College of Education and Human Services

Graduate Studies for Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy Professionals

Department of Graduate Counseling

Cornett, Froman, Hastings, Hull (department head), Lampton, Oliver, R. Martin, Morgan, Phillips, Romig, Satterlee, D. Terrell, J. Terrell, White, Wingfield


The programs of the Department of Graduate Counseling are designed to prepare professionals for counseling and guidance in public and private elementary and secondary schools, community agencies, private agencies, hospitals, private practice, and ministry settings. Programs are offered in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy. A post-master's Graduate Certificate Program in Play Therapy is also offered. The Department of Graduate Counseling prepares men and women to become licensed therapy professionals by equipping them with the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that promote Christ-likeness and clinical expertise.

Graduate Counseling has defined its conceptual framework as Competence, Attitudes and Character, Relationships, and Essential knowledge (CARE). The purpose of the CARE conceptual framework is to prepare counselors who are competent, committed to Christ-like attitudes and characteristics, effective in the formation of relationships, and informed regarding the essential knowledge bases of the counseling profession.

The Graduate Counseling Program formally assesses student knowledge, skills, and dispositions as part of a process designed to provide formative feedback to students and summative feedback that can be used to evaluate the counseling program. The assessment system is part of on-going quality improvement efforts designed to meet the accreditation requirements set by the Higher Learning Commission mandating that all university degree programs measure student learning outcomes.

The faculty in the Graduate Counseling Program created a system of five “gates” for formally evaluating students, with formative feedback offered at several of the gates. Aggregated data for each gate is used to evaluate program strengths and areas of improvement.

Formal assessments occur at the following five gates:

Gate 1:  Admission

Gate 2:  Completion of 12 hours of course work (dispositions assessment)

Gate 3:  During pre-practicum and prior to entry into practicum 1 (dispositions assessment and basic interviewing skills assessment)

Gate 4:  Completion of practicum II and prior to entry into internship (dispositions assessment; assessment of counseling microskills for all students; assessment of basic marriage and family therapy skills for those in the marriage and family therapy degree)

Gate 5:  Final semester of the program prior to graduation (dispositions assessment; assessment of counseling microskills for all students; assessment of basic marriage and family therapy skills for those in the marriage and family therapy degree; exit examination)

The Graduate Counseling Program has a formal Remediation and Dismissal Policy for students who demonstrate a notable area of concern with regards to a disposition or sufficient skill deficiencies that would interfere with effective counseling. The policy is located in the Graduate School Student Guide.

Students who enter the Pre-Practicum class must complete a state and federal background check as part of the requirements of the lab. The results of the background check will be reviewed during the student’s faculty interview; any issues pertaining to the results will be addressed by the division faculty. All students must pass the background check prior to entering practicum/ internship in order to begin seeing clients. The results of the background check will remain in the student’s academic file. Students will not be allowed to enroll in practicum until the background check has been approved.

As part of the program review process, the Graduate Counseling Program is required to assess students’ acquisition of foundational knowledge for the profession. Graduating students will be required to complete exit exams appropriate to their degree. Aggregated scores from the exams provide program faculty with vital information for identifying which content areas students are learning well and where program improvements can be made. The data will be useful for improving the learning process for all students by providing information that will strengthen the Graduate Counseling Programs.

Several points should be noted:

  1. Students do not pass or fail the exit examinations. Completing the examination is a program review requirement, not a personal assessment. Individual results will not impact student grades or graduation.
  2. Results are not placed on transcripts, placed in student files, or reported to any licensing board. Personal results will be available to students, if desired.
  3. The exam is free of cost to students (financially) but will require a few hours of student time to complete.
  4. Students do not need to prepare for the exam.
  5. Students benefit by getting a free practice test that prepares them for the national exam. If desired, students will obtain their total score, as well as scores for each domain covered on the national exam. Results can serve as a guide for preparing for the national exam.
  6. The exams selected are similar to the national examinations required for licensure, covering all content area from the national exams with questions structured in a way similar to questions on the national exams.
  7. Examinations will be administered at the Rogers Center, the Fort Smith Center, and the Little Rock Center around the 10th week of the semester (fall and spring) and the 5th week of summer II.
  8. Graduating students will receive instructions for completing the examinations from the Counseling Department when they apply for graduation.
  9. Students in the community counseling and clinical mental health counseling programs will complete the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE). Students in the school counseling programs will complete the Praxis II Professional School Counselor Exam. Students in the marriage and family therapy program will complete the MFT practice exam available from the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). Students with dual majors will complete both exams.

All students must complete the total required client hours in their respective degree in order to exit Internship II. If the total hours are not completed by the end of the semester then the student will be given an “Unsatisfactory” for Internship II during that semester. They must re-enroll in Internship II in subsequent semesters until the total client contact hours are completed in order to exit the Internship and graduate.

The Department of Graduate Counseling offers major degree options in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy. Students can opt to take one or both majors and upon completion, all majors will appear on the student’s diploma. Students have the option of adding the Play Therapy emphasis and the School Counseling major to their degree plan.