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Sonoma State University


Department Office
Nichols Hall 220
(707) 664-2544

Department Chair
Maureen Buckley

Administrative Coordinator
Stephanie Wilkinson

Maureen Buckley, Mark Doolittle, Adam Hill, Carolyn Saarni, Meri Storino, Sandra Zimmermann

Programs offered

Master of Arts in Counseling
Option I Community Counseling (Marriage and Family Therapist)
Option II School Counseling (Pupil Personnel Services)

Additional Programs
Community Counseling Center
MEAP (Migrant Education Advisor Program)

The 60-unit graduate program in counseling offers two professional training options: Option I prepares students for Community Counseling (Marriage and Family Therapy/MFT/CC) and Option II prepares students for School Counseling (Pupil Personnel Services Credential SC/PPSC).

The program relies heavily on interpersonal skill training and field experience, beginning during the first semester and culminating with an intensive supervised internship in some aspect of counseling, permitting the integration of theory, field experience, research and practical application during the second year. The department is prepared to assist students in obtaining field placements relevant to their projected professional goals. These placements include, but are not limited to: community counseling agencies, marriage and family counseling agencies, mental health clinics, counseling centers, public schools, community colleges, and college-level student services departments.

Special characteristics of the program include the following:

  1. Early involvement in actual counseling settings.
  2. Development of a core of knowledge and experience in both individual and group counseling theory and practice.
  3. Encouragement in the development and maintenance of individual counseling styles.
  4. Commitment to self-exploration and personal growth through participation in peer counseling, individual counseling and group experiences. This aspect of the program is seen as crucial to the development of adequate counseling skills and is given special consideration by the faculty as part of its evaluation of student readiness to undertake internship responsibilities.

In sum, the training emphasis in the program is to integrate theory, practical experience, and personal learning rather than exposing students to a piecemeal professional preparation. To varying degrees, students will find that in most of their course work that the faculty expect students to be able to articulate their unique and personal histories, including their relationships with family, peers, and significant others, for it is our believe that self-understanding is crucial in effective counseling.

The faculty is committed to the idea that counselors of the future should take an active role in helping to shape the social/environmental milieu in which they will work. While the faculty recognizes how difficult this task may be in specific instances and areas, it sees the counselor as one who actively participates in the life of an organization, not as a submissive keeper of the status quo or an unseeing iconoclast, but as a sensitive and perceptive voice representing individual freedom and human values.

The master's program may be completed within two academic years; however, some students may wish to move more slowly. Resources permitting, efforts will be made to accommodate individual patterns. For most students, 8 units per semester will be considered a minimal number. It should be stressed that individual program paths should be planned very carefully, since many courses will not be offered every semester.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs, a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation, has conferred accreditation to the Counseling Department at Sonoma State University in Community Counseling and School Counseling.

A student who has not been formally admitted to the Counseling Department may take no more than 12 units and only in the following course offerings of the department, with permission from the department: COUN 501, 502, 503, 511, 520AB, 522, 525, 535, 545, and 581. Admission to individual courses in no way implies admission to the master's degree program.

Master of Arts in Counseling

Admission Requirements

Prerequisites to admission include a course in personality theory and a statistics course that includes analysis of variance. Approved statistics courses at SSU include M.A.TH 165 and BUS 211. Many community colleges also offer personality theory and statistics courses. Those students who have not taken such a course after admission will be conditionally classified for up to one year. Furthermore, COUN 513 must be taken within five years following the completion of the statistics prerequisite. Students may also elect to take as a "refresher" statistics course, COUN 505, described in the Extended Education catalog ((707) 664-2754). A course in abnormal psychology for the MFT option, and a course in learning theory for the PPS option are also required.

  1. A bachelor's degree, preferably in the behavioral sciences and with sound preparation in psychology or in education for the PPS option, is required.
  2. A 3.00 (B) grade point average in the last two years of undergraduate work is required. Applicants who satisfy all other requirements may petition the university for waiver of this requirement. It should be emphasized that such a waiver is not automatically granted.
  3. Completion of Counseling Department application forms, in addition to those required by the university.
  4. A personal interview for both programs is required for applicants considered for final review. In this interview questions may involve personal disclosure deemed relevant by the faculty for determining the applicant's readiness for beginning training for a career in counseling. All disclosures are held in strict confidence.
  5. Departmental admissions committees (which may include students) have found the following criteria meaningful, or even indispensable, for applicants:
    1. The ability to handle academic work of graduate-level rigor, generally as evidenced by previous academic performance.
    2. Relevant work experience (paid or volunteer).
    3. Behavioral science background (on a B.A. level).
    4. Global personality assessment - suitability for a career in a helping profession, as evidenced by quality of interview, personal data, autobiography, and letters of recommendation

For more information, please see Graduate Degrees in the Degree Requirements section of this catalog.

Application Procedures

Interested persons can obtain the standard statewide graduate application form from the Admissions Office of Sonoma State University. Students are accepted to the counseling program only once a year; therefore, we begin taking departmental applications on October 1 and continue to January 31 for admission the following fall. A $25.00 application fee is required for the department. All applicants to the program must also apply for admission to the University and follow the University timelines for admission procedures. For specific instructions and procedures, contact the Counseling Department and/or the Office of Admissions and Records.

General Information Meetings

Students planning to apply for admission or students wishing to enroll in any of the Counseling Department's courses are urged to attend one of the informational meetings specifically planned for prospective students. Selection criteria, admission procedures, and registration and advisement procedures will be explained. For informational meeting dates, call the Counseling Department office or visit the department Web page at

Major Core Requirements

COUN 501 Theory and Practice of the Professional Counselor 4
COUN 510A Counseling Pre-Practicum 4
COUN 510B Counseling Practicum 4
COUN 512 Theory and Practice of Group Counseling 4
COUN 513 Research and Evaluation in Counseling 4
COUN 514A Supervised Internship 4
COUN 514B Supervised Internship 4
COUN 525 Psychological and Educational Assessment 2
COUN 535 Development and Clinical Issues with Children and Adolescents 4
COUN 570 Cross-Cultural Awareness in Counseling 3
Total units in the M.A. core 37

Option I - Community Counseling/Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)

Completion of the Community Counseling option, in addition to the major core requirements above, satisfies all academic requirements in order to be eligible for the MFT examination. If the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) mandates changes in curriculum for MFT trainees, the Department of Counseling will revise courses accordingly so that our curriculum remains in compliance with BBS standards. The course descriptions in this catalog edition may not be the most current versions if such curricular revisions are undertaken after the catalog is printed.

COUN 502 Adult Development: Individual, Family, and Career 3
COUN 503 Dynamics of Individual Behavior 3
COUN 540 Marriage and Family Counseling 4
COUN 545 Law and Ethics for the Counselor 3
COUN 580 Relationship and Sexuality Counseling 4
COUN 581 Introduction to Chemical Dependency 1
COUN 582 Psychopharmacology 2
Additional elective units with (department approval) 3
Total units in the Community Counseling (MFT) option 23
Total units in the M.A. 60

Option II - School Counseling/Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPS)

Completion of the School Counseling/Pupil Personnel Services option, in addition to the major core requirements above, satisfies the academic requirements in order to be eligible for the Pupil Personnel Services credential in school counseling. Candidates for the PPS credential are urged to be mindful of the following: While it is possible to complete all the courses required for the credential in a two-year period, such a program requires extremely careful planning. The department intends to offer each PPS course at least once a year, but students need to plan the sequence with their advisor to ensure it matches the availability of courses.

COUN 511 Counseling for Career Development 4
COUN 520A The Role of the Elementary School Counselor 3
COUN 520B The Role of the Secondary School Counselor 3
COUN 521 Pupil Personnel Services: Concepts and Organization 4
COUN 522 Counseling Students with Special Needs 3
COUN 523 Working with Families in a School Setting 4
Additional elective units (with department approval) 2
Total units in the School Counseling option 23
Total units for the M.A. 60

All master's candidates are required to complete a project demonstrating a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the field of counseling. Projects include a case analysis and a grant proposal for developing a comprehensive mental health or school guidance and counseling specialized program. Six hundred (600) hours of supervised field experience are required for both the Community Counseling and School Counseling options.

Community College Counseling Credential

A master's in Counseling will meet the educational requirements for counseling at a community/junior college. No credential is required. PPS candidates should be aware that all 600 hours of internship experience will be at the K-12 level. Internship at the community college level would be in addition to the 600 K-12 hours.

Sample Two-year Program for Masters of Arts in Counseling

First Year: 29-30 Units

Community Counseling School Counseling
Fall Semester (15 Units) Fall Semester (14 Units)
COUN 501 (4) COUN 511 (4)
COUN 570 (3) COUN 510A (4)
COUN 510A (4) COUN 520A (3)
COUN 535 (4) COUN 520B (3)


Spring Semester (15 Units) Spring Semester (15 Units)
COUN 510B (4) COUN 510B (4)
COUN 503 (3) COUN 522 (3)
COUN 525 (2) COUN 501 (4)
Electives (3) COUN 523 (4)
COUN 581 (1)  
COUN 582 (2)  

Second Year: 30-31 Units

Fall Semester (14 Units) Fall Semester (15 Units)
COUN 502 (3) COUN 513 (4)
COUN 514A (4) COUN 570 (3)
COUN 540 (4) COUN 514A (4)
COUN 545 (3) COUN 525 (2)
  Elective (2)


Spring Semester (16 Units) Spring Semester (16 Units)
COUN 513 (4) COUN 535 (4)
COUN 514B (4) COUN 514B (4)
COUN 580 (4) COUN 512 (4)
COUN 512 (4) COUN 521 (4)

Counseling Courses (COUN)

Classes are usually offered in the semesters indicated but exceptions may occur. Please see the Schedule of Classes for most current information and faculty teaching assignments.

501 Theory and Practice of the Professional Counselor (4) Fall, Spring

This course surveys the roles and responsibilities of professional counselors, including an examination of students' professional identity development. Different approaches to counseling intervention (i.e., psychodynamic, affective/experiential, cognitive/behavioral, and systemic theories) are compared and contrasted relative to the goals of counseling, the factors involved in helping individuals and families change, and the practitioner's role in the process. Professional identity development is further enhanced through exposure to the history and philosophy of the counseling profession, including professional roles, functions, and relationships with other human service providers. This overview also acquaints counseling students with a) relevant professional organizations; b) the various credentialing, certification, licensure, and accreditation standards that may impact practice; c) advocacy processes to benefit clients; and d) ethical and legal standards of the various counseling disciplines.

502 Adult Development: Individual, Family and Career (3) Fall

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of adult development, including normative and non-normative transitions and associated life events, career development and assessment, the mental health needs of the elderly, long-term care, health and aging, bereavement, and related topics. Counseling interventions relative to these topics will be addressed.

503 Dynamics of Individual Behavior (3) Spring

A course designed to cover psychopathology and sociopolitical-related issues of diagnosis and treatment. Attention is given to: (1) understanding the variability of psychopathology in community counseling settings; (2) the application of evaluation methods and diagnostic classification systems of the DSM-IV-TR; (3) development of appropriate treatment plans; and (4) the relationship of class, gender, and ethnic background to diagnosis and treatment.

510A Counseling Pre-Practicum (4) Fall

A course that provides students an opportunity to develop necessary basic counseling skills to prepare them for practicum. Training is done through the use of videotape feedback and in-class practice demonstrations. This course is normally taken in the first semester by new students. Recommend previous or concurrent enrollment in COUN 501. Cr/NC only.

510B Counseling Practicum (4) Spring

A course that provides students with an opportunity to continue the development of counseling skills necessary for an internship. Sections for Community Counseling/MFT and School Counseling/PPS students: Community Counseling/MFT students see clients and School Counseling/PPS students work in school settings under the instructor's supervision. Cr/NC only. Prerequisite: COUN 510A.

511 Seminar: Career K-12 Development (4) Fall

An introductory course in career counseling, career guidance, and career information resources. Students gain increased knowledge of developmental career guidance programs for elementary, middle, and high schools; increased knowledge in the foundations of kindergarten through adult career and lifespan development; increased knowledge and skills with print and computer-based career counseling materials; and increased awareness of one's own personal needs, values, aptitudes, abilities, and interests as they affect vocational choices.

512 Theory and Practice of Group Counseling (4) Fall, Spring

This didactic and experiential course provides students with an introduction to the concepts and practices of group counseling, supplemented by lectures and readings. The dynamics and procedures involved in working with groups will be examined with students functioning as both group participants as well as group leaders. The course also examines stages of group formation, confidentiality and trust issues, co-counseling in groups, group dynamics and structure, and basic group counseling skills. Practical approaches to group counseling include psycho-educational groups, interpersonal problem-solving groups, and task/work groups, among others. Prerequisite: COUN 510A or consent of instructor.

513 Research and Evaluation in Counseling (4) Fall, Spring

A survey of the principles of research design as applied to community and school-related issues and settings, with emphasis on evaluation of human service programs. Students will also develop and complete a written mental health or school guidance grant proposal under faculty supervision. Prerequisite: demonstrated competence in basic statistical analysis (i.e., an approved course within the last five years); COUN 525 highly recommended.

514AB Supervised Internship (4, 4) Fall, Spring

This seminar provides a group discussion and supervision format in conjunction with the field internship, which may be in school settings (PPS students) or in community counseling settings (MFT students). The class meetings are designed to supplement the individual supervision received by internship supervisors, and the goal of the seminar is to help students develop a model of professional functioning through the integration of theory, pragmatic strategies, and personal development. Integral to this experience is the exchange of feedback and support among seminar participants. Cr/NC only. Prerequisites (Community Counseling/MFT): 510A/B, 501, and additional courses. Prerequisites (School Counseling/PPS): 510A/B, 520A/B, additional courses (501, 511, 521, 523) highly recommended.

520A Seminar: Role of the Elementary School Counselor (3) Fall

This course examines the expanding role of the elementary school counselor as required to meet the needs of today's children. Students learn how to create a developmental school counseling program that is an integral part of the entire educational program in the school. Developmentally appropriate classroom guidance activities, academic expectations, consultation with teachers and parents, conducting small group activities, academic expectations, and helping children meet normal developmental problems and tasks of childhood are stressed. The course includes an experiential component.

520B Seminar: Role of the Secondary School Counselor (3) Fall

A course designed to increase the knowledge and skills related to the changing role of secondary school counselors. Assisting adolescents in coping with developmental issues (e.g., family relationships, peer pressure, stress, sexual maturation, and academic/vocational achievement) through school programs in individual and group counseling, classroom guidance, in-service workshops, peer facilitation and parent education. Students are expected to observe practicing school counselors and demonstrate appropriate use of computer technology.

521 Pupil Personnel Services - Concepts and Organization (4) Spring

A seminar in organizing, supervising, and administering comprehensive service Pupil Personnel Programs in elementary and secondary schools; legal and financial aspects, as well as laws affecting children and child welfare are covered. Students learn how to create a developmental school counseling program that is an integral part of the entire educational program in the school. Prerequisites: COUN 520A, and 520B, or documented consent of instructor.

522 Counseling Students with Special Needs (3) Spring

An overview of the principles and practices of providing counseling services to K-12 students with special needs, including school procedures specific to addressing the social, emotional, and behavioral areas that interfere with classroom learning for students with special needs. Content areas include: IDEA; Title 5: counseling services for children with disabilities; GATE (Gifted and Talented Education); At-Risk Student; IEP's (Individualized Educational Plan), and Student/Child Study Teams.

523 Working with Families in a School Setting (4) Spring

This course has as its focus a study of family systems and how they impact and interact with all the systems that involve the child. Basic to this is the study of the student's own family of origin and its impact on the student. The primary emphasis in working with families will be the use of solution-focused counseling. Each student is required to lead or co-lead a parent education group in a school setting during the last half of the course. Prerequisite: COUN 510A or consent of instructor is required.

525 Psychological and Educational Assessment (2) Fall, Spring

Investigation of the nature and rationale of psychological measurement, both individual and group, with emphasis on its utility in community and/or school settings. Attention is given to both limitations and justification in the measurement of human characteristics. Class fee required at time of registration.

535 Developmental and Clinical Issues with Children and Adolescents (4) Fall, Spring

A course offering a developmental psychology perspective on the counseling interventions appropriately undertaken with children and adolescents. Course objectives include: (1) providing students with an introduction to basic intervention strategies for counseling children and adolescents; (2) familiarizing students with special topics, e.g., impact of divorce on children, child abuse, effects of domestic violence; and (3) consideration of developmental contexts in working with children and adolescents. Prerequisite: COUN 501 or consent of instructor.

540 Marriage and Family Counseling (4) Fall

This course offers a foundation for understanding couple and family relationships by providing an overview of historical and contemporary models of theoretical conceptualization, assessment and intervention, including ways to work with families reflecting diversity. Attention is devoted to important legal and ethical considerations unique to working with families and couples; assessment tools, crisis intervention (including domestic violence), and treatment planning. Prerequisites: COUN 510A or consent of instructor.

545 Law and Ethics for the Counselor (3) Fall

A course designed to clarify the legal and ethical responsibilities of the community counselor. Legal standards related to counseling practice will be surveyed, including issues related to dissolution; child care, custody, and abuse; confidentiality; involuntary hospitalization; mandatory reporting requirements; detection, assessment, and treatment of domestic violence; and other issues related to the relationship between law and counseling.

570 Cross-cultural Awareness in Counseling (3) Fall, Spring

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of how ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and gender can affect counseling processes. Students will identify their own unique ethnic and cultural world view and see how it affects their counseling approaches in both community and school counseling settings. Students will also become knowledgeable about various ethnic groups in the United States and how majority culture influences their daily lives and their responses to counseling. The seminar will address cross-cultural aspects of counseling children, youth, and adults.

580 Seminar: Relationship and Sexuality Counseling (4) Spring

An overview of the key theories and intervention approaches applicable in couples counseling. Key topics in human sexuality and sex counseling are examined and integrated relative to psychodynamic systems and cognitive/behavioral approaches to relationship counseling. Specific topics such as history of child abuse and spousal/partner abuse will be reviewed to analyze their impact on sexuality, couples counseling assessment, and treatment. Prerequisites: COUN 510A, 540 recommended, or consent of instructor.

581 Introduction to Chemical Dependency (1) Fall, Spring

A survey course designed to provide a broad conceptual base regarding the major dimensions of dependence upon drugs/alcohol. Emphasis is on practical issues from the standpoint of the family and the community. The course explores historical and current modes of treatment, intervention, and prevention of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. Students are expected to have a basic understanding of psychopathology and family systems prior to enrollment. This course is designed to provide specific instruction in alcoholism and other chemical substance dependency, and is designed to meet the requirements issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences, State of California.

582 Psychopharmacology for Counselors (2) Spring

Introduction to principles of psychopharmacology and to the counselor's role in the effective and ethical use of psychiatric medications with therapy clients (i.e. referral, consultation, monitoring, etc.). Content includes basic psychopharmacological principles, physiological actions, and therapeutic and adverse effects of major psychiatric drugs. Attention is given to the historical and sociopolitical contextual issues surrounding the use of psychiatric medication.

595 Special Studies (1-4)

596 Supervised Field Experience (1-4)

Counseling experience supervised by Counseling Department faculty. Experience can be gained both at the on-campus Community Counseling Clinic or in outreach programs in the community. Cr/NC Only. Prerequisite: consent of instructor; for School Counseling students: permission of school counseling faculty.