Mental health counselors in Missouri face a robust job outlook, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% growth in the field through 2026. Earning licensure in the state is a multi-step process that includes earning an advanced degree, completing exams, and supervision. This guide outlines how to become a mental health counselor in Missouri, including ways for out-of-state professionals to transfer their current licenses.
Counseling Careers in Missouri
Whether they are interested in helping children or adults, counselors can specialize in several different areas. This section briefly outlines the types of counseling careers available in Missouri — such as school, rehabilitation, and mental health counselors — as well as links for resources that offer more information.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists help couples and families work through their problems and challenges. These therapists identify the mental, emotional, or relational patterns that may disrupt marriage and family units and provide exercises, tools for effective communication, and treatment recommendations.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors assist people with developmental or acquired disabilities. They provide services that help their clients to function independently by locating resources, developing treatment plans, and working with employers to provide accommodations.Explore Career Information Explore Missouri Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These professionals work with people struggling with addictions, alcoholism, disordered eating, or other behavioral problems.They may facilitate interventions or inpatient treatment.Explore Career Information Explore Missouri Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors guide people who struggle with conditions like anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. These professionals meet with individual clients or they administer group sessions. They may also help clients overcome their mental and emotional problems by using specific therapeutic techniques.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Missouri?
The chart below compares the salaries of counselors in Missouri with salaries of counselors across the U.S. Readers should note that data is sourced from BLS, which combines wage data for substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors. It also groups together school, guidance, vocational, and educational counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Missouri
Education and Coursework
Candidates for counseling licensure in Missouri need at least a master's degree in counseling, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or school psychology from an accredited institution. Missouri law dictates that online programs should possess accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation (CORE). The two organizations merged in 2017, so students only need to make sure they attend a CACREP-accredited program.
Candidates for counseling licensure in Missouri need at least a master's degree in counseling, counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or school psychology
The state requires students to complete at least 48 credits of coursework across topics like counseling theories, principles, techniques, and intervention strategies; counseling theory; human growth and development; social and cultural foundations; career development; helping relationships; appraisal of individuals; diagnoses; and group dynamics. Additionally, the counseling master's program should include a research methods course and at least six practicum hours.
When applying for licensure, candidates should send in their graduate school transcripts to prove that they successfully completed all of these prerequisites. Missouri does not specify what type of undergraduate degree prospective counselors need as long as licensure applicants meet these master's degree requirements.
Practicum and Internship
In addition to the six practicum hours, LPC candidates must complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience, including at least 1,200 hours of direct contact with individual clients or leading group therapy sessions. Prospective counselors should also complete at least 15 hours of supervised experience every week. They must complete these requirements within five years.
Online Counseling Programs in Missouri
Aspiring counselors in Missouri can enroll in programs at the certificate, master's, or doctoral levels. Some of these programs allow students to study general mental health counseling, while others focus on one specific area, such as family therapy or rehabilitation counseling.
Online students can study at any time, from any location
Students wanting a program that fits within their busy work or family life should consider an online degree. These programs may also offer accelerated courses that allow students to finish the entire program more quickly than a traditional on-campus program. The online format also allows degree-seekers to study in a flexible manner. They can study at any time, from any location, and complete coursework between a work shift or picking up the kids from daycare.
In Missouri, students can pursue an online counseling program through Missouri Baptist University. The school offers an online MA in school counseling that students typically complete within three years. Aspiring counselors may also apply to the University of Missouri in St. Louis, which offers a master of education in secondary school counseling. Classes include topics like psychoeducational differences and career information and development.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Missouri
The Missouri counselor board — the Committee for Professional Counselors — sets state requirements for licensure. Beyond a master's degree and 3,000 hours of supervised work experience, candidates must pass the national counselor examination from the National Board of Certified Counselors.
They also need to complete an open-book jurisprudence exam or the Missouri legal and ethical responsibilities examination. Finally, prospective counselors must send in the results of a background check and pay required fees, including $100 for the LPC application and $45 for the jurisprudence exam.
Out-of-State Counselor Candidates
Professionals who received their counseling licensure in another state can apply to hold licensure in Missouri. Applicants must prove that they completed Missouri's requirements, including a master's or doctoral degree in counseling and supervised counseling experience. Candidates who do not meet these requirements should submit a plan outlining how they plan to complete these credits along with their applications. For any other questions about how to become a counselor in Missouri, candidates should contact the Committee for Professional Counselors.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Missouri
Counseling professionals in Missouri must renew their LPC license every two years. They must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years, with half of those hours in formal settings like college courses, workshops, or seminars.
Missouri accepts continuing education credits from regionally-accredited colleges and universities, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the National Board for Certified Counselors, and other counseling, social work, or psychology professional associations. Counselors may complete the other 20 hours independently by reading textbooks or academic journal articles.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Missouri
- American Mental Health Counselors Association A national organization with continuing education courses approved by the Missouri state government, AMHCA allows counselors to build up their credits through multiple learning experiences. Counselors can enroll in webinars that cover topics like counseling people with cancer or eating disorders. They may also earn credits through the association's research journal.
- American Counseling Association ACA offers members a free continuing education course every month. The group also hosts webinars teaching counselors about running a private practice or treating disorders like schizophrenia. Counselors may also pick up credits at the organization's annual conference and expo, which features various speakers and workshops.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Counselors specializing in marriage and family therapy can complete continuing education credits from AAMTF. The association runs an online learning system where therapists can enroll in courses on topics such as polyamory, kink lifestyles, or alcohol problems in intimate relationships.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Missouri
- Committee for Professional Counselors The Missouri Committee for Professional Counselors provides information for applicants and licensed counselors. It also updates professionals on changing education and licensure requirements as mandated by the state's legislature.
- Committee of Psychologists This website includes links and resources for licensed counselors, including the latest news and tools, such as an interactive map meant to help health professionals connect with military personnel.
- Missouri Mental Health Counselors Association MMHCA is an advocacy group rather than a professional association. However, it also offers education information and networking opportunities for professional counselors.
- Online System for Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Licensed professional counselors must report child abuse and neglect as mandated by the state. This resource guides counselors through the process of online reporting.
- State Committee of Marital and Family Therapists Missouri also runs its own committee for marriage and family therapists. This page provides information about training requirements, license renewal and reinstatement, and other sensitive topics.
- American Counseling Association of Missouri The American Counseling Association of Missouri accepts counseling professionals who work in healthcare, business, education, and other industry settings. The organization hosts an annual conference, where counselors from across the state can meet, network, and learn from one another. It also hosts a directory where counselors connect with each other.
- Missouri School Counselor Association The Missouri School Counselor Association offers several resources to help educational counselors grow professionally. Every year, MSCA sponsors a different project in which counseling professionals partner with another nonprofit organization to help kids at their schools. The association also holds an annual conference and trains members in legislative lobbying.
- Missouri Addiction Counselors Association The Missouri Addiction Counselors Association is open to counselors who work with people struggling from addiction and substance abuse. The group presents two conferences every year where professionals can attend workshops and talks. The association's leadership also publishes newsletters, which are filled with resources, summaries of recent research, articles, and group updates.