November 11, 2021

My First Course at Yorkville University Pursuing My Masters in Counselling Psychology (MACP)

Holy smokes I’m so happy and excited to be writing that I’m finally finishing up my first course in my MACP program at Yorkville University! I’ve been transparent with all of you about my academic journey thus far and I’m here again to spill the tea all over you future grad students. I’m going to answer a couple of FAQs about the program so far, how much commitment it’s been and my overall thoughts. Please keep in mind while you read this that I’ve only completed the first course “The Biopsychosocial Approach to Counselling”, so by no means is this a comprehensive review of the whole program. So take this review with a grain of salt, as I’m still an MACP newbie! 

If you’re looking to apply to the MACP program at Yorkville, you may want to read the last blog post I wrote about the program:

Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology Application Tips at Yorkville University

FAQs about the program so far:

What is the time commitment for the program?

Since I did a psychology degree in my undergrad, I felt that a lot of the first course was a review of many of those psychological concepts with the one focus on counselling. Therefore, my time commitment might be different than others. For this course, we had discussion forums we had to post to every week. To get the highest mark, I had to spread my posts out throughout the week. Therefore, I posted to the discussion forums Mondays-Thursdays. Since I’m fairly versed with finding primary sources to reference in discussion questions, it didn’t take me long to write up 200 words per discussion. I would say that I dedicated about 1-2 hours a day on discussion questions (Monday-Thursday). I gave myself Friday’s off unless I had an assignment due that week. Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated to doing my readings for the next week and possibly starting to write that week's initial discussion posts. In this first course, I had 4 assignments (2 micro-assignments, a group project, and a final paper). It’s hard to say exactly how much time I dedicated to all of these assignments, but my final paper took 2 weeks to write with an hour or two of work on it each day (sometimes more if I’m on a roll). The nice thing about this program is that you can put in as much time as you have whenever you’d like, there’s no set class times which gives me the flexibility to work when I feel most productive. I’ve gotten a lot of people asking me about the time commitment because they have kids at home and I think that’s very personal. I don’t have kids (just a siamese cat that likes to knock things off the counter), so I can’t comment on what that experience would be like. But there’s my time commitment, hopefully this helps you when deciding if this program is a good fit for you. 

How hard are you finding the course? 

This is a subjective question, and as I said earlier, I have a psychology degree, therefore, it felt very manageable. I am personally very passionate about the counselling field, so I enjoy applying my knowledge of psychology to counselling specifically. My next course is the research methodology course which other people have said is more difficult, but I can’t accurately comment on that course until I’ve completed it myself. So simply, I found the first course very manageable and honestly very fun and inspiring to be able to converse with others who are passionate about counselling psychology via the discussion forums. 

Are the instructions clear for assignments?

I felt that everything was very straightforward and if I didn’t understand something, I could just email my professor for clarification. I think it’s really easy to overthink the assignments, but sometimes, things are just simple! The first couple assignments were really straightforward which gave me some practise at grad school level writing. 

Do you feel isolated in the program since it’s online?

Not at all actually! I was very thankful for the group project in this first course because our professor asked us to try to find other people in the same province/region we live in. This was helpful because we got into groups and then started group chats and it felt like I had classmates to lean on if I had small questions and what not! It felt nice to support one another. Also, it’ll be important as a future therapist to have other colleagues that you can collaborate or consult with when you finish the program. Overall, I feel quite connected to others. 

Do you feel the program set you up for success?

I think it’s important to remember that this is an asynchronous program (for the most part). I believe that some courses in the future have certain times we need to be present, but for this first course, it was completely asynchronous. This means that self-discipline and comprehending what you’re reading is very important. You have to be able to read the textbooks and understand what’s happening without automatic further instruction (i.e., a lecture). For the people that know me from my undergrad, I despised going to classes to review what we were already supposed to read (it felt redundant and unnecessary), so this program was perfect for me that way. However, if there is ever something that you don’t understand when you’re reading, you always have the opportunity to email your prof any questions or you can schedule a meeting with them on zoom if need be. Every week is laid out very nicely and organized with all of the tasks that you need to complete each week. I felt that (so far) the program has set me up for success. I did very well in this course because of that.

What can you do with the degree once it's completed?

Depending on what province you live in, you have to register with a regulatory body in order to practise as a mental health professional in Canada. Since I live in Alberta, I have two possible paths I can go down. I could register with the College of Alberta Psychologists (CAP) and become a "Registered Psychologist" where I would only be able to practise in Alberta. The other path I can go down after graduation is to become registered with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) which would give me the "Canadian Certified Counsellor" (C.C.C) designation. With this title, I can technically give therapy/counselling to anyone in Canada. There are pros and cons to both such as insurance coverage, how much you can charge, and how long the registration with the regulatory bodies takes, etc. I can do a separate post on the differences between these titles if this is of interest as well. I do know that students that have completed this Yorkville University MACP program have been able to register with CAP as a Registered Psychologist and also with the CCPA as a Canadian Certified Counsellor. I haven't completely decided what I want to do yet since it's basically the exact same job, just different titles, so I'm still deciding! I have all the way up until the end of my practicum to decide! If you live outside of Alberta, it's important to do research on where you will be planning to register when you finish the program. In the first course of your MACP program, you are given instruction to research this.

Advice for incoming MACP students

(1) Learn the ins and outs of APA 7th edition before starting the course. I already knew how to search and cite peer-reviewed articles because I just finished my undergraduate degree last June. This helped me a lot. You will need to be citing sources in all of your papers and in discussion posts, so this is important.

(2) Use your 1 week before the course opens. For every course, you get access to the material, syllabus, and schedule one week before the course starts. This means you get time to prepare and start your readings. For your first course, I believe your academic advisor will give you your first couple readings when you've been accepted into the program. Using this 1 week before the course starts allows for a smooth beginning of each course with less stress.

(3) Reach out to people in your class. We had a group project to complete for the first course and it was recommended we divide into groups by geographic location, therefore, I had a group where everyone lived in Alberta. I added each of my group members on Facebook and started a messenger group and began chatting. I felt very connected with way. There was a few women that I stayed in contact with throughout the course and now moving forward will have them to bounce ideas off of and have for support throughout the rest of the program.

(4) You get what you put into the program. If you want to come out of each course with a wealth of new knowledge about the counselling field, you will want to do your readings and pick topics for the assignments that interest you. This is a specialized graduate program, if you're in the program, chances are you're passionate about the mental health field. With this being said, do your readings and put extra time into assignments (if you can) and you will get a lot out of the courses.

(5) Don't be afraid to ask questions and reach out to your professor. Most of the time it was easy to get ahold of my professor if I needed clarification on an assignment. Don't hesitate to reach out, especially at the beginning when you don't have classmates that you know you can reach out to.

(6) Since the courses are condensed, there can be a lot of reading and writing most days. As graduate students going into the mental health field, we need to practise self-care and be mindful of burnout. The first course was pretty light, but I know my next course is going to be fast paced and a ton of work, so keeping the importance of self-care in mind is crucial as a student and as a future therapist following the program.

(7) Don't fret over your discussion posts. I remember how nervous I was to hit "post" after writing up my first two discussion posts. But, they are worth so little of your grade. I think I did the math and each discussion post was worth less than 1%. The main thing to keep in mind is to add to the discussion, maybe ask a question at the end, incorporate and connect your own life experiences to the discussion sometimes, and make sure it shows evidence that you read the material for the week. At first, these discussions may take you a long time, but you'll get the hang of it. By week 3 or 4, I was allotting approximately 30 min per discussion post.

(8) Before submitting any assignments or post in the discussions, read the rubrics. The professors at Yorkville mark using only the rubric, if you hit all of the categories on the rubric, you will do well. The rubric should be your best friend.

(9) Start assignments early. Yes, this is the classic "don't procrastinate" advice. Sometimes life can get crazy and if you're able to start your assignments early, you won't be stuck in a bind if a life event comes up right before the due date.

(10) Enjoy the program! For most of us, this is our last couple years of school forever. Enjoy this unique stage of your life, I know I am!