Under Colorado's Mental Health Practice Act, all prospective licensed professional counselors must meet state educational, examination, and supervised practice guidelines before submitting an application to the Division of Professions and Occupations, which is overseen by the Depart of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). If you are wondering how to become a therapist in Colorado, or are pursuing Colorado counseling licensure for the first time, you must also fulfill experience requirements by working as a professional counselor candidate.
The information below is a guide for counseling licensure in Colorado. If you have specific questions regarding your application, or want further information regarding how to become a counselor in Colorado, contact the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Mental Health Licensing Section.
Counseling Careers in Colorado
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults lives with a mental illness. Less than half receive assistance through counseling. Counselors work with patients to identify mental and behavioral challenges, tackle substance abuse problems, and develop positive habits. Working with patients from all age ranges and demographics, counselors help their clients live healthy and successful lives. The professionals in the roles below make up a growing, high-demand field.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Educational and guidance counselors offer children and young adults one-on-one guidance as they navigate adolescence and select potential career paths. Vocational counselors assist clients of all ages in finding appropriate employment.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: When relations between relatives and partners become strained, marriage and family therapists help couples and families articulate issues, share experiences or trauma, and create coping strategies.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: These counselors assist patients who are dealing with temporary limitations and lifelong disabilities. They evaluate clients' strengths and constraints, and help them to develop the behavioral skills and coping mechanisms needed to live independently.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Substance abuse and mental health counselors work one on one with patients or with small focus groups. They help patients identify toxic behaviors, as well as the traumas and anxieties that influence negative decision-making, and assist in creating positive habits.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors work in a multitude of settings, including government organizations, nonprofit groups, and private care centers like retirement homes and rehabilitation facilities. Some work with their local community members to improve quality of life, while others specialize in serving certain demographics.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Colorado|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$52,100|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$68,200|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,590|
Education Requirements for Counselors in Colorado
To obtain Colorado counseling licensure, you must hold a master's or doctoral degree from a school or program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
The board considers various factors when determining equivalency. A school should be regionally accredited and maintain a coherent, recognizable counseling program with full-time faculty. Master's programs must acquire at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of coursework, and doctoral programs usually consist of about 96 credits. Degrees earned before September 1, 1992 are not held to this rule. Counseling requirements in Colorado mandate that all programs should include a supervised fieldwork component totaling at least 700 hours.
Candidates whose education does not qualify may make up six semester hours by taking graduate courses for credit through a regionally accredited and CACREP-accredited program.
Programs must include coursework in the following areas:
- Helping Relationships
- Human Growth and Development
- Research and Evaluation
- Lifestyle and Career Development
- Professional Orientation
- Social/Cultural Foundations
If you earned your degree before September 1, 1992, you should have completed at least seven of the eight classes in this list.
The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) determines degree equivalence. For further information, visit their website.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Colorado
- Continuing Education for Counselors, American Counseling Association: The ACA provides members with multiple ongoing education opportunities. You may take 12 free online course credits each year, or obtain credits by participating in the yearly ACA expo and sharing your research with interested colleagues. The ACA's professional development center lets members develop career specializations and build a nationwide network.
- Colorado Association of Addiction Counselors: Join the CAAP and earn up to 90 free online continuing education credits through the Association for Addiction Professionals webinar series. The CAAP also offers exam practice tools, regional meetings, and publications that keep members current on the latest professional regulations.
- Continuing Education, Commission on Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation counselors use the CRCC to access ongoing education and certification opportunities. Find certified schools near you, or access online webinars through the CRCC eUniversity. Along with the ethics class required for certification, the eUniversity offers specialized and refresher courses on subjects such as disability inclusion, assistive technology, and principles of case management.
Online Counseling Programs in Colorado
As the field of counseling continues to grow, more and more schools have started offering online programs to meet the demand for licensed professionals. In Colorado, counseling programs are available at all educational levels. You may wish to begin your counseling career by earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at a state institution such as Colorado State University. Take your education to the master's level with a degree from an institute like Colorado Christian University, where you can complete a degree in as little as two-and-a-half years. If you are interested in a teaching career, consider earning a Ph.D. at the University of Northern Colorado. Regardless of the school you choose, make sure that your online program is certified by CACREP.
Individuals with a master's degree qualify to complete the 2,000 supervised counseling hours required for independent certification. You may find out more about in-state certification regulations or apply for certification through DORA.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Colorado?
Most candidates submit their application before fulfilling practice requirements. The board holds applications for up to five years. When you turn in your application, you may simultaneously register to become a professional counselor candidate by completing the following steps:
- Complete a health care professions profile.
- Provide an affidavit of eligibility that verifies your right to work in Colorado.
- If your name differs from that on your supporting documents, you must provide a legal document, such as a marriage certificate, which demonstrates your name change.
- Submit a transcript that includes the date you earned your degree.
- To cover processing fees, you must include a check or money order made out to the State of Colorado with your application materials.
You should send all materials to the Board at Division of Registrations, Office of Licensing—Licensed Professional Counselor.
To uphold the highest standards of mental health treatment, Colorado requires that all counselors maintain state certification. The following table details typical state certification fees. Some of these fees apply only to certain types of counseling licensure. Most fees must be submitted along with the candidate's application or certification materials. All state certifications expire in odd-numbered years, unless the applicant submits materials within 120 days of the next odd-numbered calendar year.
|Application Package Fee (if ordered & mailed)||Online free|
|Licensed Professional Counselor||$160|
|License Reactivation (Inactive Counselor)||$169|
|License Change of Status||Free|
The Licensing Exam
Candidates must pass both the National Counselor Examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and a jurisprudence exam. The jurisprudence exam is an open-book assessment and may be downloaded from DORA. Be sure you have the most recent version before you begin studying.
As a candidate for Colorado licensure, you should set up an exam appointment directly through the NBCC. You may do so as early as your program's final semester. You may take the exam at a local testing center. Passing scores are good for five years.
LPC Supervised Practice Requirements
After graduation, you must complete a period of supervised clinical practice. The number of required hours depends on your educational level. To obtain an LPC license, Colorado mandates 2,000 hours of post-master's work or 1,000 hours of work for those with a doctoral degree. The 2,000 hours must be spread out over a period of at least two years; 1,000 hours must be completed over a twelve-month period. The Board also requires that the supervision be spread out in time.
Your supervisor may be a licensed counselor, social worker, or marriage and family therapist. You may have multiple supervisors during your practice period.
Candidates must acquire at least 50 hours of supervision for every 1,000 hours, 35 of which should be face-to-face supervision. Teaching applied psychotherapy may count for up to 600 hours of your post-master's requirement or up to 300 hours of your post-doctoral requirement, provided you have documentation of supervision by a qualified professional. You may fulfill up to 30 hours of your post-master's supervision or 15 hours of your postdoctoral supervision requirement by teaching under supervision.
You must make a copy of the post-degree experience and supervision form for each supervisor and fill out the top of each document. Your supervisors must sign the forms to verify your experience. They should also initial any changes made on the form. The form submitted must include an original signature; photocopies are not acceptable. At the earliest, the signature may be obtained on the last day of your supervised work period.
Out of State Candidates - LPC Requirements
If you're licensed in another state, you may apply for a reciprocal license through endorsement if you meet certain requirements:
- Education: You must hold a master's degree from an accredited counseling program, or a doctoral degree from an equivalent program.
- Experience: There are several ways to fulfill Colorado's experience requirement. Individuals who completed two years of post-master's supervised practice or one year of post-doctoral supervised practice meet the requirement. Others may qualify by averaging at least 20 hours of licensed practice a week, without gaps greater than six months. Hours spent teaching professional counseling courses may fulfill up to one-third of the total requirement.
- Good Legal and Professional Standing: Your license may be denied on the basis of malpractice allegations or settlements, injunctions, or pending investigations or claims. You must report any misdemeanors or felonies at the time of application.
- Examination: You must have previously passed an examination demonstrating that you are competent in counseling practices.
If you have ever been licensed to practice counseling or related services outside of the state, you must request verification from each jurisdiction in which you were licensed. Each letter of verification should be placed in a sealed envelope and attached to your application.
Resources for Counselors
- Minority Fellowship Program: This fellowship supports master's and doctoral-level students who intend to work with minority communities. Training programs and mentorships prepare recipients to provide underserved populations with behavioral and mental health services.
- Colorado Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: COAMFT's student and associate resources page provides numerous links to networking, clinical training, and ongoing education opportunities. The association's website also contains a list of accredited and non-accredited counseling institutions in the state.
- Colorado Department of Labor Employment: Colorado's Department of Labor Employment works in conjunction with the State Independent Living Council to share job openings related to vocational rehabilitation, disability awareness, and similar fields.
- Illuminate Colorado: Combining four established social service organizations, Illuminate Colorado promotes healthy childhood development through family therapy, advocacy, and community support. This association works to address systemic drug abuse, alcoholism, and sexual abuse issues statewide.
- Rise Above Colorado: Developed by the Colorado Meth Project, this organization works on the front lines of drug addiction. Rise Above Colorado seeks volunteers to counsel students, monitor drug addiction in high schools, and spread further awareness of the dangers of methamphetamine.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- AAMFT Foundation: The AAMFT brings together clinicians, researchers, and educators to share current research and improve marriage and family counseling standards. Dedicated to helping underserved communities, the Foundation's Minority Fellowship program strives to increase cultural competence among mental health practitioners.
- American Counseling Association: This organization seeks to advance professional counseling standards and promote increased accessibility to therapy nationwide. The ACA helps its members achieve their professional goals through grants, scholarships, and continuing education opportunities.
- Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies: DORA regulates and maintains quality standards for numerous social services and professions throughout Colorado, including counseling. You may renew your counseling license, find out about new career opportunities, and receive counseling regulatory notices through the DORA website.