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Program Description

The Master of Arts (M. A.) in Counseling Psychology (located within the UH Hilo Psychology Department) is a 60 semester hour program designed to provide multicultural, student-centered training in counseling psychology.

Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty aims at facilitating personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with sensitivity to multicultural issues, this specialty encompasses a broad range of practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives. Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders. 

Our program is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC). MPCAC accredits academic programs in psychology, which promote training in the scientific practice of professional psychology at the master’s level. Accredited programs must demonstrate a commitment to science-based training in all aspects of psychology and to enhancing services to the consumer and the public at large. The University of Hawaii at Hilo is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Mission Statement

The mission of the Master of Arts program in counseling psychology is to provide multicultural, student-centered, graduate training in counseling psychology. The program is designed to train students to become knowledgeable, skillful, ethical counselors who will be able to help people in need of professional counseling services. For students who may wish to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology later, the program provides training in advanced statistics and research methodology. It also offers opportunities for students to gain research experience by participating in ongoing projects and/or by initiating their own research projects or a Master’s Thesis. The program assigns a high priority to meeting the educational and personal needs of its students and is based on a scientist-practitioner model.

The objectives of the counseling program are:

  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills to counsel clients from different ethnic, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds.
  • To provide students with a broad understanding of general counseling theory and practice, within a scientist-practitioner framework.
  • To provide students with the knowledge of the social, psychological, health, and economic problems that residents of Hawai’i face, along with the professional skills to help people cope with and manage these problems in the future.
  • To offer research training opportunities to students who are interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in counseling psychology or a related field.

Counseling Specialties, Licensure, and Certification

Mental health counseling, school counseling, and marriage and family therapy are different, but related, specialty areas. Our program is a mental health counseling program, and our curriculum meets the educational requirements for licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the state of Hawai’i. See the mental health counselor webpage at the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for additional licensure requirements.

Our program does not meet the educational requirements for certification by the Hawai’i Department of Education as a school counselor or for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Our graduates do work as mental health counselors in Hawai’i schools. In Hawai’i, mental health counselors in public schools are called School-Based Behavioral Health Specialists (SBBHs). Additionally, some of our graduates do work as school counselors in private schools and charter schools that do not fall under the same regulations that apply to public schools in Hawaii. In addition, our graduates may meet requirements to practice in Hawaii public schools as what are called "Complex School Psychologists."

States vary in their requirements for licensure as a mental health counselor and for certification/licensure as a school counselor. If you may want to practice as a counselor in a state other than Hawaii, you should research licensure and certification requirements in the specific states you are interested in. Other states may refer to what are called LMHCs in Hawaii with different terminology, e.g., as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). The American Counseling Association maintains a web page with links to all of the state licensing boards for mental health counselors. The American School Counselor Association has a page that summarizes state requirements for certification as a school counselor.

Practicum and Internship Opportunities

Here are some of the local institutions, agencies, and private practitioners who have provided practica and internship placement sites for our students:

  • Alternatives to Violence
  • The Bay Clinic
  • Big Island HIV/AIDS Foundation
  • Dr. Joe Bratton
  • CARE Hawaii
  • Child and Family Services (Hilo and Kona)
  • Connections Charter School
  • Dr. Gay Barfield (private practice)
  • Hamakua Health Center
  • Dr. Bruce Hansen (private practice)
  • Hale Ohana Spouse Abuse Shelter 
  • Hilo High School
  • Hospice of Hilo
  • Kamehameha Schools
  • Ka‘u High School
  • Ke Ala Pono
  • Kua O Ka La Public Charter School
  • Parker School
  • The Institute for Family Enrichment (TIFFE)
  • University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Counseling Center
  • The Hilo Veterans' Center
  • Waiakea Elementary School
  • Waiakea Intermediate School
  • Waiakea High School
  • Waiakeawaena Elementary School

Employment Opportunities for Graduates

Graduates of the program will be able to seek employment as professional mental health counselors. Graduates who later obtain a doctoral degree in counseling or clinical psychology will be able to seek employment as professional psychologists. Employment prospects for mental health counselors are good in Hawai’i and in many other areas of the United States. Currently a shortage of qualified counselors exists, and employment opportunities in this field are expected to grow at a faster than average rate over the coming years.

Professional mental health counselors may find employment in a wide variety of settings, including the following: community mental health clinics, public and private elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, correctional facilities, vocational rehabilitation centers, job training and career counseling centers, residential care facilities, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and agencies, private practice settings, mental hospitals and psychiatric wards, general medical hospitals and other healthcare facilities, employee assistance programs, child welfare and other family assistance agencies, and military counseling settings.

An important expansion of career prospects for licensed Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) in Hawaii  occurred on June 27th, 2008 when Governor Linda Lingle signed Hawaii Senate Bill SB2159 HD1 into law. This Bill indefinitely extends Hawaii's professional licensure provisions for Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) and also mandates health insurance coverage (vendorship) for services provided by MHCs. This Bill means that graduates of our program who successfully become licensed as MHCs will now have access to more, and better-paid, job opportunities, including private practice opportunities. This bill places MHCs on an equal footing with other master's level mental health care providers in Hawaii who also already have vendorship rights (licensed clinical social  workers and marriage and family therapists).

Here are some of the places where our graduates are (or have been) employed:

  • Abbott House (South Dakota)
  • Acadia Hawaii
  • Care Hawaii
  • Child and Family Service
  • De Silva Elementary School
  • Family Support Hawaii
  • Hamakua Health Center (Honokaa)
  • Hawaii Community College (as counselors and adjunct faculty)
  • Kanu o ka `Aina New Century Public Charter School (Waimea)
  • Kua O Ka La Charter School (Puna)
  • Mililani Uka Elementary School (Oahu)
  • Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health Center (South Dakota)
  • Nana'ikapono Elementary School (Oahu)
  • The Nevada Children's Center (Nevada)
  • Private practice
  • The Institute for Family Enrichment (TIFFE)
  • UH Hilo Counseling Center
  • UHH (as adjunct faculty)
  • Windward Community College (Oahu)
  • Windward School for Adults (Oahu)
  • YWCA Enhanced Healthy Start Program
  • YWCA Sex Assault Support Services Program

    (please send new site listings for this section to Steve Herman (

Links to More Information

Contact Us

If you have any questions about our program, we would like to hear from you. Ple email one of our core faculty directly:

Bryan S. K. Kim, Ph.D., Professor, Counseling Psychology Program Director


Chris Frueh, Ph.D., Professor, Chair, Division of Social Sciences


Steve Herman, Ph.D., Associate Professor  


Charmaine Higa-McMillan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor


Sunyoung Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor


Mailing address:

University of Hawai’i at Hilo
Psychology Department
200 West Kawili Street
Hilo, HI 96720

The UH Hilo Master's Program in Counseling Psychology is accredited by the Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council.

The class of 2012 at graduation (May 12th, 2012)

From left to right: (top row) Maggie Price, Hilary Leasure, Emily Koester, Ashley Matsui, Lyssa Sakamoto, Kassandrea Patrick, Yardley Duran, Brittany Klarin, Reece Urutani (bottom row) Mihana Diaz,Kau'i Trainer, Ashley Usita, Gretchen Swick

The class of 2011 at graduation (May 14th, 2011)

From left to right: Yardley Duran, Kahea Like, Rex Like, Elsha Tivera, Meg Davis, Brittany Klarin, Meghan Chin, Natalia Kupriyanova, Cynthia Flack, Cheryl Jorgensen, and Misti Walker.


The class of 2010 at graduation (May 2010)

From left to right: Shari Tresky, Shannon McNiece, Kailoa Harman, Kau'i Ontai, Keola Birano, Anjala Dalton, Kahea Wright, Laura Pacheco, and Maureen Riley.


The class of 2009 at graduation (May 2009)

From left to right: Clarissa Fernandes, Monica Adams, Kyoko Nozaki, Athena Gray, Aimee Deliramich, Aulii Canencia, Lily Chan-Harris, and Eddie Johns.


The class of 2008 at graduation (May 2008)

From left to right: Tamia McKeague, Emi Ueki, Darissa Kekuawela, and Olga Archambeau (not pictured is Lovina Moveao). 


The class of 2007

From left to right: Pansy LindoMoulds , Tiffany Freitas, Penelope Rodriguez, Virginia White, Karen Crowell, Christine Park, Laura Acevedo, Erica Godoy.