What to Expect in Counseling Courses

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Clinical Mental Health Counseling | View all blog posts under School Counseling

Counseling session in progress

A career in counseling involves working collaboratively with individuals who need help solving problems that are holding them back from leading a fulfilling life. Professional counseling is vitally important to groups of people who are suffering under the pressure of adversity. But people facing severe circumstances, such as addiction, may require a more advanced approach to treatment. The coursework featured in a Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) degree program is structured to provide students with an advanced understanding of interpersonal skills and crisis management that can be used in practice to provide comfort and support to people in need.

Skills Taught in Master’s in Counseling Courses

In order to help them be effective in their work, advanced counseling professionals are exposed to a diverse range of skill sets in MAC courses:


Regardless of their specializations, professional counselors must be prepared to adapt their approaches to provide the best possible treatment to their clients. By learning how to remain flexible in practice, counselors can become more capable of devising and implementing effective treatment plans and therapeutic goals. This flexibility could prevent them from needing to rely on a single set of treatment strategies and could allow them to more consistently offer a customized approach to each client.

Interpersonal Communication and Listening:

Without advanced communication skills, a professional counselor would lack an important tool that is essential in this line of work. Through MAC coursework, students learn basic and advanced counseling skills for use with clients. This involves learning how to articulate one’s thoughts professionally, as well as how to listen to and comprehend the thoughts expressed by their clients.

Cultural Competency:

As a counselor, it is very common to be assigned clients of various ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Counseling courses help students learn how to navigate the different belief systems and unique cultural issues of diverse populations. Being culturally competent allows counselors to deliver optimal treatment to their clients without infringing on their individual beliefs or principles.


The individuals who seek help from a counselor are typically under some form of stress. By learning how to be empathetic, professional counselors show care and compassion for a client’s well-being. Empathy helps build trust, thereby opening the door for unguarded conversation between the client and the counselor.


Counseling isn’t about telling people what to do to improve their lives — it also involves making an active effort to advocate for people’s well-being. By learning how to advocate for others, professional counselors can become better at helping clients secure the support needed to improve life’s circumstances. This could entail, for example, pointing them in the direction of a community or social support agency that could help meet specific needs or even reaching out to a client’s loved ones on the client’s behalf in order to help the individual overcome a stressful time.

Typical Online Master’s in Counseling Courses

Although some schools may have different titles for their classes, the following counseling courses should be available in most MAC programs.

Theories and Models of Counseling:

Through this course, students are taught classic approaches to both psychotherapy and professional counseling. In their classes, they are introduced to the various counseling theories that contribute to today’s counseling standards. Typically, students will also be advised on how to maintain their professional orientation and uphold ethical standards of the profession while treating their clients and performing research.

Cultures and Counseling:

In this course, students are taught about the influence that different cultural aspects can have on a person’s development. The coursework outlines the skills a counselor will need to develop professional relationships that are considerate of the racial, ethnic and cultural differences of their clients.

Basic Counseling Skills and Techniques:

This course aims to cover all of the basic counseling communication skills and techniques that a professional counselor often uses on a daily basis, which may include mirroring, verbal and nonverbal minimal encouragers, open and closed questions, reflection, and confrontation. By learning how to use these and other skills and techniques, counseling students gain vital tools that they can use to build rapport, express empathy and effectively encourage clients to implement positive changes in their lives.

Advanced Counseling Skills and Crisis Management:

The next level of counseling skills coursework aims to build on the foundational tools that are taught in basic counseling skills classes. This course prioritizes teaching students how to provide counseling while under the pressure of intense emotions. With this knowledge, professional counselors can more effectively intervene in crisis situations. To this end, the coursework should teach students how to assist their clients in experiencing and articulating the full range of human emotions.

Counseling courses can offer professionals a unique opportunity to get involved in the lives of people who need help confronting their personal problems; however, the types of problems that different people face are inherently diverse. Therefore, professional counselors must have the skills and knowledge required to adjust their treatment plans to solve whatever problems they encounter. Through a Master of Arts in Counseling program, aspiring professionals can sharpen their professional counseling skill sets and develop a deep understanding of the roles communication, culture and professional temperament play in a counseling career.

Learn More

To help you expand your technical expertise and acquire the advanced skills important for professional growth in the field of counseling, find out more information about the Wake Forest University online Master of Counseling program.

Recommended Readings:
What an Online Counseling Degree Can Do for You
Poverty and Mental Health: How Counselors Can Help
Why Now Is the Right Time to Pursue Your Master’s in Counseling

Wake Forest University
Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs