In 2017, the number of opioid prescriptions in Alabama grew higher than the number of people living in the state, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Alabama had twice as many prescriptions per capita as the national average and a higher percentage than any other state. Alabama counselors continue to work to solve the opioid crisis.
This guide covers how to become a counselor in Alabama and provides information on the types of jobs available in the state, minimum education for counselors, and post-graduate internship requirements.
Counseling Careers in Alabama
Alabama counseling career options include positions in schools, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and private practices. Some counselors work with specific types of clients, while others maintain a broad practice. The following section details several types of counseling careers and links to resources with additional information.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
These specialized counselors focus on student development and academic success. School counselors assist students individually and in groups to help them develop coping skills and improve academic performance. Guidance and vocational counselors help students identify career goals.Explore Alabama School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists help couples and families overcome the challenges that arrive in relationships. These therapists help clients learn effective parenting strategies, communication skills, and emotional regulation.Explore Career Information
These counselors work in settings like community rehabilitation clinics and residential care agencies. Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with mental, emotional, physical, and developmental disabilities lead fulfilling and independent lives. In addition to planning treatments, rehabilitation counselors coordinate care and locate resources.Explore Career Information
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These professionals can work in outpatient mental health clinics and residential mental health and substance abuse facilities. Behavioral disorders and substance abuse counselors develop treatment plans and tailor interventions to each client's challenges.Explore Career Information
Mental Health Counselors
Some mental health counselors specialize in treating certain illnesses or patients from specific demographics. For example, counselors may work with patients who struggle with eating disorders or may work exclusively with children. However, mental health counselors have the training and credentials to treat all patients.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Alabama?
The table below details salary ranges for various types of counselors, in the U.S. and in Alabama. The table includes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which combines the salaries for mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorder counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Alabama
Education and Coursework
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling provides credentials for associate licensed counselors (ALC) and licensed professional counselors (LPC). ALCs work under the supervision of LPCs while they gain the experience required to qualify for the LPC credential. Before applying for either license, Alabama counseling candidates must earn a master's degree in counseling. Candidates can earn their bachelor's degree in any field; however, some graduate programs prefer applicants with an undergraduate degree in psychology or counseling.
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling provides credentials for associate licensed counselors (ALC) and licensed professional counselors (LPC)
To qualify for licensure, candidates must have completed a program with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Rehabilitation and Education (CORE). ABEC may accept degrees from unaccredited programs that include the same course requirements. All degrees must come from regionally accredited schools, without exception.
Master's programs must comprise at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours. Qualifying degrees should include a practicum, an internship, and classes in nine specific content areas: professional orientation; counseling theory; research and evaluation; human growth and development; appraisal of individuals; social and multicultural foundations; lifestyle and career development; the helping relationship; and group dynamics, processing, and counseling.
Practicum and Internship
The graduate coursework of ALC candidates must include a 100-hour practicum that involves 40 clock hours of direct client contact. Candidates must complete a 600-hour internship with 240 hours of contact with patients. The internship should take place under the supervision of an LPC in the candidate's specialization area.
Online Counseling Programs in Alabama
Aspiring counselors seeking Alabama licensure must first complete a CACREP- or CORE-accredited program. Pursuing a graduate degree online offers several advantages, including the opportunity to maintain employment, remote access to course materials at all hours, and the ability to complete assignments from anywhere. Online students can participate in individual and group counseling simulations and can view lectures in real time.
The University of Alabama offers a CACREP-accredited online MA in rehabilitation counseling that consists of 60 credits, including two fieldwork courses that online students can take at an approved location in their community. Students complete coursework entirely online. The University of Alabama also offers a 30-credit online Ed.S. in counselor education that prepares students for school counseling certification.
Online students can participate in individual and group counseling simulations and can view lectures in real time.
Schools nationwide that participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements accept qualifying Alabama students to their distance education programs. For example, Thomas University, located in Thomasville, Georgia, offers a CORE-accredited online MS degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Alabama
The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling oversees the counseling licensure process for professionals in the state. After graduating from approved counseling programs, candidates can apply for the ALC credential, which qualifies holders to work under the supervision of LPCs. ALC candidates must complete 3,000 internship hours, including 2,250 hours involving direct client contact.
Candidates with graduate credits, such as completed Ph.D. courses, can subtract up to 1,000 required clock hours for every 15 graduate semester hours. These candidates must complete 1,500 hours of direct client contact. All ALCs must pass a national exam to become LPCs.
Out-of-State Counselor Candidates
LPCs with licenses from other states can apply for endorsement in Alabama, but the state does not maintain reciprocity agreements with other jurisdictions. To start the endorsement process, candidates file an application with the state, which includes the candidate's national exam score, LPC counseling license number, and information about professional licenses. ABEC compares the candidate's previous licensing requirements to current Alabama requirements. If the applicant did not meet Alabama's criteria, they may work under a provisional license while completing additional requirements.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Alabama
Alabama LPC and ALC licenses expire every two years. To maintain their credentials, ALCs must earn 10 continuing education credits, two of which must come from ethics courses. LPCs must earn 40 continuing education credits every two years, which should include 30 hours of direct participation activities and at least six hours of counseling ethics.
ABEC preapproves many continuing education providers, including state licensing boards, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and the Association for Play Therapy.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Alabama
- Alabama Association for Play Therapy Promoting mental health through play, AAPT offers continuing education seminars and workshops that focus on play therapy and other mental health topics. Previous workshops included training in child trauma, intervention strategies for military veterans, and integrative play therapy to treat abuse.
- Alabama School of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies In addition to advocating for communities, ASADS offers continuing education workshops for professionals and hosts annual workshops. The 2018 workshop covered topics from human trafficking and therapeutic responses to rampant heroin and prescription opioid abuse.
- Advanced Clinical Training Institute Headquartered in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Advanced Clinical Training Institute provides affordable, online continuing education credits. Professional counselors can preview course materials at no cost. Online courses vary in length and cover topics in ethical standards in counseling, substance abuse in older adults, and brief family therapy.
Resources and Organizations for Counselors in Alabama
- Alabama Department of Human Resources Founded in 1935 to assist Alabama residents in need of basic resources, this public agency provides information on employment opportunities and state policies in areas such as child abuse reporting and elder abuse protection.
- Crisis Center Birmingham In addition to providing crisis hotlines for children, teens, and adults, this center offers crisis prevention educational programs and scholarship opportunities for crisis center volunteers and students.
- University of Alabama Counseling Center Resources These free online resources assist counseling students and individuals undergoing therapy. Although designed for University of Alabama students, anyone can access these resources, which include information on alcohol and drug abuse, emotional health, and self-help topics.
- GoodTherapy This comprehensive website includes information on therapeutic techniques, theories, psychotropic medication, and private practice resources. GoodTherapy connects professionals with continuing education opportunities, both online and across the country.
- Alabama Counseling Association The state branch of the American Counseling Association, ALCA serves more than 2,000 members by providing continuing education opportunities, including an annual conference in a different city each year. ALCA provides links to accredited online counseling programs, career information, and scholarly publications.
- Alabama School Counselor Association The largest division of ALCA, ALSCA promotes professional ethics and positive community relations. The association's emerging leaders program facilitates professional growth for recent graduates. ALSCA provides resources on bully prevention, cybersafety, and grief. ALCA's free online newsletter features articles on issues school counselors face, including teen pregnancy, dual enrollment for high school students, and K-12 career development.
- Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors This gatekeeper organization recognizes counselors with expertise in addictions and interventions. In addition to offering two alcohol and drug counselor certifications, AAAC hosts an annual conference that provides networking and continuing education opportunities. AAAC members receive malpractice insurance and access to webinars and the latest addiction and recovery publications.