Master of Science in Counseling

Conceptual Framework

The Master of Science in Counseling program (Counseling Program) offers students a theory-practice integration model based on counseling and psychological principles while combining formal instruction with experiential learning. This dual-curriculum model includes course instruction designed to meet or exceed the current requirements for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and certification as a School Counselor in the state of Texas; the opportunity for licensure as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor is also available. The Master of Science in Counseling degree requires 60 credit hours for completion.

Students are encouraged to distill and define their own individual theories and styles from their study of therapeutic pluralism offered in the department. Rather than an eclectic approach, the goal is an integrated theory resulting from the development and refinement of basic counseling skills and techniques through practice and role-play. Faculty seek to challenge, nurture, and model for developing counselors those skills that prepare them as successful practitioners.

The Counseling Program faculty members incorporate multiple orientations encouraging students to explore a wide range of theoretical perspectives and to adopt and develop a preferred counseling approach. Students are introduced to the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic class of therapies with their emphasis on inner subjective states, unconscious motivation, childhood experience, and appropriate expression of feelings. These foundational Freudian and neo-Freudian concepts profoundly affect the thinking and practice of mental health professionals. Students also experience cognitive approaches that view people as dynamic, insightful, and driven by internal mental states as they learn, structure, and store knowledge as found in the works of Neisser, Piaget, Chomsky, and others. Behavioral conceptualizations often blend with the cognitive therapies as found in the cognitive behavioral therapeutic approaches of Beck and others. Students benefit from existentialist ideas that examine commonalities in the human condition as theorized by May, Frankl, and Yalom. Students examine Adlerian principles that support and encourage individuals as they strive for self-actualization, meaningful interpretation of life events, and goal-directed changes through connection with others. Students utilize humanistic tenets that uphold the individual as the center of our efforts with congruence and acceptance founded in the beliefs of Rogers, Patterson, and Allport.

Additionally, students explore Systems Theory in addressing family, couples, and family of origin dynamics that value the interconnectedness of human community reflected in the works of Bowen, Haley, Minuchin, White, DeShazer, and others. The expanding disciplines of psychopathology, abnormal psychology, and knowledge of the DSM IV-TR diagnostic categories, as well as psychopharmacological treatments, are presented as core material for students to study. Finally, the vast world of professional codes of ethics, professional standards, jurisprudence, and family law are also part of the student experience. All of these approaches, within the curriculum design, target specific educational objectives.

Educational Objectives

  • To provide a rich and meaningful educational experience in counseling that will equip graduates with foundational skills, critical thinking ability, dedication to their profession, and a love of lifelong learning
  • To prepare and assist graduates for employment, licensure, and certification by meeting the standards as set by the appropriate licensing or accrediting agency
  • To inspire graduates to be advocates for their clients and leaders in their profession
  • To encourage patience, sensitivity, and understanding in the delivery of counseling services to diverse communities
  • To display a commitment to ethical service as professional practitioners
  • To value research as a guide to an increasing array of effective data-based counseling techniques and as a contribution to the body of knowledge that continually expands and enriches counseling education
  • To expose students to multimedia and technology tools for use in training research, professional development, and in-service to clients.

To achieve these objectives, students follow a rigorous curriculum utilizing theoretical and applied approaches to counseling with particular emphasis on personal growth through experiential activities. Students have a unique opportunity to avail themselves of various electives courses, including several through the Conflict Resolution and Mediation program. These electives provide the opportunity to develop expertise in resolving conflict which often precipitates counseling.

In order to prepare students for the multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving in the contemporary world, they experience classes taught not only by regular SMU faculty but also adjuncts who are psychiatrists, lawyers, Licensed Professional Counselors, psychologists, school counselors, social workers, and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. Students begin their training as counselors with a robust core curriculum focused on major counseling theories, key human development features, necessary ethical guidelines for mental health professionals, basic characteristics of psychopathology, valuable understanding of diverse communities, and essential research and psychometric concepts. Included in this core is preliminary instruction on applied counseling techniques. Students continue their training with a curriculum dedicated to the following specialized skill sets:

  • Licensed Professional Counselor
    Specialization in preparation for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor incorporates coursework in individual and group counseling methods including electives in advanced counseling methods and specific populations. This training, combined with career counseling instruction, prepares students for a required 700 hours of practicum/internship experience. Students participate in supervised formal counseling sessions with clients from the general public through the Annette Caldwell Simmons Center for Family Counseling.
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    Specialization in preparation for licensure as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist incorporates coursework in understanding family dynamics, systems, marital and partner relationships, as well as concepts in sexual therapy. The required practicum/internship experience of 700 hours allows students to participate in supervised formal counseling sessions with families in the general public through the Annette Caldwell Simmons Center for Family Counseling and Internships I and II within the surrounding community over a twelve-month period.
  • School Counselor Certification
    Specialization in preparation for certification as a School Counselor incorporates coursework in individual and group counseling methods and delivery of a developmental guidance program for grades PreK-5 or 6-12. Students receive training in educational assessment interpretation, career counseling, and focused population studies for elementary or secondary grades. Students participate in a supervised 700-hour Practicum with clients from the general public through the Annette Caldwell Simmons Center for Family Counseling, followed by Internships I and II through two terms in schools within area school districts.

Practica (Internships)
Practica are the capstone courses for all three tracks to professional licensure and/or certification and is designed to provide experience with real clients in a controlled supervised setting. The rigorous practica consist of a classroom component facilitated by an instructor with discussion of cases and structured activities based on real experiences; the experiential component of practicum is achieved by fulfilling the appropriate board required hours through client service delivery at the Center for Family Counseling and/or an approved off-site agency placement. Practica design allows students to weave together theory, technique, and skills through self-assessment, peer and instructor feedback, and supervised practice. The Center for Family Counseling has a two­fold purpose: community service for Plano area families, and a teaching center for counseling students who are becoming professional practitioners. The Center for Family Counseling serves area families while providing a state of the art facility for the culmination of counselor training. The Counseling program also staffs and supports an internship component for our students at the Resource Center Dallas; this is, in essence, an extension of the Center for Family Counseling.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) will not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, education activity, or admissions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information, or veteran status. SMU's commitment to equal opportunity includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.