Counseling Licensing Requirements in Hawaii

In Hawaii, counselors are credentialed as licensed mental health counselors (LMHC). This licensure doesn't apply to rehabilitation counselors, but anyone aspiring to become a mental health counselor must become an LMHC, which requires graduate education, supervised practice, and examination.

The information below provides a road map of the requirements for mental health counseling licensure in Hawaii. To assure you are on the right path, you may contact the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional and Vocational Licensing.

Counseling Careers in Hawaii

Counselors in Hawaii can work with a variety of clients including students, couples, families, and people dealing with disabilities. Counseling jobs are expected to grow at above-average rates across the country, and Hawaii is a particularly exciting place to pursue a counseling career, for several reasons. The state has one of the highest concentrations of jobs for education, guidance, and school counselors. Hawaii is also one of the top-paying states for marriage and family therapists, ranking third in the country. The Hawaii/Kauai area is the highest-paying non-metropolitan area for the profession, with an annual average salary of $74,350. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Hawaii generally earn more than the national average wage for those occupations.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: These counseling jobs are projected to grow, keeping up with increasing enrollment rates in schools. These counselors can help public and private school students, college students, and professionals considering a career change.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Therapists with this focus help clients adjust to life changes, discuss their emotions, and cope with challenging situations. Jobs in this field are expected to grow at an above-average rate due to the increasing popularity of integrated care.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: In 2016, there were close to 120,000 rehabilitation counselors across the country, which is expected to grow with as elderly populations grow. These counselors also work with veterans and people with disabilities.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: 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.
  • Counselors, All Other: Counselors interested in top-paying industries should consider working in schools, specialty hospitals, and nursing facilities. One hundred counselors are employed in Hawaii, with the occupation slightly less prevalent in the area than the U.S. average.
Occupation Average Salary in Hawaii
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $56,750
Marriage and Family Therapists $67,020
Rehabilitation Counselors $42,690
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $50,330
Counselors, All Other $49,230

Source: BLS

Education Requirements for Counselors

Aspiring counselors must earn a master's or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field. The degree must include 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of coursework. They must also have two semesters of practicum work, each with at least three semester hours (or five quarter hours). Learn more about selecting a master's in counseling program here.

Counseling students must also have three semester hours in each of the following:

  • Counseling theories and applications
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Human growth and development
  • Group theory and practice
  • Behavior appraisal
  • Test and measurements
  • Ethics and professional orientation
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Cultural and social foundations

The University of Hawaii-Hilo has a mental health counseling program that meets state board requirements. There are also several out-of-state universities that offer online counseling programs for distance learners. CACREP accreditation is considered a sign of program quality, and is the standard in most of the United States. Search for CACREP-accredited programs here, and make sure the program meets Hawaii's state standards.

Online Counseling Programs in Hawaii

Aspiring counselors in Hawaii have many professional and educational opportunities available to them, including both on-campus and online counseling programs. Online programs allow students to enroll in universities that aren't in their immediate area, which can be particularly beneficial to residents of Hawaii, where it is usually necessary to fly between islands. Distance learning offers scheduling benefits, as well, often allowing students to complete their coursework at their own pace, as their schedules allow. Some online programs, however, may require students to log in at specific times during the week.

Hawaii students seeking online counseling programs have a few options. 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 locally. The University of Hawaii at Hilo's master of arts in counseling psychology is available both on campus and online through the Hawaii Interactive Television System. Students in the online program take advantage of synchronous (scheduled) courses, and enrollment is available to Hawaii residents who 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 Do You Become a Counselor in Hawaii?

Begin by having your university send your transcripts to Hawaii's state mental health counselor program. If you took supplementary courses from other institutions to meet Hawaii's requirements, make sure to send those transcripts, as well. You must also collect some supporting documents and include them with your application, plus a $60 fee, made out to Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Licensing fees are separate and will be due later.

Depending on how you answer application questions regarding ethics, professional activity, and criminal activity, you may need to include supporting documentation. Your practicum and post-graduate supervisors will also need to notarize the form verifying your practice and supervision.

If you graduated before July 1, 2007, the institution where you completed your practicum can verify on official letterhead that your practicum was equivalent to that for a mental health counselor. A clinical supervisor and official at the institution or agency where you did your post-graduate practice can provide written verification that your practice met standards for a mental health counselor, and that you completed it in the required time frame.

If you already took and passed the National Counselor Examination (NCE), you can contact the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) to send verification to the Hawaii board. Visit the score verification page on the NBCC site. Click here for the mental health counselor application forms.

Once you submit an application, you're expected to continue to work toward licensing, even if you need to meet additional requirements. Applications are removed from the system after an applicant fails for two consecutive years to provide evidence that they're continuing to work toward licensure.

Licensing Fees

All mental health counselors in Hawaii must be licensed, but licensure is not required for education and school counselors and rehabilitation counselors. In addition to the application fee, there is a licensing fee. Licenses are valid for three years, and fees vary depending on when you submit your application after completing licensing requirements. Licensed mental health counselors should note that renewals are due between May 4 and June 30 in the year that their license expires. For new Hawaii residents, there is no reciprocity option for mental health counselors who are licensed in other states.

Request Type Fee
Application Fee $60
Licensed Mental Health Counselor $256-$444, depending on year: $444 (first year of the triennium); $350 (second year of the triennium); $256 (third year of the triennium)
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Renewal $282
Duplicate or Replacement License $10
License Reactivation -- Paid "Active" Renewal $12
License Reactivation – Paid "Inactive" Renewal $294
Written License Verification $15

Source: State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing

The Licensing Exam

You will need to take the National Counselor Examination, available through the National Board for Certified Counselors. You must get approval from Hawaii's board to take the exam; once approved, you'll receive a registration form, which you will need to sign and send to the NBCC. Click here to download the registration form. The registration fee is $195.

Hawaii has one testing site in Honolulu. You may schedule an exam there, or at a computerized testing site, several of which are located around the country. Testing sessions are generally offered during the first two weeks of each month on weekdays. Some sites also have Saturday sessions. Keep in mind that testing slots are administered on a first-come, first-served basis and may fill up.

Your $195 fee allows you to schedule during a six-month window. Visit the AMP site to schedule your exam, once you've received confirmation from the NBCC that you can test. Allow four weeks for this confirmation after submitting your application.

LPC Supervised Practice Requirement

You will need to practice counseling under supervision for a period of two to four years. You may be supervised by a mental health counselor, clinical social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or an advanced practice nurse who is also a mental health specialist.

You total supervised practice must equal at least 3,000 hours. During that time, you must have 100 hours or more of clinical face-to-face supervision. It takes two to four years to complete your supervised experience, and your clinical supervisors must fill out forms verifying that you completed your supervised hours.

Out-of-State Candidates - LPC Requirements

Hawaii does not have a separate application process for out-of-state applicants, but these applicants must demonstrate that they met Hawaii's educational, experience, and testing requirements.

License Maintenance and Renewal

Counseling licenses in Hawaii must be renewed every three years. The renewal deadline is June 30, but you can renew up to 90 days before that. Renewal applicants must answer questions about disciplinary action or criminal convictions, if applicable. Not all counselors have to demonstrate continued education to renew their licenses -- they should check with Hawaii's Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to make sure.

Counselors may renew their licenses either online or through a paper application form. There is a separate renewal form for those on inactive status. Make sure that you have the right form and that it is sent to the indicated address.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Hawaii

  • Jennifer Taylor Play Therapy Services: Jennifer Taylor is a registered play therapist in Hawaii. The 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. There is also a library of online trainings available on topics such as play therapy rooms and play therapy across the lifespan.
  • Thought Field Therapy Center (TFT Center): The TFT Center is in Honolulu, Hawaii, and focuses on the Thought Field Therapy treatment. Both professional and non-professional courses are available on topics including personal empowerment, TFT for kids, and the TFT algorithm. Short videos are also available for counselors interested in a brief overview of TFT.
  • Pacific Academy of the Healing Arts: Located on the Big Island, the Pacific Academy of the Healing Arts provides professional addiction training. Approximately 50 courses are available, including a free addictions class. Courses are offered online on topics such as cognitive behavioral therapy, violence and self-harm, personality disorders, and professional development topics.

Resources for Counselors

  • State of Hawaii Department of Health Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division: The alcohol and drug abuse division offers information on state health concerns, plus approved training websites, information about counselor certification, and links to related resources.
  • State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing: Mental Health Counselor: This resource includes information on counselor licensing, and lets aspiring counselors check on their application status and read up on laws for mental health counselors.
  • WorkLife Hawaii: This division of child and family services provides counseling services across the state. They also have links to resources on topics such as parenting, health, domestic violence, and legal services.
  • Hawaii State Department of Education: Aspiring educational and school counselors in Hawaii can learn about available jobs through the Department of Education, and the requirements necessary to become a school counselor. 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 state job opportunities on this site, where jobs listings are available for all state departments except the Department of Education.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • Hawaii School Counselor Association: The HSCA works to serve all of Hawaii's school counselors by providing support, professional development, and networking opportunities. The organization was founded in 1962, and is the state chapter of the American School Counselor Association. Members enjoy benefits including conferences, information about issues in counseling, and professional resources.
  • Hawaii Counselors Association: Representing all professional counselors in the state, HCA promotes professionalism and industry best practices. The state chapter of the American Counseling Association has several different membership options, including one for students. Members receive HCA announcements, information about professional development opportunities, and discounts on activities, workshops, and the annual conference.
  • Hawaii Association of Addiction and Drug Abuse Counselors: HAADAC is the state chapter of NAADAC, which represents addiction counselors across the country, as well as in Canada and abroad. The organization provides professional resources such as directories and eNews, and educational opportunities including webinars and independent study courses. New members can receive a special rate to join both NAADAC and HAADAC.
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