Counseling Licensing Requirements in Montana

The Board of Social Work Examiners and Professional Counselors licenses Montana's clinical professional counselors. If you want to become a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC), you will need to complete a master's-level education and take an examination. You will also need to work under supervision before you can attain professional licensing.

The below information details how to obtain counselor licensing in Montana. Contact the Board of Social Work Examiners and Professional Counselors with any questions and to verify you are on the right track.

Counseling Careers in Montana

Licensed professional counselors can find work in schools, medical facilities, community outreach programs, and rehabilitation centers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for both mental health counselors and marriage and family counselors is projected to grow by 23% from 2016-2026. Counselors with higher education or more certification will be more able to tailor their careers and qualify for advancement opportunities. By furthering your education, you can obtain higher levels of certification and licensure, and thus create a more flexible career path.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: These counselors typically work in schools, ranging from elementary schools to colleges and universities. Typically, these professionals help students and young professionals realize educational goals and work through personal development.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Family therapists work with couples and children to find solutions for common household problems.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities achieve personal, relationship, and career goals.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These counselors work with patients who have a history of mental health disorders, including addiction. Many of these counselors see patients recovering from substance abuse.
  • Other Counselors: There are countless areas of need in the counseling field, so it is possible to become a licensed professional counselor without choosing a specialization.
Occupation Average Salary in Montana
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $47,070
Marriage and Family Therapists $34,050
Rehabilitation Counselors $36,120
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $44,380

Source: BLS

Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors

Montana's rules and regulations allow for the licensing of therapists in related fields so long as they meet the licensing standards (including education and testing). The American Art Therapy Association reports that Montana art therapists can be licensed as counselors.

Education Requirements for Counselors

You will need 60 semester hours of graduate coursework that is primarily counseling in nature. The program must include at least six semester hours of advanced practicum, which should include at least 200 hours of client service (with 80 in direct care), plus 45 hours of small group supervisory consultation, and 30 hours of individual supervisory consultation. Each program has some discretion in how to allocate the remaining hours.

Most master's programs in counseling meet the educational requirements to become a counselor, but if yours didn't, you can make up the difference by enrolling in additional post-master's courses. You may be licensed without having completed all the required coursework, but you'll need to make it up within five years.

If you had fewer than 45 semester hours in your master's program, you may pursue a specialist degree. This will entail at least 24 additional semester hours. The licensing application will ask you to verify that you completed coursework in the following subjects (all of which are standard in modern, CACREP-accredited programs):

  • Counseling theory
  • Counseling techniques
  • Human growth and development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Helping relationships
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Groups
  • Appraisal
  • Professional orientation
  • Research and evaluation

You must also verify your advanced practicum and supervised experience. The Montana board considers 90 quarter hours as equivalent to 60 semester hours.

Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here.

Online Counseling Programs in Montana

Prior to becoming a licensed counselor in Montana, you must complete a master's level education and licensure examination, and undergo a period of on-the-job, supervised training. Aspiring counselors in Montana have the option of earning their education and obtaining licensure online. Montana accepts counseling degrees and licenses from CACREP-accredited programs. Such programs include those at Antioch University and Northwestern University, each of which offers specializations in substance abuse and addictions and counseling for military service personnel.

Online programs are valuable tend to be more convenient, more flexible, and less expensive than on-campus degrees. Students who are already employed full time can attend most online courses asynchronously from any convenient location. Associated costs are often lower than in-person programs, and distance education is often available out-of-state at the cost of in-state tuition.

How Do You Become a Counselor in Montana?

The application process involves several steps:

  • You will need to get your fingerprints done. Call the Montana board to get a packet, which includes a release form and fingerprint card.
  • You must also gather references from three mental health professionals. You will find a form titled Verification of Moral/Professional Character in your application packet. Send this form to your references, and they'll mail it to the board.
  • Contact your university to request official graduate transcripts.
  • The application includes questions about your work experience, professional affiliations, and professional fitness.
  • You must fill out a supplementary course worksheet. If it's not clear which of the courses listed on your transcript meet particular curricular requirements, you should attach additional clarification.
  • The application fee is $50. You will need to pay an additional $50 to get your initial counseling license.

Click Here to find the application and other materials through the the Montana Board of Social Work Examiners and Professional Counselors website. Send materials to the board via the address on its website.

Licensing Fees

There are several fees associated with becoming a licensed professional counselor in Montana. Some fees, such as those related to applications and a physical license, are required of all practicing counselors, while some are specific to certain fields. Before obtaining your license, consider all the required fees. The below chart outlines basic fees for the most common counseling licenses in Montana.

Request Type Fee
Application Fee $50
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Exam Fee $120
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Original License Fee $50
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Exam Fee $260
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Original License Fee $50
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Exam Fee $350
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Original License Fee $50
Duplicate or Replacement License $50
License Reactivation $100

Source: Montana Department of Labor and Industry

The Licensing Exam

You'll need to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Both are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

You'll apply to the Montana board for approval to test. Once you get approval, send an application to the NBCC, along with a $195 fee. The board will process your fee and registration and send your approval in about a month. Next, contact the Applied Measurement Professionals to schedule your appointment -- visit the AMP website to do so.

In Montana, computerized tests are usually administered during the first two weeks of each month in Billings, Great Falls, and Missoula. The tests are administered at approximately 170 centers in the country; all sites offer the tests during the same two weeks.

Your fee gives you a six-month window, but the NBCC cautions that seats do fill.

Supervised Practice Requirement

Before you can receive your professional license, you must work under supervision for at least 3,000 hours. You may complete up to half of these hours while earning your degree; they may include hours from university-coordinated work experience, practicums, and internships.

You must attain at least 1,500 of the required hours after receiving your degree, at least 1,000 of which must be in direct client care in a clinical setting.

Volunteer hours may count toward your hours requirement, as long as they are properly supervised. Hours spent in a school setting may count toward, as well, but not toward the clinical requirement. According to the board's FAQ section, activities that do not qualify as direct clinical care include preparing case notes, scoring assessments, attending staff meetings, and consulting with other professionals.

Your supervisor may be a licensed professional counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or mental health professional. You need at least 100 hours of supervision over the course of your supervised experience. All supervision must be interactive, if through virtual means. At least 50 hours should be individual and face-to-face.

Generally, you should receive at least an hour of individual supervision and consultation for every 20 hours you work. You are not allowed to complete more than 80 hours without including one supervision hour. Work experience completed without appropriate supervision does not count toward your requirement.

If you are counting supervised experience completed during your education, individual supervision is expected at the rate of one hour for every 15 hours of work. The supervision can be provided by a faculty member or a mental health professional.

While you are working as an unlicensed professional, a supervisor will need to review assessment interpretations.

Out of State Counselor Candidates

If you're already working as a professional counselor in another state, you may have an additional avenue for obtaining Montana licensing; namely, if you have been practicing for two years or already have the required 3,000 supervision hours. Normally, you should fill out the supervisory experience form and get your supervisor's signature, but the board will accept an affidavit if this is not possible. The Montana Department of Justice will run a background check on you, and you must submit three letters of reference, plus your academic credentials.

You must also obtain verification from all states where you have held licensure. You will find a verification form in your application packet. The form will ask whether you were licensed by examination, endorsement, or through some other method, and which licensing examination you took. It will also ask about disciplinary actions or requested appearances before the board.

License Maintenance and Renewal

You'll need to renew your license each year. Click here to access the renewal form. You can renew it online. You'll be responsible for doing 20 clock hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle, plus a $100 fee.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Montana

  • Counselor Education Workshop Series: Available through the University of Montana, the Department of Counselor Education provides a series of workshops each term. Graduate students and practicing professionals are eligible to attend. In the fall, coursework focuses on childhood and family counseling. Spring workshops focus on marital counseling. You may take workshops individually or as part of a series.
  • CE4Less: CE4Less is a website dedicated to providing continued education courses for counselors around the United States. Courses include ethics and boundary issues, therapeutic communities, and mandatory abuse reporting. Prior to enrolling in a CE4Less course, make sure to request a free check of whether or not a given program is accepted by Montana licensing boards.
  • Professional Development Center: The American Counseling Association provides online continued education opportunities for professional counselors. Coursework is offered as online classes, webinars, and podcasts, and you can complete them on your own time. The site continually develops and adds new courses.

Resources for Counselors

  • Montana School Counselor Association: The MSCA is a division of the American School Counselor Association. Approximately 500 counselors in Montana are associated with the MSCA. The mission of this organization is to advance the field of professional school counselors in Montana.
  • Mental Health America of Montana: The MHA of MT is an advocacy organization known throughout Montana. With a mission based on mental health and social justice for all, the MHA of MT is dedicated to removing the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
  • Montana's Peer Network: MPN is a peer-run, statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding recovery-oriented mental health services throughout Montana.
  • Montana Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors: This resource offers continued education programs through the Addiction Technology Transfer Center. The MAADAC also maintains the Directory of Addiction Study Programs, a list of accredited locations offering associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in substance abuse.
  • The Department of Counselor Education: Offered through the University of Montana, this department is devoted to fostering a learning environment that emphasizes professional identity. Graduates are trained with a holistic approach to counseling.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • American Counseling Association: The ACA is a nonprofit, educational, professional organization dedicated to the growth of the counseling profession. Established in 1952, the ACA is the largest national association in the field of counseling, representing professionals in all areas of the field.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association: Members of the AMHCA have access to a network of mental health professionals from around the United States. The AMHCA also offers a variety of continued education opportunities, plus published journals and private insurance at discounted rates.
  • American College Counseling Association: The ACCA's aims to be an inclusive professional home for supporting counseling professionals and offering state-of-the-art opportunities in continued education. Members receive a subscription to the Journal of College Counseling, access to advocacy materials, and invitations to numerous networking opportunities.
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