About the Clinical Mental Health Counseling, M.S.
The mission of the Counselor Education Program is to facilitate a holistic educational experience, through which students develop personal and professional qualities, competencies, ethical judgment, and spiritual awareness, as they prepare for professional service in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or for advanced study in a related field.
As a distinctly Christian and clinically professional institution, the Palm Beach Atlantic University Counselor Education program will:
- nurture compassionate and culturally sensitive counselors who have the knowledge and skills to increase self-efficacy to integrate faith and spirituality into their professional practice. Through a curriculum grounded in ethical principles and inclusive practices.
- provide academic, cross-cultural, ethical, and dispositional training for students to attain counseling competencies. At least 80% of students will meet expectations as indicated by the PDCA-R
- prepare graduates to form a distinct professional identity and practice as counselors by actively participating in the counseling field. Alumni will pursue professional licensure or certification within one year of graduation at an 80% rate.
The heritage of Christian faith expressed in the University’s values and the knowledge discovered within the counseling and helping professions have shaped the Counselor Education Program’s “distinctively Christian and clinically professional” identity. Through a rigorous academic curriculum, field-based experiential learning, personal growth experiences, and close mentoring relationships with highly skilled faculty, students are prepared to enter the field of professional counseling in a wide variety of settings, including schools and universities, community agencies, private practices, humanitarian, and government agencies.
Located in culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse South and Central Florida, PBA’s counseling program attracts and serves a diverse student body representative of the local demographics.
The Counselor Education Program offers graduate studies in these specializations (tracks):
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC)
- Crisis and Trauma Counseling Concentration
- Marriage and Family Therapy Studies Concentration
- Play Therapy Concentration
- Counseling in School Settings Concentration
Certificates (available to Non-degree seeking students):
- Crisis and Trauma Counseling Certificate
- Play Therapy Graduate Certificate
- Counseling in School Settings Certificate
- Marriage and Family Therapy studies Certificate
Addictions: The Counselor Education Program provides interested students with academic training in substance abuse counseling. The CAP (Certified Addiction Professional) designation is a professional substance abuse credential for people who assess, develop, and provide substance abuse treatment services and plans.
NOTE: The Counselor Education Program does not directly certify individuals in addiction counseling; however, it helps fulfill the educational requirement toward CAP.
- Earn a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution
- Achieve undergraduate minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale with exceptions, on a case-by-case basis
- Online application
- Official transcript from college/university where bachelor’s degree was conferred and from college/university where prerequisite courses were taken
- Two confidential recommendation forms
- Essay (prompt provided)
- Faculty Interview
Note: Admission decision recommendations are made by the Counselor Education Program’s Faculty Selection Committee and include consideration of each applicant’s articulation of career goals, record of academic achievement, relevant preparation and experience, potential success in becoming a counselor, and attitude of openness to diverse cultures and people.
Statement of Diversity: PBA complies with all applicable federal and state nondiscrimination laws and does not engage in unlawful discrimination on the basis of age, gender, disability, veteran status, race, color or national origin in any employment practice, admissions, education program or educational activity. This nondiscrimination policy covers admissions, employment and access to and treatment in University programs, services and activities.
To begin the application process, go to apply.pba.edu/apply.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Create an account to create a new application. You will then take the following steps:
- Create a new graduate application
- Select West Palm Beach OR Orlando as the campus/location
- Select the Counseling degree as the focus
- Select your entry term and year (Spring starts in January, Summer starts in May, and Fall starts in August).
- Fill in your personal information.
- Fill in contact information for recommendations. They will receive an email with instruction on submitting recommendations.
- Submit the application.
- After submission, a checklist will populate that keeps you abreast of your progress toward the completion of your application. It will alert you once your transcripts and recommendations have been received.
- Use the provided hyperlink to complete the required essay
- Fully completed applications will be reviewed and interviews scheduled. See the interview schedule below.
- Admission decisions will be communicated to applicants within 72 hours of interviews.
Interview Session Schedule:
9:45 – 10 a.m.– Complimentary coffee/tea (optional).
10 a.m. – Group Interview Session
- Introductions of faculty and all attendees
- PowerPoint presentation by faculty providing an overview of the program (specialization, concentrations, clinical experience, required courses, other assessments, class schedule, etc.)
- Individual interview with a program faculty member
1:00 p.m. – Conclusion of interview session
Students choose one of three specializations to complete the MS in Counseling degree. Specific courses required for each individual specialization can be found in the PBA Catalog.
- Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization: Successful completion of the prescribed curriculum of 60 credit hours with a 3.0 cumulative GPA and a grade of “B” or higher in COU 5133 – Counseling Skills and Characteristics, COU 5123 – Legal, Ethical, and Professional Standards, and COU 5263 – Diagnosis and Treatment in Counseling, as well as practicum and internship courses; 700 hours of supervised practicum and internship under a supervisor approved by the program faculty; and an exit exam.
- School Counseling specialization: Successful completion of the prescribed curriculum of 60 credit hours with a 3.0 cumulative GPA and a grade of “B” or higher in COU 5133 – Counseling Skills and Characteristics, COU 5123 – Legal, Ethical, and Professional Standards, and COU 5233 – Psychosocial Issues of Childhood and Adolescence, as well as practicum and internship courses; 700 hours of supervised practicum and internship under a supervisor approved by the program faculty; and an exit exam.
Note: In addition to the graduation requirements specific to each major, student performance is assessed throughout the program in key performance indicators, overall progress, and professional dispositions, as outlined in the Counselor Education Handbook.
Instruction is primarily offered in a traditional, residential format, with select courses being offered online. Courses specific to the Crisis and Trauma Counseling concentration and certificate program are offered entirely online. The Play Therapy concentration and certificate program courses are offered residentially, in a traditional setting. All programs, concentrations and certificates are available at both locations (West Palm Beach and Orlando).
Students can expect different forms of formative and summative assessment including but not limited to quizzes, exams, lecture, small-group discussion, presentations, research papers, role-plays, field experiences, and engagement in Canvas (PBA’s learning management system).
Learn more about your classes and requirements in the course catalog.
Based on the student data from the 2017 cohort completion rate and credentialing exams:
Using state licensure verification tools, provided by Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling, it was determined that 35/64 students obtained a license from the state of Florida. Some graduates were indicated as deceased, and some have remained registered interns – yet to be licensed. It is not known, at this time, how many (might) have sought/obtained a license in other states. Future outcome surveys will more accurately track this data, and also provide job placement rates.
Using the standard 150% model for reporting completion rates of students, the following represents the most recent Palm Beach Atlantic University Clinical Mental Health Counseling completion rate.
For the 2017 CMH Cohort, 20 students graduated within 150% of normal time to graduate and 4 did not (83% vs 17%). This is counting any student who started in 2017 under CMH and finished their master’s degree within 150% time. Not all finished under CMH but they did finish at PBA. The breakdown of programs completed by the CMH 2017 Cohort is as follows:
Job Placement Rates:
Based on the NACE First-Destination Survey Template, for the class of 2020-21: of the 22 graduates, 8 reported to be employed (6 in full-time and 2 in part-time employment), earning an average salary of $45,000 annually. These outcomes are commensurate to the university’s Business Administration master’s program which reported the same number of graduates and employment rates.
Palm Beach Atlantic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The PBA M.S. degree in Counseling (specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling) is designed to meet the current academic requirements for the state of Florida to pursue a license as a mental health counselor or certification as a school counselor, respectively. Licensure/certification varies from state to state and graduates should be prepared to abide by additional requirements when seeking licensure/certification in a state other than Florida.
In addition, the Counselor Education program is making significant progress toward applying for accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As such, the program curriculum and objectives are aligned with the eight core counseling standards and program-specific standards found in the 2016 CACREP Standards. Furthermore, students are evaluated on each of these standards throughout the course of the program. This evaluation process is outlined in the Student Evaluation and Review section of the Counselor Education Handbook. The 2016 CACREP Standards can be found at https://www.cacrep.org/for-programs/2016-cacrep-standards .
Chart Your Path. Launch Your Future.
Faculty & Staff
- Lindsay Allen, Ph.D.*
- Jeremy Bonta, Ph.D. LMHC-S*
- Stephan Brown Ph.D. LMHC-S*
- Devie Forrester, Ed.D., Certified School Counselor*
- Philip J. Henry, Ph.D., Psychologist, Qualified Supervisor MHC*
- Kathryn Iandoli, Ph.D., LMHC*
- Ana Jamarillo deGraham, Ph.D.*
- Joann Kutsukos, Ph.D. LMHC-S*
- Laura Rendon Finnell, LMHC-S, NCC, CCMHC
- Larry E. Shyers, Ph.D., LMHC-S, NCC*
- Steven Vensel, Ph.D., LCSW*
*Program core faculty
- Renee Risnear, Secretary, School of Education and Behavioral Studies
- Nicole Figueroa, Orlando Faculty Secretary
- Keith Dawson, Coordinator, Graduate Evening Online Student Services
Program Director | Devie Forrester
Co-Chair, West Palm Beach campus | Phil Henry
Co-Chair, Orlando campus | Larry Shyers
Clinical Director | Laura Rendon Finnell