Master of Science in Counselling Psychology - Zayed University - Ten Frequently Asked Questions

8 Feb, 2024


1. What are the major differences between counselling psychology and clinical psychology?

“This is a tricky question to answer because the distinction between what a counselling psychologist does and what a clinical psychologist does has changed. Back when the DSM IV was in use, an Axis system of designating disorders was the standard. Counselling psychologists mostly restricted their work to Axis 1 disorders, or general mental health and substance use disorders. Counselling psychologists tended to focus on neurotic disorders while clinical psychologists focused on psychotic disorders, personality disorders, and to a lesser extent, neurological and cognitive disfunction. Today, those distinctions are mostly gone. Both counselling and clinical psychologists work in almost any setting with any sort of clientele. 

A generalization about counselling psychology programs would be that they focus more on psychotherapeutic interventions - counselling - than on applications and preparation. Clinical psychology programs are more likely to have a strong research emphasis. As a result, a larger percentage of therapists in private practice have a background in counselling psychology, while institutional settings are likely to have a higher percentage of psychologists with clinical backgrounds. Setting and clientele distinctions will be based on individual interests and expertise with specific disorders and populations."

Dr. Lance W Kahn, Assistant Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University


2. Why are admissions interviews important? What should a candidate expect during the admissions interview and how can a candidate adequately prepare for the admissions interview? 

“The admissions interview is important because the panel members need to determine whether candidates have the potential to become effective counsellors.  By potential, I mean their levels of empathy, compassion for others, passion to become a helping professional, their attitude towards human nature and suffering, and personality characteristics, i.e., patience, resilience, therapeutic alliance and being a good listener. These attributes cannot be evaluated from information provided in their application form for graduate program admission.  

The admissions interview panel consists of both clinical and non-clinical individuals who will ask a series of general questions. There also will be a role play exercise to see how candidates would react in a counselling situation.

Candidates should be prepared to answer questions about why they chose a career in psychology and what their future goals are. By asking these questions, the interview panel members are looking to see a genuine interest and passion for the subject the candidate wants to study, ensuring that the candidate choose the right course for the right reasons. Candidates should be themselves and not try to answer questions based on what they think the interview panel members want to hear. During the interview, candidates should also confirm their commitment to learning, given the program demands.

Although the admissions interview is preferably conducted in-person, it also can be conducted online.”

Dr. Man Cheung Chung, Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

3. Can you provide more information on the types of external organizations where internships are conducted? How does the university assist in matching students with appropriate internship opportunities?

“Zayed University organizes students’ internship placements at external sites/clinics/hospitals. There are a range of placements that students may intern at. Although every effort is made to match each student's interests, this cannot always be guaranteed."

Dr. Teresa Arora, Chair, Department of Psychology, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

4. Can you elaborate on the opportunities for one-on-one mentorship or research collaboration with faculty members, given their diverse international research experience?

Faculty teaching in the Master of Science in Counselling Psychology program come from all over the world, providing students with diverse perspectives and teaching styles to broaden the depth of interactions with healthcare professionals and academics. Students and faculty develop into a tight group enhancing the opportunity for one-on-one mentorship and research collaboration. Students are encouraged to pursue their counselling and research according to their preferred area of focus with the guidance and support of expert faculty.”

Dr. Tai Rhonda Broach, Associate Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

5. How is cultural competency specifically addressed in the curriculum, considering the diverse cultural context of the United Arab Emirates?

“One of the foundational concepts of counselling psychology is non-judgmental respect and acceptance of the client. A large part of this acceptance must be an openness to the cultural influences on the client’s experience. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has incredible cultural diversity. We live in a true melting pot of culture and ethnicity. It would be impossible and pointless to teach culture in a counselling psychology program. What we teach instead, is how counsellors relate to the experiences of the individual without applying value or making assumptions. 

Every person is influenced by their culture, which is an integral part of their lives. Cultural competence is therefore incorporated into every course of the master’s degree program. The practice and application of cultural competence (case studies, role plays, and supervised counselling with diverse clientele) is emphasized in all aspects and settings. Many theories in psychology are based on studies conducted in the early and mid-20th centuries with participants who were exclusively western, white, and male. However, it is important for students in the master’s degree program not to simply accept the current knowledge, but to question what is useful and applicable to the populations they will work with. It is the ambition of the Psychology Department, Zayed University that graduates will expand the body of knowledge in counselling psychology to include more culturally relevant assessments and interventions that are appropriate and representative of the rich cultural environment of the UAE.”

Dr. Lance W Kahn, Assistant Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

6. What kind of support and resources are provided for the research component of the curriculum? Are there any specific guidelines or focus areas encouraged by the faculty?

“Faculty members offer close supervision and library resources are accessible to support the research component. Students receive guidance on the research project’s structure, formatting, referencing style, and scientific writing through general guidelines. The supervisor also gives guidelines on the research project within the counselling-related theme. The topic, covering various issues, is decided by mutual agreement between the student and supervisor. While faculty provides expertise, students are expected to work autonomously under supervision.”

Dr. Maria Joao Figueiras, Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

7. Post-graduation, what steps can students take to become a licensed counselling psychologist in the United Arab Emirates?

“Graduates from Zayed University’s Master of Science in Counselling Psychology program will be eligible for a provisional Department of Community Development (DCD) license (UAE nationals only) as either a counsellor or psychologist, depending on their employment at the time. The master’s degree program corresponds to the licensure requirements in Abu Dhabi and Dubai under criteria published by the DCD. With an earned Master of Science in Counselling Psychology and two additional years of work experience, graduates will be eligible for the additional credential of a Counselling License issued by the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai as well as a full license to practice with the DCD (Emirate of Abu Dhabi).  Non-nationals in Abu Dhabi also need to complete 6 months of post-graduate training with a trainee permit at a clinic approved by the Department of Health (DOH).”

Dr. Lance W Kahn, Assistant Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

8. Post-graduation, what steps can students take to become a licensed counselling psychologist abroad?

“Specific requirements for licensure will vary by country, state, or region. It is impossible to cover all possible variations of licensure available in this article. Candidates should explore licensing requirements for the specific location where they wish to practice. The Master of Science in Counselling Psychology program provides an essential foundation for eligibility for a license as a professional counsellor in general. The curriculum matches the requirements in North America specifically, which are like licensing criteria in most regions.

There are two possible paths to licensure as a professional counsellor outside the United Arabic Emirates upon graduating with a Master of Science in Counselling Psychology from Zayed University:

   - To register one’s credentials as a licensed counselor through the DCD or CDA in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Apply for a reciprocal license in the desired location. Based on the specific licensure requirements of that country, state, or region, it may be possible to transfer one’s current license. Provisional licenses do not transfer. If direct transfer of an unrestricted license is not possible, it is likely that one will receive a provisional license or pre-license credential for the new location that will enable one to practice as one complete any additional requirements for the local license. These additional requirements may include specific coursework, local exams (the U.S. license requires passing their National Counselor Exam), but most likely will be a specific number of supervised practice hours.

  - To apply directly for the desired license in the location where you plan to work and live. In many regions, this is a lengthy process. The completion of Zayed University’s Master of Science in Counselling Psychology is simply the first step in licensure in most locations. In addition to the earned degree (with all appropriate paperwork filed with local licensing agencies), licensure is likely to require successful completion of a local certification exam, and extensive supervised practice. Supervised practice requires that a currently licensed counsellor or psychologist reviews recordings (video or audio) of the candidate’s work with actual clients and provides constructive feedback. Supervision meetings may either be in person or online (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or similar). A supervision meeting is typically composed of both individual meetings (between the supervisor and licensee) and group meetings (between several licensees and supervisors).  The industry standard for licensure is currently one hour of supervision for every 40 hours of direct client contact. Most common requirements for licensure as a counsellor are either 2,000 or 3,000 hours of supervised practice.”

Dr. Lance W Kahn, Assistant Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

9. Are there opportunities for further specialization within the field of counselling psychology after graduating from the master’s degree program?

“Graduates have various opportunities for further specialization. They can tailor their career to their interests, passions, and opportunities. They also could focus on specific populations, such as children or adults, or specialize in specific therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, art therapy, or psychodynamic therapy (examples). It is common practice to develop one’s skills further in specific areas of counselling psychology through ongoing education, workshops, and obtaining additional certifications. There are many options available to choose from, including presential activities or online specializations.”

Dr. Maria Joao Figueiras, Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University


10. Is this degree recognized internationally, and are there opportunities for graduates to practice or further their studies abroad?

Zayed University’s Master of Science in Counselling Psychology is accredited by the UAE Ministry of Education. If students choose, they can seek opportunities abroad to enhance their level of experience with other regions and cultures. With the level of training and experience students undergo in the master’s degree program, they will be well received abroad.”

Dr. Tai Rhonda Broach, Associate Professor, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University

Connect with the College of Natural and Health Sciences to gain insights into the unique features of the  Master of Science in Counselling program. From cutting-edge research to real-world applications, faculty is available to provide you with the information you need. Reach out to us at +971-2-599-3605 / +971-2-599-3605 /

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