Summer 2019 update: The American Counseling Association has created a state-by-state guide with updated information on licensure requirements across the country. Go to counseling.org/knowledge-center/licensure-requirements for information on licensure in your state or U.S. territory.
David Kaplan, chief professional officer for the American Counseling Association, delivered the following keynote presentation at the American Association of State Counseling Boards on Jan. 4, 2012.
“I am a prisoner in my own state.”
These were the words of a professional counselor who had called ACA in tears. She had been licensed and practicing in Wisconsin for over 20 years. Then, through no fault of her own, she fell in love. And love lead to a proposal of marriage. The complicating factor was that her fiancée lived in a state 900 miles away. No big deal, she decided to transfer her license to her new state and start her new life and family. But when she contacted the state licensing board in her fiancée’s state, she was told – despite the fact that she had been licensed for two decades and despite the fact that she had a spotless record without any complaints made to her licensing board – that she was not eligible to be licensed. She had to choose between practicing in her home state and leaving the counseling profession to be with the man she loves.
We have a real crisis in counselor licensure. Counselors are trapped in their own states.
My goal for our time together is that by the end of my talk you will understand the problem. But I want to go way beyond that. I am hoping that you will take ownership of the problem because you are the ones with the power to solve it. And, if you are not too furious at me by the time I get to it, I want to propose a way that we all can work together to solve this longstanding and painful issue.
Let me read to you from an op-ed that just came out in the January Counseling Today by Thomas Sherman, a licensed counselor and a clinical supervisor with the military OneSource program which provides counseling and support services to active duty, National Guard, and Reserve service members and their families. I would like to read an extended portion because I think it really gives you a feeling for what counselors are going through when they try to transfer their license to a new jurisdiction. [Read complete Counseling Today opinion piece, “License portability: One counselor’s journey across state lines”]
License portability: One counselor’s journey across state lines
January 2012 | Opinion
Thomas J. Sherman
As an existentially oriented counselor, I am well versed in the absurd, but I was not quite prepared for how far my ability to accept it would be stretched when I moved three hours away and across state lines. I graduated with my doctorate in counselor education in May from a well-known university and, following graduation, moved to join my partner who had received an outstanding job in another state. Being a licensed counselor, I assumed it would be easy for me to follow her and get a job practicing counseling. How wrong I was.
When I graduated with my master’s degree, I moved to a state that required unlicensed counselors to be under the supervision of a licensed professional. In three years, I completed the 4,000-hour clinical residency, which included 2,000 hours of direct client contact and 200 hours of supervision required for licensure in the state. In June 2010, I passed my state licensure exam. In April 2011, when my partner and I knew we would be moving to a different state, I began reviewing the requirements for transferring my license to the new state.
The requirement for transferring a license is listed as either two years of practice as a licensed counselor or 2,000 hours of clinical professional counseling experience. Despite these requirements being listed twice on the licensing forms, I called the state counseling board to confirm that I met the requirements and was completing the correct forms. After outlining my experience, I told the person at the counseling board that I had held my license in the other state for only one year but that I possessed well over 2,000 hours of clinical experience. The person with whom I spoke at the board notified me that, given my clinical experience, I should be able to transfer my license.
By the end of May, I had gathered the required signatures from my professors and former supervisors, collected transcripts from all of the schools I had attended, written the required check to the board and mailed a license verification form to the state counseling board where I currently held my license so it could sign and return the form to the new state to which I was moving. After waiting several weeks into June, I called the counseling board in the state to which I was moving to see if it had received my licensure verification form. I was told the person with access to the files was on vacation and would “be back sometime next week.” The next week, I called several times before reaching the person with whom I needed to speak, only to be informed that the form had not yet been received. This person also told me that if the form was not received by July 15, I would have to wait until Aug. 15 for the counseling board to review my application.
Having this information, I called my former licensing board to inquire about my licensure verification. A voice mail greeted me, informing me the board had a high volume of applications and instructing me to leave a name and number, which I did. The following day, having not received a return phone call, I called several times until finally reaching an actual human whom I could ask about the status of my license verification. I told this person the check for the verification fee I had sent with the form had been cashed in June, but as of July, my new counseling board had not received the form. This person told me my former counseling board met only once per month and had already convened in June prior to my request being received. I inquired as to when the counseling board would meet next. The response: “Sometime in July.” The person could not provide a date when the board would meet to sign my form.
This raised a second concern for me. Because I had submitted all of my forms in June, I had allowed my license in my former state to lapse at the end of that month, not seeing the benefit of paying for and carrying two licenses in different states. I attempted to call my former licensing board again to determine if this lapse would affect the verification of my license because the board would not be reviewing it until July. Once again, I was unable to reach anyone, so I left my question on voice mail. I never received a phone call. Instead, on July 15 I received an email indicating the board had mailed out my licensure verification. The email didn’t address my question of whether my license was still valid.
After waiting another week, I called my new counseling board to confirm receipt of the licensure verification form. It was at this point I was notified that I did not meet the requirements for transferring my license because I had not held my previous license for two years. I told the person at the board I was getting different messages and asked if I could speak with someone higher up. I was given the number of the board’s director. I reviewed my previous conversations with the director, indicating that someone at the board had confirmed my understanding of the state’s licensure requirements. The director said the expectation was that if an individual had a counseling license for two years, he or she would also have 2,000 hours of clinical practice, meaning that a person was required to have both, not either/or, despite the wording on the forms. I shared that the state where I previously had been licensed required 1,000 more contact hours and 100 more hours of supervision than did my current state’s licensure requirements. I was told I had two options: I could wait for the board to review my application in September and inform me of its decision in October, or I could send in another check, complete a different set of forms and mail back in the application for regular licensure — and still wait until October.
Exasperated, I communicated to the director that I had been unemployed for three months while following the instructions provided by the board to get my license transferred. When told the earliest I would hear whether my forms were correct would be October — another three months away — I asked how the board could justify the delay in responding given that a license is required to practice. The director told me that even if the board had received my application materials in June, they still would not have been reviewed until September. In May and June, the director explained, the board reviewed disciplinary issues that kept its members from approving licensure applications, and then the board was on recess through July and August, despite what the person at the counseling board had previously told me regarding the board’s meetings. For four months (fully one-third of the year), the counseling board did not review applications, and when it would review them, it would take 30 days to respond. Following a response, applicants must still sit for a counseling law exam and/or a licensure exam. I finally asked if I could speak to someone on the licensing board who might possibly give me some concrete answers. The director said she could make the request but added that the board did not usually honor such requests.
As of mid-August, I still had not received a response from the counseling board.
In October, I finally received my letter from the board indicating that I could sit for the licensing examination within a week. The letter indicated I would need to bring a license to confirm my identity. On the letter, my name was incorrect. When I attempted to contact the person listed on the letter to follow up, I reached her voice mail, which informed me she would be out of the office until after the date of the exam. Through the counseling board’s main number, I was able to reach a person who could correct my name. Finally, at the end of October, nearly six months after I began the licensing process, I received my counseling license in the new state.
Unfortunately, what I heard from the counselor in Wisconsin and what you just heard from the op-ed is not unusual. ACA receives a dozen calls a week – a week – from licensed counselors who have been stymied and frustrated in their attempts to transfer their license to a new state. We hear horror story after horror story. I’ll bet you do, too – or at least your administrator does.
So how did this nightmare develop? There are two levels of answers to this. The simple explanation for why license reciprocity for professional counselors is so difficult is that there is a patchwork of licensure titles, scopes of practice, and sets of education requirements. There are over 45—45! — titles used by state counseling boards including: Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Associate Counselor, Licensed Associate Professional Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Clinical Counselor intern, Clinical Counselor Trainee, Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health, Licensed Associate Counselor of Mental Health, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern, Associate Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Intern, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, Registered Counselor Intern, Professional Counselor Intern, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern, Certified Professional Counselor Intern, Conditional Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Conditional Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Counselor, Certified Professional Counselor, Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor, Limited Licensed Professional Counselor, Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Provisional Mental Health Counselor, Licensed Mental Health Practitioner, Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner, Licensed Mental Health Practitioner – Certified Professional Counselor (that is seven words!), Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner, Provisional Professional Counselor, Limited Permit, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Professional Counselor/Clinical Resident, Registered Counselor Trainee, Registered Intern, Professional Counselor with Provisional License, Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental health, Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider, Certified Counselor, Agency Affiliated Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor Trainee, and Provisional Professional Counselor.
One licensing board alone uses five different license titles! How can that be anything but confusing to the public? There is one state with a “Certified Mentor” credential and another with a “Certified Advisor” credential. What the heck do those mean? Some states have one tier. Some have two tiers.
Your scopes of practice are just as confusing. Some permit the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Some don’t. Some focus on human growth, life-span development, and wellness. Others don’t. Some include career development. Others don’t. Some include play therapy. Others don’t. Some include couples and family counseling. Others don’t. Some allow testing. Others allow assessment. Some allow treating personality disorders. Others don’t. Some include sexual dysfunction. Others don’t. Some include treating substance abuse. Others don’t. Some include working with disabilities. Others don’t. Some include consultation. Others don’t. Some include crisis intervention. Others don’t. Some include group counseling. Others don’t. Some include guidance. Other don’t. Some include research. Others don’t. I could go on, but you get the point. In a nutshell if you read any 20 state counseling board scopes of practice, you will see 20 different skill sets.
Are education requirements any better? What do you think? Some states require 60 graduate credits. Some require 48 credits. One state even specifies 42 credit hours – how they got 42, I (and the public?) honestly have no idea. Some do not specify the number of credits at all. Some of your state boards utilize the CACREP guidelines. Others don’t. One (it was 2 for a short period of time) requires a CACREP degree. Everyone else doesn’t. Some include CORE. Others don’t. Many do not mention either CACREP or CORE. One licensing board requires 1,500 hours of supervised experience. Others require 2,000 hours. Still others require 3,000 hours of supervised experience. One requires 3,200 hours. Another requires 3,500 hours. Another 3,600 hours. Two boards even require the interesting number of 3,360 hours. There are also boards that require 4,000 hours. If the board with the greatest number of hours wins, it is New Jersey with a required 4,500 hours of supervised experience. If, however, the prize goes to the jurisdiction with the smallest number of supervised hours it is Puerto Rico with 500. What does it say to the public when there is a difference of 4,000 hours of required supervised experience across counseling licensure boards (and even if you want to discount the lowest number the range is still 3,500 hours)? Wait- but there’s more! One board requires all supervised experience to be obtained within a 7 year period. I’m not sure why – maybe they thought it was a doctoral dissertation. There is also a board that requires all supervised experience to occur within the 5 years prior to the application.
Some counselor licensing boards require 1 year of experience. Others require 2 years. Still others require 3 years of experience. There is one board that requires 21 months of experience and a board that requires 4 years of experience. Some states allow part time experience to count. Others only count full time employment.
Some states require the NCE exam. Others require the NCMHCE. Some licensing boards allow either the NCE or NCMHCE. Some require both. Some will allow the rehabilitation counseling exam to count. Others won’t. A few jurisdictions don’t trust national exams at all and make up their own. One board has an oral exam. Another, an essay exam. A third requires a videotape sample. And, in a display of unparalleled flexibility, one state allows applicants to submit the results from any of 7(!) different examinations including the ATCB, CBMT, PEPK, AAODA, and EMAC, none of which I have any idea what they are.
And if this confusing stew of credits, supervised hours, years of experience, and exams isn’t enough, there are the education requirement permutations. Check out this idiosyncratic rule in one state: “An applicant may subtract 1,000 hours of the required professional experience for every 15 graduate semester hours (or 22.5 quarter hours) obtained beyond the master’s degree from a regionally accredited academic institution , provided that the coursework is clearly related to the field of professional counseling.” Woe to the counselor who takes advantage of this rule and then moves down the line to another location only to be told that their new jurisdiction does not have such a rule and they are thus ineligible for licensure.
I mentioned that the simple answer as to why the crisis in license portability has occurred is the patchwork and jumble of licensure titles, scopes of practice, and sets of education requirements. The deeper cause relates to the mindset of counselor licensure boards – that would be you. I apologize but I am going to continue to gore a few oxen. Counselor licensure boards seem to operate from four peculiar world view generalizations:
World view generalization #1: Our state is the only state that licenses qualified counselors. We can’t trust the credentialing process of any other state.
World view generalization #2: We can’t cooperate with other licensing boards because we will lose the appearance of complete independence.
World view generalization #3: We don’t need to provide anything resembling customer service to counselors because we are here for the public.
World view generalization #4 – and the one I would like to focus on: Licensure reciprocity and portability are not our concern because they are guild issues, not public protection issues.
I want to tackle the last world view generalization and convince you that license portability is very much a public protection issue. Because if I can do so, then the other world view generalizations will fall into place. You will see the need to cooperate with other states and jurisdictions and to provide decent customer service for your licensees. You will also – hopefully – be open to the plan to assist you that I will be talking about in a bit.
I would propose that there are three reasons why licensure portability is a public protection issue and should therefore not only be on your radar screen, but be a priority for counselor licensure boards. The first is the fact that in order to meet your mandate to serve the public, you need more licensed counselors in your state or jurisdiction. This may come as a surprise to those of you who live in cities or university towns where there are plenty of mental health providers competing with each other for clients. To find the problem, you have to look behind rocks, over creeks, and through the leaves and tall grass. Specifically, there is a dire shortage of counselors in rural areas. How short? Myers and Gill found that 60% of rural areas are designated mental health shortage areas by the federal government. Current estimates (as of this past Sept, 1) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are that there are over 3,600 mental health shortage areas with a total population of almost 89 million people living in them – that is 1 in 4 Americans. I have a listing of every designated mental health shortage county in the United States with me if you want to check out your state. HHS estimates that it would take almost 6,000 additional mental health providers to meet the needs of citizens who live in rural areas.
We have known about the shortage of rural mental health professionals for a long time. It was documented by the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare in 1969. The Report of the National Action Commission on Mental Health of Rural Americans highlighted the problem in 1988. And President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health made the lack of access to mental health services by rural Americans a key point of focus in 2002 (and I testified on behalf of ACA and the counseling profession).
Counselor licensure boards must focus on rural Americans. That is because they constitute especially vulnerable populations. The HHS report Rural Mental Health in America states, quote, “Groups at greater risk for mental disorder – the elderly, the chronically ill, the poor, and the dependent – are disproportionately represented in rural areas. Myers and Gill add rural women to the list. They report that 41% of poor, rural women self-report significant depression, in part because they often experience, quote ”low self-esteem, low perceptions of ability to set or achieve life or career goals, a lack of feeling of empowerment, and an external locus of control.” The researchers report that as a result, lower SES rural women, “frequently resort to negative coping behavior, notably substance abuse.” In response to these issues, Myers and Gill developed a multi-factor wellness model for counselors to use with rural women. So professional counselors know what to do to meet the mental health needs of rural Americans. Unless you want to write off these vulnerable rural populations and say that your mandate only applies to those who have the good sense to live near a city or university town, you need more counselors. And you need programs to encourage licensed counselors to live and work in rural areas. The development of those programs is a topic for another talk on another day. But the good news is that many professional counselors – especially when compared with other mental health professions – seem to be rural types. And so facilitating the ability of licensed counselors – especially those who want to live in the boondocks – to emigrate to your state is in the best interest of the rural population of your state or jurisdiction.
The second reason why licensure portability is a public protection issue has to do with your mandate to meet the needs of underserved populations. The U.S. census bureau estimates that minority populations comprise 34% of the United States and they are growing rapidly. Ten years ago, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health found that the unmet needs of underserved populations was so great that it set improving access to quality care that is culturally competent as a major goal. Let me read you a small portion from the section of the report titled, Minority Populations are Underserved in the Current Mental Health System: “Racial and ethnic minority Americans comprise a substantial and vibrant segment of the U.S. population, enriching our society with many unique strengths, cultural traditions, and important contributions. As a segment of the overall population, these groups are growing rapidly; current projections show that by 2025, they will account for more than 40% of all Americans. The mental health system has not kept pace with the diverse needs of racial and ethnic minorities, often underserving them. Racial and ethnic minority populations are less likely to have access to mental health services and so are less likely to receive needed mental health care.” The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health also reported that, “racial and ethnic minorities are seriously under-represented in the core mental health professions.” So just as you need to recruit counselors to meet the needs of rural citizens, you need to recruit experienced minority counselors and majority counselors who can provide services to underserved populations. And that means facilitating license portability.
The third reason why licensure portability is a public protection issue has to do with the roaming characteristics of the public we serve. The U.S. Census Bureau – them again – says that 7.6 million Americans move to another state each and every year. That is a lot of public – 7.6 million people. And you have an obligation to look out for them when they move to your state or jurisdiction. It seems to me that a major part of your public protection role is not to confuse the hell out of them. But how can you do otherwise when there are 45 counselor licensure titles out there, a potpourri of licensure scopes of practice, education requirements that vary from no stated credits to 60 credits, a variety of accreditations, experience that ranges from one to four years and 500 to 4,000 hours, and nine exams or combinations of exams? How are the 7.6 million U.S. citizens who move from state to state every year supposed to know what they are getting in a licensed counselor? They don’t and can’t, given the current state of counselor licensure boards. And we all know that when someone is confused about what they are getting in a licensed professional, they tend not to get any help at all. I have moved to six different states since I started working. If each state had different qualifications for a physician and I had no idea what a primary care doc would be called, what their training was, or what they could do, or what I would be getting in my next state, I think I would stop seeing physicians. How many people have stopped seeing counselors for the same reasons? Standardizing counselor licensing requirements across states is in the best interest of the 7.6 million Americans who move each year. And the good news is that standardizing requirements will facilitate license portability which will allow you to more easily recruit counselors who want to work with the underserved rural and minority populations. See how this all fits together?
So at this point I hope that you see the need to fix the nightmare that is portability and that it is in the best interest of the public to do so. And I also hope that you are thinking, “What do we do about this mess?” I am here to propose a solution on behalf of the profession of counseling. In order to do so, I need to transition from my role as ACA’s Chief Professional Officer to my role as the Administrative Coordinator for 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling.
I know that some of you have been around a while and are familiar with 20/20 and that others are new to licensing boards and may not know much about this initiative. So for those less familiar with 20/20, let me give you some brief background. I know that Barry Mascari will be speaking more about this initiative during his keynote and that is only appropriate, since Barry can be considered the father of 20/20 as it was generated from his doctoral dissertation. 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling is the United Nations of the counseling profession. Co-sponsored by you – AASCB – along with ACA – 20/20 involves all of the organizations that identify themselves as clearly falling within the profession of counseling. There are 31 organizations involved including AASCB, ACA and its divisions and regions, NBCC, CACREP, CORE, CRCC, NRCA, and CSI. I apologize for throwing out all of those initials, but if I gave the full name of the associations we would be here till eleven o’clock. For the past six years, these 31 organizations have worked together and focused on the heady goal of developing a 15 year strategic plan for the counseling profession, hence the play on 20/20 as both having excellent vision and planning for the year 2020. As such, 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling is historic in that it marked the first time that the counseling profession had decided to proactively plan its future rather than simply react to events and challenges as they occurred. As such, 20/20 is a milepost in the maturation of our profession.
To date, 20/20 has had two historic – there is that word again – achievements. The first is the document Principles for Strengthening and Unifying the Profession (also known as the Statement of Principles). The Statement of Principles is the first time that counseling has endorsed core principles that bind all of our specialties and organizations together into one profession. It is also the first time that the organizations that represent counseling have put on paper and endorsed that we are one unified profession.
The second historic achievement is the consensus definition of counseling. Until now, professional counseling has had multiple definitions of what it is that we do – if you look at five “Introduction to Counseling” textbooks you will find eight definitions of counseling. The 20/20 delegates wanted to promulgate a concise definition of counseling that would become the standard for the public and with legislators. The delegates did an outstanding job and the result was a definition endorsed by both the delegates and participating organizations: Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. Now, for the first time in the history of the counseling profession, we have one definition of what it is that we do. We have promoted the 20/20 definition of counseling and are seeing it appear on websites, business cards, syllabi, and in books. We appreciate that at least one licensing board – thank you Arkansas – has agreed to use the new consensus definition of counseling in general public presentations.
Which brings us to the current 20/20 initiative: The Building Blocks to Portability Project. Now that we have a firm foundation with the Statement of Principles and the consensus definition of counseling, the 31 organizations that represent the counseling profession are focusing their efforts on licensure portability. To do this, the delegates are working on developing three things: a consensus license title, a consensus license scope of practice, and consensus licensure education requirements.
How are they doing this? By using a modified Delphi approach – the same approach that we used successfully to construct the consensus definition of counseling. A Delphi is a research methodology that is used to help a number of individuals with different perspectives and thoughts on an issue come to a reasoned and solid decision. So when you have delegates from two and a half dozen organizations trying to agree on one title, one scope of practice, and one set of education requirements, it fits the bill nicely!
The delegates have been divided into three workgroups representing the three building blocks to portability – license title, license scope of practice, and license education requirements. Each group first develops a list of possibilities. They can use data to assist them in exploring the initial options. For example, the scope of practice workgroup has asked for a content analysis of all of your 52 scopes of practice (52 – don’t forget about DC and Puerto Rico). Each workgroup then evaluates and rates all the possibilities within their building block and works with those concepts that float to the top. They combine the most highly rated items and then revaluate and re-rate the new ideas. Rinse and repeat. As they go through these iterations, the best ideas merge and synthesize until one option in each building block is the clear winner.
At that point, the draft title, scope of practice, and education requirements will be circulated to all delegates and a consensus achieved. We usually do the final group evaluation at an in-person meeting at the ACA conference. Essentially, we lock them in a room and say that they can’t leave until they complete final tweaks to the workgroup results. We consider an item to have achieved consensus when at least 90% of the delegates sign off on it. We will then circulate the consensus title, scope of practice, and education requirements to the leadership of the 31 participating organizations and ask for organizational endorsement.
And here is where you come in. Once these building blocks are developed and endorsed by the delegates and participating organizations, we will be able to promote them as our profession’s recommended requirements to counselor licensing boards. Our goal is to persuade every one of you to agree with the profession and to adopt our title, scope of practice, and education requirements. We know that this will not be easy and will obviously take time, but states that do adopt the consensus licensure requirements will have a much easier road to establishing reciprocity – and thus portability – since their requirements will be equivalent.
So I am here to give you a heads up that the counseling profession will be coming out with a consensus license title, scope of practice, and education requirements. And I am also here to request that you work with the profession to implement these building blocks to portability. If our time together this morning has had any impact, then the old excuses about portability won’t apply – that you don’t trust other licensing boards enough to standardize requirements, that you will lose independence or that it is not your problem. It is your problem because the lack of license standardization in the United States is not just creating prisoners out of licensed counselors, it is hurting the public you are sworn to protect.
So please work with us – the counseling profession – to solve the portability crisis through your commitment to the careful consideration of adopting the consensus license title, scope of practice, and education requirements that will come out of the 20/20 Building Blocks to Portability Project.
I agree with this article. In 2009 my WV counselor license expired. In 2012, I wanted to accept employment in WV again, however, the board implemented new rules in 2007. Mental health counselors must complete a university course in Addictions and a course in Family/Marriage Counseling. Because I did not have university coursework which specifically addressed these two areas, my full license was denied (a provisional licensure was issued) through reciprocity as I am licensed in Ohio. I submitted detailed documentation that I had taught a university course in Family/Marriage Counseling for a master’s level counseling program from a CACREP accredited university as an adjunct professor, had 25 years of counseling work experience which included providing family/marriage/couple counseling, and belonged to professional associations in this area. I also submitted detailed documentation that I co-taught a master’s level course in Addictions at a CACREP accredited university, had a hx of being a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor (passed exam, oral presentation, and all requirements) in another state, had been a certified AOD Prevention Specialist (passed an exam and requirements), had been a clinical director of two Counseling Recovery Centers that addressed AOD 100%, had presented multiple workshops on addiction issues, and had multiple CEUs in addiction issues. In addition I am ABD completing dissertation. Taking these two courses, Addictions, and Family Counseling will take time away from being a clinician and providing services to clients in rural Appalachia where there is a shortage of counselors. It will cost me approximately $3000. or more depending on where I take the courses, traditional or online. Plus I am required to have supervision during this time which will cost money. I have current supervision status in Ohio and prior to my WV license expiring in 2009, I had supervision status in WV. Needless to say, I wrote an appeal to the WV Counselor Board and asked for a hearing and instead I agreed to attend an informal conference meeting first. Now, I do understand the rationale for mandating that mental health counselors take a course in Addictions and in Family Counseling, however, it needs to be reviewed on a case by case basis for counselors prior to the new 2007 rule changes. Plus when I reviewed rules from several other states, they do not require a mental health counselor to have completed these two courses. An addictions counselor must, of course, have this coursework and a marriage/family counselor must, of course, have this coursework. My question is this: Is there research to support that a counselor is more effective when they have a university course in Addictions and a course in Family Counseling as opposed to other work experiences, CEUs in the same area, teaching the course, and so forth?
It took me 18 MONTHS to finally get my license going from Wyoming to New Mexico. In Wyoming, I had already passed my NCE exam, and had my national license (that is what they call it) from NBCC. The state of New Mexico didn’t recognize my national license, or the difficult to pass NCE exam. I lost thousands of dollars moving to New Mexico because they didn’t recognize my license. (Came from a CACREP approved school in Denver, CO) Now I live the not the LAND OF ENCHANTMENT, BUT THE LAND OF ENTRAPMENT as I will not move to another state and go through this again.
The lack of logic regarding the application of these state-by-state rules is simply astounding!
I read your article, “Licensure Reciprocity” on the Counseling Today website. I appreciate your depth of knowledge in this area and I have some thoughts about the the concensus license title, scope of practice and education requirements for the 20/20 Building Blocks to Portability Project.
First of all, I’m concerned that the portibility requirements for education might be higher than the state I reside in (Wisconsin), because our state has a lower educational standard (42 credits) than many other states. That would leave many professionals (currently practising) in limbo.
Since most states require professionals to pass a national exam (in Wisconsin, it’s the NCE which is based on CACREP standards), I think that a standardized national exam should be the focus of license portibility, rather than focusing on educational requirements.
If the committee looked at the required exam for licensure in each state (rather than than education and supervision requirements), they would find more commonality between state licensure and a foundation to build portability, that doesn’t exclude current practising professionals.
I am beginning my graduate studies at Grand Canyon University and I am very concerned as I now realize, I too will be “held captive”, the mere thought of relocating over time sounds like a nightmare I prefer to avoid. I will have to decide soon which state to reside and practice in for my remaining days: Moving will no longer be an option after gaining my license and I enjoyed experiencing different locations in the past. I thank you for sharing; what a mess, accreditation, state and title differences; only G-d knows where and what will become of me! Any advice would be greatly appreciated, I currently reside in Pennsylvania.
This is an old post and you probably wont get this. But I am currently a grad student and I am nervous about being “trapped” in my state of Georgia. I was actually thinking about moving to Pennsylvania and getting my license for there. Did you have any luck with moving after graduation? How did you go about obtaining the new license in a different state from your degree and internship?
If I had it to do over, I would be an LCSW because there are so many jobs for them and not much for LPCs.
Julie, I am an LPC in VA, and I couldn’t agree with you more. The thing that kills me is that LCSW’s have more opportunities, and less education. Their practicuum is substantially shorter! You would think that we are more valued, as we are more specialized…NOT! The whole portability thing is a mess! I definitely feel trapped in VA. I refuse to go all through the examination and supervision all over again. it’s an unnecessary expense. It’s just to right!
Prior to reading this article I had the idea that why the DOD will not accept Counselors as independent practitioners had to do with professional identity.
LMFT’s are LMFT’s no matter what state they are in. So are Social Workers with a few exceptions. I cannot speak as to the psychologists.
What I can tell you is that even with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy as an LPC I am restricted as to job opportunities within FedGov. Yet FedGov hires LMFT’s and considers them equivalent to counseling psychologists. I planned to move next door to Mississippi but am afraid to.
We have problems with insurance acceptance also.
We must address this with our state boards and politicians.
As a long time mental health consumer, I strongly support the requirement and need for licensure. While I agree that mental health professionals have their challenges, loosening the reins on professional requirements is not the answer. Without requiring strict, enforceable and consistent rules from state to state consumers like myself are left with no recourse when something goes wrong. As a person who suffered great damage at the hands of an unethical, incompetent, therapist who was unlicensed. I know all to well that without a license a person is free to do whatever they want. The “professional” organizations need to do a better job of policing your own people. In my opinion the field is flooded with a bunch of people who are trying to work through their own family of origin issues at the expense of their paying clients. My life was forever alter as a result of my negative experience and she never experienced any repercussions. I don’t think many of the “professionals” in this field realize the impact and influence they have over people’s lives. It is imperative to have some control over the field which today it’s basically the wild, wild west.
Hi Jane, I agree with you about licensing and you should know that every state now requires licensing for counselors, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers and psychologists.
I can tell you that we all are very aware of the impact we have on peoples lives. I am sorry you had a bad experience. The only unlicensed professionals you may see are interns who are under the supervision of a licensed professional who is qualified by their state board to supervise interns. The requiremments to do that are stringent as are the requirements for professional licensing..
As pertains to state to state portability, I hope for a future where we are all required to meet the same requirements in each state so we can be free to move around.
Yes, MOST but not all states require a license to provide mental health services. However clever, greedy, unethical “professionals” can easily get around those rules by changing what they call themselves. In my case the therapist called herself a “life Coach”. Life Coaching is big business in the state where I live and as you know there is no regulations governing it. She was not practicing in the capacity of a life coach she was practicing in the capacity of an unlicensed therapist. The state licensing board found in my favor, and ordered her to pay $250, only if she wanted to apply for her license and only if she remained in this state. She did neither. You’ll excuse me if I’m not in favor of being more lenient with the already loose mental health professional practicing requirement. In my opinion the governing organization does nothing to police it’s own members. It’s actually more cost effective for a mental health professional NOT to have a license than to have one. A state board can’t take something away if they never had it to begin with.
I appreciate your comment. I, for one professional, take very seriously working with people.
I wonder if you mind that medical doctors may travel from state to state to practice without having to get relicensed.
Hello Mr. Kaplan,
First, your article is spot on and very much appreciated given the state of LCPC’s inability to have portability between states. I earned my degree and license in Illinois and due to wanting other opportunities, have tried to obtain CA, OR, and now MD licensure. It has been absolute hell, not to mention very expensive. Do you know if anything has improved, or is on its way to being approved anytime soon?
Hi Jen! I am only in my graduate program at the moment, but know that I will be moving upon completion (after graduation, but before I accrue any supervision hours). You say that it was Hell, which is totally understandable from what I’ve read! However, were you successful in eventually acquiring your licenses in these states? I know that it’s going to be a huge pain, but I just want to know if it was even possible. Apologies for bringing up a post from months ago, but I’m rather curious. Thanks!
Where are the proposed 20/20 standards outlined? I would like to know what the educational requirements would be
This is the second time in a few years that I have read this article and it resonates just as much today as it did the first time I read it. I am originally from southern California but moved to Chicago for graduate school. When I was 21 years old I didn’t think about licensing or state reciprocity. I just knew I wanted to be a counselor and Columbia College Chicago had a very specialized program that I wanted to attend.
After graduation I found a job in Illinois and started working towards licensure here. It was fine for a while but there were times when I missed sunny southern California. When I started to have second thoughts about staying in Illinois and began researching what it would take to return to California with my current education and experience, I had to take that option off the table. It was clear that it would not be financially possible and that the time it would take to earn a new license in my home state would be unreasonable.
I am emotionally over that but even now that I am settled into life in northern Illinois I continue to run into the reciprocity problem. You see, I am literally 20 minutes south of the Ill/Wis border and have seen many promising job postings for counselors in Wisconsin. However, as you can imagine, the education and supervised hour requirements in Wisconsin are much different than in Illinois. This has reduced my options for employment significantly. I have been forced to pretend that the hospitals, group practices, and other mental health organizations that are a mere 30 or 40 minute commute to the north of my home don’t exist.
Fortunately I currently have a job that I enjoy in a lovely organization close to home…in Illinois. But in the future I do hope that the government will consider a nationwide certification process so that people will not be prisoners of their own states. Hard working people should be free to move around and make choices for their lives based on whatever they feel is most important to them. The lack of licensure reciprocity between states makes freedom of choice that much more difficult and it serves no real purpose. The mental health problems in Los Angeles aren’t that different from the mental health problems in Chicago, New York, Dallas, or any other major city in this country. I’d even go so far as to say that there are bigger differences in populations within states if you compare a major city to a rural town than if you compare two cities or two rural towns in neighboring states. But I digress.
Thanks for the article and thanks for letting me vent!
Correction, I stated “2nd time I’ve read this article in a few years” I meant to say “a few months”. Pardon me.
@Jane, I’m sorry to not have answered you sooner. I totally agree that the requirements for mental health professionals must not be loosened. Quite the reverse, I think standardization to a nationwide licensing requirement much like LCSW’s and and psychologists have would serve LPC’s and LMFT’s better in that we would be viewed more as the professionals we really are. One state requires 4,500 hours of supervision? To my knowledge no clinical psychologist has to meet that sort of requirement. But I do agree we should model out licensing and supervision the same in every state and jurisdiction. And perhaps since they are much more esteemed, we should meet the same requirements as clinical or counseling psychologists, (My peers are going to groan when they read that!)
Also, life coaches are NOT mental health professionals. Many do attend universities to study counseling but many only have a high school diploma and go through a “certification process.” The life coach’s focus is not on mental health and the techniques they use are supposed to be different.
To my understanding there is no licensing board for counselors, social workers or marriage and family therapists that condones the practice of “coaching. I cannot speak to the psychologists point of view. The National Board of Certified Counselors does offer coach training for counselors but that is a skill set designed to be used within the confines of our licenses as therapists.
I had to complete 3000 hours of supervision to qualify for my license after completing the National Counselors Exam and after completing a 60 hour course of study that also included one practicum and two internships before graduating. My schools curriculum was rigorous and is well respected in my home state. During my internship(supervision) employment chances were limited but were well suited for me to gain experience. That experience coupled with the supervision I received from my supervisor prepared me for independent practice.
I would advise anyone who is seeking a therapist to check on the state boards website where you can find degreed licensed professionals or degreed professionals under supervision who can treat or help address their specific problems.
However, as the main point of this really concerned standardization of licensure requirements I have to agree with all that the same requirements for licensing will help us with portability.
I would also like to mention 2 points that I find important: 1. Clinical psychologists are allowed to be licensed in more than one state, as are doctors, nurses, physical therapists an a few other professional disciplines. @. I within the last six months was told by a licensed clinical psychologist that he/she could not do therapy. I asked why to learn that the program this psychologist graduated from concentrated on testing and measurements. That’s what psychologists did to begin with until Freud advocated for them to use talk therapy. Also, in one of my texts( no I am not citing, the book is buried somewhere) that there was no difference in outcomes from therapy conducted by psychologists, clinical social workers, professional counselors and marriage and family therapists. Life coaches are NOT included in that esteemed group.
“One state requires 4,500 hours of supervision? To my knowledge no clinical psychologist has to meet that sort of requirement.”
I am a clinical psychologist. To be licenced, I had to complete practicum (4 years, excess of 4000 hours), Internship (2000 hours), and a post-doc (2000 hours). I and my colleagues are well over the 4,500 hours of supervised experience that you describe as the max for counselors.
Bonnie, I hear you but I cannot believe its that stringent everywhere you psychologists. Also you have to factor in that psychologists not only learn treatment but are heavily exposed to research.
I have to add that one of my friends who is a clinical psychologist and prescribes meds told me she does not know how to do therapy in any form. This PhD from an established university said her curriculum was mainly testing and research. Counselors on the other hand are not researchers and treatment modalities are stressed.
All I am really saying is that in my profession there has to be some standardization of training and internship requirements for counselors as well as an established identity. All counselors should have the same name whether its LPC, LCPC, LMHC or whatever. That is something that psychologists and social workers enjoy.
While I can appreciate the fact that many of you are in a difficult situation. The difference is, it is your livelihood not your life…not your well being. Each person comes on to this board and complains about the difficulties they are facing as a result of a career choice. Me I came here because I was a consumer of this broken mental health system. This system that allowed someone to forever change my outlook on life and trusting people. This system that didn’t have enough respect for me to give her a meaningful punishment. No one is asking the question what is the real purpose of the license and what happens if you don’t have one. In my book laws are enforced by the police and the court system not by a professional board. If a state says you are required to have a license to practice mental health and you are found to not have one then you should go to court/jail. Instead the board is only concerned with keeping up appearances not with actually doing anything.
Has any counselor considered suing a state counseling licensing board when they deny a license because the board added certain college courses that must taken beyond what the actual university counseling programs require and beyond what CACREP requires? Do these boards have too much power? Who are the boards accountable to?
I don’t know if any lawsuits have transpired, but as someone who is seeking licensure in the state of Massachusetts, I might have to resort to that. I cannot even an answer to a simple yes-or-no question, as to whether or not my supervision under an LPC meets their definition of a “supervisor.” I can’t live there if I can’t work there, and I can’t work there without my license. I should add, I have met all the education requirements, passed BOTH the NCE and NCMHCE, am already an LPC and an LMHC. So it seems odd that the contacts from the board there are so protectionist of information that they won’t even provide it. I shouldn’t have to spend the money on an application to get an answer to this ONE question. Next step, sending a letter to the governor of the state to complain.
Thank you! All of my support to prevent others from immense suffering as so many of us have. I have spent the last 12 yrs of my life and $100,000 devoted to attaining my LPC ( BA, MA, then practice with supervision). Just as I finally made it, I needed to move out of state for unforeseen reasons beyond my control. When I checked into to getting my new state’s license- there is no reciprocity!! If I actually can even wrap my head around starting again I would need to do my supervision all over again and it can be no sooner than 5 yrs from now to complete it! It feels for now as if this dream career and all that time, money(debt), and work is useless! Not ok!
One more thought…Since my recent unfortunate situation which I posted above, I have considered applying for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification by the NBCC (the same organization that offers the nationally well-recognized NCE). In my opinion, it seems to require reasonably high standards as compared to the state certifications I’ve seen. I’m not certain of its recognition across the board (no pun intended), especially because I don’t see it mentioned above at all (forgive me if I am wrong). To me, since the NBCC accreditation has already been developed and it’s backed with such an already respected organization in the field, it should be considered as an option for this needed national unification, yes?
I too agree that there needs to be some way to uniform requirements for all Masters level clinicians. I am having difficulty getting my first clinician posiiton because I don’t have experience. (Why my internship doesn’t count is beyond me) It galls me to see all of the job opennings in my area with the requirement of licensure and/or two years experience. If I had the experience I would have my license, right? I graudated with a 4.0 from an accreditted program and have the NCC credential. I have heard of individuals paying for supervision and starting their own practice with self pay clients to obtain their needed 3,000 hours. Why is this considered taboo? What else are we supposed to do to get our direct contact hours?
I would like to read the responses to your post…
I did foster care case management. Yes, it was two years of hell, but I finished my supervision quickly.
Thank you for addressing this license portability issue. Obviously, it has affected the professional careers of many in the field. As a counseling grad student, I am concerned as well. As the end of the year is approaching, I am wondering what developments have been made with the 20/20 Building Blocks to Portability Project? Could you provide an update?
Thank you, David, for addressing this issue. I have experienced difficulties transferring my Illinois LCPC license to Louisiana. I grew up in Louisiana and after graduating from LSUS I moved to Chicago and attended Roosevelt University’s Clinical Professional Psychology program. This was in 2004, and I never considered the implications of licensure reciprocity when I enrolled. After completing all the requirements and receiving the LCPC in Illinois I decided to move back to my home state. I wanted to be close to my family and help the rebuilding still going on in New Orleans today. Louisiana has a shortage of mental health professionals, especially those who have extensive experience working with the homeless population. In Louisiana law you cannot apply for LPC unless you are a resident of the state. I read the code, did my homework, and thought that I would be eligible to transfer the license. So I saved up, quit my job and relocated… just for the opportunity to apply for a license transfer. Unfortunately, the Louisiana board will not approve my license. My rejection has to do with the fact that my degree was not CACREP even though I meet the educational requirements listed for nonCACREP applicants in the code. Now I’m left in a position to leave the career path I’ve spent the past 10 years and 80K following or leave the state that I grew up in and love. Without a doubt this is the biggest threat to the profession of counseling.
I am in Graduate School, was looking forward to become a counselor. This has me thinking deeply.
Sandra, I would tell you to consider going into a different field. The Mental Health industry is broken. It is the wild, wild west. There are other more meaningful ways you can impact a person’s life other than being a counselor.
Jane, that might be a bit harsh. One person’s experience is not another person’s experience. I am not in the habit of discouraging people. Sandra, my advice to you would be to really think about what your intention and goals are. Another advice I would give to you, as I have given to others, is to really think about the states you would like to work within. I have known people with no intention on relocating and I have known others to move across state lines. If you do have an idea of the states you would like to work in someday (think long term), then make sure you are meeting the max requirement. For example, if you’re looking at perhaps Virginia, New Jersey, and Florida (all examples), make sure you obtain at a minimum 4500 supervision hours (which is the NJ requirement) and a minimum of 1000 hours of internship within your current program (which is the Florida requirement). By meeting these minimum standards, you would meet the requirement for Virginia (which is 4000 supervision hours). Also remember to look at the credit hour requirement for the states you’re looking at. Unfortunately, some states are at 48 (which I personally am not sure why) where as other states might require 60 credit hours (or 90 quarter hours).
Sandra, it’s definitely possible. Just be really smart with your approach to meeting the standards for licensure across state lines. I will stay that just by meeting the max requirements, you would be in route to meet the NBCC Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor Certification (which is not a requirement for independent practice within the VA or for military Veterans. Good luck.
Sandra, it’s definitely possible. Just be really smart with your approach to meeting the standards for licensure across state lines. I will stay that just by meeting the max requirements, you would be in route to meet the NBCC Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor Certification (which is NOW a requirement for independent practice within the VA or for military Veterans). Good luck.
I am licensed in PA and have been battling NJ to attain my license. I am a Doctorial canidate, have over 25yr exp, and my own private practice. That being said is not enough to qualify as a LPC in the state of NJ. What type of insanity is this! Maybe NJ needs to find a therapist to treat their board.
Also Bonnie, psychologists are able to have multi state licensing. We cant, there is a residency requirement.
David, I really appreciate this article outlining so clearly why so much confusion exists in our profession. I am currently licensed in NY and seeking licensure in Florida, but have been told I am deficient in three content areas. I have submitted course syllabi in two of the three areas and hope this will satisfy at least two of them, but even having to take just one more graduate level course is expensive and delays employment for me. It took me so long to obtain my license in NY including more coursework and an additional exam. I am continuing to go back and forth with the Florida Board, but it’s all getting very exhausting quickly.
Do we have any current update on the status of national standards being adopted? It is my understanding that legislation involving CACREP was adopted by approximately 27 states in the fall of 2013. I have seen a CACREP policy position on licensure portability which assures existing licensed counselors they will not be penalized by this, but that seems to not be the case. CACREP’s website is not very clear about this either and I’ve devoted so much time into researching this along with my more-than-full-time job.
Thanks for any information you can provide.
Here my question. What happens when a person is not licensed? Everyone posting to this forum is coming at this from the perspective of “I want to have employment options in this field” great awesome. No one is addressing the reason WHY there is confusion. The entire licensing system is a joke, there is no checks and balances there is no true protection for anyone involved (the therapist or the client) Each state wants to generate revenue and maintain their current level of professionals. The system is so broken they can’t even agree on national wide standards. How is it that colleges and other sources are not informing new professionals of this career obstacle? How is that SO MANY professionals are unaware of the challenges related to transferring their license? Why has this policy been allowed to continue?
In Dec. of 2012 I received my provisional license for mental health counseling after asking my care coordination supervisor if she would be able to supervise me for my hours. I have 40 clients, which is high for care coordination (at times it is more). My supervisor had never supervised someone for LMHC-P hrs before and I was under the assumption I would be able to receive all my 3,000 hrs in my position where the nature of the position often counseling is a part of the job (I have been asked by co concurring counselors of my clients to give them tips as they do not how to do counseling for my clients for their mental health care, I was shocked that I had clients that were not getting their mental health care in co concurring, only their substance abuse counseling…and they were not allowed to seek out a licensed mental health counselor due to they were in a co-concurring clinic…often I had clients that leaned on me to listen to them, go over coping skills, educate them on their diagnosis, basically counsel them due to I would be asked by the co-concurring (casac) counselor for tips!!! or their supervisor would ask me to give them tips, or my supervisor for my licensure hrs would say during supervision that I will just have to work with them by way of basically counseling them…I had put in for a position in my agency that required at least a LMHC-Permit and a masters degree in my field (mental health counseling) for the mental health counseling position that was under OMH here in WNY (actually was same job I did during my internship for 18 months in the agency so I was excited hoping I would get the job….two weeks went by and I asked about the position, called the program director, she told me that someone with years as a LMHC in the agency took the position and just moving from a differ site, I understood and time went on…after 3 weeks I found out that the person that got the position that required the right credentials and a masters degree…was just with her associates degree and was not qualified for the position, I asked the program director about why she lied to me about who got the position, and that this person was not eligible for the position she was given, the program director said she was “grooming” the young lady. I was shocked, totally shocked..I called the OMH, they said that there was definitely something unethical here and to fill out the forms they would send and there would be an investigation…well I am an older mother with 3 teens to raise and in my agency often employees are walked out the door and we never find out why, and I did not care to be one of them so I have not completed the forms yet….the discussed program director is very very good friends with the supervisor of my licensure hours….before I knew it my supervisor told me that she decided she will only sign for 1,500 hrs, not the 3,000 she stated she would…In Dec 2014 I would have had my permit for 2 yrs, was ready to take the licensure exam in Sept…due to I have almost the 3,000 hrs…needed. She said I am not suppose to do any counseling, so she changed her tune….she knew about me addressing the position I did not get and that the person who got it was not eligible…she stood up at her desk and said “I hope you do not plan to get anyone in trouble!” referring to the program director that gave the position to the person who was not eligible with both knowing this and that I found out….so with her having supervised me all this time, then I am 1 1/2 yrs in with my hours, she tells me she decided she will only sign for 1,500…which basically has been devastating as I do not have the time to get 1,500 now. I sadly will need to put my permit on hold and look for a differ job….this has been very painful emotionally…my dream of being a licensed mental health counselor is being crushed…can you give me any helpful information on what to do, I would be very grateful, thank you
I found your post to be very interesting. You without even realizing it have beautifully highlighted just how broken this system is. You are working in a position without the proper supervision, surrounded by people who are unethical, lacking in skill and yet THAT is not your concern. Your concern is for yourself and your career not for the clients who are being mishandled. For years now I have been posting to this forum and I am continually surprised by the sheer lack of respect and regard for the client. To all of you the client is an after thought, a means to an end a revenue stream. Each an every one of you have complained about the rules as a bother a nuisance an obstacle to your earning a living not one person has commented or even thought about the client and what happens when something goes wrong. Trust me it happens, more often than people know because clients have no recourse, or credibility so nothing is ever done.
I think Jane is off the mark here. OF COURSE you’re concerned about your career. You have invested time, dedication, sacrifice, and money to get where you are, and to get the shaft at this point is reprehensible. Jane, with all due respect, it doesn’t have to be one or the other, the client’s well-being vs. a person’s career. That is a false dichotomy and a logical fallacy. I suppose you’d like all to commiserate on how this harms people, but the fact is, this is a discussion about career issues, NOT a discussion about clients, no matter how much you’d like people to apologize to you for what happened to you (I read your other comments). Your anger and concern, in THIS forum, is simply misplaced and misguided.
Do you know of any state that shares reciprocity with PA for an M.S.Ed LPC NCC?
You might try Missouri.
I’m living this nightmare right now. I’m an LPC in MO, seeking licensure as an LMHC in FL and MA. Sure. I don’t mind taking the continuing ed classes that FL requires (about 20 hours), nor the 3-hour graduate level course in Substance abuse even though I never wish to work with drug addicts. FL is not the problem– the people on the licensing board have been responsive and prompt. The problem is MASSACHUSETTS. I cannot even get the ANSWER to the question of whether or not an LPC fits their definition of “supervisor,” as it relates to supervision. Today, I finally faxed the question to the supervisor of the witch who refuses to answer this question. But of course, this witch will see the fax before her supervisor does. Why is a question with a yes-or-no answer so hard to get answered??
I am licensed in Massachusetts as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC); worked in the field since 2004 culminating to being a clinical supervisor, clinical director and a having a small private practice. Approximately 6 months ago I relocated in the Midwest where, to my surprise, I won’t be able to reciprocate my license. There board’s issue include having social workers as supervisors for my post-masters work experience. In Massachusetts just having a master’s degree in counseling is enough to get you employed, here in the midwest, every job I looked into requires a State licenser. I have all this experience and education under my belt that I can’t use because of some ridiculous bureaucratic rule. It is not an option for me to go back home to Boston, and now I have to give up a profession I love to pursue something else. I am really angry about the byzantine and bureaucratic nature of how most mental health licensing board operate and they seem to wield unchecked dictatorial power. If they tell you, you can’t get licensed, there is not much you can do, I don’t have the money to hire a legal firm to fight a board, neither do most therapist.
I am ambivalent to call myself a coach, as some people do, and practice psychotherapy. It is very sad that people have to think about coaching to get around licensure because of cumbersome and arbitrary nature of the counseling regulation. Most of us get into the field to make a difference in the lives of people who maybe suffering from behavioral or mental illness, the profession is really the ghetto of medicine, poorly funded and respected, despite all this hoopla about mental health parity and mental health public awareness. It is a profession dominated by female hence perhaps why the pay is appalling, in many cases just above the minimum wage. I mention female dominated profession to suggest a clear discrimination based on gender, as this was true of teachers and nurses before they unionized. Counseling is hardly a profession people choose to get rich. My colleague accepted a competitive position paying 30K a year which required not only licensure, but 5 years post licensure experience. You could make the same amount working in a fast food restaurant with a high school diploma. People pay lip service to the importance of mental health, but as the saying goes the proof is in the pudding. The system just discourages a lot of good therapist. I don’t want to be too negative but my 10 years experience in the field has left me disillusioned, and now when you add the licensing issue, it is just sounds too ridiculous.
Some people have mentioned about looking after the welfare of the clients. Most of us know from experience that if the mental health system cares about the clients, the mental health system would address numerous critical issues which help to substantially improve mental health service.. A well compensated therapist and well trained therapist means better service to clients. I have worked in clinics where the fee-for-service model practically dragged the quality of service down, as therapist come and go, and clients get assigned to different therapist every few weeks. These clinics did not have the money, or want to reduce expense, or are badly managed that therapist only get paid when clients show up. I have worked in clinics where the show up rate of clients were around 50 per cent; in a typical day, you may schedule 10 people and you are lucky if 5 show up. If you do the math, this is below the minimum wage not to mention as a fee-for-service clinician, you don’t have any other benefits like health issuance, 401 K etc. Often therapist take a full time position and work fee-for-service on the side. I often think the system is designed to fail; most counselors are busy trying to help their clients that we don’t have highly experienced and funded lobbying group to bring the much needed change in the profession. I think all we need is one licensure that enable you to work all over the country; one type of license means the public does not have to remember and sift though all these mind boggling acronyms to figure out what is what. I know what the acronym of my licensure stands for but don’t have any idea about the comparable licensure in other states – not to mention a two trier or three tier licensure tracks in some states.
All very valid points.
Even people on licensure boards in the various states do not understand the different acronyms — I spoke to a woman in Massachusetts, who didn’t know what an LPC was, even though right next door in CT counselors are LPCs!
Thank you, David, for a well thought and articulated address. I does NOT address the de facto CACREP exclusivity that CACREP (understandably) and ACA (at least tacitly) support. My masters plus the post-grad year I took for clinical certification meet the CACREP standards without the imprimatur. Certainly, graduation from a CACREP accredited program might serve as prima facie evidence of an acceptable level of training. There needs to be alternate pathways, including the opportunity to remediate any deficiencies in one’s transcript. Appropriate and deserved recognition of ALL its members should be ACA’s number one priority.
It is sad I hold an LCPC in Maryland and an LPC in Georgia but cannot get reciprocity now that we live in North Carolina. I have 17 years in the field with no record at all. The reciprocity in NC is the same as becoming a new counselor even having to list your courses in the Masters you acquired even though you are sending a transcript! Go figure that one. I will not seek licensure here I am going to become a Life coach and keep my other 2 licenses. It is sad that other professions such as nurses have reciprocity but we do not. I am not sure I would have chosen this career path had I known the difficulties if you move from the original licensing state.
Something has to be done about this. I just graduated with my Master’s in OH and considering moving to GA. I can’t seem to get any answers about this topic or anyone to answer any of the questions I have regarding the differences in licensure requirements for these states. I hope that together we are able to change the way these issues are handled in the future. It would be great if there were a clear set of requirements that were seamless from state-to-state since it is extremely difficult to get in touch with someone to answer the host of questions we have regarding this matter.
Did this work out for you? I am currently licensed as an LPC in ohio and I am thinking of moving to Georgia. Could you move your licensed. I am a bit confused about the LPC and LPCA. is one equivalent to Ohio’s LPC and LPCC??
What a racket!!!! I am unable to find a full-time counseling job in my area. I googled the question what states have reciprocity with PA? I am willing to relocate for a full-time job. I live in Southeastern PA so I am very close to Jersey and Delaware and New York is only about 1 1/2 hours… Well much to my surprise I am stuck here in PA!!! I have $70,000. worth of debt and no job. AND I can’t relocate to get a job!! Flipping burgers in a fast food joint doesn’t even approach covering my student loan payments. Isn’t life grand?!!!!!!!
This article made me want to stand up & cheer! FINALLY! I’m currently a working LAC in AZ working toward my LPC. I’ve completed my Master’s, 60 credit hours, 300 practicum hours, & 1600 internship hours. I passed the NCE back in April 2012. I’ve been working in the mental health field since I could be employed, now it’s been about 15 years. My board disbanded & it took nearly two years to receive my license as an “Associate Counselor.” Over the course of those two years I was battling renal cancer, working two full time jobs, & was unable to find anyone who would hire me without my license. Now I finally have it, I’ve found a wonderful job doing what I love (counseling), but just met the man of my dreams who also happens to live in my dream city San Diego. He wants me to move there & I was so excited at the almost magical shift in my future. That is until I began to read the process I would need to undergo to obtain my “LPCC” in CA. Basically, I’d he starting over again from scratch. I’d have to become an Intern again, pass not one but TWO counseling exams (I still have nightmares about the NCE so the notion of even just that small portion of the work involved gives me indescribable nausea). Additionally, when trying desperately to find employment, I’ve had a long journey to become financially stable again, especially after the medical & school bills drained my every savings, so just the fees alone of $280 for this plus another $100 for that & then $180 for more bureaucratic (pardon my language) bs, well, it pisses me off. I can relate to your story of the woman choosing btw her loved one & her beloved profession because that is my current dilemma & answers are INCREDIBLY hard to come by. When I graduated I wasn’t even permitted to communicate with my board through phone, email, or in person, the ONLY means of communication they accepted was snail mail! Suffice to say, I’ve just worked three back to back 15 hr shifts & realize this little diatribe is far from eloquent, I suppose I’d just like to thank you for writing something that so perfectly described the disaster that is our current modus operandi. In AZ many of my peers who completed the entire Masters program in the end opted to take their LISAC (licensure for substance abuse counseling) exam & simply use that as their license as the test is far easier than the NCE & with a Master’s in counseling is the only hurdle needed to practice. I’ve considered adding this acronym to my running tally of MSC, NCC, LAC, but somehow doubt in CA this will be as straightforward. Any advice or input is much appreciated, but I realize mine is more a rant than any actual positing of new ideas or queries. The hardest piece of this for me is I love being a counselor! There’s nothing else I’d rather do & my undergrad I was an aspiring filmmaker lol! Perhaps I’ll simply get my yoga certification & become a life coach & call it a day! I understand the stigma associated with being in therapy but COME ON!?! Our whole counseling community has developed a massive Oedipal complex; refusing to acknowledge what we are so instead we are killing ourselves with the same tools we used to create this worthy field.
I am very sad to hear such terrible and sad stories. I guess I was one of the lucky ones. I got grandfathered into a New Jersey LPC in 1998 after practicing counseling for 10 years. Then this year I wanted to get my New York license and took the NCMHCE and passed. I don’t know why I was told I needed the NCMHCE rather than the NCE. I just received my LMHC license today. The test was very hard and I was lucky I passed it first time. After working for someone part time for 2 years, I opened my own practice in New New Jersey. It was very easy to do. I will start a small practice in NYC in the beginning of the New Year. I am wondering why the therapists that have licenses in their own state don’t just open their own practice rather than look to be hired by someone else. I am thrilled with my Counseling Degree and the profession I am in. I do find the different names of the licenses in each state and different test NCE vs NCMHCE extremely confusing. I found this website because I keep feeling that I took the wrong test. No one ever really explained why I was told to take one and not the other. However, I would urge all of you that are frustrated with the system not to give up.
Quest for Licensure
I got my Master’s in Counseling Psychology from University of Oregon in 1982. Back in the olden days. I graduated with 70 credit hours. I got involved in the substance abuse field by being hired by the program in which I had done my practicum placement. Was recruited to join a small team to design and implement an outpatient substance abuse program for adolescents and their families. This was a demonstration project funded for 2 years. We did intensive family therapy, and was so successful that then expanded to include a residential program, which was in operation for at least 20 years. In 1990 I moved to Hawaii and worked in a number of programs that included every aspect of counseling, from being a line counselor, family counselor, administrator, clinical supervisor, intensive outpatient, school-based, outpatient, and correctional settings. I was on the Certification Board of Examiners for Hawaii Substance Abuse Counselor Certification for 10 years.
Meanwhile, licensing for counselors became a “thing” in Hawai’i.
I applied to take the NCE exam. I sent my application with the hundreds of dollars (nonrefundable) to the NBCC, whereupon they rejected my application because I was supposed to have 72 credit hours, not 70. In addition, they were loath to accept some of my coursework because they were not convinced they met the specific requirements. This was very discouraging to me, and I dropped the idea. Fast forward to several years later, 2014.
After being a Behavioral Health Specialist for the Dept. of Ed for 10 years, I took a job in prevention. After 6 months, it became apparent that this was not a good fit, so I left that position to get back into primary care. What I found was that the jobs that I was previously qualified for now required a license. And now the madness begins.
One of the requirements for taking the licensing exam in Hawai’i is to supply syllabi and course descriptions for each course listed on the Coursework Form. I had been able to get copies of pages from an archived catalogue from U of O, but because my attendance was so long ago, no syllabi were to be had.
Another requirement was to have had 3,000 of post-grad experience to be verified by an officer and clinical supervisor of the agency. “The written certification must be on official letterhead from the institution of higher education.” I contacted my supervisor from that time and she said she could write a letter of verification. However, the agency, called Drinking Decisions (DD) had gone out of business years ago. I took a deep breath and decided to call the State of Hawai’i Licensing Division to ask questions.
My conversation with Ms. State of Hawaii Licensing Bureaucrat was very disheartening. When I explained the situation re DD having been out of business for some time, and I didn’t know how long, therefore no letterhead to be found, she said they would just have to check the BBB to find out (like I was fabricating the existence of this agency) and that my previous clinical supervisor would have to explain, in her letter, about the demise of the program, at which I then informed her that the supervisor had left the program before it closed, so I didn’t know how she would be able to explain that. I also explained that when I had tried to locate the program via google, I only found a reference to a former employee’s website, as part of his experience.
I also explained that I wouldn’t be able to have my practicum supervisors write me any letters of verification since they were all deceased, this having been so long ago. I read a letter I had gotten from the Director of Graduate Studies in 2009 in which she said that U of O didn’t have records of syllabi for that far back but she could say with confidence that I had had at least 100 supervised hours. “AHA!” the Mean Spirited I-Enjoy-Finding-You-More-Obstacles cried. Well, not out loud but she was thinking it. “You need 300 hours of supervision,” she said smugly. “You’ll just have to apply to another graduate school and get your practicum and supervision hours.” Yes, she actually said that.
I wondered aloud how having a MS in Counseling Psychology and over 25 years’ experience in the counseling field had absolutely no relevance in this process. “Well,” Ms. Bureaucrat sighed with satisfaction. “That’s the way the law was written.”
“Thank you for your time you Miserable Wretch,” I said politely, but not the Miserable Wretch part, because that’s what I felt like I was at the time.
So I called Director of Graduate Studies at U of O and she was as nice as Ms. Bureaucrat was mean. I almost wept when she expressed her willingness to help. She is going to re-look at her computation of my hours and see if she had miscalculated. She tried to be helpful as we brainstormed and one of her ideas was to try to find a fellow student in the Counseling Psych program who (a) is a hoarder who will still have syllabi at their fingertips, and (b) hasn’t died of old age yet, and (c) can be found by some miraculous means. Right.
I am still trying to address these issues, and others I haven’t even mentioned yet.
Does anyone else find it ironic that this is to just take the exam? Why can’t I pay my money and take the exam? If my education hasn’t prepared me to pass, so be it. Why am I a failure before I’ve even taken the exam?
Why is it crafted so that someone who is fresh out of grad school with only 3 years of experience is more qualified that I am, when I have over 25 years of varied counseling experience?
How is it not noticed by the writers of criteria that substance abuse and mental health programs are frequently going out of business as funding sources and public support waxes and wanes? And that supervisors and colleagues scatter over time, and therefore may not be available for verification purposes?
Why does the NBCC, who is supposed be some kind of standard regarding counseling, disregard experience out of hand?
How is it possible that at this advanced age (and low income) I appear to need to re-do my whole Masters’ program?
Why is this gate-keeping blocking a lot of very competent and qualified counselors in this time when more than ever people with mental health issues are making horrific front-page news on a daily basis? Military suicide rates and sexual abuse, children who commit heinous crimes, adults who wear hoodies and shoot people, victims of sex trafficking?
Is this an example of ageism, and if so, what can be done about it?
What can be done about any of this?
This is very important to me, since the salaries in Hawai’i are low and cost of living is high, rent is ridiculous (“affordable housing” is a 2 bedroom condo that sells for $350,000) and I am a single mother. Having a license makes a significant difference in salaries here. I am going negative on my credit cards every month. And I am a competent counselor.
Long letter indeed, and I’ve only just begun. Perhaps ACA should consider a counseling specialty area for Licensing Woes Related Depression?
that was very informative information, I am a new student that just heard a rumor that because im getting a degree on line I will not be able to work as a counselor or get a licenses because the state of pa will not except online degrees for psychology, I want to help people and do my part in this world, but do you know any thing about Pa not accepting a online degree in psychology for a drug and alchahole counselors licensing, thank you for all your time and info,
I completely agree with this article, but it’s not just a problem for LPC’s. It also includes MFT’s or any other counseling profession except social workers and psychologists. Because LPC or MFT are newer designations, there is not yet universal credentialing. More importantly as the article points out, every state has autonomously created their own standards and few have provisons for grandfathering older more versed clinicians. I currently reside in PA but am Licensed in CA where I have ben a MFT since 2001 in CA (which was before PA even had MFT licensure). When I moved back to PA in 2009, I was told I didn’t meet the educational requirements in PA as an MFT even though I graduated in 1998 long before MFT licensure existed in PA and when MFT programs were far and few between. Many older clinicians did not graduate from CACREP or COAMFTE accreditied university programs. In my opinion the denial of licenses and lack of grandfathering of older clinicians is nothing but protectionism, cronyism, and greed on the parts of social workers and psychologists who feel threatened by other competent professionals who may “steal” their clients. This is clearly not in protection of the public and those “good old-boy club” professionals should be ashamed of themselves. But mind you the key to getting things changed is getting state legislatures to update the state laws to provide provisions for portability of licenses for clinicians.
Incidentally another solution to the problem of states not licensing clinicians who “do not qualify because they don’t meet the state’s current educational requirments” is that numbers of clinicians who are denied licenses in each state need to forge ahead with class action lawsuits against the state licensing bodies. Mind you that organizations such as NBCC and AAMFT also need to share some of the blame as these are agencies that allegedly exist to support and advocate for the profession and it’s clinicians.
Actually, there is nothing unique about the plight of MFTs and LPCs. Every state has their own requirements for several disciplines. I am a social worker and there are varying requirements, some states do not offer reciprocity, there are several licenses aka what we are referred to based on state. When a SW or any other discipline moves they too have to go through the process of ensuring they meet the requirements. (Minus an exam at this point unless you live in certain states.) I know because I am speaking from experience has I have moved from one home state to a new state that did not recognize my license at all and I had to do everything again and pay more than in my home state. I am currently getting my 3200 hours and my husband was interested in moving to CA, but after research we recognized the hassle and have had to make choices based on this alone. Reciprocity is a huge issue. PERIOD!!!!
I applaud David Kaplan’s efforts to establish a consensus title, scope of practice, and educational requirements for counselors. The profession has been struggling with establishing a coherent identity for too long and these proposals, if adopted, would go a long, long way towards remedying that problem, not to mention solving the vexing issue of licensure portability.
Re: our title: I would hope that we are finally at the stage where we can drop the defensive “professional”, “licensed” and “mental health” as qualifiers in our title. Psychologists, for example, do not feel the need to define who they are in so detailed a fashion in their title. There is no such thing as a “licensed”, “professional” or “mental health” psychologist. There is an assumption of professionalism, an assumption of licensure and adequate credentials, and an assumption that as professionals they work within their scope of practice. Their title projects confidence, a clear professional identity across various practice areas (and they are many and diverse), and promotes unity and cohesiveness within the profession of psychology. I would like to humbly suggest that we counselors follow their example by adopting the title of “Counselor” or “Clinical Counselor”.
While I applaud David Kaplan’s clear articulation of the problem and its possibile solutions, this issue has been troubling for at least two decades, as I have been licensed in Wisconsin for over two decades; CACREP was not in existance when I graduate from the University of Wisconsin’s Counseling program; so my program no longer meets CACREP requirements, despite the fact that when I graduated, it was one of the best in the country. Early on I contacted the ACA to inform them of the problems accompanying licensure, ie, that we ARE prisoners in our own states. With 30+ years of clinical experience which includes supervising others, I have been told by licensure boards that I will have to go back to graduate school. Somebody must be kidding.
Personally, I do not have the “big picture”, often, in my profession, I did not follow licensure in other states. I did not follow the development of CACREP requirements; nor the development of a national exam. I did not follow the ways in which counselors were being boxed in by bureaucracies, because those drafting the licensure statutes did not have the foresight and grace to include in the wording of state statues. something to the effect that any counselor who graduated from an accredited program, and was fully licensed in their “home” state, would also be eligible to practice in other states, pending a peer review of that counselors record, education and experience. No, I relied on a professional org like the ACA. to have this foresight, and to provide the states with guidelines for reciprocity, just as it provides the states with guidance for licensure. If that was wrong of me, I stand corrected. If I am wrong about the ACA providing guidelines to the states for licensing, I stand corrected. But from where I stand – I used to be able to apply for a job in ANY state – BEFORE licensure – and be evaluated on my education and experience by those hiring. Licensure has done NOTHING for me except create this nightmare that so many have experienced. So yes, I can take ownership, indeed; and have done so for years. For years I have been calling the ACA about this problem and have been told about 20/20. Well, I am 63, 20/20 will not allow me to move to a warmer state and retire part time. It will not really do anything for me at all. Bonnie Cordiero, I am even older than you, and feel I have had it up to my eyeballs with the bureaucrats and bureaucracy that have contributed to us as older, experienced clinicians being force into and trapped by jobs that no longer meet our needs. I ask again: for those who advocate for us “professional” counselors: why did you not see this coming??
I think that the LCPC’s need to organize and have one national exam or If I were ready to take my exams I would take both so they were done. For many years the masters programs were largely unregulated. Some having only 24 credits some 45 credits. There needs to be cored educational components in all accredited programs at a national level. It will take decades to do but would help the profession. I think these issues lead to each state wanting to re do the supervised hours by a person recognized by the state . There is too much difference between the states . Social work programs are more standard and require more credits to complete. SO the LCSWs have fewer issues
I moved from Florida years ago that my LMHC licenses in Florida became null and void. I had taken the NCE at that time. I had a great opportunity in the Pacific Northwest–got licensed in Washington that accepted Florida’s LMHC. However, recently this past summer my wife had a great opportunity for her work in Florida. So we moved. Once here, I checked into if I could get up to speed again with my LMHC licenses. Well, they said the law changed since I left and that I have to take the new NCMHCE exam. So, again i have to another exam because the law changed. So, I studied and passed the exam first try. Ready to go–wrong! Then I was told that I needed 4 graduate classes to comply with the new law in reference to the new law courses! I was already licensed in Florida years ago and then the law changed. It looks like now, so I can work, I have to take at least three of the four graduate courses–my argument is that Florida accepted them the first time–different course names–oh, now they changed the course names…omg!! Here is the kicker, I am Professor (PhD in Psychology-Mental Health) and lecturer of mental health courses, been in mental health clinics as a therapist, administrator, and Universitiy Professor and taught those graduate courses for many years!! Now I have to take the courses!!! Go figure!! BTW, I been in mental health for 24 years and teaching mental health 20 of those years at the graduate level. I have to make a living, so books in hand, I will be sitting on the other side as a student. Reciprocity of LMHC’s and other names for our profession need to come under one law and one name–not 50 different States dictating their own law and names. In life we move from State to State, we proved our knowledge already by passing the graduate courses and licensing exams.
Agreed. I posted a similar sounding comment last night which is still being moderated. I just moved to FL, was told similar. My license is not recognized, have more classes to take, have to register as an intern (?). Perhaps its time for counselors to unionize.
As someone embarking on a Masters degree in counseling, this is all very disheartening. It’s VERY likely that I’ll eventually move to another state – yet, I’m to be TRAPPED in the current state due to the restrictions?! This is unreal and makes me wonder at the intelligence of taking this degree route. It seems the pinnacle of impracticality.
I moved to Indiana after originally being licensed in Ohio and then DC. I’ve been a practicing, licensed counselor for almost 7 years. I have a 60 semester hour masters degree and two years of documented post-graduate clinical experience.
The reason I can’t be licensed here in Indiana? Because they require 1000 internship hours. Ohio, where I was licensed, only requires 700. In order to be licensed, I have to enroll in a single 3-semester hour internship class and secure an internship. An INTERNSHIP.
Think it’s easy to register for one internship class? Nope. I can’t get financial aid as a less than half time student, including loans. I have to fund the MINIMUM $1400 tuition/fees upfront and then find a university that will actually let me take an internship as a non-degree-seeking student. I’m in Indianapolis and have checked every (affordable – sorry to those who charge over $500 per credit hour) school within a 90 minute drive to no avail.
Luckily I managed to secure a decent unlicensed position but I’m a rare adult who managed to find a career doing what I love, and that is the clinical work. The money is secondary, but worth noting my position is bachelors level – at least they pay me at the top of the pay grade for that job, but still. I’m not being paid what I could be with a license – arguably making less than what I’m worth. And now I can’t do what I love as my career all because I moved to Indiana.
Indiana move update!
I was incredibly lucky that a coworker pulled a few strings and got me into a the LMHC licensure track at a local university, only enrolled in the internship course. The school had originally turned me down because they do not allow a student to only register for the internship. Luckily this coworker has a good relationship with the director of the program and was able to vouch for me. And, again INCREDIBLY lucky – my employer recognized the situation and allowed me to do my internship at my job site, paid. I paid for the class – $1500 – with my credit card.
Now?? The internship is done! My transcripts have been submitted. Licensure verification from each state has been submitted. My NBCC test scores have been submitted. (I had to pay for each of those things individually by the way.) My former supervisor from my first post-grad job sent in two forms verifying my 3000 hours of supervised experience. Got it all in on time for the board meeting May 16!
And my license sits in the “pending application” status because, according to the licensing agency, they “didn’t get to” the part of the board meeting where they review applications. They assured me it would be reviewed before the next board meeting….in mid July. They couldn’t tell me any more than that. I have two jobs, and I cut my hours at one in anticipation of gaining more at the other – I supervise case managers and they told me that once I’m licensed, I can supervise therapists as well! Except I can’t get those hours yet, nor can I get my raise at my other job where I will be promoted to a therapist position once I’m licensed. I’m buying a house and money is tight.
How can they get away with doing this?????
I am glad I read this. I am just finishing my bachelor’s degree in psychology/counseling foumdations, and this school is just over the state line. I have the option to go on and complete my masters at the same school and supposedly they assist with licensure….in that state. The requirements in that state are less stringent than the state I live in, which is really where I want to practice. I’ve been looking at another school in my state, but it doesn’t offer online courses (at least some) and I would need to get approval from work to go to class. It is also a much more expensive school. I plan on meeting with admissions staff from both schools, I would hope that the school in my state would help ( meaning prepare) for licensure after my 3000 hrs of supervised work. And to top it off I don’t know if I want to be a social worker, alcohol and drug counselor or just a licensed prof counselor. Alot of jobs I see posted look for LCSW or LADC so I may go for a more specific credential. You guys helped me make up my mind, I’ll go for the CT school. I don’t want the aggravation right after school. Even though I could work in MASS it would have to be the southwest corner. Moving isn’t an option, I just bought a condo. Here we go! Single mom going for degree and it’s taken me since 2007 to get the bachelor’s. At least my son is older and can be home alone while I’m in class.
Like Nurses RNs, American Counseling Association needs to
oversee a “COMPACT State LPC” program wherein the
Secretaries of States of all US States in the Nation, or
those that enter into the LPC COMPACT Agreement
allow an LPC that is active, current, and in good
standing in one LPC Compact State to practice in any
LPC Compact State that has entered into the agreement
to allow LPCs current, active and in good standing to
practice under the LPC Compact Agreement by an
between the state that holds the LPC license and the
transfer state. This would give all states the opportunity
to have LPCs in one state enter into the transfer state
to engage in practice, particularly in times of crisis
this would benefit the states and all persons.
Nurses have a Compact Agreement in effect with 20 states
and this allows them to practice LPN or RN duties in any
of the 20 compact states. LPC needs to arrange for
this Compact State Agreement. It would be easy to do
so as they could utilize the same Nursing Compact Agreement
now in effect in 20 states of the US< and expand this to all
Theresa Bradley, MA/MBA/LPC
I am having difficulty getting national certification and licensure in my state, Delaware. In 1990 I graduated from University of Delaware with an M. Ed. in College Counseling (Old fashioned Masters program of 34 credits!). Since then I’ve become a certified addictions and co-occurring disorders professional- diplomate in my state of Delaware. As time has gone by and I have developed my career (I’m 50 years old) it became apparent that if I want to survive I had better get a license. I had my credentials audited by the National Board and diligently took the courses (at a local CACREP accredited school as quickly as they appeared in the schedule) I was told were necessary to qualify for National Certification which in Delaware is necessary before a person can be licensed. Now I have completed those courses, passed the NCE with flying colors, but my audit expired in 6/30/2015 just as I was finishing my last semester at Wilmington University. I have been told my audit is no longer valid, my Master Degree is no longer valid. They told me to go get a state license first and then the NCE will grant me reciprocity and then I may apply for licensure in Delaware. Right now I have gone through a search of the different state licensing boards and may apply through Washington State for a license; I was going to apply thru PA (they are the closest) but I can’t understand their educational qualifications. In the state of Delaware like in most other states it is virtually impossible to practice without a license; I have a promotion and much needed pay raise awaiting me when I finally obtain my license. If I could live my life again I would make licensure and a 60 credit Masters of Counseling a top priority.
Can you please give me some straight forward advice?
Marc, I am so sorry for that. It really does seem with counseling licensure to be a case of, “I wish I knew…”. There are so many things I wish I knew when I was a Resident in Counseling and I’ve shared a lot of this with those in their grad programs. It’s all so confusing. I get especially angry with stories like yours, where counselors have years of experience yet are treated like inexperienced newbies due to the bureaucracy. It’s maddening. I’ve learned so much from veterans of the field like you, Marc, and I hope the NBCC and ACA continue to push for a national standard accepted by all states. I understand laws may be different and that may require a class or seminar or something, but to make someone go through another masters program or get an internship (!!!) when they have decades of experience – it’s just too much!
Wow. I’m glad I came across this page and the comments. It is so disheartening and I truly feel the pain of all of you who chose counseling as a career because you are no doubt very caring and passionate people, eager to help people, but find roadblock after roadblock on your way to licensure. For those who are trying to get licensed in or transfer to VA, it is a long road, mostly because the Board does not work in a timely manner and is consistently short-staffed because of high turnover (hmmmm…), but also because they provide contradictory, confusing information, and at times it seems like they’re just making it all up! Don’t try to call them – most times their voicemail is full. Email is worse. For a general inquiry you can expect to wait at least seven weeks for an answer (and it’s never an adequate answer). And if during your residency, you want to change jobs / were laid off, GOOD LUCK. Changing employment will guarantee you will lose hours, as you are not allowed begin counting any hours until they have approved your job first (a process the Board took six months to approve for a fellow Resident back when I was in supervision… that’s 24 weeks x 40 hours a week = nearly 1000 lost hours). And you better hope that job is something they deem clinical enough or you’re back to square one. My best advice for those seeking licensure: STAY in the state until you get your license in hand, STAY in your job until you get your license in hand. I will say, if you can manage to stick it out and get your LPC in VA, the chances of getting your license in other states is better (but unfortunately, they really scrutinize licenses from other states). Sometimes I wish I had chosen nursing instead!
I am approaching my graduation, my school is CACREP accredited, 60hrs and planning to take NCE and NCHMCE exams and we are expected to have 3000 practice hours. My worry is, I am sure after I received my license I probably would move or want to work in different state. I read many fighting experience, after years of experience, do I need to struggle with licensing? Please hint me all the things I need to have or do to put me ahead of game. this sounds like a game( a tough one if you are moving around the state).
Have a quick question for any of those who may know the answer or may have some input. I’m currently living in NY and finished my class hours to obtain my CASAC but am confused if i should take my boards in NY or just wait till i move to FL in April? Was wondering if i take my boards will my CASAC work when in move in April to FL or should i just save the 245 exam fee and just apply for it in FL when i move there. I appreciate all your help and info if anyone might know.
ACA’s career center offers support and guidance to members who are facing dilemmas just like this. Call 800-347-6647 and ask for the career center.
I read this article when it first appeared and happened upon it again, about 4 years later. I have not seen nor heard of ANY motion towards reconciling the issues of reciprocity, only of the standardization of required core courses based on CACREP at the higher education level. At this rate, there WILL be no reconciliation or uniform streamlined reciprocity between states.
Can you please offer an update so that those of us in the field who continue to be affected by the lack of reciprocity in licensure can know what is happening?
Here’s one update from last year: https://ct.counseling.org/2015/03/addressing-counselings-portability-crisis/
I have a LPC in Ohio. I moved to FL in January and now have to register again as an intern because FL does not recognize the first tier license (LPC) from a two tier licensing state. I’m fed up. I got into the field because I wanted meaningful work. I wanted to help others. I got a 4.0 in my masters program, completed my masters level internship, passed the state board and got my LPC, and I attended workshops to keep up my CEU’s in order to renew my license every two years and for what? At this point, I would not suggest to anyone to enter this field. Counselors or would be counselors are not supported. We have been failed by improper oversight from the powers that be. The various oversight and credentialing agencies and state boards are still not on the same page. It’s past time for ONE national board so we all know the ONE set of rules and can succeed at what we set out to do. Not only are counselors being negatively impacted but persons in need of services too, as no shortage of open counselor positions can be found online indicating staff shortages.
I am studying to take my MFT exam and after reading this post i am a bit concerned , with all the changes in rules from state to state i dont know if i should wait. My husband is in the military and we may be needing to relocate in the next year. Should i wait until we resettle before i test? i dont want to have to retake the test or pay more in another state. thoughts?
Look for the state with the highest standards for LMFT and meet them. That is the only way to protect yourself.
I am trapped in Arizona unless I want to go back to square one and repeat all my supervised practice hours and possibly take additional courses. At 54, I think waiting for retirement is almost a better option, but I simply cannot stay here any longer unless I want to divorce and start over as a single person. In 1999 I graduated from a CACREP accredited program with Academic Distinction and completed the NBCC exam with every scale at least 2 standard deviations above the mean score. But I chose to move to Arizona from Missouri. Arizona only had certification and a low number of required hours for certification (initially 400 but it was 900 or 1,000 by the time I completed by hours supervised by a PhD psychologist by first year). I met the requirement and was Certified as a Professional Counselor. I was grandfathered into the LPC when the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners created the license in 2004. Then I considered moving back to Missouri after my mother died (her illness was why I moved here). I was told by Missouri that I would have to repeat all my supervised practice hours because 1) I needed 3,000 hours and 2) I wasn’t supervised by an LPC, and 3) the supervisor was not approved by them. I have a spotless record, no complaints. I worked primarily in higher education counseling and I have operated a small private practice (6 years). But all that means nothing to other states. They couldn’t give a rat’s a**. I’ve 17 year’s experience. Can’t that count for anything? I can’t move to a different university out of state (the few that actually hire a Master’s level provider) because I need to be licensed within 6 months to a year, but I’m told most of the time I have to repeat all of my clinical supervision hours which will take at least 2 years. If I had known what I was getting into, I would never have become a counselor to begin with. After 17 years paying my student loans, I still owe the same principle. I’ve worked in non-profits but I can’t have loan forgiveness because I consolidated my loans. In ten years I could, if I were able to un-consolidate them now, which I can’t because that doesn’t exist as a thing.
Wow. Completely disheartened by this. Glad that I read this before turning in my application and getting loans for MFT school in CA. I suspected something was up because upon asking many questions regarding these issues and others related to employability, etc, I didn’t get many straight answers from the several school in the SF Bay area where I am located. Do schools tend to “not know” or just skirt these issues altogether with prospective students? I’m getting the bigger picture now and appreciate this information. I won’t be attending MFT school, perhaps LCSW.
LCSW is not much different
Hi. My name is Jose.
Please help us. I feel incarcerated in Puerto Rico. I have 14 years of experience as a License Professional Counselor. I pass the NCE and I would like to move back to the United States. However, I don’t have any other choice and I have student loans to pay. You are my last chance to get a better life for me and my family. Reciprocity now.
Hello Jose !
My name is Vecky Schmerler and I just moved to PR last year.
I’m about to have an interview at the Interamericana University , to get into their master’s in counseling.
However, my plan is to move to Florida in about 4 to 5 years. Reading this I feel that my education/experience acquired here in PR will be useless and a waste of my time and money. Please let me hear from you.
Should I consider an online CACREP accredited program versus the Interamericana program here, which is not CACREP accredited?
I would really appreciate your input.
Hello Vivecca and Jose,
ACA’s career center offers support and guidance to ACA members who are facing dilemmas just like this. Call 800-347-6647 and ask for the career center, or email email@example.com
Incredible, i had no idea. i have been looking into working towards my MFT license, I am glad i stumbled onto this. I wonder why i was never informed of this when i went to talk to the school funding department about this. I was even working towards signing up with http://www.amandarowanlcsw.com/exam-coaching/, i think i will just have to do more research into this. thanks so much
So, I am so disheartened after reading all the posts and my state Boards requirements. Yes I live in the requirement loving state of California and I am taking online classes at Grand Canyon University which is in Phoenix, Arizona. I won’t be finished for at least four years. That gives me plenty of time to learn all the regulations here or figure out if I am moving to another state.
My question though, is do I need to first get licensed in AZ, then in CA? or just CA?? Because it looks like CA considers me an out of state student, so then they require more classes from me. ARRGGHHH!!!
Thanks for any help!!!!
Hello Chantal, If you’re an American Counseling Association member you can schedule a career consultation with ACA’s Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research for advice and guidance. Call 1-800-347-6647 x321
I am licensed at the doctorate level as an LPCC in Mn which is one of the highest standards set for counseling practice. My mother who has entered her nineties is in need of my help and time being short my app has been bogged by an out of state application to California. After an exhaustive and expensive slow and painstaking process they have decided there is no way to contend with a 200 hour practicum deficient from my masters degree 20 years ago. I found my supervisor who verified that I did in fact have the hours then but did not need them for the degree. The school offered to let me add the hours post degree by completing more time despite that I am in private practice. The state said no and refuses to allow a variance. This is a bitter outcome as I was unlicensed when they had a brief grand parenting after CA finally became the last state to offer a generalist licensure. The caveat to this entire travesty is that I have 4000 hours of supervision 1000 more than is required. All my family lives in another state so I can apparently never be licensed there or work in the field. In order to push it through CA prohibits LPCCs from seeing couples. If they would have included families there would be few people we can help. I am trapped and having to explain to a dying elderly parent why my license and degrees are invalid…
Its 2017, 5 years after this article was written, and it looks like not much has changed. Maybe the professional titles are more consistent, but license portability is still a mess. I can attest. I hold a California MFT license, and have worked in a government job, but as soon as I crossed the state line into Arizona, my license and education became worthless. I spent a year attempting to get licensed in Arizona, and realized that the process was futile. I felt their methods to be an abuse of power, and a disservice to the profession. In order for me to work, I’m going to have to uproot my life and leave the state. I moved here to build a life with my partner, who owns a home here, has family, and connections, but the bureaucrats at the Arizona Board have changed all of that. Luckily, I found an alternative: Oregon. I discovered that a CA license is valued in OR, and they even recognize the CA exam as equivalent to their own. So, THANK YOU OREGON for welcoming professionals from out of state!
After months of dealing with the Licensure Board in California, I have come to the conclusion their goal is to license as few counselors as possible and to do so as slowly as possible. Even when you meet all the requirements and submit the proper applications, signed paid for and sent signature required (because they openly admit they will lose your paperwork) they take 4 to 6 weeks to respond and if there is the slightest error will wait the full 6 weeks to kick it back. They never answer the phone and I have yet to have a first email responded to, it usually takes two to three emails to get a response and you’re just wasting your time leaving a voice mail. Why is the notorious California DMV and the Franchise Tax Board faster than the California BBS. The entire system is run by a bunch of power hungry, petty, bureaucrats, who could not make it in the real world of mental health.
I just experienced something similar. I am an independently licensed counselor in Massachusetts, and have been for 10 years. When I moved to Texas I was told that I could not supervise anyone until I was in their state for 5 years. Who makes these laws?
I’m a licensed MFT in California and want to transfer license to Texas. It’s been impossible to reach a human by phone at the Texas Dept of Health & Human Services. Message always says they’re experiencing heavy call volume no matter what time you call. Just waited 15 minutes after calling exactly when they opened and still no one got on the line with me. Any suggestions on how to get transfer of license application started asap?
ACA’s department of ethics and professional standards offers professional advice and support to ACA members who have questions like yours. Contact them at 800-347-6647 x321.
I read this as I search for information due to my current situation. The PA Real Estate Commission has had my application in-process for three years even though I have 10 years of experience and 5x the needed education. They finally approved the education. I have 5 years as a federal employee assigned to federal real property ranging up to $30 million and also have 2 1/2 years as a PA Licensed Salesperson in Pennsylvania yet they calculated my years of experience as 0 years. I asked for an explanation and they ignore me.
So it’s now 2018, and we still don’t have license portability. For over a decade, the ACA has paid lip service to this problem, but done very little on the ground. I have personal experience with what the ACA regional branch representation looks like in several states, and they are doing -nothing- to pressure legislatures to changes these moronic laws. All they do is attend an LPC board meeting once or twice a year to make an obsequious comment to the board members thanking them for their service.
These laws make NO sense, but they will stay on the books until -we- force our state legislators to change them. We need to act as individuals, the ACA is not going to fix this problem. I urge everyone here to contact your state senators – make an in-person appointment for maximum effectiveness – and demand change.
Beyond the need for state laws to allow for portability and reciprocity, the entire concept of post graduate supervision needs to be addressed. If you attended a CACREP accredited program, there should be no need for post graduate supervision. What current research of evidence suggests years of post graduate supervision result in better counselors or increase public safety? Counseling degrees are worthless enough due to the stagnant wages and second class standing to social work workers and nurses, but having to spend 6 years getting a graduate degree and another 2-3 years working for minimum wage so you can get licensed and land a $38k a year job with no benefits at a non profit is just stupid.
David, what a wonderful, intelligent, and articulate article. Thank you for speaking boldly. This is a ridiculous problem. I’m reading this in 2018–has there been any real progress yet? I’m guessing no, because change in these types of “institutional” problems is slow. Not being an expert on this issue, it would seem that these individual state licensing boards would have no reason or motivation whatsoever to abdicate their little fiefdoms and the power they presume. How pitiful. Change could only happen if the majority of these folks had a simultaneous and sudden flash of common sense, as well as some empathy and compassion, and worked to create a national licensure across all states. Knowing the human condition, though, I definitely won’t hold my breath. Maybe I should just go back to grad school and get my MSW, and then my LCSW. It may be easier than jumping through all these hoops.
I was an LCSW in CO for 10 years. Then I moved back to Texas. I was denied my LCSW in Texas because my LCSW supervision was not done in Texas. Well of course it wasn’t. I was living in Colorado when I was getting my LCSW! Texas wants me to re-do all of my supervision hours in order to get a new LCSW. This makes no sense whatsoever. Do you know how much time ( Years) And expense ( thousands) It would take for me to have to start over to get my LCSW again? It is simply not fair!
I put in a ton of work to get my LCSW. I am willing to retake the clinical exam in Texas but they will not budge. Something has got to be done
Perhaps the solution lies in all of you counselors bringing pressure to bear on your licensing boards to achieving reciprocity instead of letting them handle it themselves. After all it’s not themselves they’re hurting but us. Put pressure on your state legislators to make the licensing boards comply.
The other idea is to appeal to Fed Gov to intervene and create a federal guidline or standard the states have to adhere to.
In either circumstance make sure everyone prior to new implementation is grandfathered in.
Personally, I think for the state boards its all about the money.
Which leads me to another point- why do counselors, mft’s and lcsw’s have to do more prelicensing hours that psychologists? The only real difference in training is that psychologists have a heavy load of research requirements. Regardless of title the training is the same, the techniques are the same, etc. In my home state clinical psychologists have 1 year pre doctorate internship and 1 year post doctorate internship and they are ready for licensure.
We also have to settle on one title. I submit the Federal civil service title Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor would be great- covers all bases. Or, Licensed Counselor is even better, shorter. Psychologists if memory srrves are simply Licensed Psychologist hence keeping it simpler.
We will never gain respect in the community or as a profession if we cannot stop creating differences between us in being the same thing state to state- counselors.
Summary: Get proactive as a profession and bring pressure to bear on your state licensing boards and state legislators to come up with title and scope of practice that is consistent across the nation and its territories.
One last point to be sure– allow no other licensing board from any other discipline to input on this because they only have their interests at heart and not ours.
Many States have a lack of mental health practitioners. Yet almost all States are making laws which makes portability more and more difficult. There must be easy and automatic portability for persons who have an active unrestricted mental health license for five or more years which should be applicable to all States. The Committees which regulate these laws concerning portability are NOT protecting the public. They are damaging the entire mental health system and are inhibiting the care of countless people who require much needed services. Limitation is not a public safeguard. Counselors who move from one State to another can bring with them important clinical experiences, expertise and cultural as well as clinical diversity.
I’ve been an LPC in NJ for many years wanting to move to CA but the CA Board would require me to take these three graduate courses: Psychopharmacology, Crisis or Trauma Counseling Advanced Counseling Psychotherapeutic Theories & Techniques. Does anyone know of the least expensive online CACREP program where these kind of ‘extra’ courses could be taken?
Hi everyone, I am an LPC in the state of Virginia and moving to Oregon in a few months. I have already turned in some paperwork to the board of Oregon for reciprocity. Is anyone familiar with Oregon board of counseling? Do they value LPC in VA?
This post is phenomenal and it is completely accurate. How is it 2020 and we are still dealing with the lack of professional standards across. I am a LMFT who is licensed in Delaware and am not able to get licensed in the state that I now reside in due to the educational requirements being different. We need to unit and work as a whole to bring about change.