School of Education

Master of Science in Education – Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Graduate Degree Program

With just the right mix of online coursework, weekly live video classes, and a seven-day, in-person summer residency, BVU’s flexible two-year online/hybrid master’s program provides students with the skills necessary to become effective clinical mental health counselors. As the first program of its size to gain CACREP accreditation in Iowa, graduates with a master’s in clinical mental health counseling pursue a variety of positions at mental health agencies, college campuses, or in private practice.

woman talking to female patient

CACREP Accredited

Buena Vista University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). 

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Why Should I Choose a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from BVU?

BVU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling master's program prepares students to address the growing need for accessible, professional mental health services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers within mental health counseling are projected to significantly grow over the next decade. This program is CACREP-accredited and meets the requirements for Iowa professional licensure under section 31.6(2) of the Bureau of Professional Licensure of the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science. 

This 24-month program is offered through our online/hybrid format. Classwork is completed online through Canvas, combined with one class meeting in the evening each week via Zoom. Classes begin in July with online assignments combined with a week-long, face-to-face summer residency held during the first and second summers of enrollment in Storm Lake. Room and board is available for a nominal fee.

To meet the requirements to become a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, students must have a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Students have the option of testing 90 days before completing the program. Additionally, as a CACREP-accredited program, the six-week review process confirming degree requirements is waived, allowing BVU students the opportunity to enter their field soon after graduating.

  • Program Syllabi
  • Annual Executive Report
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling 2019 Vital Statistics

Applications Accepted on a Rolling Basis

Our next cohort starts July 2023. Apply now! 

Dr. Katie Ruscitto works with a counseling client.

Learn About Earning Your Master's

Discover more about BVU's master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from the Program Director. See how you can reach your goals by becoming a mental health counselor with a degree from BVU. 

American Counseling Association

Buena Vista University counseling students are trained according to the ethics and professional identity outlined by the American Counseling Association (ACA) and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.

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Internship & Practicum Placements

Our students in the clinical mental health master's degree program enjoy practicum and internship placements at a variety of organizations across the state of Iowa. 

  • See our practicum & internship placements

On-Campus Residency

Face-to-Face Experience and Skill Building

As part of our clinical mental health counseling programs, students take part in a week-long clinical skill-building residency at our beautiful campus on the shores of Storm Lake, Iowa. This week of learning is one of the highlights of the program, when students get to know others in their cohort and gain experience working on in-person skills with classmates.

Grad students enjoy their residency

Continuing Education Opportunities

Buena Vista University’s Graduate Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program is an Approved Continuing Education Provider (ACEP) through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). As a newly-approved provider, our program offers regular continued education presentations both remotely and on our Storm Lake campus. Social workers and licensed marriage and family therapists are also invited to attend these presentations to meet state requirements for continuing education.

Counseling session
Alaina Ellington

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BVU instructors are so supportive. They’ve all given me great feedback and challenged me to promote my growth in the counseling world.

Program Mission, Vision, and Values

Counseling Program Vision 

The BVU Counseling program prepares a community of ethically- and culturally-competent, trauma-informed practitioners who promote wellbeing by empowering individuals and families across the lifespan, challenging inequities, and contributing to the counseling profession and society in meaningful ways.

Counseling Program Mission 

The BVU Clinical Mental Health Counseling program provides innovative, accessible, and student-centered education rooted in best practice and nationally recognized counselor education standards, as outlined by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). We prepare students to become licensed professional counselors who are engaged practitioners, leaders, and social change agents.

Counseling Program Objectives 

The BVU Counseling Program seeks: 

  • To provide accessible education through diverse digital delivery methods, including synchronous and asynchronous instruction in online environments and two week-long face-to-face residency components.
  • To educate scholar-practitioners who understand and incorporate current research into counseling practice.  
  • To take a strengths-based, trauma-informed approach to remedying challenges identified in our work.
  • To educate scholar-practitioners who will serve as active professionals, advocates, and leaders for the counseling profession and the clients, communities, and institutions they serve.
  • To build a foundation for cultural reflectivity and social advocacy practice.
  • To encourage curiosity, build critical thinking skills, and enhance awareness of self and others.
  • To engage in regular evaluation of student and program practices to respond to ongoing innovations and needs when they are identified in the field.
  • To value and build upon the diversity of student experiences and backgrounds.

Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE)

Students who are enrolled in the 60-credit Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program must successfully pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) before they continue into their internship experience. The CPCE consists of the 8 core counseling knowledge areas: 

  1. GMHC 529 Human Growth and Development
  2. GMHC 544 Social and Cultural Diversity
  3. GMHC 546 Counseling and Helping Relationships
  4. GMHC 548 Group Counseling
  5. GMHC 549 Career Development
  6. GMHC 510 Assessment and Testing
  7. GMHC 525 Research and Program Evaluation 
  8. GMHC 519 Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice 

The Buena Vista University Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program utilizes the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), published by the Center for Credentialing and Education Inc. (CCE), which is an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors Inc. (NBCC).  

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Courses & Application Requirements

Our comprehensive M.S.Ed. curriculum will prepare students for practice, by developing skills in counseling assessments, research, and advanced counseling practices. Through supervised practicums, students will graduate with hands-on experiences that will prepare them for the real world of counseling. 

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling Courses
  • Application Requirements

Your Support Staff

Kelli Cameron
Kelli Cameron
Student Success Specialist, Graduate Programs
Meet Kelli
Director of Graduate Programs
Deb Lenhart
Director of Graduate Programs
Meet Deb
Ashleigh Pipes
Ashleigh Pipes
Graduate Financial Specialist
Meet Ashleigh

Your Faculty

Dr. Kathleen Ruscitto
Dr. Kathleen Ruscitto
Director of Mental Health Counseling Programs
Meet the Professor
Dr. Macie Stead
Dr. Macie Stead
Assistant Professor of Counselor Education
Meet the Professor
Dr. Breanne Thomas
Dr. Breanne Thomas
Adjunct Professor in School of Education- Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Meet the Professor

Financial Aid

We have advisors readily available to help you with your financial assistance options.

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No GRE Required

BVU does not require students to take the GRE for admission — saving you time and money.

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