What are the Different Types of Counseling PhD Programs?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 January 2019
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There is a diverse variety of counseling PhD programs with many different titles and emphases, many of which will offer similar work opportunities. These programs may be offered online, many of them requiring some residency if they are accredited, or at a number of bricks and mortar universities. They can be further separated by the type of counseling emphasis sought, and some focus on the clinical practice of psychologists or other specialists, while others may focus on matters like school counseling or forensic psychology.

It’s noteworthy that people can earn different doctoral degrees in various counseling PhD programs. The two common separations are the PhD and Psy.D. The Psy.D is most attractive to those who want to be psychotherapists. Many PhDs also go into private practice. Sometimes, counseling PhD degrees may be earned with a doctorate in theology or ministry instead, and a few people who chose to be therapists earn a doctorate in social work (DSW), instead.

The expansive field of counseling PhD programs approaches counseling from numerous directions. As mentioned, some people become religious counselors and earn their PhD in theology, ministry, or pastoral or Christian counseling. The only proviso with these programs is that they don’t always lead to licenses to work as practicing psychologists. If people want to be licensed psychologists, they should look for schools with accreditation and approval from regional Behavioral Science licensing boards.


Other types of counseling PhD programs focus on academic advising or school counseling, and some programs in counseling are geared toward the practice of psychology in research or non-clinical ways. Virtually any PhD in psychology or Psy.D, when followed up with appropriate supervised practicum, and provided the degree is earned from an accredited school, will allow people to work as therapists. Similarly, the DSW meeting the same requirements offers this option to people as well.

An increasing number of counseling PhD programs are being offered online, and these usually are not accredited. This means they may not be a way to earn a counseling license. A number of schools have a combination online/offline learning setting, and this type of program could be a better choice.

Good counseling PhD programs should have numerous opportunities to learn how to counsel, and without this practical experience, the program may not be worth much practically or professionally. The hybrid online/offline program may be the best combination for people interested in some online studies because many of these programs are accredited and give students the opportunity for supervised practice. Of course, plenty of bricks and mortar universities have excellent programs too, and some have begun to develop hybrid programs that are attractive to working professionals.

It should also be noted that those interested in being a therapist don’t have to earn a PhD. Students could earn a master’s degree in licensed professional counseling or marriage and family therapy, or in social work. Any of these degrees can lead to a career in counseling.



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