Rehabilitation counselors help disabled individuals overcome or manage obstacles impacting their ability to live more independent lives. These counselors help people with disabilities to achieve career and personal goals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for rehabilitation counselors will grow 13% between 2016 and 2026.
An aging population will contribute to this faster-than-average employment growth rate for the rehabilitation counselor profession. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report on estimated disability prevalence in the U.S. found that in 2014, 27.2% of people in America reported living with a disability of some kind. Among this number, roughly 55 million people reported living with a severe disability.
The Census report classified a disability as "impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions" impacting a person's daily life. While elderly clients will need help adjusting to the limitations associated with age, other groups, like veterans disabled during service and individuals coping with learning disabilities may require assistance, too.
Rehabilitation counselors possess advanced training to help people take steps toward living more independently. Read on for more information on how to become a rehabilitation counselor, specifically how to become licensed to practice in Montana, along with resources for professional growth in the field.
Counseling License and Career Requirements in MontanaExplore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Montana here
Education and Experience Requirements
To work as a rehabilitation counselor in Montana, an individual needs to become a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC). This section goes into detail on the education and clinical experience required to qualify for a state license.
Education and Coursework
For a college student interested in how to become a rehabilitation counselor in Montana, the path begins with earning a bachelor's degree in rehabilitation and disability studies, sociology, or a related social services field. These majors provide students with the foundational education upon which graduate studies can build.
An LCPC in Montana must hold a master's degree, primarily focused on rehabilitation counseling
With this said, a student with a bachelor's degree in another field can still pursue a master's in rehabilitation counseling. These learners will need to complete certain prerequisites to get up to speed with the expected curriculum of a master's counseling program.
An LCPC in Montana must hold a master's degree. This degree must primarily focus on rehabilitation counseling, with core curriculum courses accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The 60 semester credits of graduate study must include at least six credits in an advanced counseling practicum.
The core CACREP courses should cover eight areas of practice, including counseling theory, counseling techniques, human growth and development, and research and evaluation. Further, an LCPC candidate who meets all other requirements but holds only 45 hours of qualified graduate study can still apply for the license, as long as they complete the remaining 15 hours of study within five years.
Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:
Practicum and Internship
The educational requirements for the Montana counseling license stipulate that six of the 60 credits of a master's program must apply to an advanced counseling practicum. This practicum must include a minimum 30 hours of in-person work and 45 hours of small group supervisory consultation.
The practicum must also include 200 hours of service to clients. Eighty hours must apply to face-to-face service for individual, family, and group clients, plus 45 additional hours logged for such counselor activities as audio or video review, two-way mirror observation, and writing case notes.
Application and Exam Requirements for Montana Rehabilitation Counselors
After meeting the educational requirements, an aspiring rehabilitation counselor can apply for an LCPC candidate license. This license allows each candidate in Montana to begin working toward the 3,000 supervised hours needed to practice as an LCPC.
Once a candidate fulfills the educational and experience requirements, they can apply for a license with the Montana Board of Behavioral Health. The application fee costs $200. Candidates must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Earn a graduate degree of at least 60 credits from a CACREP-accredited program
- Log a minimum of six semester hours in an advanced practicum program
- Accrue 3,000 supervised hours of post-master's work experience
- Submit fingerprints to the Montana Department of Justice for a background check
- Provide three nomination letters or moral character references
- Pass one of two National Board of Counselor Certification national exams: the national counselor examination for licensure and certification (NCE) or the national clinical mental health counseling examination (NCMHCE)
Two hundred questions comprise the NCE exam, which assesses a candidate's knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide effective counseling services. The NCMHCE, meanwhile, consists of 10 clinical simulations testing a broad area of competencies. The board gives candidates three attempts to pass the exams.
Out-of-State Rehabilitation Counselor Candidates
Out-of-state counselor candidates in Montana must apply with the board and possess state-issued counselor licenses in good standing. Montana awards licenses to out-of-state counselors through endorsement.
Candidates must verify that they meet the state's educational, experience, and exam requirements (NCE). They also must provide proof of continuous practice as a licensed professional counselor for at least two years before applying for licensure in Montana.
Upon providing all the application materials and paying the $200 application fee, a licensed counselor from another state can obtain an endorsement to begin practicing counseling while awaiting the Montana counselor board to grant a permanent license.
Rehabilitation Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements
LCPC licensees and candidates must renew their licenses every year. The renewal period runs from November 15th through December 31st. The board offers a 45-day grace period for licensees who fail to make the end-of-the-year deadline. The license renewal fee for active LCPCs costs $175, and inactive professionals pay $88. LCPC candidates pay $100.
LCPC licensees and candidates in Montana must renew their licenses every year
The continuing education requirements also vary by license type. While active LCPC professionals must earn 20 credits for renewal, inactive licensees must earn only 10 credits. Note that inactive licensees can apply for renewal that lasts up to five years. Candidates, meanwhile, do not need to earn continuing education credits.
Resources and Organizations for Rehabilitation Counselors in Montana
Students who are researching how to become a counselor can read on for helpful information on the various specialties within counseling. Rehabilitation counselor students can explore advocacy groups, professional organizations, message boards, and mentorship programs.
- American Counseling Association Founded in 1952, ACA represents professional counselors in various practice settings. Members can choose from five different levels, each offering specific benefits: student, new professional, professional, regular, and retired.
- American Rehabilitation Counseling Association ARCA aims to develop rehabilitation counseling best practices and enhance the development of people living with disabilities. Membership benefits include workshops and training, conference updates, legislative news and trends, and a 24-hour online peer network.
- At Health Since 1997, At Health allows licensed psychologists, counselors, and other mental health practitioners to earn their continuing education units online, removing the need to travel. Note that acceptance of At Health courses varies by jurisdiction.
- Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification Established in 1974, CRCC offers the certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC) certification, an international program for rehabilitation counselors. The program requires candidates to meet advanced education, experience, and exam criteria.
- Disability Rights Montana DRM serves as the federally mandated protection and advocacy system for the state. It provides support for the human, legal, and civil rights of Montana residents living with disabilities while working to advance the dignity, equality, and self-determination for all.
- Montana Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors Association MLCPCA is the state chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association and represents the professional interests of the LCPCs practicing in Montana.
- Montana Physical Therapy Association Founded in 1950, MAPTA focuses on the development and improvement of physical therapy education, practice, and research to the benefit of the public, helping disabled individuals manage impairments, limitations, and restrictions affecting their quality of life.
- Montana School Counselor Association As a division of the American School Counselor Association, MSCA represents approximately 500 school counselors in the state. Students aspiring to work in Montana schools may apply for membership.
- National Council on Rehabilitation Education Formed in 1955, NCRE focuses on rehabilitation education and research. The organization hosts two national conferences each year, representing over 100 higher education institutions and 450 members.
- National Rehabilitation Association NRA offers training, professional development, and credentialing services to its members who work with disabled individuals and share a common goal of enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.