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counselor at a table with students
counselor at a table with students
  • November 13, 2023
  • Marketing and Communications staff

A new master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) has been added to graduate program offerings at SUNY Fredonia in response to a growing demand for clinical mental health care counselors.

Virtual open houses for the program’s first cohort will be held in November and December, ahead of the start of classes on Jan. 22, 2024.

“We realized the pressing need in our region and in the state for licensed clinical mental health counselors, and we feel it’s integral to our mission as a state university to help fill that need,” said College of Education, Health Sciences, and Human Services Dean Janeil Rey.

An innovative low-residency hybrid format makes the program attractive and viable for professionals already working in counseling fields who want to open their own practice, as well as to career-changers wanting to enter another profession. Enrolled students can earn this advanced degree in counseling without leaving their current employment.

SUNY Fredonia graduates with bachelor’s degrees in psychology, social work or education can also earn this degree locally without having to enroll at another institution.

Students complete portions of the coursework asynchronously, online, attend once-a-month in-person weekend classes in Thompson Hall and engage in field work in clinical settings near their home. Courses are conducted in seven-week modules throughout the year – including the J-Term and summer sessions – so the degree can be completed in under three years. The program prepares students to sit for the New York State licensure exam to become licensed clinicians.

“When I came to campus in 2014, I was aware that so many of our students graduating in psychology would go into graduate programs in counseling or a related field somewhere else,” explained Vice  Provost Judith Horowitz, “and our community and our county need students to major in mental health counseling and stay in this area.”

“We’re very excited about this new program,” added Dr. Rey. “We wanted to develop a hybrid, low-residency approach – a mixture of online and coursework with the face-to-face touch point that is ideal for working professionals and mid-career changers. It provides the best of both worlds and has been proven to be an effective delivery system for adult learners.”

The program reflects SUNY Fredonia’s mission-driven strategy to develop “in-demand” academic programs, according to Dr. Horowitz, “especially at the graduate level where we have seen significant growth in online programs over the last few years.”

“SUNY Fredonia has been considering a master’s in clinical mental health counseling for many years, but this seemed like the right time to commit to this,” Rey noted. Horowitz recognizes President Stephen H. Kolison Jr. as a driving force that brought the program to fruition.

“I really am so grateful to President Kolison for hearing this idea and saying, ‘This is a great fit,’” Horowitz said.

As program director, Dr. Keith Klostermann, whose doctorate is in counselor education, brings extensive graduate-level experience in counseling education to the College of Education, Health Sciences, and Human Services, where the new program is housed. He has taught courses in a mental health counseling program that he founded, served as a director of training in a marriage and family therapy program and taught courses in mental health counseling at an online university. Klostermann, an assistant professor, will serve as coordinator and teach courses in the program. He worked closely with Horowitz and Rey to develop the program and usher it through various levels of approval.

“The idea of starting a program at the ground level was really exciting,” said Dr. Klostermann. “I found SUNY Fredonia’s leadership, faculty and the new program itself to be ideally suited for the local community.”

Designed to prepare individuals to become leaders and advocates in the field of mental health counseling, the CMHC program follows a nationally recognized curriculum aligned with national and state standards. Its 63 credits include course content in professional orientation and ethical practice, social and cultural diversity, human growth and development, career development, trauma-informed care, helping relationships, group work, assessment and research/program evaluation.

“People currently working in social service agencies may be interested in expanding their skill set and becoming licensed counselors,” Rey explained. Upon completion, graduates will be licensed to practice in agencies and private practice in New York state. State certifications in New York are well respected, Rey added, so reciprocal certification can be sought in other states.

Career opportunities can be found in counseling positions in private practice, in public and private counseling agencies, government service agencies, family court systems, college counseling centers and substance abuse centers. Horowitz described employment prospects as excellent.

Officials with Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene, an advocate for expanding mental health resources and education in the region, are elated to learn the program has been approved.

“This not only represents a monumental stride in addressing the growing need for qualified professionals in our field, but it also underscores the university’s commitment to fostering a future where mental wellness is prioritized,” said Carmelo Hernandez, Chautauqua County Director of Mental Hygiene and Commissioner of Social Services. “Together, we envision a stronger, more resilient community equipped with the knowledge and expertise to support one another.”

Chautauqua County has been designated as a Health Resources & Services Administration Health Professional Shortage Area. According to the Community Needs Assessment 2017 published by Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc., there are significant challenges in Chautauqua County in terms of health and mental health care access, exacerbated, in part, by a shortage of practitioners.

Admission requirements to the SUNY Fredonia program include a bachelor’s degree from an approved institution, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Undergraduate majors are in psychology, social work and education, among other disciplines.

The program has been approved by SUNY and the New York State Education Department and its Office of the Professions, which oversees the licensure of professions in the state.

SUNY Fredonia has also received support from SUNY to open a family counseling clinic on campus that would be accessible to the public, Rey added. The counseling clinic is to be equipped with state-of-the-art training equipment that allows M.S. CMHC students to receive an immersive, comprehensive training experience.

A 2025 opening of the clinic is anticipated.

To review additional information on the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, register for upcoming online information sessions or reach out to the Graduate Admissions Counselor Paul Starcher at (716) 673-3808 via email.