To work as a mental health counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, professionals must earn licensure as a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), the state's equivalent to a licensed professional counselor (LPC). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects ample job prospects for mental health counselors, particularly in communities underserved by mental health practitioners. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Massachusetts has approximately 40 medically underserved areas in the state.
This guide outlines how to become a counselor in Massachusetts, including possible career tracks, salary information, and licensure requirements.
Counseling Careers in Massachusetts
When beginning research on how to become a counselor, you may come across different types of mental health counselors. The section below provides information about these different professions, including school and guidance counselors, marriage and family therapists, and rehabilitation counselors. Read on to learn more about these careers and their certification requirements.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
Education, guidance, and school counselors help students develop social and academic skills. Vocational counselors work primarily with adults and older students, assisting in job searches, career planning, and skill development.Explore Career Information Explore Massachusetts School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
Serving families and partners, marriage and family therapists encourage clients to discuss emotions, process life changes, and develop positive coping methods for addressing interpersonal conflicts.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors help people with mental, developmental, physical, or emotional disabilities live independently. These counselors also provide clients with disability management resources and services.Explore Career Information Explore Massachusetts Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These counselors specialize in treating clients with addictions, behavioral disorders, and underlying mental illness. Working for private facilities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies, they provide individual or group therapy and develop client treatment plans.Explore Career Information Explore Massachusetts Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors evaluate a client's problematic behavior, mental and physical health, or addiction and assess the best treatments. They may also conduct outreach programs to help people identify signs of addiction and other destructive behavior and refer clients to other services and resources, such as support groups.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Massachusetts?
When exploring how to become a licensed counselor in Massachusetts, you may want to review salaries for different counseling careers. The table below displays salaries in Massachusetts and national averages for different counseling occupations. The BLS combines some salaries, including wages for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Massachusetts
Education and Coursework
Candidates for the LPC certification in Massachusetts must meet specific education requirements. Learners who began a mental health graduate degree before July 1, 2017 must complete a minimum of 60 credits of graduate-level classes in mental health counseling or a related field, including 48 credits in 10 required content areas and any credits earned in a practicum or internship. Candidates without these required semester credits must hold either a master's degree with an advanced certificate, a second master's degree, or a doctorate.
in massachusetts, students need to successfully complete a graduate-level course in 10 content areas
Degree candidates who enrolled in a graduate program on or after July 1, 2017 must hold either a master's degree in mental health counseling or a related field with a minimum of 60 semester credits or 80 quarter credits or a doctorate in mental health counseling or a related field.
In Massachusetts, students also need to successfully complete a graduate-level course in each of the following 10 content areas: counseling theory, human growth and development, psychopathology, social and cultural foundations, clinical skills, group work, special treatment issues, appraisal, research and evaluation, and professional orientation.
Practicum and Internship
Licensure applicants must also complete a pre-master's degree practicum and internship. The practicum must take place over a seven-week period and include 40 hours of direct client contact experience and 25 hours of supervision. The internship must also include 240 contact hours of direct client contact experience and 45 hours of supervision.
Online Counseling Programs in Massachusetts
Distance learners may choose from several online counseling programs available in Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts offers online master's programs in both school counseling or mental health counseling. However, as counselor requirements vary by state, distance learners should verify counseling license requirements for the state where they plan to practice.
online students avoid many of the costs associated with campus living, including transportation and parking fees
There are numerous benefits to earning an online degree in counseling. Online counseling programs let distance learners study anytime, from anywhere, providing a flexible schedule. Many programs are specifically intended for working adults and allow students to balance school with work and family obligations.
Online degrees are also economical, and online students avoid many of the costs associated with campus living, including transportation and parking fees. Some schools charge the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state distance learners. An online counseling program may also help degree candidates meet counseling requirements in Massachusetts. Many institutions assist with supervised field placement -- a requirement for becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) in Massachusetts.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions issues licenses and enforces regulations for various mental health professions, including mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, rehabilitation counselors, and educational psychologists. Licensure requirements differ between these specializations.
For a mental health counselor license, the Massachusetts counselor board also requires candidates to complete a clinical field experience. Within 2-8 years, licensure applicants must complete two years of supervised clinical field experience and direct client contact experience. Candidates must complete these requirements after graduating with a master's degree, and the total required 3,360 hours must include 960 hours of direct client contact and at least 130 total hours of supervision.
Out-of-State Counselor Candidates
Any mental health counselor who holds a license in another state may apply for licensure in Massachusetts through the state's reciprocal agreement. To apply for mental health licensure in Massachusetts, a candidate must submit a complete application and written proof demonstrating that the applicant's current license meets Board of Allied Mental Health requirements, including education and clinical field experience.
The applicant must also send the board passing test scores from the past five years and evidence showing the candidate actively practiced mental health counseling for at least three years. An aspiring counselor must also provide written proof that the out-of-state license is in good standing.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Massachusetts
As you explore the steps to become a licensed counselor in Massachusetts, pay attention to license renewal requirements. Counseling licensure in Massachusetts lasts two years, starting from the first day of an even-numbered year. Applicants must renew the license by the last day of every odd-numbered year, and the state charges a late fee for candidates who do not renew by the deadline.
To renew a license, applicants must pay a fee and earn at least 30 continuing education credits per two-year license cycle. An approved entity, such as the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association or National Board of Certified Counselors, must approve the credits.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association Designated by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions, MaMHCA provides continuing education activities for licensed mental health counselors in Massachusetts. MaMHCA also creates guidelines for licensed mental health counselors and continuing education providers. Candidates can complete continuing education courses at home, during the annual conference, and at workshops.
- Massachusetts Association for Marriage and Family Therapy MAMFT offers numerous resources for individuals seeking to become a therapist in Massachusetts. MAMFT also provides licensed therapists with opportunities to earn continuing education credits and meet the 30-hour training requirement for license renewal. Courses cover topics like working with multicultural clients.
- Bridgewell Center for Professional Innovation The center offers continuing education workshops for licensed social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, drug and alcohol counselors, national certified counselors, and psychologists. The center is approved by the Massachusetts Collaborative of the National Association of Social Workers, the Board of Substance Abuse Counselors, and the Marriage and Family Therapy Continuing Education Board.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Department of Mental Health As the state mental health authority, DMH provides access to mental health and supplemental services. DMH operates more than 30 offices and facilities across the state.
- Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals This state agency provides mental health professionals who meet counseling requirements in Massachusetts with licensure. The board also administers and enforces licensing regulations and contracts with exam vendors.
- Statewide Advocacy for Veterans' Empowerment SAVE works to prevent suicide and mental health distress by identifying unique issues facing veterans. The group serves as a liaison between veterans, families, and government agencies.
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, School Counseling Page Part of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, this page provides school counselors with vital information, including an overview of the Massachusetts Model for School Counseling.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts NAMI-Massachusetts is a state resource for individuals and families facing challenges related to mental illness. The alliance provides free grassroots advocacy, family-based mental health education, and family and peer support.
- Association for Behavioral Healthcare Massachusetts' leading mental health and addiction services advocate for more than 30 years, ABH represents over 80 provider organizations. ABH offers two types of membership: organizational and associate. Individuals may join as associate members to receive professional opportunities.
- Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association This statewide association provides mental health counseling students, educators, and other professionals with information and resources. Serving more than 2,300 members, the association also advocates for the advancement of mental health services. Membership benefits include continuing education programs, supervisor training and certification, and scholarship opportunities.
- American Counseling Association With 56 chartered branches around the globe, ACA is the world's largest professional organization for counselors of all kinds. Members can attend an annual conference, enroll in online continuing education courses, and explore job listings.