Florida's licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) earn their status through graduate education, examination, and supervised practice. The application process itself may vary, depending on your circumstances and life experiences. However, if you have any questions about the LMHC requirements in Florida, contact the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling.
Counseling Careers in Florida
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), behavioral, mental health, and substance abuse counselor positions are projected to increase 23% by 2026. This industry growth is largely driven by the criminal justice system's changing attitudes toward mental health treatment. Judges today are far more likely to rely on substance abuse counseling as a first-line treatment for drug offenders. Similarly, authorities recognize that criminals with mental illness need treatment, and often this treatment can prevent further incarceration. These factors, along with an overall reduction of the stigma surrounding mental health counseling, make this field an attractive career option.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: School counselors assist with career planning and help students identify their interests, aptitudes, and relevant courses. They also provide guidance on social, emotional, and behavioral issues when necessary.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: These counselors use cognitive behavioral therapy to assist families in crisis. They may treat couples or families as they help them process traumatic events and difficult life experiences, guiding them toward healthy decision-making.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: 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.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Patients with addiction problems work with substance abuse counselors to develop coping strategies for sobriety. Mental health and behavioral counselors treat individuals and families with issues such as depression or suicidal ideation.
- Counselors, All Other: Within this broad category, counseling professionals work in private practice, community agencies, correctional institutions, or outpatient treatment centers. Patients include individuals or families with behavioral, addiction, or mental health diagnoses.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Florida|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$49,300|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$51,250|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$44,740|
|Counselors, All Other||$40,290|
Education Requirements for Counselors
The first step toward becoming a licensed mental health counselor is completing your graduate education from a program accredited by CACREP. It must be a mental health counseling degree that includes core content areas, as well as classes in substance abuse and human sexuality.
To qualify for licensure, your program must be 60 semester hours, or 80 quarter hours, and must include coursework in each of the following content areas:
- Counseling Theories
- Human Growth and Development
- Group Theories and Practice
- Human Sexuality
- Psychopathology Diagnosis and Treatment
- Career and Lifestyle
- Individual Assessment and Evaluation
- Research and Program Evaluation
- Substance Abuse
- Counseling in Community Settings
- Legalities, Ethics, and Professional Standards
- Cultural and Social Foundations
You may not use fieldwork, research, thesis, or dissertation work to meet the requirements in any of the above areas. You must complete 1,000 hours of practicum or internship work through your university. The practicum must include at least 280 hours of direct counseling practice, with at least an hour of individual or triadic supervision per week. You should have a formal evaluation upon completion. If you didn't meet the practicum requirement as part of your degree program, you'll need to make it up before beginning your period of post-master's supervised experience.
Regardless of the accreditation status of your school, you must take the following additional classes from an approved provider:
- Rules and Laws
- Medical Error Prevention
Within six months of licensure, you must also take a class in HIV/AIDS and a course in domestic violence.
Online Counseling Programs in Florida
Students who are already employed or have significant family obligations may find distance education an ideal solution for furthering their careers. Online programs that lead to Florida counseling licensure are outnumbered by their brick-and-mortar counterparts, but they do exist. Generally housed within the education or psychology departments of their universities, these master's programs blend online coursework with on-site practical experiences. Because Florida counseling licensure requires extensive clinical training, students practice under professional supervision prior to licensed licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) Florida licensure. Distance learners may structure their class schedules around work and family commitments, but clinical experiences must be conducted onsite.
Some schools offer specialized programs, like the University of South Florida's online master of arts in school counseling. Nova Southeastern University's online master of science in counseling allows degree candidates to become a licensed counselor in Florida within applied behavior analysis, substance abuse counseling, or mental health counseling concentrations. Each program meets counseling requirements in Florida. Programs that are accredited by CACREP or similar national accrediting bodies may qualify graduates to practice in other states.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Florida?
Aspiring counselors submit an application before they begin their internships. You must show that you have completed coursework in at least seven of the content areas, including the requirement for psychopathology or abnormal psychology.
In the application, students document their educational and professional history and answer questions about ethics and professional fitness. They also document important health history. If you have recent or chronic mental illnesses, you must submit a status report from a mental health professional. All applicants must also pay a $150 fee.
All university transcripts must be sent directly to the board.
If your program wasn't CACREP accredited, you must include verification that you completed a practicum that met the council's standards. This can be obtained from your university, who will either send it directly or include it in a sealed envelope with a signature on the flap.
The application, fee, and additional supporting documentation should be sent to the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling.
Florida issues LPCC licenses to social workers, marriage and family therapists, and mental health counselors. Some counselors elect dual licensure as social workers and marriage and family therapists. Regardless of licensure type, each carries the same mandatory application, licensure, and renewal fee. Counselors who meet limited licensure requirements still pay a fee, but considerably less. Mental health practitioners may reactivate an inactive licensure for any of the three licenses, though at significant expense. The Florida Department of Health also offers written verification of any counseling licensure at minimal cost. The table below details Florida's applicable licensure fees.
|Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist||$105|
|Licensed Mental Health Counselor||$105|
|Dual Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist/Clinical Social Worker||$105|
|Written License Verification||$25|
The Licensing Exam
To receive licensure, you must take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, which is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Registration is sent from the board after you are approved to take the exam. You submit the form along with an original signature, in ink, and a $195 nonrefundable fee.
Tests are available at any of 170 testing centers across the country. There are nine in Florida, located in Casselberry, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Miami, Ocala, Sarasota, Tallahassee, and West Palm Beach. Testing generally takes place within the first two weeks of each month, and some sites have Saturday sessions available.
You should receive approval from the NBCC in approximately four weeks. You can schedule your exam by phone or online.
If you don't pass your exam on the first attempt, you must get another registration from the Florida board.
LPC Supervised Practice Requirement
Before you are credentialed as a licensed mental health counselor, you must work under supervision for two years. This requirement includes at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face client work. You must also receive at least one hour of supervision every two weeks, and at least half of these supervised hours must be individual, or paired with no more than one other intern. Individual supervision hours may alternate with group supervision hours.
Out of State Candidates - LPC Requirements
If you are licensed in another state and have actively practiced during at least three of the past five years, you may apply for licensure by endorsement. This option is designed for those who cannot document that they've met the supervised experience option.
To qualify, applicants must meet basic educational requirements and have completed board-approved courses in laws and rules and medical errors. Upon approval, you must pass Florida's licensing exam and take domestic violence and HIV/AIDS courses within six months of licensing.
If you have not met all of the examination and educational requirements, you may be issued a provisional license, which is valid for two years.
If you received your education in another country, your degree must be evaluated by a recognized evaluation service and then sent to the board. Any documents in a language other than English must be translated by a certified translator.
License Maintenance and Renewal
To maintain licensure, counselors must complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years. This must include a two hour class in medical errors and a three hour class in ethics and boundary issues. Once every three renewal cycles, you must complete a two hour class in domestic violence.
You may be exempt from the continuing education requirement the first time that you renew.
Special Licenses: Military Spouses, Retirees
As a military spouse, you may receive a license for $113. You are responsible for filling out the application packet and getting fingerprints, and must complete an additional application packet.
If you are retired or plan to retire soon, you may be eligible for a limited license that allows you to work in high need areas, provided you meet the following conditions:
- You must have been licensed for at least ten years in another state.
- You must only work with populations who are underserved, indigent, or in critical need.
- You must work for public agencies or nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status and that cover you under liability insurance.
As long as you work on a volunteer basis, you will not pay licensing fees. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, the fee is $25.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Florida
- University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center: UF periodically 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 meet continuing education counselor requirements with this provider's Initial License Package. Coursework includes topics ins domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and Florida laws and ethics. AA Ross also offers renewal packages and subject-specific courses that cover a range of interests, 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 take courses in medical error prevention, Florida laws and rules, medical ethics and boundaries, and an HIV/AIDS overview. A lengthy list of special-interest continuing education courses includes subjects like borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and death and dying.
Resources for Counselors
- 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 options.
- 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 House and Senate 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 their peers.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- American Mental Health Counselors Association: This enormous organization offers its members access to extensive scholarly publications and local, regional, and national networking events. Membership also includes discounts on liability insurance, continuing education courses, and training in adjacent fields. An impressive listing of practice management tools can also help licensed counselors further their careers.
- American Counseling Association: Free continuing education is only one of the benefits afforded to ACA members. Counselors may also take advantage of discounted health, dental, life, disability, and liability insurance. Travelers enjoy reduced rates at major national hotel and car rental chains. National conference and leadership training opportunities also provide a forum for professional development and networking.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI is a grassroots organization that advocates for policy, educates the public, and encourages awareness of mental health issues. In addition to supporting NAMI's goals, NAMI members can learn to fundraise and organize advocacy events in their own communities.