different types of counseling you may do. In general, most require a masters degree as a minimum, as well as completing your licensing exams. A masters in mental health counseling online can help you decide which areas of counseling you would like to work in and how to streamline your education in order to move into that field. Types of counseling and locations may include:

Children and young people

You may work with children or young people, in a private setting such as individual weekly therapy, or in a residential setting where they live full time. This can be a challenging area to work in, as working with young people comes with many extra hurdles and requires other specialist knowledge. You may work on assessing and providing diagnoses, case management, creating treatment plans, and helping develop basic life skills that a young person may need in order to leave a facility.

Substance abuse

When working with patients who are abusing substances, you may need to tailor your services to match their current levels of functionality and abuse. You will also be part of a team, working with other individuals such as social workers, healthcare providers, or the client’s family. Typical jobs may involve providing psychotherapy, case management, and behavioral health interventions. As time progresses, your work can shift from direct intervention to monitoring the maintenance of sobriety.


Many mental health counselors work in hospital and healthcare environments, providing a wide range of services to many different patients. This can be in regular hospitals or psychiatric hospitals. A hospital counselor is part of a care team, and helps the patient prepare for their next steps after they are discharged, for example, assisting with insurance, lifestyle choices, educating the patient and their family, and case management. As well as this, you will assess a patient’s mental health and proceed accordingly, also looking out for signs of issues such as substance abuse.

Residential facilities

Residential counselors work in facilities such as care homes, rehabilitation centers, shelters, and universities, and the tasks performed depend upon the location. Generally, you will be concerned with the needs and safety of the residents, working with a group within a structured environment. Other tasks may include referrals to other services, assisting with transportation, organizing activities, and coaching life skills.

Studying for a masters in mental health counseling online can open up many different career paths. It is a great step in deciding what kind of counseling you would excel best in, and helping prepare you for the challenges to come. You will be provided with the knowledge and skills to take your licensing exams, and progress into the next level of education or training. If you love caring for and assisting people, and want to help them, studying for a masters in mental health counseling online can help you reach this goal. It can also make education more accessible for you, and allow you to study even with existing commitments so that you don’t have to make any huge financial or lifestyle sacrifices in order to pursue your dream career. You will have support from your tutors and peers, in order to make your learning experience as rich as possible. If you want to change careers, or push your knowledge further with different skills such as cultural competency, communication and critical thinking, a masters in mental health counseling online could be the perfect option for you.

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