How to Become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor
What Is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?
LMHC vs. LPC
LMHC vs. Psychologist
LMHC vs. LMFT
LMHC vs. LCSW
Skills Used by Licensed Mental Health Counselors
- You’ll constantly draw on your base of psychology education.
- It’s important to be empathetic and able to stand in your clients’ shoes, but it’s also important that you don’t become involved in their lives.
- It’s recommended you stay at arm’s length while listening, questioning, responding and treating your client.
- The job can be demanding, so effective stress-management skills are vital.
- Good problem-solving skills, for both your clients and yourself, are an integral part of this role.
How Long Does It Take to Become an LMHC?
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Education Requirements
4 Steps to Becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Below we’ve outlined four common steps to becoming an LMHC. While this can be used as a guide, keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different.
- Earn a bachelor’s degree
Typically, this takes four years, and most often this degree is in psychology or sociology.
- Earn a master’s degree
If you are studying full-time, this will typically take two to three years.
- Get supervised mental health counseling experience
To earn your mental health counselor license, the National Board for Certified Counselors reports that you will be required by your state to perform a certain number of hours of supervised experience. In most states, this is two years or 3,000 hours; however, it can range from one to four years, or from 1,600-4,000 hours. Make sure you check the specific requirements for the state you wish to practice in.
- Pass your mental health counselor licensing exams
This will typically be either the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE)or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE). You may be required to take a state law and ethics exam as well, which often pertains to issues that may vary from state to state, such as child-abuse reporting requirements. This can take six months to a year, depending on how much time you need to prepare.