How to Become a Mental Health Counselor
What Does a Mental Health Counselor Do?
Three Steps to Becoming a Mental Health Counselor
As mentioned above, counselors must typically complete undergraduate and master’s in mental health counseling degree programs, in addition to securing licensure from the state in which they intend to legally practice. Sometimes counselors may also opt for pursuing their doctorate in counseling. Although everyone’s journey is different, here are some typical steps to become a mental health counselor:
- Obtain an Undergraduate Degree
As far as undergraduate education goes, aspiring counselors may choose among several degree fields, as long as they are offered by an accredited school. While some colleges and universities may offer a bachelor’s in counseling, many do not. Thus, most graduate counseling programs—as well as the American Counseling Association1—recommend that a student looking to become a counselor obtain a bachelor’s in a related subject, such as psychology, or any other liberal arts major.
- Complete a Graduate Program
It is recommended that aspiring counselors attend a counseling graduate program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs2 (CACREP). While there are various types of graduate programs for counseling, a master’s in mental health counseling may be the best option for those interested in helping with mental and emotional health issues and relationship problems.
- Obtain A Supervised Practice License
Graduates should follow state-specific steps to obtain their supervised practice license. While mental health counselor licensure requirements will vary by state3, the process typically involves verification of completed coursework, citizenship proof, recommendation letters and examination results. Many states rely on one of two tests offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors4. Visit your state’s counseling licensing board website5 for a full list. Holders of supervised practice licenses will have to complete additional steps to earn independent licensure, which will vary by state and include supervised practice experience.