More Than a Degree

 More Than a Degree

Union Institute’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program trains students for more than being a counselor

Corinne Minard

For Margaret Harris, who graduated from Union Institute & University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s program in April this year, the program was much more than a degree.

“I learned a few years back the ancient meaning of the word ‘educate,’ which is ‘to call forth,’ and that’s what they did. They really called forth what was inside of me and I felt really supported in that learning,” she says.

According to Rosalyn Y. Brown Beatty, director of the program, that’s all by design.

“I always tell people that although we’re an online program, we have really mastered the art of building relationships. There’s not a student that graduates from the program that I couldn’t tell you their spouse or significant other’s name, their child’s name, their pet’s name,” she says. “We talk a little bit more about the journey of being a counselor and how you balance life when that’s going on.”

In the program, which is designed for adult learners, students are encouraged to discuss what they’re passionate about and how to have a work-life balance in addition to their required courses.

That’s not the only way Union separates its program from others. For example, there is also a face-to-face component in addition to the online classes. Twice a year, its students come from across the country (Harris is based in Connecticut) to the Cincinnati location for a weeklong residency.

“It’s almost like it’s a mini conference that you will see on a national level but on a smaller scale, catering to around 30 adults,” says Brown Beatty. “We have our faculty do presentations on [their] areas of expertise. We also have our students do presentations when they are getting ready to graduate the program. And then we bring in local and national experts.”

The residency gives the students both a professional experience and a chance to directly engage with the students and faculty.

“There’s no doubt that what they offer at the residencies is the heart of the experience to me. It’s the community,” says Harris.

Another way Union separates itself is with its focus on social justice. For example, the program addresses the opioid crisis by including a certificate of drug and alcohol counseling embedded within the program. In addition, students are encouraged to look for ways to advocate for those who need help.

Union’s unique aspects have paid off—the program was recently accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). With accreditation, graduates will have an easier time getting licensed by a state.

“Every state has different requirements for licensure, but with CACREP … you can go to any state board and say that because I’m CACREP accredited you know that I have the courses that are needed for counseling,” says Brown Beatty. “In the state of Ohio, they recently changed their laws that anyone that wants to be licensed as a licensed professional counselor has to come from a CACREP accredited program.”

Harris is also a real believer in the program. “I’ve had such a positive experience in this program that my daughter who lives in Pennsylvania is registering now for the masters program,” she says.