Rehabilitation Counselor Requirements in California: Choose your path to becoming a Rehabilitation Counselor in California

California rehabilitation counselors may hold any of multiple credentials. Not all rehabilitation counselors are state licensed. California has only recently begun licensing counselors. The Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) credential is focused on the mental health counseling discipline; prospective licensees complete mental health education and training and pass a mental health licensing examination.

While professionals with clinical rehabilitation counseling or rehabilitation and mental health counseling training may ultimately qualify for a clinical counseling license, the license is not required for many rehabilitation positions. According to the January 2015 version of the practice act, there are a number of exemptions from licensing mandates: among them, individuals who perform their counseling duties under the supervision of an employing governmental entity.

Requirements vary. Governmental entities may seek rehabilitation counselors who have met requirements to sit for the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) examination; the CRC is a third party credential.

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Education Requirements: CORE, CRC and LPCC Paths

Education takes place at the master's level. The most direct path to rehabilitation counseling certification is completion of a program accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), now merging with CACREP. The student will need to complete a 600 hour internship. CACREP/CORE has provided a directory of accredited programs (http://www.cacrep.org/); there are multiple in-state options. CORE-accredited programs include, at minimum 48 semester hours of graduate coursework. If one attends a program that is not CORE-accredited, it does not mean certification will never be achieved. However, there will be additional requirements.

Individuals who seek licensure through the Board of Behavioral Sciences will need to complete graduate programs of at least 60 semester hours. They will also need to meet specific coursework requirements set by the state. Expectations depend on the date the student begins the program and when he or she completes it. There are 13 core competencies for students who begin programs in August 2012 or later (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/pdf/forms/lpc/lpcc_13_core_content_areas.pdf). License-qualifying California programs incorporate other state-mandated content.

The Board places some limits on what can be taken outside a qualifying program. There are some differences in requirements for in-state and out-of-state applicants. However, attending a school physically located in another state does not qualify a candidate as an out-of-state applicant. The Board cautions individuals considering online programs to make sure that the program includes required California content that cannot be remediated post-degree (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/lpcc_schools_post_082012.shtml). The California Association for Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors states that in-state students must complete pre-approved programs (http://calpcc.org/graduate-programs).

The Board notes that there are organizations that may offer assistance in determining if one's education is sufficient (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program). Members of the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors can arrange a license-related consultation.

The Board has provided a list of in-state counseling-related programs that may meet LPCC requirements; some are noted as having coursework deficiencies (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/lpcc_schools_post_082012.shtml). The list includes two rehabilitation counseling programs. Prospective students are directed to confirm with the individual school that it does meet current requirements.

Information may change; some California rehabilitation counseling programs have changed their standards/ options to bring licensing within reach of their graduates.

Examination Requirements: CRC and NCMHC

Licensure and certification both depend on examination. However, the required examination is not the same.

A rehabilitation counselor who seeks CRC certification will take the CRC examination, offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, or CRCC . The CRCC has provided a candidate bulletin. Candidates must establish eligibility before testing. An application tutorial can be found on the “forms and fees” page of the CRCC website (http://www.crccertification.com/pages/forms___fees/70.php). The required forms will depend on eligibility pathway. Student enrolled in CORE-accredited programs will use the student status form. Students wishing to take the July 1 examination must document that 75% of requirements will be met by June 1; similar standards are in effect for other examination administration.

The Board no longer accepts the CRC as a licensing examination, though this option was available briefly during the grandfathering period. The Board has adopted the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHC). The NCMHC is offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The NBCC has provided a registration information page that is state-specific (http://www.nbcc.org/directory/CA). Candidates will provide eligibility letter, registration form, and $200. Once approved, they will schedule through Pearson VUE.

Supervised Practice for LPCC Licensure

Individuals who seek state licensure must complete a supervised practice requirement. While meeting this requirement, they are registered as interns. Although there are settings where a counseling graduate can legally work without holding intern registration, the only way to credit hours earned prior to receipt of an intern registration number is to apply within 90 days of degree conferral (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/).

The registered intern will need to accrue at least 3,000 experience hours over a period of at least two years.

The Application Process

Individuals seeking licensure face additional state mandates. The licensing agency requires fingerprint-based criminal background checks. California residents will have their prints made electronically; the Board notes that this is the quicker method. Out-of-state residents will have their fingerprints made on traditional "hard cards"; they will initiate the process by sending an email request for fingerprint cards (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/app-reg/fingerprints.shtml).

Applicants need to pass a jurisprudence examination. The examination is administered by PSI. The Board has provided a link to a candidate handbook (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/index.shtml).

License application materials are available through the Board of Behavioral Sciences (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/lpcc_is_traditional_path.shtml).

Out-of-State Rehabilitation Counselors

Requirements vary according to when the individual was educated, whether he or she holds an out-of-state license and, if so, the length of time a credential has been held and the requirements that were met to achieve it. An applicant who has held a comparable counseling license in another jurisdiction for at least two years may have only minimal requirements to meet to achieve California licensure. Applicants with insufficient experience will register first as interns (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/lpcc_program/lpcc_oos_path_reg.shtml). The out-of-state application packet describes nine different scenarios and the requirements for each.

CRC certification, unlike licensure, is not specific to a particular state.

Additional Information

Licensing information is available from the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The Board has provided a list of email contacts (http://www.bbs.ca.gov/contact.shtml).

Information may change. Individuals can subscribe to receive updates (https://www.dca.ca.gov/webapps/bbs/subscribe.php).

The International Association of Rehabilitation Counselors-California (https://connect.rehabpro.org/california/home) and the California Rehabilitation Association are additional professional resources (http://www.carehab.org/crca.asp). The CRA is affiliated with both the National Rehabilitation Association and the California Counseling Association.

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