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For more information, email Program Director Dr. Janice Oursler

Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling – Clinical Mental Health Counseling Track

Achieve your CACREP Accredited MS at Rutgers

Are you interested in earning a masters in mental health counseling? As a student in our program, you’ll gain the specialized knowledge, skills, and ability to counsel people with psychiatric, developmental, sensory, or physical disabilities. Our program’s cognitive behavioral counseling approach focuses on helping clients develop strategies and skills to change problematic behaviors, cope better with difficult situations, manage their disability, and plan for the future.

Our 60-credit degree is designed to advance the career of experienced people already working in the human services field, as well as prepare people to enter the field.

Students have the flexibility to pursue a degree full-time or part-time, online, on campus, or through a combination of both.

Definition of professions:

Mental Health Counselors help people manage or overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with relationships.  Examples of what mental health counselors do include encouraging clients to discuss their experiences and process reactions to them in order to adjust to changes in life, guiding clients through the process of making decisions about their future, counseling clients about developing strategies and skills to change their behavior or cope with difficult situations, and coordinating services with other professionals such as psychiatrists.  While some disorders can be overcome, many others need to be managed.  Mental health counselors work with clients to develop strategies and skills to minimize the effects of their disorders or illnesses including developing and implementing strategies to encourage wellness.

A Rehabilitation Counselor is a counselor who has the specialized knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to collaborate in a professional counseling relationship with people who have disabilities, whether psychiatric, developmental, physical or sensory, to achieve their personal, psychological, social, and career goals.

  • Among the top-ranked master’s degree rehabilitation counseling programs regionally and nationally.
  • Comprehensive curriculum includes theory, research, ethical practices and decision-making, development of interpersonal and counseling skills and supervised clinical experience in counseling.
  • High demand and robust market for graduates in this field in New Jersey and the surrounding region, as well as nationally.
  • Accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in the area of Clinical Mental Health Counseling through March 31, 2025.
  • In the 2017-2018 academic year, 50% of students were from underrepresented groups, including students with disabilities.
  • Study at a university ranked #1 out of 582 schools by College Factual as a best college for health professions.
  • In the 2017-2018 academic year, 50% of students were from underrepresented groups, including students with disabilities.

To accomplish the mission of the program and to prepare program graduates to work in a variety of settings including community agencies, government agencies, and other community-based services, we offer students broad knowledge of the counseling field including theory, research, ethical practices and decision-making, and a well-developed set of interpersonal and counseling skills. The curriculum educates students in the knowledge base of the field including current research combined with supervised clinical experience in counseling to practice that knowledge base. It is recognized that interaction between these elements is essential.

Counselors have extensive contact with other helping professionals, paraprofessionals, self-help groups, community leaders, and other members of the community. The faculty is committed to the development of program graduates who can work competently, creatively and collaboratively with individuals from a variety of backgrounds. As part of accomplishing this, students are encouraged to learn about existing community resources and make maximum use of them in their counseling as well as assess needs for resource creation or modification to meet identified community needs.

Program graduates are also prepared to work with the wider environment as consultants, advocates and change agents. Besides proficiency in working with clients to modify their behavior to accomplish goals, proficiency is developed to interact with the environment to negotiate and, if needed, modify the environment in the interests of providing high quality services to clients.

Faculty members seek to promote an open environment for the consideration and discussion of a wide variety of theories and points of view. As part of this orientation, information and methodology from a range of disciplines are presented and discussed. In teaching professional counseling skills, many faculty members have training and experience in cognitive and behavioral counseling approaches such as the Boston University approach for assisting individuals with mental illness to choose, get and keep goals of their choice in the community. Key tenets in this approach include active involvement of the individual in planning and goal setting, behavioral improvement in the environment of need in the community as a critical outcome, and a primary focus on improving competency to assume community-based roles. The uniqueness of the individual is also emphasized with choice, empowerment and growth identified as core values. Services are individualized for the needs and preferences as part of the counseling relationship with a focus on the identification and use of client personal strengths. Among the roles individuals are interested in attaining and maintaining are worker, student, independent community resident, and member of a social network.

The faculty encourages applications from individuals from diverse backgrounds interested in studying for this degree. We recognize the need for diversity as part of preparing to serve clients in our pluralistic society and welcome applications from a wide variety of personal, social, ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds.

All Department faculty members strive to create an environment rich in opportunities, experiences, and knowledge that enhances the education of our students. We are committed to the highest standards of excellence in preparing the professionals of tomorrow. We seek out the latest research to inform our academic and professional practice, and share our knowledge in a stimulating, friendly and professional atmosphere.

The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).  Applicants who graduate from a CACREP-accredited program may apply for the National Counselor Examination (NCE).  The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) waives the post- master’s experience and supervision requirements for graduates of CACREP-accredited programs per information on their web site at  Passing the NCE is part of the process to obtain the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential available through NBCC.

Employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected as people continue to seek addiction and mental health counseling, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow with the increase in the elderly population and with the continued rehabilitation needs of other groups, such as veterans and people with disabilities, according to the BLS.

There is a high demand in New Jersey and the surrounding geographic area for counselors who have a specialization in rehabilitation counseling. Follow-up of those who graduated in the 2016-2017 academic year found that over 95% of graduates seeking employment found jobs in the counseling field within six months. The employment settings where most graduates work are state vocational rehabilitation and other government human services agencies including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as community based, non-profit agencies providing services to persons with disabilities.

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Successful candidates should have both strong academic potential and commitment to working in the community and with individuals with disabilities. Related employment or volunteer experience is desirable but not required. requirement.

Admission decisions are based on a review of all materials submitted with the application and take into account all aspects of the applicant including career goals, occupational background, relevant personal experiences, and academic performance and potential. Applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds who are interested in studying for a counseling degree are encouraged.

Scores on standardized tests such as the GRE are not required for admission.

Deadline is March 1 for fall. We encourage you to submit your application for admission to the program as early as possible so that there is adequate time for processing the application, arranging a personal interview, and reaching an admissions decision before the start of the semester.

Students may attend on a part-time or full-time basis. Completion of the degree requires attendance in the summer as certain required courses are only offered in this semester.

Admission decision recommendations are made by the program’s selection committee. Academic background, experience whether volunteer or paid in the human services field, and ability to perform essential functions, are considered in assessing potential for success in the program and making admission decisions. Admission decisions are sent to applicants by the Office of Enrollment Management.

Information on Tuition and Fees can be found here.

Requirements for admission include:

  • Completed an online Application for Admission form with non-refundable application fee.
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Official transcripts for the degree must be submitted. Applicants in the final year of their bachelor’s degree are encouraged to submit an application. They may submit unofficial transcripts initially but must provide official transcripts indicating degree completion if offered admission to the program.
  • Written statement describing career goals, personal goals, and experiences as related to the degree.
  • Two letters of recommendation. Letters may be submitted electronically or in hard copy.
  • Interview by faculty. This interview may be conducted by phone for applicants who do not live in New Jersey or the surrounding area.

You can check the status of your application at Rutgers Graduate and Professional Admissions at, select Check Your Status. Applicants with incomplete applications are not scheduled for an admissions interview with the Department. For any questions about your application or the application process, contact the Office of Enrollment Management at 973 972-5454 or The hours of operation for the Office of Enrollment Management are 8:30 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

In addition to the academic requirements for the program, students must be able to perform the essential functions required for a career in the health services field. Applicants should review the SHP Essential Functions for Participation in Courses. Applicants considering careers in the counseling field must be able to form effective interpersonal relationships both with individuals and in the context of small groups, engage in critical thinking, work with diverse populations, and follow ethical standards of the profession. As part of preparation to become counseling professionals, students must be open to self-examination and to personal as well as professional self-development. Students also must have basic technological competence and computer literacy. This includes knowledge of and proficiency in word processing, using email, and conducting Internet searches. The GRE or other standardized testing is not required.

Online students must complete the practicum and internship experiences in New Jersey and the surrounding geographic area including downstate New York, eastern Pennsylvania including Philadelphia, Delaware, and Maryland.  We are unable to arrange clinical placements in other areas of the country.

Online students are required to attend a residency of up to three days in New Jersey each year they are enrolled in the program.  Dates for the residency will be established at the beginning of each academic year.

Accepted students receive an admission packet including an acceptance letter, requirements for graduation form, and directions to access the Admissions Checklist.  Review the Admissions Checklist and follow directions for submitting the tuition deposit to reserve your place in the program and to obtain a Rutgers email account and PIN number to register online for classes. You must also complete the required physical examination and immunizations and submit documentation to Student Health Services of meeting these requirements. Accepted students who have questions should contact the Office of Enrollment Services Center at (973) 972-5454 or by email at and Dr. Janice Oursler, Program Director, at 908 889-2462 or by email at