mental health counseling certificate programs

The field of counseling is a growing discipline. The idea of people seeking help with personal issues is becoming more common and less stigmatized. A growing need for well-trained counselors has led to an increase in accessible training. This includes online counseling certificate programs from accredited colleges in the United States. The programs listed below cover a variety of counseling certifications, education levels and prerequisite requirements. Certificates listed include counseling specializations like:

  • Certificates in Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Family and Couples Counseling
  • School Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Bereavement and Trauma Counseling 

This list includes 19 online programs for working professionals plus one affordable on-campus program. Included in our list are certificates for post-master’s and post-bachelor’s. It also includes stand alone certificates with minimal prerequisite requirements. Prospective students should contact their state to inquire about licensing requirements. 

Can I Get a Certificate in Counseling?

Counseling is a profoundly rewarding field that allows individuals to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. Many people are drawn to counseling because they want to help those in need, offer emotional support, and provide guidance through life’s challenges. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in counseling, you may be wondering whether you can get a certificate in counseling and how to go about it.

In this article, we’ll explore the various options for obtaining a counseling certificate, including programs available near you, free online mental health certificate courses, and the possibility of earning a graduate certificate in mental health counseling online.

Counseling Certificate Programs Near Me

One of the first steps to consider when pursuing a counseling certificate is to explore programs available in your local area. Counseling certificate programs are often offered by colleges, universities, and vocational schools. These programs can vary in duration and focus, but they generally cover the fundamental principles and techniques required for effective counseling.

When searching for counseling certificate programs near you, it’s essential to consider factors such as program accreditation, faculty qualifications, and the specific type of counseling you’re interested in. For example, some programs specialize in substance abuse counseling, while others may focus on family or marriage counseling.

Attending a program in your vicinity can offer benefits such as face-to-face interactions with instructors and the opportunity to build a network with local professionals in the field. Keep in mind that the availability of such programs may vary depending on your location, so it’s crucial to conduct thorough research to find suitable options.

Free Mental Health Certificate Programs Online

In recent years, online education has become increasingly popular, offering flexible options for individuals seeking to earn a counseling certificate. While many accredited programs require tuition, there are also free mental health certificate programs available online.

These free online courses often cover introductory topics related to mental health and counseling. They may not provide the same depth of knowledge or practical experience as a formal paid program, but they can serve as an excellent starting point for those interested in the field. Some universities and organizations offer these courses to promote mental health awareness and education.

These free mental health certificate programs can be especially valuable for those looking to explore the field before committing to a paid program or for individuals seeking to supplement their existing skills and knowledge. Keep in mind that while these courses may not lead to a formal certification, they can still be a valuable resource for personal and professional development.

Free Mental Health Certificate Courses

In addition to full-fledged programs, there are numerous free mental health certificate courses available online. These courses are typically shorter in duration and cover specific aspects of mental health and counseling. They are ideal for individuals looking to gain knowledge in a particular area without committing to a more extensive program.

The topics covered in these free courses can vary widely. Some might focus on crisis counseling, while others delve into cognitive-behavioral therapy or mindfulness techniques. The advantage of these free courses is that they allow you to choose the subjects that align with your interests and professional goals.

Keep in mind that these courses often do not lead to a formal certification, but they can provide valuable knowledge and skills that can be applied in your personal and professional life. Many of these courses offer certificates of completion that can be a testament to your commitment to learning and self-improvement.

Graduate Certificate in Mental Health Counseling Online

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive and formal education in mental health counseling, you may consider earning a graduate certificate in mental health counseling online. These programs are typically offered by accredited colleges and universities and are designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree.

A graduate certificate in mental health counseling covers a broader range of topics and often includes supervised clinical experience. This level of education is more in-depth and is suitable for those who aspire to become licensed mental health counselors. It can also be a stepping stone to a master’s degree in counseling if you wish to pursue further education.

Online graduate certificate programs offer flexibility, allowing you to complete coursework from the comfort of your own home while maintaining your current job or commitments. However, these programs are not typically free and require tuition, so it’s essential to research your options and consider financial aspects before enrolling.

Can You Become a Mental Health Counselor Online?

The answer is yes; you can become a mental health counselor through online education. While some aspects of counseling, such as clinical practice and supervised hours, may require in-person interactions, many elements of counselor education can be pursued online.

To become a licensed mental health counselor, you typically need to complete a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, fulfill supervised clinical hours, and pass licensing exams. Many universities and colleges offer online master’s programs in counseling, making it possible for individuals to earn the necessary qualifications remotely.

It’s crucial to choose an accredited program that meets the licensing requirements in your state or country. Online programs should offer mechanisms for students to complete their supervised hours and gain practical experience, often in collaboration with local mental health agencies.

In conclusion, pursuing a certificate in counseling is indeed possible, and there are various pathways to consider, whether you’re looking for programs near you, free online courses, or more comprehensive online education options. The key is to align your educational choices with your career aspirations and, if applicable, the licensing requirements of your desired profession. Counseling is a noble field, and with dedication and the right education, you can make a significant impact on the mental well-being of others, regardless of your preferred mode of learning.

Featured Programs

Methodology for Top 20 Most Affordable Online Counseling Certificate Programs

This ranking of the 20 most affordable counseling certificates from accredited colleges is from an initial pool of 23 programs online. Certificate programs are ranked by in-state tuition costs taken from the College Navigator website. Profile information was retrieved from individual school program websites. Contact your school of interest for the most current program and tuition information. Students seeking licensure should contact their state licensing agency. Here, they will learn about specific education and clinical hours requirements in their state. 

1. Albany State Univ., Albany, GA

2. Kennesaw State Univ., Kennesaw, GA

3. Utah State Univ., Logan, UT

4. Univ. of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD

5. Lamar University, Beaumont, TX

6. Post University, Waterbury, CT

7. Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, FL

8. University of Memphis, Memphis, TN

9. Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, AZ

10. University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

11. University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

12. Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ

13. Montclair State Univ., Montclair, NJ

14. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

15. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN

16. Gwynedd Mercy, Gwynedd Valley, PA

17. Capella University, Minneapolis, MN

18. Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA

19. Madonna University, Livonia, MI

20. Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA

5. Lamar University

Beaumont, TX


Lamar University - logo

Lamar University’s affordable online Mental Health Counseling Certificate program is designed for working Post-Master’s students. These are students who have completed a master’s degree in counseling or related educational programs. Students pursuing this certificate in counseling online are preparing for the Texas state Licenses Professional Counseling (LPC) certification examination. This online certificate program is an 18-credit hour program that provides the knowledge and clinical experience to meet the licensure requirements for the LPC exam in Texas. Students are immersed in advanced counseling topics. These may include diagnosis, treatments and etiology, and the most current research that applies in clinical practice. Students interested in these counseling professions should check licensing requirements in their home state.

Tuition: $6,471

4. University of South Dakota

Vermillion, SD 


University of South Dakota - logo

USD’s online counseling certificates include the online graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling and Prevention and the online graduate Mental Health Counseling Certificate.  The Certificate in Mental Health Counseling is a 12-credit program. It covers advanced topics in family therapy, crisis intervention, psychopathology, and clinical supervision. With spring, summer, or fall start dates, prospective students can expect to complete this online Mental Health Counseling Certificate in about a year. USD’s Online Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling and Prevention is an innovative 15-credit hour program. It promises to prepare addiction counseling professionals to meet the complex needs of substance abuse patients. This online program for licensed counselors focuses on evidence based education. The curriculum enables counseling professionals to provide quality counseling to individuals dealing with addiction. These counseling certificates online allows practicing professionals the flexibility to continue their education in the behavioral health field while in their current employment.  

Tuition: $6,123

3. Utah State University

Logan, UT 


Utah State University - logo

Utah State’s affordable counseling certificate online is a post-master’s Certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program is open to applicants with three years of related professional experience and two years of supervised rehabilitation counseling experience. This robust online counseling program is designed for applicants with graduate training in one of the following academic areas:  

  • Behavioral Health
  • Behavioral Science
  • Disability Studies
  • Human Relations
  • Human Services
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Psychology
  • Psychometrics
  • Rehabilitation Administration/Services
  • Social Work
  • Special Education
  • Vocational Assessment/Evaluation

This is a 22-credit certificate in counseling made up of eight courses. Offerings include:

  • Theories and Techniques in Counseling
  • Psychosocial Aspects of Disabilities
  • Case Management

Students interested in this program have flexibility in their education schedule with spring, summer and fall start dates.

Tuition: $6,534

2. Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, GA


Kennesaw State University - logo

The counseling program online from Kennesaw State is an affordable online Mental Health Technician Professional Certificate. This may be the ticket to enter the challenging field of mental health. This online technician program provides students with a solid mental health background. Graduates of the program will have an entry level academic background to work in most counseling professions involving individuals with mental health issues, including family therapy. Six key topics covered through the certificate in counseling curriculum for aspiring counselors include:

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Mental Health Technician
  • Direct Support Professional
  • Better Interpersonal Communication
  • Personal Excellence
  • Introduction to Addiction & Recovery

Disorders beginning in childhood, mood disorders, psychoses, schizophrenia, sexuality, and eating and anxiety disorders as well as therapies and treatments are examined. Students learn methods to provide clients with assistance in a variety of areas. Examples include daily living skills, personal health hygiene and maintenance, adhering to a medication regiment, and behavioral development.

Tuition: $5,238

1. Albany State University

Albany, GA


Albany State University - logo

This 18-credit Addictions Counseling Certificate program online from Albany State is our pick for the best online counseling certificate from accredited colleges. It is offered for those seeking broader career opportunities in addictions. These courses meet the academic requirements for the Certified Addictions Counseling (CAC I or CAC II) credential in Georgia. This online certificate program’s flexible format allows students to enter the program any semester. Once enrolled, students can complete the certificate program online in two or three semesters. Check out your state’s requirements to enter the field of Addiction Counseling. These courses may also be taken for Continuing Education for those already in the field. 

Tuition: $3,438


What kinds of counseling professionals are there?

There are many kinds of professional counselors, including:

  • Addiction Counselors
  • Career Counselors
  • School Counseling
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Behavioral Disorder Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)
  • Rehabilitation Counselors

These are among the most common types of counselors with a certificate in counseling. 

What are some other types of counselors that are less commonly known? 

Other types of counselors include financial, PTSD or Trauma Informed Counseling, Pastoral Counseling, and Sports Counseling.

Do all counselors have the same education requirements? Do I need a master’s degree in counseling or a certificate in counseling?

While there may be similarities in requirements, check out your state’s requirements to enter your field of interest. You will find that employment opportunities will have specific licensure and education requirements for a licensed professional counselor. A master’s degree in counseling or behavioral health and/or a certificate in counseling from one of the country’s accredited colleges is required for many positions.

What are typical attributes of people who go into the field of counseling? 

Counseling techniques can be learned. However, people entering the dynamic field of counseling typically have strong interpersonal skills that aid them in working well with people. Much like the field of education, excellent written and verbal communication skills are also common attributes of successful counselors. 

What about Substance Abuse Counselors? What kind of backgrounds do they have? 

People that go into a career as rehabilitation counselors may come from areas such as law enforcement, probation officers, social work, licensed professional counselors, medical field, psychiatry or psychology, family therapy, and mental health professionals. Those with an interest in working in the community providing assistance to others may be good candidates to become substance abuse counselors or rehabilitation counselors. 

Where does a licensed professional counselor typically work?

Counselors may work in a wide variety of settings depending on their patient population. Schools, outpatient and inpatient mental health centers, substance abuse center, residential centers, prisons, and private practice are among the types of places a counselor may find employment with a certificate in counseling.

How do I choose a counseling specialization for my continuing education? 

An aspiring professional counselor chooses their area of specialization based on a variety of factors. When selecting a certificate in counseling, consider the type of population you want to work with. For example, do you prefer working with children or adults? Are you interested in marriage and family counseling topics? What kind of work setting appeals to you, employment prospects, and how much money do you wish to make? Talk to counseling professionals in the area you are considering to find out inside information that may help guide your choice. 

What are some of the professional organizations for counselors with post-bachelor’s and graduate certificates?

These are some of the professional organizations for counselors with a certificate in counseling: 

  • American Counseling Association (ACA)
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA)
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
  • American Association of Christian Counselors
  • American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
  • Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) 

Why join a professional organization for counselors?

Joining a professional organization in your field of expertise has many benefits. These include networking, continuing education, and communication about changes in the field, to name a few. 

Does counseling really help people? 

Counselors often provide a safe place for clients to talk about problems. Counselors may help their clients understand their feelings, identify issues affecting their mental health and relationships, provide family counseling, identify ways to overcome issues, learn coping skills, and set personal growth goals.

Do counselors see clients with severe symptoms and problems all day?

People often seek counseling because they’ve experienced first hand the benefit of talking about their concerns and problems with a professional counselor. Not everyone who seeks counseling is seeking help for severe issues and symptoms.  

Can counselors refer clients for other health services? 

It is not uncommon for counselors to help their clients by referring them for other services such as physician, dietitian, or other special support. 

How do I balance taking classes online with working?

Communication with your employer is key to helping balance online classes for your certificate in counseling with work responsibilities. Communicating with your employer, support network, family and friends can help ease the strain of balancing work and classes with other responsibilities. Set up a schedule at the start of each semester, and plan to use time off strategically as you pursue your continuing education.  

What is the job outlook for counselors?

The job outlook for counselors is expected to grow 23% between 2020-2030. This is much faster than average for all occupations. This growth is anticipated as people seek counseling services for addiction, mental health issues, and other personal issues. Counselors with continuing education credentials like a master’s degree in counseling will have the best job prospects.

Why is the rate of job growth for counselors so high?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the demand for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to rise as many states seek treatment and counseling services for drug offenders in place of jail time. The criminal justice system recently recognized that substance abusers are less likely to become repeat offenders if they get needed addiction treatment from a rehabilitation counselor. Research also suggests the cost effectiveness of treatment rather than jail time.

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