Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program


  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty
  • Career Outlook
  • Training and Employment Settings
  • Professional Links & Resources 


The Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

In accordance with the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) definition of professional counseling, clinical mental health counseling “involves a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (ACA, 2017). Our counselors are specifically trained to work in behavioral healthcare, defined as “the promotion of emotional health; the prevention of mental illnesses and substance use disorders; and treatments and services for mental and/or substance use disorders” (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMSHA, 2015]. According to SAMSHA (2015), mental illnesses and substance use disorders are common, frequently recurrent, and often serious. A strong, well-trained and well-distributed behavioral health workforce is necessary to help the United States act on the vision embodied in SAMHSA’s guiding tenets: behavioral health is essential to overall wellbeing; prevention works; treatment is effective; and people recover from mental and substance use disorders.

SF State’s CMHC program is uniquely designed to prepare students to work in the behavioral health workforce. Our students receive the counseling, case management, advocacy and health promotion knowledge and skills necessary to work with the most at-risk, vulnerable behavioral health populations including (but not limited to) those from historically marginalized communities, those with disabling and/or co-occurring health/behavioral health conditions, those with trauma, homelessness, substance use, and other chronic stress-related histories, and those facing daily social injustices, discrimination and microaggressions. Clinical mental health counselors work with individuals from a wide age range including transition-age youths to older adults.

Clinical mental health counseling students receive rigorous clinical training that is grounded in a pluralistic, social justice and advocacy orientation. Biopsychosocial diagnostic and classification systems are taught in concert with prevention, health promotion and wellness – all through the lens of each individual, family, and community’s intersecting cultural values and beliefs. The role of society and context are considered as important (if not more important) as individual functioning; thus, students are expected to address power, stigma and societal oppression on an individual and professional level. Clinical mental health counselor’s roles and functions extend beyond talk-therapy; CMHC counselors advocate for resources, access, healthcare, legal services, housing, and inter-professional treatment response. Students gain clinical case management skills and learn how to navigate a fragmented behavioral health care service delivery system. Self-awareness, self-appraising, and self-correction are fundamental to counselor growth and are assessed at regular points throughout the program. Knowledge area, models and orientations that guide our training program include:


  • Mental Health Recovery Model
  • World Health Organization International Classification of Health, functioning and Disability (ICF)
  • Behavioral Health and Behavioral Health Integration
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Prevention, Education, Health Promotion & Wellness
  • Cultural and Disability Competency
  • Social Justice & Advocacy Orientation
  • Clinical Case Management and Systems of Care
  • Sexuality, Sexual Health, LGBTQ+ & Intersectionality
  • “Housing First”
  • Harm Reduction
  • Population Health  
  • Evidence-Based Practices


Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC)

Students enrolled in the CMHC program as a specialization or emphasis are in a fully aligned Licensed Professional Clinical Counseling (LPCC) program that specifically positions them to obtain their LPCC. Our curriculum is aligned with the Board of Behavioral Health (BBS) requirements for the LPCC. According to the BBS, “Professional clinical counseling means the application of counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental, and emotional issues, including personal growth, adjustment to disability, crisis intervention, and psychosocial and environmental problems, and the use, application, and integration of the coursework and training required by Sections 4999.33. “Professional clinical counseling also includes conducting assessments for the purpose of establishing counseling goals and objectives to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior, and make well-informed, rational decisions” (BBS, Business & Professional Code, 2017).


LPCC Guidelines and Information


Important LPCC Links



COUN 700       Theories of Counseling & Psychotherapy                                                                 3

COUN 702       Developmental Foundations for Counselors                                                           3

COUN 703       Psychological Foundations for Counselors                                                              3

COUN 704       Biopsychosocial Aspects of Health, Behavioral Health, Aging & Disability    3

COUN 705       Supervision and Coaching                                                                                                 3         

COUN 706       Practicum and Counseling Process                                                                                3

COUN 715       Assessment in Counseling                                                                                                 3

COUN 720       Career Counseling                                                                                                                   3

COUN 736       Advanced Counseling Process and Internship                                                       3

COUN 737       Psychopharmacology                                                                                                           3

COUN 738       Addictions                                                                                                                                    3

COUN 741       Crisis Counseling                                                                                                                      3

COUN 794       Seminar in Research                                                                                                                 3

COUN 811       Group Counseling                                                                                                                     3

COUN 833       Social and Cultural Foundations                                                                                     3

COUN 857       Law and Ethics                                                                                                                            3

COUN 870       Professional Issues, Clinical Case Management & Systems of Care          3

COUN 890       Integrative Counseling & Internship                                                                            3

COUN 891       Case Studies & Internship                                                                                                  3

COUN 892       Culminating Experience Paper                                                                                        3

Total                                                                                                                                                                            60


CMHC Faculty

Julie Chronister, PhD, CRC, Professor & Coordinator

Sandra Fitzgerald, PhD, CRC, Assistant Professor

Melissa Lawton, MS, MFT, CRC, Adjunct Faculty


Career Outlook

The behavioral health workforce is one of the fastest growing workforces in the country. Employment projections for 2020 based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast a rise in employment for mental health counselors with a 36.3% increase from 2010 to 2020—greater than the 11% projected average for all occupations. This is based on an expected increase in insurance coverage for mental health and substance use services brought about by passage of health reform and parity legislation and the rising rate of military veterans seeking behavioral health services. There is a reported estimated shortage of 27,000 mental health counselors.  In California, a 2008 report found that the vacancy rate for mental health providers was 20-25%; these numbers are higher in rural areas. An influx of new students in the mental health professions will be needed in order to serve a growing number of Californians. In addition, a more diverse mental health workforce is desired in order to better reflect the increasing diversity in California’s population.


Mental Health Counselor Supply & Demand Websites


Clinical Mental Health Counseling Settings

  • County Behavioral Health Agencies
  • Community Based Organizations and Clinics
  • Substance Abuse Programs and Residential Facilities
  • Integrated health and behavioral health organizations
  • State and Federal Human Service Agencies
  • Hospital affiliated Programs
  • Private Practice
  • Veteran’s Administration
  • Population Specific Programs
  • Criminal Justice and correctional Facilities
  • Educational Settings


Professional and Related Organizations and Agencies


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