Clinical Mental Health Counselors & Graduate Trainees

clinical mental health counseling graduate trainee practicum therapy therapist family therapist couples counseling trauma PTSD low cost counseling

What is a clinical mental health counselor or graduate trainee?

Finding the right fit for therapy can feel like a big hill to climb. There are acronyms aplenty in regard to therapy approaches as well as providers - that can be daunting when you are trying to find the right fit for you! Here we break down what a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) and CMHC graduate trainee means.

We want you to feel supported for your whole therapy journey. This includes the process in finding a therapist to start with. In an effort to do that you can learn about our team here, read our blog here, or give us a call or email to talk to a member of our intake team. On our therapy team we have Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Trainees. (Note: the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Trainees work for San Diego Counseling Solutions.) You’ve found yourself on this page to learn what a Clinical Mental Health Counselor is, so let’s get to it!

Clinical Mental Health Counselors work to provide help, guidance, and resources to a wide range of populations. They have a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As a regulated profession part of healthcare, mental health counselors pursue state-specific licensure to become an autonomous professional. In California this is known as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). To achieve LPCC licensure in California, there are several requirements. First, mental health counselors are generally required to spend 2 to 3 years in graduate school. This is followed by 3,000 clinical hours of being supervised on the job by a licensed mental health professional. This professional could be a licensed professional clinical counselor, marriage and family therapist, social social worker, or a clinical psychologist. Then, they need to pass state board examinations to achieve licensure.

Clinical mental health counselors are specifically trained to diagnose and treat children, adolescents, and adults struggling with mental health. This can be in the regards to depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, stress, addiction, suffering from abuse or neglect, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Counselors may work in schools, colleges and universities, crisis and housing shelters, inpatient clinics, outpatient mental health centers, private practices, group practices, the military, alcohol and drug treatment centers, and many other settings. 

Specifically, as Clinical Mental Health Counseling Graduate Trainees, we are graduate students at the University of San Diego (USD). USD is a CACREP accredited program. CACREP accreditation indicates that the graduate program has been evaluated and met the highest strict and consistent standards set by the mental health counseling profession. This is regulated and overseen by the American Counseling Association (ACA).

As trainees, we have completed at least 40 graduate coursework credits and are supervised by both licensed professors at USD and by the owner of San Diego Counseling Solutions, Jennine Estes, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. This supervision is in the form of group supervision through USD and San Diego Counseling Solutions, as well as individual one-on-one supervision with Jennine. The purpose of this is to ensure you are getting the best support and guidance possible by having an extra brain from experienced professionals. Additionally, as trainees we have had the opportunity to attend a wide range of evidence based training through USD and San Diego Counseling Solutions.  As we learn and gain tools and knowledge as counselors, we can provide quality sessions to clients for a lower cost fee. This is an amazing opportunity for clients to also get multiple trained minds reviewing their cases to help them reach their goals! After we complete our Master’s degrees, we will transition from being CMHC Graduate Trainees to becoming registered as Associate Professional Clinical Counselors. This is similar to our Associate Marriage and Family Therapy (AMFT) colleagues. 


San Diego Counseling Solutions is a non-profit, however you can book through Estes Therapy for sessions.