Our graduates work in settings that utilize the study and practice of forensic and correctional counseling including correctional facilities, juvenile detention centers, substance abuse assessment and treatment facilities, court clinics, secured forensic units, community settings, and child advocacy centers. Additionally, our graduates are prepared to work in general counseling settings. Over the past several years the majority of students in the forensic and correctional counseling area of emphasis secured employment prior to graduation.
Forensic and Correctional Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master of Arts (MA)
This area of emphasis examines the relationship between counseling and the legal system, and trains students at this intersection as it relates to applying counseling principles in legal, judicial, correctional, community, clinical, and administrative systems.
Students enrolled in this program and area of emphasis are trained to work as mental health counselors with individuals, families and systems that interface with the legal and criminal justice arena. Our aim is to prepare clinicians who will be able to assess, treat, consult and apply a full array of counseling services in forensic and correctional settings. When so many individuals involved with the criminal justice system have great need for trained professionals in this area, we are providing counselors that are thoroughly trained and sensitive to their particular challenges.
Why is the Area of Emphasis called Forensic and Correctional Counseling and not Forensic Psychology?
Our degree is a Counseling degree that qualifies graduates (after following the appropriate post-masters requirements by the state licensing board) to obtain a license as a Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts. You may pursue a license as a mental health counselor (LMHC) or professional counselor (LPC) in other states if you comply with their licensing requirements. Our graduates are trained to provide counseling services and to perform basic assessment services (not including psychological testing) for individuals involved with the criminal justice system. On the other hand, Forensic Psychologists have a doctoral degree and are licensed as psychologists or clinical psychologists.
Area of Emphasis in Forensic and Correctional Counseling in the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling vs. Clinical Psychology PsyD Concentration in Forensic Psychology:
There are two primary opportunities for training in forensic psychology at William James College.
One is the Master's degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Area of Emphasis in Forensic and Correctional Counseling. This program ordinarily is a two-year program full-time (or three-year part time) that provides the student with skills in counseling but with a focus upon counseling work with persons in court, correctional, juvenile justice, forensic hospital units, community agencies, or other forensic settings. Classes and field placements reflect both the emphasis upon providing the students with counseling skills and their application within forensic settings or with forensic populations. The student may apply directly for admission to this Master's degree program.
The other opportunity is the Forensic Concentration within the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology program. Students apply for admission to the doctoral program first and then may be eligible to apply for the Forensic Concentration. The PsyD degree ordinarily takes five years to complete depending upon whether the student enters as a first year student or an "advanced standing" student, how much coursework a student can complete given family or other responsibilities, and how long it takes to complete the final Doctoral Project. The Forensic Concentration is based upon the view that specialized forensic practice must be based in fundamentally sound clinical psychology practice. As a result, students ordinarily complete the first two years of clinical training in the doctoral program and apply at the end of their second year to participate in the Forensic Concentration. Doctoral students in the Forensic Concentration graduate with the PsyD in Clinical Psychology but receive a Forensic Concentration certificate at graduation for successful completion of coursework, field placements and a Doctoral Project that have a forensic psychology focus.
What are the differences between the degrees awarded and the license eligibility between the MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Concentration in Forensic and Correctional Counseling and the Forensic Concentration in the Clinical Psychology PsyD program?
Graduates of the Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will receive a Master of Arts (MA) degree. Providing that the student completes all other requirements for licensure, this MA degree allows the graduate to apply for licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in Massachusetts. This license permits a professional to provide professional counseling and assessment services within the scope of practice defined by the regulations for Licensed Mental Health Counselors in Massachusetts. State laws about licensure and scope of practice vary by state, so applicants who do not intend to remain in Massachusetts following graduation should check the licensing requirements in the state where they intend to practice. Typically, licensure as a Master's level counselor permits a person to provide counseling services, assessment services within the scope of each state's licensure provisions (some assessment tools require a doctoral degree for independent administration and interpretation), and other professional services.
Potential applicants to other Master's level programs in other institutions should inquire as to whether or not completion of that program provides a degree that makes a graduate eligible for licensure in the jurisdiction where they intend to practice.
Graduates of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology will receive a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. Providing that the student completes any other requirements for licensure, this allows the graduate to apply for licensure as a Psychologist in Massachusetts. This license permits a professional to provide psychological services within the scope of practice defined by the license, including using psychological tests and assessment instruments for which a professional must be licensed as a Psychologist in Massachusetts.
State laws about licensure as a Psychologist and scope of practice vary by state, so applicants who do not intend to remain in Massachusetts following graduation should check the licensing requirements in the state where they intend to practice. Application information, course information and program requirements can be found on our website for the Master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and for the Forensic Concentration within the Clinical PsyD program.
I plan on living and practicing in Massachusetts after earning my degree. What differences in professional forensic practice are there between the MA degree and the Doctoral degree?
There are many highly trained licensed mental health professionals in Massachusetts. As a result, courts and attorneys tend to appoint or retain doctoral level psychologists or psychiatrists for criminal cases and for high-profile or high-stakes civil cases. That being said, the range of potential practice for Master's level licensed clinicians is broad and can include providing clinical services in adult correctional or juvenile justice settings, providing psychoeducational services and some forensic assessment services in adult and juvenile court clinics, serving within state agencies, accepting appointments as Guardian ad Litem or Court Investigators, or providing clinical services within state hospital, community hospital, residential treatment programs, or community-based outpatient providers.
Some professional services require licensure as a Psychologist or as a physician. For example, only doctoral level psychologists or physicians (e.g., psychiatrists) can provide some kinds of court-ordered evaluations such as Competence to Stand Trial, Criminal Responsibility, or Aid in Disposition evaluations conducted while a defendant is on a forensic commitment status. Only licensed psychologists can provide some kinds of clinical and forensic assessments when using psychological tests and assessment tools that are restricted to use only by licensed psychologists.
Persons with the Master's degree may also serve in administrative positions that do not require that they directly provide professional clinical services that would be beyond their scope of licensure. For example, persons with the Master's Degree may hold administrative positions in provider organizations that employ psychologists, psychiatrists or others who provide services that would not be within the scope of practice of a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Persons with the Master's degree may also teach, conduct research, author professional papers or provide other professional services that do not involve providing clinical services outside of the scope of their licensure.
Both Master's level and Doctoral level persons can engage in private practice or other clinical or forensic services as long as those services are within the scope of practice for their specific license.
Do I have to be a student in the Master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the Forensic and Correctional Counseling Area of Emphasis or a Forensic Concentration student in the Clinical Psychology PsyD program to take forensic classes?
No. Students in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master's program and in the Clinical PsyD program can take classes with forensic content as elective courses. For example, CMHC Master's students who are not in the Forensic and Correctional area of emphasis can enroll in Law and Mental Health, Criminal Behavior, Sex Offender Evaluation and Treatment, Trauma Theory and Treatment, or other forensic classes. In fact, students who are not admitted to any of the graduate programs ("non-matriculated" students) at William James College can apply to take specific courses with forensic content.
I think that I will apply to the MA program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with the Forensic and Correctional Counseling Area of Emphasis but also think that when I complete that program I will apply to the Clinical PsyD program. Will I just be learning things that I have already learned if I do that?
No. Successful graduates of the Master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at William James College are eligible to apply to the Clinical PsyD program as "advanced standing" doctoral students. This means that you will enter as a second year doctoral student instead of a first year doctoral student. Additionally, if you remain interested in pursuing the Forensic Concentration as a doctoral student, the content of the doctoral courses required by the Forensic Concentration is taught at a doctoral level and presumes that you have greater clinical experience and exposure to ethics and law relevant to professional psychological practice, that is different in scope than counseling practice at the Master's level. Most Forensic Concentration doctoral students are also doing their placements in forensic settings (e.g., court clinics, state hospitals with forensic units or forensically committed patients, juvenile justice settings, correctional settings) while they are taking the courses required for Concentration and the course content seeks to draw upon their field placement experiences.