Mental health counseling refers to the application of principles of human development, learning theory, group dynamics, and psychopathology to individuals, couples, families, groups, and organizations, for the purpose of treating mental disorders and promoting optimal mental health and functionality. It includes, but is not limited to, the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders, educational techniques developed to prevent such disorders, and the application of a wellness model of mental health. Mental health counselors and programs strive to follow principles and standards established by the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Mental Health Counselors Association. Licensed counseling has become one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. Currently, 48 states have authorized the licensure of counselors. New York recently recognized the need to license mental health counselors, passing the Laws of 2002, Chapter 676, Education Law Article 163. In 2005, the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, Sections 52.32-52.35, and Subparts 79-9 – 79-12, established educational criteria for licensing mental health counselors; the State Education Department has begun authorizing university programs that prepare students for this career.

Forensic mental health involves the application of counseling theory and practice to criminal justice, family court, and other legal settings. Many counselors work in forensic treatment settings, with forensic populations that require specialized training. Such settings include jails and prisons, victim service agencies, probation and parole offices, child protective services, and the courts, hospitals, clinics, social service agencies, juvenile detention centers, and private practice. In addition to the standard required courses in counseling, the Forensic Mental Health Counseling Program offers students the opportunity to take specialized courses in criminal behavior and aggression, juvenile delinquency, substance use, correctional and reentry counseling, risk assessment, crisis intervention, policing, sex offenses, terrorism, criminal profiling, and victimization and trauma (including intimate partner violence, child abuse, and sex trafficking).

Developed within the Department of Psychology, the Forensic Mental Health Counseling program is a "license eligible" academic program that satisfies the state's educational requirements for professional licensure as a mental health counselor. The program is approved by New York State, where upon completion, students are eligible to obtain their limited permit, leading to licensure as a mental health counselor with a specialization in forensics. Students learn to work with diverse populations within forensic clinical settings.

Within the program, students develop skills in interviewing, assessment and counseling, based upon established theories, principles and research in human development, personality, psychopathology, and counseling. Students are uniquely prepared to work towards licensure as counselors in settings including but not limited to victim services, correctional facilities, juvenile detention centers, probation and parole agencies, and social service agencies. The program places a strong emphasis on intersections among race, class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality with an aim towards developing multicultural awareness. The program requires clinical fieldwork and offers research opportunities for those students interested in pursuing doctoral education.

The MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling is designated as a program of Excellence by CUNY, and began adding an Excellence Fee charge to each of its courses in Spring 2016. These charges are used solely to enhance the excellence of MA Programs by providing specialized  student support in academic, externship, and career advisement.

The degree requires 60 credits. The program contains a group of twelve required courses (36 credits); three to six forensic mental health electives (9-18 credits); plus, a 600-hour (6 credits) supervised fieldwork internship. 

Beginning students are expected to complete the following courses before the completion of their first 30 credits:

  • PSY 700: Mental Health Professionals, Social Science and the Law
  • PSY 715: Research Design and Methods
  • PSY 745: Psychopathology
  • PSY 755: Introduction to Forensic Mental Health Counseling 
  • PSY 769: Intermediate Statistics in the Social Sciences

Required Courses

  • PSY 700: Mental Health Professionals, Social Science and the Law
  • PSY 715: Research Design and Methods
  • PSY 731: Human Growth and Development
  • PSY 741: Theories of Personality and Counseling
  • PSY 745: Psychopathology
  • PSY 755: Introduction to Forensic Mental Health Counseling 
  • PSY 758: Clinical Instruction
  • PSY 760: Counseling and Psychotherapy Methods
  • PSY 761: Clinical Interviewing and Assessment
  • PSY 765: Group Dynamics and Group Treatment
  • PSY 769: Intermediate Statistics in the Social Sciences
  • PSY 795: Introduction to Assessment


Required Supervised Externship

  • Fieldwork in Counseling I (PSY 780)
  • Fieldwork in Counseling II (PSY 781)
  • PSY 701: Criminal Behavior
  • PSY 703: Violence and Aggression
  • PSY 705: Victimology
  • PSY 707: Counseling and Rehabilitation of the Offender
  • PSY 708: Crisis Intervention and Short-term Counseling
  • PSY 714: Alcoholism and Substance Abuse
  • PSY 716: Assessment and Counseling of the Juvenile Offender
  • PSY 719: Psychology of Cults*
  • PSY 722: Evaluation and Counseling of the Sex Offender 
  • PSY 726: Mental Health Issues in Policing* 
  • PSY 727: Eyewitness Identification*
  • PSY 729: Terrorism
  • PSY 730: Ethical Issues in Forensic Mental Health*
  • PSY 733: Dissociation and Trauma
  • PSY 734: Criminal Psychological Assessment
  • PSY 739: Clinical Crime Scene Analysis*
  • PSY 742: Family Violence and Disputes
  • PSY 746: Empirical Profiling Methods*
  • PSY 748: Empirical Crime Scene Analysis*
  • PSY 751: Intellectual and Cognitive Assessment*
  • PSY 752: Projective Personality Assessment
  • PSY 753: Objective Personality Assessment
  • PSY 754: Advanced Forensic Assessment
  • PSY 762: Transdiagnostic Mindfulness Treatment for Impulsive, Addictive and Self-Destructive Behaviors*
  • PSY 766: Personality Profiles of the Homicidal Offender
  • PSY 768: Mental Health Stigma: Concepts, Research and Clinician Interventions*
  • PSY 770: Positive Psychology*
  • PSY 773: Child Abuse and Neglect
  • PSY 774: Advanced Issues in Victim Counseling
  • PSY 779: Brain and Behavior
  • PSY 784: Gender, Sex, and Sexuality*
  • PSY 790: Psychology Seminar in Selected Topics*

*These electives are seasonally offered.


Note: For particularized student interest, students may be permitted two cognate courses (0-6 credits). Students may enroll in up to two additional graduate courses offered at John Jay College, including those courses in the Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity, Public Administration or other master's degree programs. 


  • Minimum undergraduate cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Most successful candidates have a grade point average of 3.4 or higher. 
  • Three academic letters of recommendations (can be completed within the application)
  • Personal statement highlighting interest, career goals, and intended field of research
  • 12 credits of prerequisite undergraduate courses in psychology (passed with a grade letter of B or better)
  • 3 credits of a prerequisite undergraduate course Research methods in Psychology or Experimental Psychology (passed with a grade letter of B or better)
  • 3 credits of a prerequisite undergraduate course in statistics (passed with a grade letter of B or better)
  • The General GRE requirement is currently waived for the current application cycle. (Note: The General GRE can be taken and is strongly encouraged for students applying with a grade point average of 3.3 or lower).


Students who have not completed an undergraduate statistics and/or research methods/experimental psychology course may have the option, providing they meet all other requirements, of completing the Advanced Certificate of Victimology to complete the necessary missing course (STA 250 and/or PSY 311) and certificate graduate courses. Upon finishing the certificate, students will need to have passed all classes with a B or better before reapplying for the Masters program. Students must submit only their application again for John Jay College's Forensic Mental Health Counseling program if they have submitted one previously.

There are over 35 full-time faculty members that make up part of the Psychology Department, that offer a unique blend of expertise in research, scholarship, and teaching. Many of our adjunct faculty are leaders in their area of forensics and teach speciality classes. Many have extensive experience as clinicians in forensic and legal settings, including hospitals, family courts, correctional centers, not-for profits, and police departments. A number of our faculty members have both law degrees and PhDs.


Full-time faculty have published significant articles and/or books on their research in cutting edge and emerging areas of forensics including trauma and mental health stigma, microagressions and racial trauma,  domestic violence victimization, sexual assault victimization, sex trafficking, queer issues in forensic psychology, and mindfulness approaches to treating violent offenders,  as well as more established areas in forensics including child abuse, false confessions, serial offenders, sex offenders, jury selection, eyewitness research, forensic assessment, and mental health law.  Our programs are committed to racial, gender, and sexual minority justice within the forensic system.

Most students who graduate from this program find employment in social service and state agencies, acquiring 3000 hours of counseling experience under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional. They also take the national exam in Mental Health Counseling and apply for licensure as a Mental Health Counselor in New York State. Following licensure, such individuals are able to practice as licensed counselors in state and agency jobs as well as in private practice in New York State.

While the New York State requirements for Mental Health Counselors are similar to the requirements in other states, each state has its own regulations which may differ somewhat from those in New York. Consequently, if graduates of the program apply for licensure in other states, their coursework here may not be fully accepted, and/or they may be required to complete additional coursework and/or clinical training, depending upon the state’s requirements. Other than for New York State, students are responsible for contacting the licensing board of the state in which they wish to get licensed. Students should also contact the Career Externship Office (psychmaexternships@jjay.cuny.edu) upon enrollment if they know they wish to get licensed in a state other than New York.


John Jay College's Forensic Mental Health Counseling is a program accredited by NYSED. It is not CACREP accredited. 

While the MA degree is considered a “terminal” degree for counseling practice, some students will pursue doctoral level study in Counselor Education programs or in Psychology programs. If doctoral studies with an academic career are being considered, students should consider the thesis track electives in the MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling.

Research opportunities are currently limited. Interested students should speak with an advisor as soon as possible. For specific courses, please visit the program requirements page, along with the Master’s Student Research Group page. Please note that unlike the MA Program in Forensic Psychology, all students in the MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling must complete a 600-hour externship, even if they choose the thesis track.

Students returning from John Jay College's Masters in Forensic Psychology to John Jay College's Forensic Mental Health Counseling: A total of 60 graduate credits are required for completion of the Forensic Mental Health Counseling Program (FMHC).


Students who graduated with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College less than 10 years prior to the time of enrollment in the FMHC program may utilize a maximum of 30 credits from the previous MA towards the second MA degree program.


Students who graduated with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology at John Jay College 10 or more years prior to the time of enrollment in the FMHC program are ineligible to transfer any credits from the previous MA toward the second MA degree program.


For students who have completed an MA program outside of John Jay OR a non-Psychology MA degree program at John Jay (e.g., Criminal Justice MA, etc.), the maximum allowable transfer credits are 12. All credit transfer requests must be approved by the program prior to processing by the Office of Registrar.


Students are also required to complete all FMHC program requirements even if they exceed 60 credits.


Students are strongly advised to clarify and confirm their Degree Works information and understanding with an FMHC program advisor to ensure accuracy. To transfer these credits, please contact the FMHC or PSY MA office.


Readmitted FMHC students may transfer 30 credits from their previous FP MA degree if they completed their degree less than 10 years prior to the time of readmission; if 10 or more years, no credits are transferrable.

The advantage of the MA Program in Forensic Psychology is that it requires only 42 instead of 60 credits. In addition, students who wish to apply for a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology may do so without additional master's level work. Students may also concentrate on psychological research and a thesis without the necessity of an externship requirement. The MA in Forensic Psychology offers program graduates the opportunity to practice in state and county facilities as a master's level psychologist, but not in social service agencies or private practice in New York State. Most states offer regulated public sector job opportunities for graduates of the MA Program in Forensic Psychology.


In considering the advantages and disadvantages of the two MA Programs, it is recommended that students who wish to have a professional clinical career at the MA-level upon graduating will have the most opportunities with an MA in Forensic Mental Health Counseling, because many jobs require licensure. Alternatively, students who wish to apply to psychology doctoral programs following graduation might prefer to pursue an MA in Forensic Psychology.

Students in good standing (GPA of 3.0 or higher) may apply to transfer at any time from the MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling to the MA Program in Forensic Psychology, while they are matriculated at John Jay College.

There is no BA/MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling at this time, although such a program is in development. It is anticipated to begin in Fall 2025.

There are some state and federal grants and loans which are available at John Jay College, as well as at most universities. Work Study Programs are also available for financially-qualified applicants. A few additional scholarships are awarded at the beginning of each semester. For further information, contact John Jay's Office of Student Financial Services via email (financialaid@jjay.cuny.edu) or telephone at 212-237-8151. Students are encouraged to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for aid and loans.

Application forms and catalogs may be obtained through the admissions website or in person at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019. Applications may also be requested by telephone at (212) 237-8000. For additional information about the MA Program in Forensic Mental Health Counseling, please contact the program: fmhc@jjay.cuny.edu

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