Counseling program celebrates its 40th year

Jordan Cummings, Contributor

The counseling degree program is celebrating its 40th anniversary this semester. Although the department just branched out on its own from “psychology and counseling” in 2015, the overall counseling program is 40. Dr. Julie Merriman, head of the Department of Counseling, said that there are about 200 students currently enrolled. The program just earned an accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in March, which means that a board of peers from other accredited schools got together and evaluated the program and decided that Tarleton State University’s counseling department is valuable and well put together. This is huge in the counseling field, according to Merriman.

“We have a stringent admission process. Only 60 percent that apply get in the program,” Merriman added. “They aren’t as huge as they once were because of the CACREP accreditation.”

Since acquiring the accreditation, the program can be stricter on the students who are accepted and Merriman said Tarleton has one of the best counseling master’s programs in the nation. Merriman is looking for enrollment in the program to “take a little dip and then come back up, because we are naturally competitive. We put Tarleton on the map with this program.”

There are many classes available in the program. The students starts in foundations and theories to get a baseline on what the field is, then they go into culture and development and career and group counseling.

“They have a diagnostic class and we actually diagnose in the field much like a physician,” Merriman said.

She went on to explain that they move into family counsel, ethics, substance abuse and then practicing counseling. Merriman says that “you really aren’t going to counsel these days without a substance issue.”

The students will then take an assessment class, such as giving an IQ or depression inventory. They then take a research and consultation class and then finally get into their clinical coursework in the field, along with 700 hours of field practice.

The program is 60 course hours. According to Merriman, “most people don’t realize the commitment to become a counselor. They graduate and take the test and then become an intern for 3000 more hours.

Between all of Tarleton’s campuses, counseling students cover an almost 500 mile radius practicing in agencies, hospitals, clinics and anywhere else a counseling center is present.

“For the student, it’s terrifying but rewarding. They are assigned a professor and have a field supervisor. They meet once a week, so there’s lots of support,” Merriman explained.

Merriman claims to be “kind of a nerd” about counseling. “We help people. We train people to help people. We’re compassionate and empathetic and we graduate students that get jobs.”

She estimates that 99.999 percent have jobs and those who don’t, choose not to work for personal reasons.

Merriman closed with “counseling is about building relationships, and we try to build long lasting relationships with students. It’s an honor to be the department head of the department I graduated from. “