New Mexico licenses counselors at multiple levels. You can become a licensed mental health counselor (LPC or LMHC) by fulfilling education and examination requirements. You can become a licensed professional clinical mental health counselor (LPCC) after you meet supervised experience requirements and pass an additional exam.
The information provided below is a guide to counseling licensure in New Mexico. To make sure you are on the right path as you complete the requirements, you may contact the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board.
Counseling Careers in New Mexico
New Mexico counselors work in several specializations, including mental health counseling, school counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Counselors work with young children, college-bound students, and adults. Many licensed counselors work in private practice or in community service organizations.
Some counseling specializations boast much faster than average growth rates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that marriage and family therapy positions will increase 23% by 2026. And New Mexico counselors earn above-average salaries, with many specializations averaging over $50,000 per year.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Counselors help students reach their educational potential and manage social problems, and they also counsel students on career choices and help them apply for college.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists help couples and families build stronger relationships, develop communication tools, and work through trauma. They devote much of their time to meeting with clients.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors work with people managing physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities. They help clients live independently and manage the impact of their disabilities on everyday life.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Counselors help people manage substance abuse and behavioral problems and provide mental health counseling. They may provide both individual and group counseling.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors also work with young children and elderly clients in family services or outpatient care, or become counseling professors.
|Occupation||Average Salary in New Mexico|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$57,790|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$55,650|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$50,370|
|Counselors, All Other||$50,790|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
New Mexico licenses practitioners in some related fields. Art therapy is officially recognized as a specialty.
As an art therapist, you begin with LMHC status, as do more traditional mental health counselors. Then your path diverges. After completing all requirements, you can be licensed as a professional art therapist.
If you're applying for LMHC with an art therapy major, you will fill out attachment F: "art therapy core curriculum for LMHC".
Education Requirements for Counselors
Either counseling license requires you to complete a degree at the master's level or higher. Your degree may be in counseling or a related field.
The board lists agency counseling, mental health community counseling, art therapy, human and family studies, psychology, counseling psychology, and clinical psychology as related degrees. The LMHC application also lists art education with an art therapy major among the options.
If your degree is not in counseling but in one of the above fields, you must demonstrate that it meets the following core curriculum requirements. You must have three semester hours, or four quarter hours, in each of the following:
- Human Growth and Development
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Helping Relationships
- Group Work
- Research Methods
- Career and Lifestyle Development
- Professional Orientation
- Nine Semester Hours (or the Equivalent) of Practicum and Internship
The remaining twelve units are clinical electives. They help develop your skills in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses.
You may complete additional graduate courses if your program had fewer than the 48 required.
New Mexico has CACREP-accredited programs at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico. There is also a combined art therapy and counseling program at Southwestern College.
Online Counseling Programs in New Mexico
Many prospective counselors benefit from the flexibility, accessibility, and convenience of an online counseling program. Working professionals and students with family obligations can arrange coursework around their schedule, and online programs often cost less than a traditional program. Some schools provide tuition discounts for online students, and unlike in-person programs, students in an online program save on commuting costs. Counseling students in an online program complete the same internship requirements to gain field experience. Online counseling programs work with students to arrange internships in their local area.
Students in New Mexico can enroll in counseling programs across the country, extending their opportunities for educational advancement. While few colleges and universities located in New Mexico offer online options, students can apply to top programs, like the master’s in counseling program at Northwestern University, which trains clinical mental health counselors. For students who prefer a local option, the University of the Southwest, located in Hobbs, offers an online master’s in school counseling and a master’s in mental health counseling. Prospective counselors can learn more about the profession’s educational requirements to decide if an online counseling program will advance their career.
How Do You Become a Counselor in New Mexico?
The application process is very similar whether you’re applying for licensed mental health counselor or licensed professional clinical mental health counselor. It involves filling out an application and including multiple supporting documents, such as:
- Notarized Application Form
- Attachment E if Your Degree Was in a Related Field.
- Verification of Your Experience from a Supervisor.
- You Will Need to Attest That You Read the Code of Ethics.
- Include a Recent Photo.
- Legal or Disciplinary History (If Any)
- A $75 Nonrefundable Fee
Materials may be sent to the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board.
New Mexico’s Counseling and Therapy Practice Board charges fees for a counselor license depending on the professional’s specialization. Marriage and family therapists pay $220 for their license, while alcohol and drug abuse counselors pay $150. All counselors pay an initial application fee as part of the licensure process. Counselors must also pay an annual renewal fee equal to the initial licensure fee. In addition to fees charged by the licensing board, counselors pay a fee to take the examination required for licensure in their field.
|Application Fee Licensure||$75|
|Licensed Mental Health Counselor||$75|
|Professional Mental Health Counselor||$150|
|Clinical Mental Health Counselor||$220|
|Marriage and Family Therapist||$220|
|Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor||$150|
|Annual Renewal||Same as initial license fee|
|Duplicate or Replacement License||$25|
|License Reactivation||Initial license fee plus $100|
Source: NM Counseling and Therapy Board
The Licensing Exam
The required exam for LMHC is the National Counselor Examination (NCE). The required exam for LPCC is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). LMHCs with an art therapy major are expected to pass the Art Therapy Credentialing Board Examination.
Both the NCE and the NCMHCE are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), and the registration process is very similar. You must get approval from the New Mexico board to sit for exams. You will receive a registration form from the board. Click here for the form.
Make sure the registration form is signed in ink, and send it to the NBCC along with the $195 fee. It typically takes four weeks from the time your fee clears to get confirmation from the NBCC.
If you have all licensing requirements except the examination, you may practice under a temporary license issued by the New Mexico board. Make sure to complete all steps early; the NBCC reports that you must take the exam at least a month before your temporary license expires.
The NBCC contracts with Pearson VUE for the administration of computer-based exams. You can register online.
Examinations are administered in Albuquerque. However, there are Pearson VUE testing centers throughout the nation, and you may select another location if you prefer.
Exams are given over a two-week period each month; seats are limited.
Supervised Practice Requirement
You must complete 3,000 hours of supervised practice over a period of at least two years. During this time, you need at least 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. Your supervisor may be a clinical mental health counselor, art therapist, marriage and family therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or independent social worker. You will work under a supervision plan. Appropriate supervision is key to having your experience accepted and moving up to the higher level of licensing.
During your period of supervised work experience, you will have status as a licensed mental health counselor.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
If you have had a license in good standing in some other municipality for the past five years, you are eligible for licensure by reciprocity. You will need to show that you have a master’s degree or doctorate.
If you don't meet the above licensing requirement, you'll need to go through the regular licensing process.
If you have been licensed elsewhere, you’ll need to send documentation of your licensure.
Professional counselors licensed elsewhere may apply for emergency licensure in New Mexico if they are affected by a national disaster. Licensure is free during the four months following the declaration of disaster.
If you’re in this situation, you’re expected to provide the usual documentation of qualifications, but you may make a sworn affidavit if the disaster renders it impossible to obtain some documents.
License Maintenance and Renewal
You must do 40 contact hours of continuing education (CE) every two years to maintain your professional license. You must submit documentation when you renew your license.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in New Mexico
- New Mexico Counseling Association: The NMCA offers continuing education resources which meet the requirements for New Mexico counseling licensure. The association offers CE opportunities throughout the year, and attendees at the annual conference can also earn CE credits.
- University of New Mexico: The Counselor Education program at the University of New Mexico meets the requirements for continuing education credit toward New Mexico counseling licensure. The program offers courses toward an MA and Ph.D. in counseling, with specializations in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling.
- At Health: Approved by the APA and the New Mexico Board of Counseling and Therapy Practice, At Health offers online CE opportunities for counselors. In New Mexico, counselors may complete up to 12 of their 40 required CE credits online. At Health offers over 138 course options for counselors.
Resources for Counselors
- New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board: The board provides information on licensure requirements, renewal, and continuing education. Counselors can also renew their license online.
- New Mexico Counseling Association: Comprised of other professional organizations, the NMCA offers guidelines on the state licensure process, advocates for counselors with the state government, and holds an annual conference.
- New Mexico School Counselors Association: The association, a state affiliate of the American School Counselors Association, helps school counselors with professional development and advocacy.
- New Mexico Career Development Association: The association helps counselors advance their careers through free workshops, trainings, job market advice, and conferences, which can particularly help people considering a career in counseling.
- New Mexico Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling: This association, a division of the NMCA, helps counselors gain an understanding of LGBT issues to improve the delivery of their counseling services.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- American Counseling Association: Counselors benefit from the resources offered by the ACA, including professional guidelines, continuing education resources, and counseling publications. The continuing education resources include free CE, CE approval guidelines, and licensure requirements. The ACA also provides a career center for job seekers.
- American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: A professional organization for marriage and family therapists, the association provides access to online education and training resources, offers networking opportunities, and publishes research to help professionals stay up-to-date in the field.
- American Rehabilitation Counseling Association: Rehabilitation counselors rely on the resources offered by this association, including an annual conference, research publications, and professional awards. Members also benefit from workshops and training opportunities. The association’s online peer network allows rehabilitation counselors to connect with colleagues.