Master of Science in Counseling

Conceptual Framework

The Master of Science in Counseling program offers students a theory-practice integration model based on counseling and psychological principles while combining formal instruction with experiential learning. This 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 63 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-V 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 student learning objectives. The student learning objectives are to produce counselors who…

  • Knowledgeably apply professional ethical and legal standards in practice, and who exercise ethical and responsible conduct in their profession.
  • Integrate multicultural competence in counseling practice.
  • Promote resilience, optimal development, and wellness for their clients across the lifespan.
  • Recognize and skillfully navigate the intersections between mental well-being, work, relationships, and other life roles and factors.
  • Possess a broad knowledge of counseling theories, and capably apply theory to practice.
  • Achieve competence in clinical skills, including interviewing, counseling, and case conceptualization, in a variety of individual and group modalities.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct assessments for diagnosis and intervention planning purposes.
  • Comprehend research findings and their implications for practice.
  • Achieve and maintain a strong counselor identity through affiliation and engagement with professional organizations and professional service.

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 can customize their training with a curriculum dedicated to the following specialty areas:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling
  • School Counseling  
 Additionally, students can take courses in several elective concentrations to further enhance their knowledge, skills and marketability:

  • Addiction Counseling 
  • Child and Adolescent Counseling
  • Expressive Arts Therapies
  • LGBT Affirmative Therapy

Practicum and Internship
Practicum and internship courses are the capstone courses for all three specialties leading to professional licensure and/or certification and are designed to provide experience with real clients in a controlled supervised setting. The rigorous courses consist of a classroom component facilitated by an instructor with discussion of cases and structured activities based on real experiences; the experiential component of the courses are 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. Course 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 two-­fold 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 in Dallas and the SMU Center for Family Counseling at Frisco ISD.

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.