If you're looking to become a licensed mental health counselor, you'll need to complete a master's degree or doctorate in counseling from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or other acceptable accrediting agency. This is the requirement for obtaining the LMHC New York license. The State Board of Mental Health Professionals (SBMHP), which is part of the Office of the Professions of the New York State Department of Education, issues the authorized mental health counselor (LMHC) credential. If your initial license in mental health counseling was issued by a jurisdiction that does not have licensing requirements significantly comparable to those in New York State, you must submit all required documentation to the applicant for the initial license so that the Department of Education can determine if your qualifications are substantially similar to New York State's licensing requirements.
All states, along with the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, require prospective mental health counselors to pass one or more National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) tests, such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Mental Health Clinical Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). To meet the experience requirement to be licensed as a mental health counselor, you must submit documentation proving the completion of a supervised experience of at least 3,000 hours of mental health counseling service in an environment acceptable to the Department. The environment in which the experience is obtained must be a place where legally authorized persons provide services that constitute the practice of mental health counseling, as defined in the Education Act, and must be responsible for the services provided by individuals who gain experience to obtain the license. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of counselors on substance abuse, behavioral disorders and mental health will increase by 25% by 2029.States may specifically require the National Counselor Examination for licensing and certification (NCE) or the National Mental Health Clinical Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
As a crucial aspect of master's degree programs in accredited counseling, the graduate experience in supervised counseling allows students to gain practical experience with licensed professional counselors. Mental health counselors develop skills through education and training to safely, legally and effectively address the needs of their clients who may have a variety of mental health diagnoses. Other positions that may interest you include health educators, community health workers, social workers, and school counselors. The New York Mental Health Professionals Unit requires a passing grade on the National Mental Health Clinical Counseling Exam (NCMHCE), administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), to obtain full licensing.
Counselors in this field take a holistic, client-centered approach to providing care to their clients. While students are not required to specialize in sociology or psychology to earn a graduate degree in counseling, many instructors agree that it's beneficial to gain a good foundation in these subjects if you plan to become a licensed mental health counselor.