WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Students interested or currently taking classes in the Master of Science in Counseling degree program through Missouri State University Outreach can now fulfill all of their classroom and internship requirements in West Plains, thanks to an expansion of the program that took effect this spring.
The current cohort will provide the West Plains community with a small-scale, low-cost counseling clinic that will not only help serve the community’s counseling needs, but also allow students to complete their practicums and internships without commuting to Springfield.
Rebecca Smotherman, counseling instructor and West Plains cohort liaison, said the program recently went through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs’ (CACREP) accreditation process, which ensures nationally recognized standards of training for counseling students. A proposal was submitted to CACREP to start a cohort in West Plains, extending Missouri State University-Springfield’s program with the same requirements and training opportunities.
Previously, students taking counseling courses through Missouri State Outreach in West Plains had to commute to Springfield to complete their coursework, as practicum opportunities were not available in West Plains due to the lack of clinical training options for students. But now, in addition to the practicum opportunities afforded by the clinic, all necessary classes will be available on the West Plains campus through seated, blended, ITV (interactive television) and online courses.
“There will be program faculty here on this campus, as well as on the Springfield campus, with me being here as an instructor and liaison,” Smotherman said. “I can help with advising and set up meetings between students and faculty. My flexibility really helps with their scheduling needs.”
Smotherman said the clinic will be in Gohn Hall and will serve clients age three and up beginning in spring 2018. Services, which will include play therapy for children, will be provided by students seeking their Master of Science in Counseling degree. The students will be under the supervision of professionally licensed faculty, Smotherman said.
The Master of Science in Counseling program offered on the Missouri State-West Plains campus is currently geared toward preparing students to become school counselors. Students may seek either elementary or secondary counseling certification with the option of adding coursework to meet the Missouri licensure requirements to become licensed professional counselors. After completing the degree program, students must then take exams mandated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to become school counselors.
“The program opens doors both ways—for people who are interested in licensure and people who are licensed and want school certification,” Smotherman said. “There may also be opportunities for individuals to have access to coursework in specialization areas, like play therapy.”
Students currently taking classes toward their master’s degree in counseling through the West Plains cohort will be able to finish their degrees locally.
“I have wanted to pursue this degree for 10 years now,” said student Jennifer Shipley, West Plains. “The fact that I would have to drive to Springfield was the only reason that kept me from doing it. Now that classes are held locally in West Plains, there is no reason for me not to do it. Although we are not always present in the actual classroom, I have never once felt like I was alone in the process. Everyone is easily accessible and even more willing to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
Student Erin Rigdon, Cabool, added, “I am really enjoying taking masters-level Springfield classes through the West Plains campus. I am enjoying getting to know the Springfield instructors and the level of expertise they bring to the program.”
Smotherman is currently in the process of networking with area school districts for internship opportunities, and with local agencies for referral networking for the clinic. She also is working with Missouri State Outreach to recruit a cohort to start during the 2018 fall semester, if it is deemed feasible. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1, 2018. Class sizes would be small, allowing for individualized attention and networking with peers. She invites any interested individuals with questions about the program to contact her.
“Students in any undergraduate program can pursue this degree,” she said. “The skills you learn can be valuable in any career path.”
Smotherman’s current office hours at Gohn Hall are 10 a.m. to noon Mondays and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, with other availability electronically and by appointment. For more information or to set up an appointment, call her West Plains office at 417-255-7934, her Springfield office at 417-836-6516, or email RSmotherman@MissouriState.edu.
For more information on Missouri State University’s counseling program in general, contact Dr. Leslie Anderson, counseling program coordinator, at 417-836-6519 or email ALAnderson@MissouriState.edu. For more information about Missouri State Outreach in West Plains, call Outreach Coordinator Deanna Smith at 417-255-7777 or email DeannaSmith@MissouriState.edu.