Counselors are important medical professionals responsible for diagnosing and treating mental disorders. They also help patients work through learning disabilities, emotional traumas, substance abuse and addiction, and behavioral issues. According to the BLS, careers in counseling are projected to increase by 23% from 2016-2026, which is significantly faster than the average growth rate of jobs in the U.S.
Professionals in Montana may find counseling careers in hospitals, clinics, schools, religious institutions, and through private practice. Obtaining counseling licensure represents the first step toward this career. The following guide offers a comprehensive outline of what students can expect to encounter while becoming a counselor in Montana.
Counseling Careers in Montana
Counselors all over the country find work in many areas of this field. The following list provides a few examples of the most common counseling careers undertaken by mental health professionals in Montana.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
These counselors find work within school systems. These professionals are important resources for students of all ages. Responsibilities of these counselors vary depending on the age group they work with. For example, counselors in an elementary school may assist with assessing child-readiness for school and creating fun, educational play groups for kids. Alternatively, counselors at high schools may help with career-readiness training or handling the stress of applying to colleges.Explore Career Information Explore Montana School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists work with families, couples, and individuals coping with a broad variety of issues, including infidelity in a marriage, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and interpersonal conflicts within families.These counselors are employed in hospitals, schools, treatment centers, and smaller clinics.Explore Career Information
Rehabilitation counselors help clients looking to overcome addiction, trauma, illness, and/or grief. As science uncovers how people function socially and cognitively, this area of counseling and therapy is continuously expanding. Rehabilitation counselors can work in hospitals, clinics, outpatient care centers, prisons, and mental health institutions.Explore Career Information Explore Montana Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
Like rehabilitation counselors, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work with patients looking to return to living normal lives. Substance abuse counselors assist patients in overcoming their addictions to various substances, including drugs and alcohol, as well as destructive behaviors, such as gambling and extreme risk-taking.Explore Career Information Explore Montana Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors help patients maintain their general wellness in a mental and emotional capacity. Patients seeking general mental health counseling visit their counselors on a regular basis to complete a treatment plan. Many mental health counselors specialize their practice in addiction, youth services, or trauma.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in Montana?
The table below details the salaries counselors can expect to earn, both in Montana and in the U.S. as a whole. Counselors in Montana typically earn salaries similar to their peers across the nation, with a few variances based on the specialization of a counselor's field. Note that the BLS combines the wage data for substance abuse, behavioral, and mental health counselors.
Education Requirements for Counselors in Montana
Education and Coursework
Individuals looking to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Montana need to complete a master's degree and a licensure examination. Students may complete any undergraduate degree, but a bachelor's in psychology or behavioral studies translates especially well into a graduate program in counseling.
Montana requires all individuals looking to become licensed clinical professional counselors to pass a statewide certification exam
In Montana, aspiring counselors must complete a minimum of 60 master's-level credits of coursework. Most of these classes should have a focus on counseling and psychology, though many programs allow students to take some elective courses. In addition to regular master's-level coursework, students must also go through 200 hours of clinical service hours working with patients.
Individuals who have earned a master's in counseling but failed to meet other educational requirements established by Montana's Board of Behavioral Health can enroll in additional post-master's classes to fulfill miscellaneous requirements. Such coursework is available at most community colleges in Montana or through online education.
Additionally, Montana requires all individuals looking to become licensed clinical professional counselors to pass a statewide certification exam. Exam topics include counseling theory, human growth and development, professional orientation, and counseling techniques. In addition to this examination, aspiring counselors should provide proof of their completed supervised clinical hours.
Practicum and Internship
As mentioned above, counselors in Montana are required to have completed at least 200 hours of clinical practicum hours. These hours must include at least 80 hours of service directly with clients, and 45 of these hours must have been devoted to group consultations. Students are encouraged to have a minimum of 30 hours spent in individual patient consultations. Note that all consultations with patients should be done under the supervision of a licensed counselor.
Online Counseling Programs in Montana
Prospective counselors in Montana must earn a master's degree in counseling, but classes may be completed on campus, online, or through a hybrid program. Montana offers licensure to students who have completed a program that holds accreditation from CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) and passed the licensure examination.
classes may be completed on campus, online, or through a hybrid program
Most online programs available in Montana offer concentration options, such as behavioral development, substance abuse, or family therapy. Some online master's in counseling programs offer in-state tuition to distance learners, regardless of where they live.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Montana
To become licensed as a counselor in Montana, you must first complete a graduate degree at a CACREP-accredited program. Prior to applying for a license, individuals must also have completed their supervised clinical practicum work. Additionally, to qualify for licensure as a Montana counselor, individuals must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) -- a standard exam for professionals entering the field of counseling across the United States.
Out-of-state Counselor Candidates
Professional counselors moving from out of state and looking to continue their career in Montana have a number of options for becoming licensed. For example, if a counselor has been in practice for at least two years or has amassed at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, additional coursework or Montana-specific licensure exams may not be required. Professionals transferring their practices into Montana must confirm whether they obtained license through examination or endorsement and provide verification of their licensure in another state.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in Montana
LPCs in all fields of practice in Montana must renew their licenses annually. Professionals may renew their license online without having to retake the examination. In order to be eligible for a license renewal, counselors in Montana must complete at least 20 hours of continuing education each year. Renewing a counseling license in Montana costs $100. Follow this link to learn more about the renewal process.
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 continuing education courses to 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 (ACA) provides online continuing education opportunities for professional counselors. Coursework is offered through online classes, webinars, and podcasts, and you can complete assignments on your own time. This site continually develops and adds new courses.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in Montana
- Montana School Counselor Association MSCA is a division of the American School Counselor Association. Approximately 500 counselors in Montana are associated with MSCA. The mission of this organization is to advance the field of professional school counselors in Montana.
- Mental Health America of Montana MHA of MT is an advocacy organization known throughout the state. With a mission based on mental health and social justice for all, 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 & Drug Abuse Counselors This resource offers continued education programs through its Addiction Technology Transfer Center. MAADAC also maintains a 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.
- American Counseling Association ACA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the growth of the counseling profession. Established in 1952, 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 AMHCA gain access to a network of mental health professionals from around the United States. AMHCA also offers a variety of continuing education opportunities, as well as published journals and private insurance at discounted rates.
- American College Counseling Association ACCA's aims to be an inclusive professional home for supporting counseling professionals and offering state-of-the-art opportunities in continuing education. Members receive a subscription to the Journal of College Counseling, access to advocacy materials, and invitations to numerous networking opportunities.