Human Services Guide

Counseling Licensure in Washington

Washington only has multiple levels of licensure for counseling. There are two main levels that interest those pursuing licensure as well as some lesser designations that allow one to operate in organizations and practices that usually do not require a license in other states. The primary designation is known as the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). While you are fulfilling the supervised experience element you will have the operating title Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate (LMHCA).

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The steps to become licensed as a counselor with the title Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) is as follows:

  1. Complete a master's or doctoral degree in mental health counseling or a behavioral science field relating to mental health counseling from an approved school. Fields recognized as related to mental health counseling include counseling, psychology, social work, nursing, education, pastoral counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or social sciences. Any related field of study must satisfy course work equivalency requirements as described in Washington State laws governing the licensure of mental health counselors.
  2. Complete a practicum as well as an internship element.
  3. Apply with the state board to sit for your NCE.
  4. Take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) as administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC).
  5. Apply for your LMHCA title.
  6. Complete the supervised experience element.
  7. Apply to the board for your full LMHC title.

Educational Requirements

Washington has the following educational requirements for licensure.

  • You will first need to acquire your Bachelor’s degree in Counseling or a highly related Social or Behavioral Science field such as Psychology, Social Work or Human Services. Counseling degrees are preferred.
  • The next step is to enroll in a master's or doctoral degree program in mental health counseling or a behavioral science field relating to mental health counseling offered through an approved school.
  • You will need to complete a practicum or internship that involves direct client contact with appropriate supervision.
  • Washington State requires additional continuing education credits before you can become licensed. Of the continuing education you will need 4 hours in training around HIV/AIDS and also six hours in professional ethics. You will need a total of 36 hours of post-Master’s degree continuing education.

Apply for Your LMHCA Title

You will need to apply with the board so you can begin the supervised work experience element.
Apply with the Washington State Board of Health for your LMHCA designation.

  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • You can find the application form here:

Supervised Experience

You must now accumulate the required supervised experience.

  • You need to accrue 3000 hours of supervised direct client care practice.
  • You must have 1200 of client service in the form of rendering therapy treatments.
  • You will need at least 100 hours of direct supervision from a board approved supervisor which can be one-on-one or with at most one other supervisee.
  • If you earned a graduate degree in counseling from a CACREP program you will can reduce your supervised work experience requirement to 2,500 hours.
  • Your supervisor must meet Washington State Department of Health standards for qualification.

Apply for and Take Your NCMHCE

You are now ready to apply for and take the NCMHCE.

  • Apply with the Washington State Department of Health to take your National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) as administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC).
  • Pass the NCMHCE with a score acceptable under Washington law.

Apply for Your LMHC Title

  • You are finally ready to complete your application and receive your LMHC title.
  • Apply with the Washington State Department of Health to receive your LMHC title
  • You can find the appropriate form here:

License Renewal and Continuing Education

Washington law states that you must renew your license every year. You must also be able to present evidence of continuing education at that time.

  • You must complete 36 hours of continuing education per biennium.
  • You will always want to stay abreast of changes by ensuring that every so often you visit the Washington State
  • Department of Health website:
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