About 660,000 adults and 180,000 children in Florida struggle with serious mental illness like schizophrenia or severe depression. Even more patients experience other disorders, such as substance abuse and anxiety. However, the state ranks second-to-last in the amount it spends on mentally ill patients, and at least 70% of people with mental illnesses in Florida cannot access professional help.
People who want to address the state's lack of mental health services can learn how to become a counselor in Florida. This guide outlines how to pursue a Florida counseling career, including types of jobs, potential salaries, and licensure requirements.
Counseling Careers in Florida
Counselors in Florida work in schools, private practice, hospitals, and in-patient treatment centers. Depending on the specializations they choose, counselors can work with various demographics, such as adolescents or the LGBTQ community. The following list outlines several types of jobs that aspiring counselors can pursue.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
School counselors assist with career planning and help students identify interests, aptitudes, and programs aligned with their goals. They also provide guidance on social, emotional, and behavioral issues when necessary. Vocational counselors help adults secure employment aligned with their interests and goals.Explore Career Information Explore Florida School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
These counselors may work with individuals, couples, or families to overcome relationship and familial challenges. Marriage and family therapists help clients develop healthy coping mechanisms and manage unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors.Explore Career Information
Individuals who struggle with developmental, emotional, mental, or physical limitations work with rehabilitation counselors to learn strategies for independent living. These counselors develop plans for employment and arrange for assistive services where necessary.Explore Career Information Explore Florida Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
People struggling with addiction work with substance abuse counselors to develop coping strategies for sobriety and ongoing recovery. Behavioral counselors treat individuals and families with behavioral disorders, such as eating disorders and gambling addictions.Explore Career Information Explore Florida Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
These counselors work with many types of mental health clients. Some mental health counselors practice broadly and accept all patients, while others specialize in helping specific types of patients. For example, some mental health counselors work exclusively with children and others focus on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Florida?
Counselor salaries vary depending on a person's experience, location, and specialization. The table below details how much Florida counseling professionals can expect to make in different positions. Readers should note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines data for mental health, behavioral disorder, and substance abuse counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Florida
Education and Coursework
Licensed professional counselor (LPC) candidates in Florida must earn a master's degree from a program accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Not all CACREP-accredited programs automatically qualify for Florida counseling licensure, however.
Candidates who want to work as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFTs) must complete an accredited master's program with a specialization in marriage and family therapy
The program must also comprise 60 semester credits or 80 quarter credits and include courses in each of the following areas: counseling theories and practices; legal, ethical, and professional standards; human growth and development; substance abuse; diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology; counseling in community settings; human sexuality; social and cultural foundations; group theories and practice; research and program evaluation; individual evaluation and assessment; and career and lifestyle assessment.
Candidates who want to work as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFTs) must complete an accredited master's program with a specialization in marriage and family therapy. The program must include courses in each of the following subjects: dynamics of marriage and family systems; substance abuse theory and counseling techniques; marriage therapy and counseling theory and techniques; psychosocial theory; family therapy and counseling theory and techniques; human sexuality theory; individual human development theories throughout the life cycle; psychopathology; and personality theory or general counseling theory and techniques.
Practicum and Internship
As part of their master's programs, LPC candidates must complete 1,000 hours of university-sponsored field experience, which can include internships and practicums. LMFT candidates must also complete at least one internship or practicum, but the state does not specify a required number of hours. Both types of candidates must complete 280 hours of direct client contact.
Online Counseling Programs in Florida
Students with work and family obligations benefit from the flexibility of online programs. Online master's programs in counseling blend online coursework with onsite practical experiences. Distance learners may often structure their class schedules around work and family commitments.
Some schools offer specialized programs, like the University of South Florida's online master of arts in school counseling. Meanwhile, Nova Southeastern University's online master of science in counseling offers specializations that include applied behavior analysis and substance abuse counseling. Each program meets the education requirements for licensure in Florida.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Florida
The Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling oversees LPC and LMFT counseling licensure. After graduation, both types of candidates must complete two years of supervised fieldwork in their respective specialty, including 1,500 hours of direct client contact. LPC applicants must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, while LMFT candidates must pass the exam from the Examination Advisory Committee of the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
Candidates with active LPC or LMFT licenses in other states may apply for licensure by endorsement in Florida as long as their master's degrees come from regionally accredited institutions. Endorsement candidates must submit college transcripts, proof of licensure in their previous state, and official results from the appropriate national exams.
Candidates who graduate from non-CACREP programs must also submit letters from school officials that explain the practicum requirements. Before earning licensure, applicants must complete continuing education courses as follows: eight hours in laws and rules, two hours in domestic violence, and three hours in HIV/AIDS.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Florida
LPC and LMFT licenses expire at midnight on March 31 of odd-numbered years. During each renewal cycle, professionals must complete 30 hours of continuing education from approved providers in specific categories. These hours must include two in medical errors, four in qualified supervisor training, three in ethics and boundaries, two in domestic violence, and three in laws and rules.
Counselors can earn hours from national professional associations, board meetings, graduate courses, and continuing education courses. The exception to the continuing education rule is that professionals do not need to complete any of these hours in the cycle immediately following their initial licensure.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Florida
- University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center UF offers continuing education courses to licensed psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, and marriage and family therapists in Florida. No set curriculum exists, but past classes have explored topics like addiction issues among college students, the Baker Act, autism spectrum disorder, and group therapeutic approaches.
- AA Ross Counseling Continuing Education Counseling professionals in Florida can meet continuing education requirements with this provider's Initial License Package. Coursework includes topics in domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and Florida laws and ethics. AA Ross also offers renewal packages and subject-specific courses that cover many topics, including the opioid crisis, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
- NetCE This continuing education provider offers home study courses that meet Florida's licensure renewal requirements. Counselors can take courses in topics like medical error prevention, Florida laws and rules, medical ethics and boundaries, and HIV/AIDS.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Florida
- FLHealthSource Licensee Services All licensed medical professionals in Florida can access this site's services. In addition to streamlined licensure renewal, LPCCs can explore continuing education opportunities.
- Baker Act Crisis Services The Florida Department of Children and Families provides licensed mental health practitioners with links to legislative updates, rules and regulations, and facilities information relevant to the Baker Act.
- Marchman Act Crisis Services Just as it does for the Baker Act, the Florida Department of Children and Families offers guidance to mental health counselors on the proper implementation of the Marchman Act. Counselors may download a reference guide and official forms.
- Florida Health Source 2017 Bills The state offers a summary of pending legislation that impacts licensed healthcare practitioners in Florida. This resource currently reflects congressional bills on topics like controlled substances and human trafficking.
- Chi Sigma Iota This professional society welcomes students, practicing mental health counselors, and counseling educators. Student members can access career planning resources and participate in leadership development opportunities with peers.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association This organization provides members with access to scholarly publications and local, regional, and national networking events. Membership also includes discounts on liability insurance, continuing education courses, and trainings.
- American Counseling Association Free continuing education is only one of the benefits afforded to ACA members. Counselors may also access discounted health, dental, life, disability, and liability insurance. ACA's national conference and leadership training opportunities provide a forum for professional development and networking.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI is a grassroots organization that advocates for mental health policy, educates the public, and encourages awareness of mental health issues. NAMI members can learn how to fundraise and organize advocacy events in their own communities.