Professional Counseling Certifications

Why to consider certification


Many counselors opt for certification through third party (nongovernmental) agencies. All states use third party examinations as part of the licensing process for professional counseling; some do so for school counseling as well.

However, licensure is not necessarily tied to going through the full certification process or maintaining certification. Often, it is a personal choice to do so. There can be advantages to taking the extra steps. The National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential can be a badge of accomplishment.

Specialty certifications can also demonstrate expertise in counseling disciplines that are often not given separate recognition by state licensing boards. Here’s a look at the options.

Capella University offers three online CACREP - accredited Master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

Mental Health Counseling

In some states, the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination is used as part of the licensing process for clinical counselors. Counselors in other states may opt to take it as part of the certification process for the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential.

School Counseling

School counselors have two certification options. Some will be eligible for one but not the other. One route is through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Teachers sometimes refer to this credential simply as National Board certification. In order to pursue this certification, a school counselor needs three years’ experience working under license. NBPTS certifications use a portfolio review process to determine that an applicant has a high level of proficiency.

School counselors can also pursue certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors. This entails taking a school counseling examination. In order to receive the school counseling credential through the NBCC, a counselor must also hold NCC status. This route is only open to school counselors who have completed a graduate counseling program of at least 48 semester hours.

NYU Steinhardt's online MA in Counseling and Guidance - Learn more about NYU’s online MA degree that prepares you to become a school counselor in as few as 18 months. Graduates can pursue certification and employment in pre-K–12 schools. Bachelor’s required. Request information.

CACREP-accreditation can be important to a counselor who is seeking NBCC credentials. If a school counselor attended a CACREP-accredited program, s/he will not need to meet post-graduate supervision requirements set by the NBCC.

Rehabilitation Counseling

The Commission on Rehabilitation Counseling Certification grants a national credential to rehabilitation counselors. There are multiple categories of eligibility. The easiest way to ensure eligibility is to attend a CORE-accredited program in rehabilitation counseling; however, other programs will be deemed acceptable if coursework and experience requirements are met. Candidates must take an examination.

Addiction Counseling

The NBCC offers the Master Addiction Counselor credential in cooperation with the International Association of Addiction and Offenders Counselors.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations in: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Antioch is a private, not-for-profit university. (*This program is NOT available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, ND)

There are multiple organizations that certify individuals with less than a master’s degree to work with people with addictions. The process varies from state to state as different jurisdictions set different standards for people who work with drug or alcohol offenders in state agencies. MAC certification, though, goes far above the typical substance abuse certification.

Master Addictions Counselors must meet all standards for the NCC credential, plus some additional ones. They must demonstrate that their graduate counseling education included 12 semester hours in addictions or that they have 500 CE hours in the field. They need at least two years of post-master supervised experience in the addiction arena; three years’ total experience is required, but some candidates will be able to demonstrate a year of prior experience.

Pastoral Counseling

Pastoral counselors can seek certification through the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. There are several certification categories. Licensed counselors who have pastoral counseling education and an endorsement to ministry from a religious community may qualify for the mental health disciplines track. One of the requirements is submission of an Integrated Theory of Therapy paper.

Expressive Arts Counseling Therapies

Some counselors attend programs that combine counseling with expressive arts therapies. Art therapy specialists become eligible for the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential through a combination of qualifying education and supervised experience; board certification is an additional step and requires an exam.

Music therapists are certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapists and dance therapists through the Dance/Movement Therapy Certification Board.

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