Although Hawaii remains a tropical paradise in many respects, its citizens face a mental health crisis. The death rates from suicide, alcohol poisoning, and drug overdoses have increased consistently over the past 12 years, with the number of suicides rising 85% between 2005 and 2017. These numbers indicate a growing need for Hawaii counseling professionals.
This page offers important information for students who want to learn how to become a counselor in Hawaii, including potential jobs, salary expectations, and experience and education requirements.
Counseling Careers in Hawaii
Counselors support diverse client populations in a variety of settings. While some professionals focus on school and career counseling, others specialize in treating mental health disorders or addiction. The following sections outline possible careers for Hawaii counseling professionals.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
These specialized counselors help people navigate the education system and find fulfilling jobs. Many school and guidance counselors work in K-12 schools. Vocational and educational counselors often work with college students and other adults. Some of these professionals undergo mental health training, while others do not.Explore Career Information Explore Hawaii School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
These counselors primarily work with couples and families. They may also see individual patients seeking relationship support. Marriage and family counselors help people develop communication skills and other abilities that support a healthy relationship. They often work in private practices.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors support patients with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities. These professionals typically help patients live and work independently, often specializing in particular populations and types of rehabilitation. They may find work in private practices, hospitals, and inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.Explore Career Information Explore Hawaii Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These counselors evaluate patient health, recommend treatment plans, and help patients develop behavioral skills. They may also work with patients' family members to help them learn about behavior disorders and develop coping strategies.Explore Career Information Explore Hawaii Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors support people with mental health challenges. They may offer services to all patients or specialize in certain areas, such as pediatric or veteran counseling. Mental health counselors work in private practices, hospitals, and inpatient and outpatient treatment centers.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Hawaii?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counselors earn above-average wages in Hawaii when compared to the country as a whole. The chart below details salary ranges for several types of counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Hawaii
Education and Coursework
Hawaii provides two types of counseling licenses: a general mental health counselor license and a license for marriage and family therapists (LMFTs). Professionals who need a general mental health license include substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Depending on the scope of their work, rehabilitation counselors may need this credential as well. School, vocational, career, and educational counselors do not need licenses to practice in Hawaii.
General mental health license applicants need relevant master’s or doctoral degrees from accredited universities
LMFT candidates must earn a master's or doctoral degree from accredited universities. These programs should include 12 graduate credits in marriage and family studies, human development, and marriage and family therapy. The programs must also include ethics and research courses.
General mental health license applicants need relevant master’s or doctoral degrees from accredited universities. Applicants need at least three graduate credits in each of the following subjects: human growth and development; professional orientation and ethics; social and cultural foundations; research and program evaluation; counseling theories and applications; tests and measurements; group theory and practice; appraisal of human behavior; and career and lifestyle development.
Practicum and Internship
All candidates for licensure must complete a two-term practicum during their graduate education that includes at least 300 hours of direct contact with clients.
Online Counseling Programs in Hawaii
Aspiring counselors in Hawaii enjoy many professional and educational opportunities, including on-campus and online counseling programs. Online programs allow students to enroll in universities not in their immediate area, which particularly benefits Hawaii residents who must often fly between islands. Distance learning offers scheduling benefits, as well, often allowing students to complete their coursework at their own pace. Some online programs, however, may require students to log in at specific times during the week.
Online programs allow students to enroll in universities not in their immediate area, which particularly benefits Hawaii residents
The University of Hawaii at Manoa offers an online master of science rehabilitation counselor education program, which allows students to complete their three field experience requirements locally. The University of Hawaii at Hilo offers a master of arts in counseling psychology on campus and online through the Hawaii Interactive Television System. Students in the online program take synchronous courses and must live more than 25 miles from campus. There are also online programs in other states available to Hawaii residents, but students should make sure these programs meet Hawaii's state requirements for counselors.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Hawaii
The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) oversees LMFT and mental health counseling licensure. After graduation, candidates must complete supervised postgraduate field work. LMFT applicants must take a minimum of two years to complete at least 1,000 hours of client contact and 200 hours of additional supervision. Mental health counselor candidates take between two and four years to complete 3,000 hours of patient contact and 100 hours of supervision meetings.
Once they complete these internships, all candidates must pass the corresponding national exams. LMFT candidates take the National Marital and Family Therapy exam, while mental health counselor applicants take the National Board for Certified Counselors test.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
The DCCA considers each reciprocity candidate on a case-by-case basis. Professionals with comparable licenses, such as LMFT or LPC credentials, from other states can apply through reciprocity. The DCCA reviews the counseling licensure requirements from the other state. If the requirements meet or exceed the ones Hawaii holds, the candidate earns a license in the Aloha State.
Applicants who do not meet these requirements may need to take additional classes or work supervised hours to qualify for reciprocity. The DCCA encourages such candidates to contact the department with questions before applying.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Hawaii
Counseling licenses in Hawaii expire every three years. The expiration date for LMFTs is December 31, while mental health counselors must renew by June 30. Renewal deadlines apply regardless of when professionals earn their initial licenses. Although most states require licensed counselors to complete continuing education courses during each cycle, the Hawaii DCCA does not. Instead, professionals submit renewal application forms and pay fees. LMFTs pay $405, while other mental health counselors pay $282 per renewal.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Hawaii
- Jennifer Taylor Play Therapy Services This organization offers live training once a month on a variety of topics, including child-centered play therapy foundations and play therapy with children of divorce. It also features a library of online training for topics like play therapy rooms and play therapy across the lifespan.
- Thought Field Therapy Center The TFT Center in Honolulu focuses on the Thought Field Therapy (TFT) treatment. Professional and non-professional courses cover personal empowerment, TFT for kids, and the TFT algorithm.
- Pacific Academy of the Healing Arts Located on the Big Island, the Pacific Academy of the Healing Arts provides professional addiction training through approximately 50 online courses. Online courses cover topics in cognitive behavioral therapy, violence and self-harm, personality disorders, and professional development topics.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Hawaii
- State of Hawaii Department of Health Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division The alcohol and drug abuse division offers information on state health concerns, approved training websites, and counselor certification.
- State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing This resource includes information on counselor licensing and lets aspiring counselors check their application status and review laws for mental health counselors.
- WorkLife Hawaii This division of child and family services provides counseling services across the state. It also offers links to resources on parenting, health, domestic violence, and legal services.
- Hawaii State Department of Education Aspiring school counselors in Hawaii can learn about available jobs and the requirements to become a school counselor through the Department of Education. All applicants should start their job search by creating an online profile.
- State of Hawaii Department of Human Resources Development Counselors interested in working for the state can learn about job opportunities on this site. The site lists jobs for all state departments except the Department of Education.
- Hawaii School Counselor Association The HSCA provides support, professional development resources, and networking opportunities to school counselors in Hawaii. Members enjoy access to conferences, information about counseling issues, and professional resources.
- Hawaii Counselors Association Representing all professional counselors in the state, HCA promotes professionalism and best practices. It features several membership options, including one for students. Members enjoy access to professional development opportunities and discounts on activities, workshops, and the annual conference.
- Hawaii Association of Addiction and Drug Abuse Counselors HAADAC represents addiction counselors across the country and abroad. The organization provides professional resources, such as directories and eNews, and educational opportunities, including webinars and independent study courses.