Top Washington Counseling Psychology PhD & Doctorate Programs

PhD Counseling Psychology​ programs offer graduate students seeking a career as professional counseling psychologists the opportunity to earn their advanced degree and prepare to meet state licensing requirements. Counseling psychology is a specialty within psychology that focuses on how people function personally and in interpersonal relationships throughout their different stages of life.

The counseling psychologist works with clients to help them foster physical, emotional and mental well-being using a variety of techniques. If you are devoted to helping others identify, understand and deal with their problems, there are different PhD in Counseling Psychology programs to choose from.

counseling psychology phd programs infographic

PhD in Counseling Psychology: Basics

The PhD in Counseling Psychology degree is a graduate degree that may take 4 or 7 years to complete. Some PhD in Counseling Psychology programs may admit students with a 4-year Bachelor’s degree, others may require the completion of a 2-year Master’s degree, so duration of a doctorate degree may vary as a result of prior education standing. As part of their doctoral program, students usually have to complete a 1-year internship.

DID YOU KNOW? 40% of Counseling Psychologists have post-doctoral training, 27% a Master’s degree and 25% a Doctoral Degree. [i]

Licensure for Counseling Psychologists

Why consider earning a PhD in counseling psychology? One of the reasons that a PhD Counseling Psychology program is important is the link it has with state licensure requirements. While these vary, most clinical and counseling psychologists need the following in order to practice as licensed psychologists[ii]:

  • Doctorate in psychology (APA accredited)
  • An internship
  • At least 1 or 2 years of supervised professional experience
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology

PhD Counseling Psychology Admission Requirements

While there is some variance between applications processes for doctorate programs, students are usually required to have some prerequisite courses, school transcripts, and to show completion of any placement or internship hours. At the doctoral level as well, prospective candidates may have to furnish letters of recommendation, a current resume, official transcripts and prepare for an interview with the University’s committee. Note that each school may have their own process and protocol for their Counseling PhD. 

Types of Counseling Psychology PhD Programs

The term ‘counseling psychology’ is used both in terms of a specific degree and as an umbrella for other types of Doctoral Programs in Counseling that may be outside of the recognized specialties and proficiencies in professional psychology as recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA).[iii] 

  • PhD in Art Therapy – Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients use art and the creative process under facilitation of an Art Therapist, to manage behavior, reduce stress and promote self-awareness[iv].
  • PhD in Counseling and Therapy – Counseling and therapy are treatments to improve mental, emotional or behavioral problems or disorders.
  • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy – Marriage & Family Therapy sees the relationship as the patient and brings a family-centered approach to counseling.[v]
  • PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling – Rehabilitation counseling is designed to assist those with physical, mental, developmental or emotional disabilities in living more self-sufficiently.[vi]
  • PhD in Substance Abuse Counseling – Substance Abuse Counseling is designed to help those who suffer from addiction, eating disorders or behavioral issues and could focus on recovery or behavior modification.[vii]
  • PhD in Counseling Psychology – Graduate coursework includes general psychology, statistics, counseling practice and research.

The Difference Between a PhD & PsyD in Counseling Psychology

The two principal terminal (highest) degrees awarded in counseling psychology are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Each has a different orientation.

PhD in Counseling Psychology

The PhD in Counseling Psychology is an academic research degree intended for graduates who prefer to pursue non-clinical roles in colleges and universities, government agencies, or private research organizations[viii]. The degree is granted after a student takes a comprehensive exam and completes writing and researching a dissertation which is based on original thought.

PsyD in Counseling Psychology

The PsyD on the other hand, is a clinical doctorate degree and students may not have to write a dissertation. Instead the degree is earned based on practical work and examinations and sought be individuals who are ready for clinical practice.

Finding a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology

Once you have landed on the type of PhD Counseling Psychology program you are interested in, you will want to figure out just how to go about earning your degree although not all programs are available in all formats. The three main learning formats you can refine your search by are:

  • Campus programs where you study in a social learning setting (think about location)
  • Online programs or distance-learning where course delivery is Internet web-based
  • Hybrid programs which combine on campus visits with online courses

List of Counseling Psychology PhD Program Types

Program Name Formats Available Degree

PhD in Art Therapy



PhD in Counseling and Therapy

Online, Campus, Hybrid


PhD In Marriage and Family Therapy

Online, Campus


PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling



PhD in Substance Abuse Counseling



PhD in Counseling Psychology

Online, Campus, Hybrid


Accreditation of Counseling Psychology PhD Programs

In terms of looking into a PhD Counseling Psychology program, students should consider one that is accredited by the American Psychological Association. The APA accredits doctoral programs in counseling, internship programs and postdoctoral residency programs (traditional, clinical and specialty)[ix]. Other doctorate in counseling psychology programs may fall under another accreditation agency, for instance, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Employers may prefer this credential when hiring a Mental Health Counselor of Marriage and Family Therapist.[x]

Take the Next Step

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for psychologists is projected to increase by 19% from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than average[xi]. While it may not be employment growth that drives you, the time may be right to find a doctorate degree that could help you on your path to licensure. Review sponsored program listings such as Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy –Couple Therapy, Doctorate in Counseling Psychology or PsyD Marital and Family Therapy. These are only a few choices and you can request info from the prospective universities to help you make your decision about your PhD Counseling Psychology choice.

sources: [i] | [ii][iii] |[iv] org/upload/whatisarttherapy.pdf |[v][vi] |[vii] |[viii][ix][x][xi]




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