Top 10 Counseling Training Programs For Mental Health Professionals

By Jared Levenson - Updated, Reviewed, and Fact-checked on September 5, 2023

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As an aspiring counselor or a seasoned professional looking to advance in the field, choosing the right counseling training program is a crucial step in your career journey.

Your path can significantly influence your career trajectory, shaping your professional skills and your impact on people’s lives.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the top counseling training programs! While there are many types of counseling training available, we’ll focus on professionals who already have degrees in this article.

We aim to equip you with the necessary information to make an informed choice that aligns with your career aspirations and personal commitments.

This article will explore each program’s unique features, benefits, and potential drawbacks.

Defining Counseling Training Programs

Counseling training programs are comprehensive educational courses designed to equip individuals with the knowledge, skills, and competencies to provide practical mental health support.

These programs can take various forms, including undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, professional certificates, and continuing education courses.

Here’s a brief overview of what these programs generally entail:

  1. Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees: These are typically comprehensive programs that provide a broad counseling theory and practice foundation. They often include supervised clinical practice components.
  2. Professional Certificates: These are usually shorter, more focused programs designed for individuals who already hold a degree in counseling or a related field and wish to specialize in a particular area.
  3. Continuing Education Courses: These are often shorter courses aimed at practicing counselors who wish to update their skills or learn about new developments in the field.

Choosing the right counseling training program depends on your career goals, existing qualifications, and personal preferences.

In this article, we’ll focus on professional certifications and continuing education courses.

Impact on Career Prospects and Professional Growth

Professional development is an integral part of career growth. It allows you to keep learning, stay relevant, and strive toward your career goals.

Here’s how a chosen program can influence your career:

  1. Career Opportunities: Research shows that higher education often creates more job opportunities. This is especially true in counseling, where specific training can open doors to specialized roles.
  2. Career Satisfaction: Increased job satisfaction is often linked to career growth and development. You will likely find more happiness and motivation in your work when you’re equipped with the right skills and knowledge.
  3. Career Advancement: Professional growth strategies, such as pursuing a higher degree or specialized certification, can lead to career advancement opportunities. This could mean higher salaries, more respect, and more exciting projects.
  4. Career Planning: A chosen program can provide a roadmap for your future, helping you make well-informed decisions about your career.

Remember, your choice of a counseling training program is a significant one. It’s about more than just the curriculum; it’s about how that program aligns with your career goals and can help you realize your potential.

Top 10 Counseling Training Programs for Professionals

Choosing the right counseling training program is a pivotal step in your journey as a mental health professional.

Here are some of the top ten programs to consider, each with its own unique strengths and focus areas:

  1. Counseling Children and Adolescents Certificate: Offered by Penn State World Campus, this online program explores the techniques for counseling young individuals in a variety of settings. More info
    • Pros: Online format allows for flexibility, focusing on a specialized counseling area.
    • Cons: May not cover all areas of general counseling.
    • Cost: Approximately $924 per credit hour.
    • Type: Certificate Course
    • For Who: Professionals looking to specialize in child and adolescent counseling.
  2. Professional Counseling Certificate: The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers this certificate to help professionals enhance their counseling skills and knowledge. More info
    • Pros: Enhances professional counseling skills, offered by a reputable university.
    • Cons: Limited to general counseling techniques.
    • Cost: Approximately $1650.
    • Type: Certificate Course
    • For Who: Professionals wanting to enhance their general counseling skills.
  3. Substance Abuse Counselor Certificate Program: UCSD Extension provides this program to train professionals to meet the increasing need for substance abuse counselors. More info
    • Pros: Addresses a high-demand area of counseling and provides practical training.
    • Cons: Very specific focus may not appeal to all.
    • Cost: Approximately $4,825.
    • Type: Certificate Course
    • For Who: Professionals looking to specialize in substance abuse counseling.
  4. Trauma Counseling Certificate: Edinboro University’s online program equips professionals with the skills to support trauma survivors. More info
    • Pros: Online program, offers specialized knowledge in trauma counseling.
    • Cons: Doesn’t cover other areas of counseling.
    • Cost: Approximately $500 per credit hour.
    • Type: Certificate Course
    • For Who: Professionals interested in trauma counseling.
  5. Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP): Offers continuing education training for therapists, focusing on energy psychology. More info
    • Pros: Unique focus on energy psychology, provides continuing education credits.
    • Cons: Some may find the focus on energy psychology too niche.
    • Cost: Varies depending on the course.
    • Type: Continuing Education
    • For Who: Therapists seeking to learn about energy psychology.
  6. AEDP Institute: Provides continuing education training for therapists, with a focus on Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy. More info
    • Pros: Offers training in a unique psychotherapy approach, provides continuing education credits.
    • Cons: The specific focus may not appeal to all.
    • Cost: Varies depending on the course.
    • Type: Continuing Education
    • For Who: Therapists interested in Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy.
  7. Gottman Method Couples Therapy Level 1 Training: This online training by The Gottman Institute is designed for professionals who want to improve their work with couples. More info
    • Pros: Specializes in couples therapy, based on extensive research.
    • Cons: Only covers couples therapy.
    • Cost: $199 for self-study, $399 for live online training.
    • Type: Professional Training
    • For Who: Professionals wanting to improve their work with couples.
  8. Motivational Interviewing Training: Offered by PESI, this online course helps professionals learn and implement motivational interviewing techniques. More info
    • Pros: Helps professionals implement motivational interviewing techniques, can be accessed online.
    • Cons: Focuses only on motivational interviewing.
    • Cost: $2967.77 for digital seminar.
    • Type: Professional Training
    • For Who: Professionals wanting to learn motivational interviewing techniques.
  9. Yale School of Medicine: Offers a variety of continuing education courses for mental health professionals, including a course on cognitive behavioral therapy. More info
    • Pros: Offers a variety of courses, backed by a prestigious institution.
    • Cons: Courses may be more academic and less practice-focused.
    • Cost: Varies depending on the course.
    • Type: Continuing Education
    • For Who: Mental health professionals seeking further education.
  10. Harvard Medical School: Provides a range of continuing education programs, such as “Treating the Addictions,” which focuses on addiction treatment strategies. More info
    • Pros: Variety of programs, backed by a prestigious institution.
    • Cons: Cost may be prohibitive for some.
    • Cost: Varies depending on the program.
    • Type: Continuing Education
    • For Who: Professionals seeking advanced knowledge in specific areas such as addiction treatment.

Remember, the best program for you will align with your career goals and personal circumstances. Take the time to research each option thoroughly, considering factors such as curriculum, faculty, cost, and delivery format.


Here are some key advantages that these programs offer:

  1. Increased Job Opportunities: A degree or certification in counseling can open doors to various roles in the mental health field.
  2. Preparation for Specialized Careers: Certain programs offer specialized tracks, preparing you for specific career paths such as school counseling or marriage and family therapy.
  3. Professional Development: Through these programs, you gain new skills and insights, equipping you for future challenges in your career.
  4. Networking Opportunities: Being part of a program allows you to connect with like-minded individuals, expanding your professional network.
  5. Personal Growth: The journey through a counseling program often leads to personal growth, enhancing qualities like empathy and resilience.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Selecting the Right Program Based on Your Needs and Goals

Choosing the right counseling training program can feel like a daunting task. However, it becomes much easier with a systematic approach and a clear understanding of your needs and goals.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this process:

Step 1: Define Your Career Goals Start by clearly articulating what you want to achieve in your career. This could involve working with specific populations, focusing on certain mental health issues, or reaching a particular role in the field.

Step 2: Identify Your Needs. Next, consider what you need from a program to reach your goals. This could include cost, flexibility, delivery format (online vs. in-person), and duration.

Step 3: Research Programs Once you’ve defined your goals and needs, research programs that align with them. Look at the curriculum, faculty, reputation, and alumni success stories.

Step 4: Compare Programs After gathering information, compare the programs using a consistent set of criteria. This will help you evaluate how well each program aligns with your needs and goals.

Step 5: Seek Advice. Don’t hesitate to contact current students, alumni, or faculty of the programs you’re considering. They can provide valuable insights and firsthand experiences.

Step 6: Make a Decision Finally, based on your research and comparisons, make a decision. Remember, there’s no perfect choice—every program has strengths and weaknesses. The best program for you is the one that aligns most closely with your needs and goals.

Remember, this is a significant step in your journey to becoming a mental health professional. Take your time, research, and trust yourself to make the best decision for your future.

Anticipating and Answering Common Questions About Counseling Training Programs

Pursuing a counseling training program is a significant decision, often accompanied by numerous questions.

We’ve compiled answers to common questions to help you navigate this process more smoothly.

What is CACREP accreditation, and why is it important?

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is a recognized accrediting body for counseling programs. CACREP accreditation ensures that the program meets the high standards set by the profession and can be crucial for licensure and employment.

Can I become certified after completing the program?

Most counseling programs prepare students for certification exams in their respective states. However, certification requirements vary by state, so it’s advisable to check the specific needs of your state’s licensing board.

What is the difference between counseling and social work?

While both fields aim to help people overcome life’s challenges, they approach it from different perspectives. Counseling focuses more on assisting individuals to manage specific issues or disorders, whereas social work often addresses broader social issues impacting mental health.

Does cognitive therapy involve medications?

Cognitive therapy typically focuses on changing thought patterns to improve mental health. While a therapist may suggest considering medication, they cannot prescribe it. You would have this conversation with a psychiatrist or primary care doctor.

Can I complete the program in less than three years?

The duration of counseling programs varies, but most master’s programs require two to three years of full-time study. Some programs may offer accelerated options, but these usually take two years.

Making an informed decision about your education is crucial. Always feel free to ask questions and seek advice from professionals. Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question regarding your future.


Choosing a counseling training program is a significant decision that can shape your professional journey.

Remember, the best counseling program for you will align with your career goals, learning style, and personal commitments.

As you consider these top ten programs, think about what you want your future counseling practice to look like.

Do you envision yourself in a school setting supporting students’ mental health? Or perhaps in a private practice, assisting individuals and families through challenging life transitions?

Consider the factual information about each program and how each aligns with your passion for helping others. This alignment could be the key to a fulfilling and rewarding career in counseling. To learn more about training, you may read our other articles covering neuroscience, anxiety training, therapist training, PTSD therapist training, and EFT tapping certification.

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