Becoming a Counselor in New Hampshire
Interested in becoming a counselor? It takes a lot of education. Although you can be certified as a mental health worker with less education, it takes a master's to be licensed as a mental health counselor or certified as a school counselor.
CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Programs:
If you are a High School Student or have earned a Diploma/GED in NH:
Look for volunteer or paid opportunities. You'll find opportunities to volunteer with NAMI NH; this is a particularly good option if you have a family member with mental illness. You will find other opportunities listed on the site of Volunteer NH. You can search by category -- for example, mental health and crisis intervention.
You can search for paid opportunities through the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Some ask that you have a degree, or at least some coursework, in an approved field like psychology, social science, or special education.
You can become a counselor with a bachelor's degree in just about anything, but some programs will provide you with more related experience than others. It’s possible to enroll in a counseling related undergraduate program like addiction treatment. If you just want to learn a little about the profession, you can enroll in a course like helping skills or conflict resolution. Read more about selecting an undergraduate counseling degree here.
A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.
If you already have your Bachelor’s Degree:
Familiarize yourself with the graduate program application process well in advance. Gather references and begin brainstorming for your personal statement.
If you are interested in becoming a mental health counselor, enroll in a 60 semester hour mental health counseling program that is either CACREP-accredited or housed in an institution that holds regional accreditation. At least 30 semester hours should be in the eleven content areas outlined by the Board. (If you have completed an acceptable graduate degree that is at least 48 semester hours, though, you may complete additional coursework to make the 60 hour requirement. If you have a degree that was less than 48, you should enroll in a Certificate of Advanced Studies.)
There may be opportunities to customize your program. You might, for example, be able to enroll in a track that will allow you to earn a substance abuse credential in addition to your mental health counseling license.
If you want to become a guidance counselor, enroll in an approved program that includes 600 hours of internship. It should prepare you to work with grades K-12.
You can continue to explore and narrow your focus as you're going through your degree program. You may have a choice of many intern sites, including ones in social service agencies, substance abuse facilities and inpatient wards.
Requirements don’t end with graduation. You will need to work under supervision to become a mental health counselor. You will fill out a Candidate for Licensure Agreement if you are fulfilling your supervised practice hours within the state.
You must also pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination.
The application process itself can be lengthy. The mental health counseling application includes written essays on topics required by the Board. You will also need to submit three references.
The school counselor certification process requires fingerprinting.
If you have Religious Training:
Pastoral counselors are licensed separately as pastoral psychotherapists. If you already hold a master's degree from a school of theology, you can complete additional education in pastoral counseling or psychotherapy. Education would then take place at the doctoral level. You will take written and oral exams.