Counselor Preparation and Research

A doctoral counseling degree for the researchers and leaders of the future

Do you want to have an active role in directing the future of clinical mental health, addictions, or rehabilitation counseling? Earning a PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research from East Carolina University will prepare you to take on leadership roles in education, research, and/or administration.

As one of the top-ranked graduate counselor degrees offering continuing education for researchers and practitioners, ECU boasts a 100% job placement rate for the academic year of 2020-2021. Students earning a PhD in counseling from ECU receive a balanced combination of theoretical and hands-on education experiences to ready them for rewarding careers researching, leading, and helping other counselors improve the field every single day.

Earn a nationally recognized doctorate in counseling preparation and research degree that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

The doctoral program in Counselor Preparation and Research is designed to meet the critical need for doctoral prepared counseling professionals across the nation. The primary obligations of our program include:

  • Extending the knowledge base of the counseling field in a climate of scholarly inquiry.
  • Supporting faculty and students in publishing and/or presenting the results of scholarly inquiry.
  • Preparing students to assume positions of leadership in the profession and/or their area(s) of specialization.
  • Preparing students to contribute to the conversations that inform professional practice by generating new knowledge for the profession through dissertation research focusing on areas relevant to counseling practice, counselor preparation, clinical supervision, and/or administration.

The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

The curriculum is delivered face to face via multiple methods (e.g., classroom, supervised clinical practice, supervised research) and designed to provide individualized program of study for each doctoral student.


For more information on admission, courses, and requirements, please refer to the Student Handbook and/or contact Dr. Leigh Atherton, Interim Chair of DARS and Interim Director of Doctoral Studies.

Financial support is available for doctoral students:

A counseling doctoral program created with you in mind

We know that when it comes to universities for doctoral counselor degrees, one size doesn’t fit all. That’s why we let you tailor your doctorate in counseling to your experience level and future career aspirations. You can select a rehabilitation or a clinical counseling focus. Take the courses and enjoy the internships that will directly benefit your career opportunities.


Why earn your PhD in counselor preparation and research at ECU?

When you earn a PhD in counseling preparation and research at ECU, you’ll join a diverse community of peers, faculty, and staff dedicated to improving counseling services and helping others live healthier and more comfortable lives. There are so many reasons why our program stands out from other programs for counselor degrees around the country, including:

Practical experience

Each of the courses in our counseling doctoral program will include experiential learning opportunities—in addition to the clinical, teaching, research, and administration learning experiences you can participate in outside of the classroom. Build a robust resume while making valuable professional connections.

Award-winning faculty

When you earn your doctorate in counseling preparation and research at ECU, you’ll take small classes — letting you work closely with distinguished faculty mentors who are leaders in their fields and have been awarded over $3 million in grants to support doctoral student research. Our remarkable faculty help us stand out from other PhD counselor degrees around the nation.

Generous funding

Earning your doctoral counseling preparation and research degree is a major investment of your time and energy. That’s why we invest in helping you pay for your doctoral counseling degree with graduate and teaching assistantships, as well as graduate stipends. Learn more about funding for doctoral counseling degree students (PDF).

Courses you will take in the counseling doctoral program

As you earn your doctoral counseling preparation and research degree at ECU, you’ll take courses that cover a wide range of topics in depth — including biostatistics, pedagogy, and the latest theories and methods in clinical mental health and rehabilitation counseling.

Continuing education for counselors will culminate with advanced internships in specific clinics or related settings and a dissertation.

Some of the popular courses we offer in our counselor preparation and research program include:

  • Advanced Clinical Counseling Theories and Techniques
  • Advanced Pedagogy in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Advanced Assessment and Evaluation

View the doctorate in counseling preparation and research program curriculum.

Hear from our counseling doctoral program students

“I was drawn to the PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research Program and the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies [DARS] due to the specialized focus on clinical mental health, addictions, and rehabilitation counseling. The faculty are dedicated to the growth and development of students and facilitate a truly collaborative environment.”

– W. Leigh Atherton, PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research, 2011

“My experience in the DARS PhD program was amazing.  I had heard stories of doctoral programs being very competitive and faculty being unsupportive, but that was not true for me. I developed a strong connection to my cohort and the faculty, and I was always able to get the help and support I needed to be successful.”

– Celeste Crawford, PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research, 2015

“I was worried about the ‘cutthroat’ nature I had always heard about seeking a PhD and the competitiveness and I was afraid to seek additional training because of this. The faculty in this department encouraged community, building on strengths, and working together as a means of achieving success. I appreciated the focus on succeeding and ensuring students succeeded without making us compete against one another.”

– Jennifer McDougal, PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research, 2015

What can you do with your PhD in counseling preparation and research?

Professionals with a PhD in counseling preparation and research work in wide variety of settings — including clinics, hospitals, mental health centers, senior citizen centers, prisons, probation or parole agencies, universities, and juvenile detention facilities—among many other settings. Graduating with your PhD in counseling from ECU will help you stand out in the job market and on the job.

Graduates from our doctorate in counseling preparation and research program are in high demand throughout the country

Thanks to the rigorous courses and focus on real-world experience in our continuing education for counselors, our graduates are highly sought after by employers and universities. Recent employer surveys show that our graduates have exceptional mastery of skills in clinical supervision, teaching methods, and client advocacy.

Where are ECU counseling doctoral program graduates working?

We are proud of our 100% job placement rate for 2020-2021, with most of our graduates finding positions in tenure track faculty positions or leadership positions. The many accomplishments of our graduates help us remain one of the top schools for counselor degrees in the nation.

The demand for leaders in mental health and rehabilitation counseling is growing quickly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to grow by 22% by 2031. That’s much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Continuing education for counselors has never been so beneficial for professionals looking for a career field with a fantastic job outlook.

Get started on your doctoral counseling preparation and research degree

Take the next step toward earning one of the top counselor degrees in the country. Want to learn more about what sets ECU apart from other universities offering counseling doctoral programs? We have the resources to answer all your questions and help you get started.


Admission to study at the doctoral level requires acceptance by the Graduate School and the department. Department faculty will make a comprehensive review of the each applicant’s qualifications. To apply, please go to We are currently accepting new students into the Rehabilitation and Clinical Counseling concentration only. Currently, we are unfortunately unable to accept new students into the Administration concentration.

Supplemental Admissions Information

Application Deadlines

Fall SemesterMarch 15th
Spring SemesterOctober 1st
Summer 1 Session/11 Week SessionMay 5th
Summer 2 SessionJune 15th

Degree programs related to our doctorate in counseling preparation and research

Accreditation for the PhD in counseling preparation and research at ECU

The PhD in Counselor Preparation and Research at East Carolina University is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This means that our program meets the high standards for academic and professional excellence set by the council, and that you’ll receive one of the most recognized and respected counselor degrees available.