Adams State gets green light for first Ph.D. program


Dr. Don Basse, professor of counselor education, discusses internship experiences with graduate students.

Adams State University will launch its first doctoral program, a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, in the fall of 2014. The program was recently approved by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting agency for Adams State.

"The program will train counselor educators, those who already have clinical experience. The demand for qualified graduate faculty is increasing," noted program chair, Dr. Susan Varhely. She said the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) now requires their accredited programs to hire only doctoral graduates with degrees in counselor education. "We designed this program to meet all CACREP standards for the doctorate. It is the 'gold standard' for rigor. Most states have aligned their counselor licensure requirements with CACREP standards."

Adams State's program will be eligible for CACREP accreditation after two years of operation. The university's master of arts program in counselor education recently renewed its CACREP accreditation under more stringent standards.

The doctoral program will be offered in an online, cohort format, giving access to students who cannot attend a traditional campus because of financial situation or geographic location. Students will also attend on-campus summer intensives.

Competitive tuition

"We will not have a problem filling the slots; we expect a nationwide response," said Dr. Don Basse, professor of counselor education. "Ours will potentially be the only online program with CACREP accreditation from a public institution, therefore our tuition will be very competitive." He said there is only one other online, CACREP-accredited doctoral program, but it is offered by a private university. Adams State's program will begin accepting applications in mid-December.

Counseling field is "booming"

"The mental health counseling field is booming, and there are now more job opportunities for Licensed Professional Counselors," Varhely said. "Many factors contribute to the growing need for counseling services: our aging population, the needs of military veterans, better insurance coverage of mental health care, and the increasing role addictions play in mental health issues."

The program will be taught by full-time faculty and begin with a cohort of ten students. New cohorts will be added each fall. One faculty member has been added to the department in anticipation of the new program, and another will come on board in two years, bring total faculty in the department to 13, Varhely said.

The 66-credit program requires students to take six credit hours a term over 11 consecutive terms (four years), including summers. Coursework includes practica and internships, as well as a doctoral dissertation. Entrance requirements include completion of a 48-hour master's degree in counseling from a CACREP-approved program. The online format has proven successful in the Department of Counselor Education's online master of arts degree program, initiated in 2005. Now Adams State's largest graduate program, with more than 500 students, it attracts students from across the state and nation. Details about the doctoral program will soon be available online.

By Julie Waechter