Mental Health Counseling Licensure

The Mental Health counselor is a great profession for those who wish to help their fellow human beings deal with their emotional problems in an empowering and healing manner.

As a Mental Health counselor, you will be able to diagnose and treat a variety of addiction, mental and emotional health disorders. You will also be able to assist others in education aimed at prevention of addiction and other mental or emotional health disorders. You will have the ability to access and provide a variety of treatment methods and modalities that include cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal and transpersonal or psychodynamic therapies.

This is a job that puts one into a position of relative power and therefore is highly regulated to ensure a proper conduct of the Licensed Mental Health Counselor. This is achieved by having licensure requirements be met in order to hold the legally protected titles of Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor or Licensed Mental Health Counselor. In order to practice Mental Health counseling in most states you need to have the appropriate licensure as awarded by your state’s Mental Health licensing board.

This licensure process is fairly complex and you will want to contact your state’s Mental Health Counseling licensure board to make sure you are adhering to the legal requirements of your state. Keep in mind some states may offer reciprocity, that is acknowledgement and equivalency in licensure across states, but this is dependent upon the state and should not be assumed when moving from state to state.

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All fifty states and the District of Columbia all require licensure to operate with the title Licensed Professional Counselor or in some cases Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors or Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Regardless of the title in your state or district, the requirements have some similarities.

In all cases, you are required to have a Master or doctoral degree in Counseling from an accredited institution of higher education. You will also be required to have performed an internship as part of your degree. You will also be required to have a certain amount of post-master’s degree supervised clinical experience, in most cases this is at least 3,000 hours of post-master’s degree experience.

This experience must be completed within a certain amount of time, usually two years or less. You will need to pass a National Counselor Exam or another similar exam as administered by your state’s board and depending on the legal requirements for licensure in your state. You will also need to have yearly continuing education credits in order to retain licensure. You must also adhere to a code of ethics and standards of practice, as prescribed by the Board of Mental Health counselors in your state.

To review the necessary components with some variance between state to state are:

  • Master’s or Ph.D. in Counseling from an accredited school
  • Internship as part of earning your Master’s or Ph.D.
  • 3,000+ post-Master’s degree supervised clinical experience
  • All supervised experience must be completed within a two-year time frame once experience has begun
  • Passing grade on National Counselor Exam or similar exam sanctioned by your state’s Board of Mental Health
  • Counseling Certification
  • Continuing education credits as prescribed by your state in order to continue to have active licensure
  • Adherence to the standards of practice and code of ethics of your state’s licensing board

Once you have your license you will be able to set up your own Mental Health counseling private practice or to join a team of Mental Health counselors, or organization in order to begin practicing as a Mental Health counselor.

Due to the legally protected nature of the title’s available you will be able to command a significantly high salary and also you will have be seen as an expert within your field and have the prestige that goes along with the recognized title. This is an exciting field to work within and the rewards of being a Mental Health counselor include more than just the monetary aspect.

Mental Health counseling while being a very challenging occupation due to the intensity of the issues your clients may face, is also one of the most powerfully fulfilling for those who work within this field. If you are able to adhere to the ethical standards of the occupation, maintain healthy emotional boundaries with clients and practice adequate self-care you will find this to be an incredibly rewarding field of practice.