Rehabilitation Counselor Requirements in Washington State: How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor in Washington

Washington rehabilitation counselors are regulated by the Department of Health (DOH). Some rehabilitation counselors qualify for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) credential, which is based on graduate education, examination, and supervised practice; prospective LMHCs work under Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate (LMHCA) status while meeting post-graduate requirements.

Some rehabilitation counselors work under other DOH credentials such as Agency Affiliated Counselor. Washington counselors must hold state credentials to provide counseling services, unless they are employed in federal facilities or otherwise fall under exemption categories identified in state statute (http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-810-011).

Some civil service positions favor professionals who hold national credentialing as Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRCs) or who have education in rehabilitation counseling. The CRC is now awarded only to master’s level practitioners.

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Select a Washington State Rehabilitation Counselor Topic:

LMHC/ LMHCA Educational Requirements

Graduate Education: Licensure at the LMHC or LMHCA level is dependent on holding a degree at the master's or doctoral level. The licensing agency will accept degrees in mental health counseling or in related fields, provided that state-mandated content is covered. Rehabilitation counseling is specifically referenced as a related field, as are fields such as social work or education.

The program must include coursework in at least seven of seventeen content areas identified as relevant to professional counseling; the list includes diverse options such as “career development counseling” and “developmentally disabled persons”. At least five of the following content areas, however, must be represented:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Couple and family counseling
  • Developmental psychology
  • Ethics/ law
  • Appraisal/ assessment
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Research and evaluation

The program must also include practicum and/ or internship.

The licensing agency will consider a program “approved” based on accreditation by any accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA); the CHEA list includes regional accrediting agencies which accredit entire universities (http://www.chea.org/). Washington does not mandate a particular program-level accrediting agency, but does award partial experience and supervision credit to those who complete programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

While CACREP has not traditionally been the accrediting agency for rehabilitation counseling, some clinical rehabilitation counseling or combined mental health/ rehabilitation counseling programs hold CACREP accreditation.

Additional Training: The licensing agency requires, in addition to graduate education, four hours of HIV/ AIDS training. This requirement can be satisfied in various ways, including self-study.

Additional LMHC Requirements

Supervised Practice: The licensing agency requires verification of 3,000 hours of supervised experience or three full-time years. 1,200 of the 3,000 hours are to be earned through direct counseling. Those who attended CACREP programs can be credited with 500 hours of supervised practice as well as 50 hours of supervision.

The associate will need to spend at least 100 hours in the presence of an approved supervisor. The supervisor will be an LMHC or another mental health professional with equivalent qualifications. He or she must have had training appropriate to the supervisor role and must meet requirements described in WAC 246-809-234 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-809-234). The supervisor is expected to read the provision and provide the prospective supervisee with a declaration of supervision.

Examination:The prospective LMHC must also pass a national examination. Washington has approved two examinations, both of which are under the banner of the National Board for Certified Counselors. They are the National Counselor Examination, or NCE, and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, or NCMHCE. Of these, the NCE is the generalist examination, applicable to those whose specialty is not mental health.

Washington candidates are allowed to register directly with the NBCC; application forms can be downloaded from the "Washington" page of the NBCC website (http://www.nbcc.org/stateboardmap//WA). The applicant will need to provide a transcript that documents that a master’s has been awarded in counseling or a field related to counseling. The examination fee is currently $195.

An ATT should be issued within approximately four weeks. This allows the candidate to self-schedule a computerized exam through Pearson VUE. An individual who tests as a Washington candidate will have his or her scores reported to the DOH automatically.

Continuing Education: A counselor will also need to complete a continuing education requirement before progressing to LMHC status; the licensing agency will require a minimum of 36 hours.

The License Application Process

License applications can be found on the DOH website (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthCounselor/ApplicationsandForms).

The applicant should arrange to have official transcripts sent straight to ‘Mental Health Counselor Credentialing’ at the address found in the application packet.

The applicant may attest to having had AIDS training that covered topics identified in state code.

Verification is required from all states where the counselor has held credentialing.

Individuals applying at the associate level pay an application fee of $50 (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthCounselor/Fees). Those applying at the professional level pay an application fee of $156 and an initial licensing fee of $125.

Agency Affiliated Counselor Requirements and Application Process

Certification as an agency affiliated counselor will allow an individual to practice rehabilitation counseling in some settings. To qualify, the practitioner must have an offer of employment.

Agency affiliated counselors may apply online (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/ApplyOnline). They must report any changes in employment.

Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors who provide vocational rehabilitation to the industrially injured have a different set of requirements (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=296-19A-210). Professionals can achieve ‘VRC’ status with a bachelor's or master's degree. They will need to earn a qualifying national certification.

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation can accept any of several certifications; the Certified Disability Management Specialist does not require a graduate degree.

An individual can work toward meeting certification requirements under intern status. With a bachelor’s, an individual will need at least a year of experience working with the “industrially ill or injured”. With a master’s, the requirement is reduced to one year. Total time spent as an intern may be longer, depending on the eligibility route through which the professional achieves national certification.

Those seeking certification specifically in rehabilitation counseling will apply to the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (http://www.crccertification.com/pages/about_crc_certification/46.php). If the candidate has completed a qualifying 600-hour internship through a doctoral program or through a master’s program accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), he or she can achieve certification with no experience other than the university-supervised internship.

Civil Service Rehabilitation Counseling Positions

Washington State Human Resources has identified a number of roles in rehabilitation counseling (http://dop.wa.gov/CompClass/JobClassesSalaries/Pages/ClassifiedJobListing.aspx).

Rehabilitation counseling is distinct from ‘vocational rehab’. Desired qualifications for vocational rehab are more closely aligned to CRCC standards; those who do not have a CRC or master’s in rehabilitation counseling are expected to show 18 hours of coursework in state-identified content hours.

Additional Information

Information about state counseling licenses and certifications is available from the Department of Health (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthProfessions). The Department has provided a chart to help practitioners determine what type of license or state certification they should apply for (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthProfessions/FrequentlyAskedQuestions). Mental Health Counselor Credentialing can be reached by telephone at 360-236-4700.

Professional associations include the Washington Chapter of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals (https://connect.rehabpro.org/washington/home) and the Washington Counseling Association (http://wacounseling.org).

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