Counseling Today, Your Counseling Career

Relocation tips for counselors

Amy Reece Connelly May 12, 2007

It’s summer. Time for rising temperatures, long vacations and, for many families across the United States, relocation to a new home. If relocating to a different state is in your summer plans, do you know how to effectively make the move?

Review your plan for counselor incapacitation or termination of practice

If your relocation causes you to terminate a practice, you’ll want to have a good exit plan in place. As stated in the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics in Standard C.2.h., “When counselors leave a practice, they follow a prepared plan for transfer of clients and files. Counselors prepare and disseminate to an identified colleague or ‘records custodian’ a plan for the transfer of clients and files in the case of their incapacitation, death or termination of practice.” 

Determine where you stand on licensure

Just as “location, location, location” is the battle cry for real estate moguls, “licensure, licensure, licensure” is the bottom line for counselors. If relocation is prompted by your own career move, then it’s likely that you already know where you stand in regard to licensure in your new location. But if you are the trailing partner in a job transition, the first item on your professional to-do list should be to contact the state licensure authority to begin the process of establishing a license to practice.

In most states, professional counselors are licensed by a state board of professional licensure (which may have other names), while school counselors are governed by the state board of education. The American Counseling Association has developed some helpful publications that sort out the requirements for licensure: Licensure Requirements for Professional Counselors: A State-by-State Report and A Guide to State Laws and Regulations on Professional School Counseling. Both are available for a nominal fee through ACA’s publications department. In addition, much of this information is available on ACA’s website at www.counseling.org/Counselors/LicensureAndCert.aspx.

Fill in the gaps if necessary

If you’re moving to a state that requires more classroom or supervision hours for licensure than you have earned, you’ll need to make up the difference. The state licensure authority should have a list of approved supervisors available on request (a fee may be charged), and you can access a directory of accredited programs at the CACREP website (www.cacrep.org) for the additional coursework you need to complete. Note: Completing a 60-semester-hour CACREP-accredited program in mental health counseling would satisfy the current academic requirements in most states that have licensure.

Identify organizations in your area that provide counseling services

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a website (http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov) that is useful as a sourcing tool for counseling positions. In the top right-hand column of SAMHSA’s home page, click on the box titled “Services Locator” (look for the map of the United States). This takes you to the “Mental Health Services Locator,” which provides a pop-up list of all U.S. states and territories.

Select a state or territory, and you will receive a list of mental health resources for your selection: lists of mental health facilities, a directory of mental health services, a state resource guide, suicide prevention programs … in short, a directory of agencies and private practices that provide mental health services. That list may be sorted by city.

So, let’s say you have just moved to Phoenix. You can click on Arizona, choose Phoenix, then scroll through five pages of mental health care providers in that city. Arm yourself with a map (or knowledge of the local geography), and you can augment your list with providers in surrounding communities.

This is the beginning of a prospect list. While it may not be comprehensive, if you combine these findings with those in the Yellow Pages, United Way agency listings and local chamber of commerce directory, it’s a good start for tapping into the mental health community of a specific geographic area.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your networking!

Before you even settle into your new community, you can begin the networking process via telephone and e-mail. Contact mental health professionals in the area and tap into information about the employment situation there. You may even uncover an opportunity that hasn’t yet been advertised.

Even if you don’t plan to relocate, check out www.aascb.org

The American Association of State Counseling Boards has been working on the issue of licensure portability for counselors. On the website, you can learn more about the intricacies of licensure portability, including the many variances from state to state that can sometimes make it difficult to establish licensure when relocating. You can also download an application to add your credentials to the National Credentials Registry. Inclusion in the database will certify your credentials (education and supervision) and safeguard the information for future use.

These guidelines should get you moving in the right direction after you determine that relocation is in your future. Moving your personal belongings and establishing Internet service is up to you.

Share your insights

What does “dress for success” mean in your office in these days of casual attire? If you have comments that you’d like to share for a future article in “Your Counseling Career,” e-mail Amy Reece Connelly at acacareers@counseling.org.

Amy Reece Connelly is the manager of ACA Career

Services. E-mail questions to her at acacareers@counseling.org. Telephone consultation is available to ACA members by appointment.