Counseling Licensing Requirements in Ohio

Counselors in Ohio can receive certification on multiple levels, some of which grant practice rights, while others signify that a counselor is still in training. Counselors who meet all potential certification requirements, including supervised practice, achieve the highest level of licensure: clinical professional counselor. Counselors who are still completing post-graduate supervised practice have professional counselor licensure. Counselors who obtain their initial education in Ohio may be asked to register as a counselor trainee. All credentials require a background check, and those beyond trainee also entail a graduate degree and examination process.

The information below serves as a guide to counseling licensure in Ohio. If at any point you have questions or just want to make sure you are on the correct path, contact the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage & Family Therapist Board.

Counseling Careers in Ohio

According to data collected from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 43 million adults in the United States suffer from mental illnesses, leading to a growing need for licensed counselors. Counseling professionals can also choose from a variety of specializations, including veterans counselor, rehabilitation counselor, community health counselor, and grief counselor. Specialized practices may require further education, so aspiring counselors in Ohio should become familiar with requirements for their specialization of choice. Particularly lucrative counseling specialty areas include school counseling, marriage and family counseling, and career counseling.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: This specialty area focuses on the needs of children and adolescents who have developmental issues, as identified through assessments and workshops. Professionals also advocate for minors’ best interests.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: These counselors work with couples who are struggling to resolve issues in their relationships, but want to avoid divorce. Issues can range, but marriage and family therapists generally deal with intimate information. Most of these professionals work in practitioner’s offices.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehab counselors work clients who struggle with developmental delays, injuries, mental illnesses, and debilitating sickness. Clients vary in age. Counselors may work directly with clients or indirectly as advocates, in clinical or prison settings.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: In this specialty area, professionals interact with clients who have struggled with addiction or disorders. Work settings include mental health centers and prisons.
  • Counselors, All Other: Counselors build professional, objective relationships with their clients, to provide effective guidance and solutions for a variety of issues. Clients vary in age.
Occupation Average Salary in Ohio
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $57,240
Marriage and Family Therapists $50,140
Rehabilitation Counselors $40,010
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $45,960
Counselors, All Other $44,510

Source: BLS

Education Requirements for Counselors

Education acts as the foundation for all levels of credentialing. You will need to enroll in a program that is specifically geared toward the counseling profession. Degrees in related fields like psychology or family therapy are not considered qualifying degrees for those seeking professional counselor designation.

Master's programs for counselors must include 60 semester hours, or 90 quarter hours, of applicable coursework. You must have the core coursework in each of the areas outlined below:

  • Counseling Theory
  • Counseling Techniques
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Group Dynamics, Processing, and Consulting
  • Individual Appraisal
  • Research and evaluation
  • Professional Legal and Ethical Standards
  • Practicum
  • Internship

Before you can be licensed, you will also need to demonstrate that you have taken the required coursework in areas related to mental and emotional disorders. These course hours may be completed as part of your academic program or afterward. They must include the following:

  • Psychopathology, Personality, and Abnormal Behavior
  • Evaluation
  • Diagnosis
  • Prevention and Intervention Methods
  • Treatment

Approved programs include the same core, but you will find differences in focus or emphasis. The Ohio Counseling Association lists 21 in-state graduate counseling programs. Several have a theological component. Beginning July 1, 2018, acceptable in-state programs include CACREP-accredited clinical mental health, clinical rehabilitation, and addiction counseling programs. Ohio’s program approval standards are modeled after CACREP’s accreditation standards, but CACREP accreditation and Ohio pre-approval are separate processes.

Practicum and Internship

Counseling graduate students must complete a practicum and an internship. The practicum must be at least 100 hours, with at least 40 including direct client contact. The internship must be at least 600 hours, with at least 240 hours of direct client contact.

You may need to register as a counselor trainee while you are fulfilling your internship requirements. The board requests that internship applicants allow two weeks for their applications to be processed before making inquiries. Submit an email contact form to the board if you have questions.

At the end of your internship, your supervisor will evaluate you and mail a rating form to the board.

Online Counseling Programs in Ohio

In Ohio, professional counselors have multiple licensure options: counselor trainee, professional counselor, and licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). To become a licensed counselor or LPCC, you must obtain an advanced degree, which can be difficult for working students or students with families. Online programs may work best for such students. These programs are often asynchronous, meaning students can work on their own time, with set due dates for assignments, tests, and projects. Students may engage in group discussions by posting and responding to prompts as their schedules allow. These counseling students still complete an internship or practicum, which can take place at any approved local facility in Ohio.

Online program applicants must make sure their prospective program meets Ohio counseling licensure requirements. Students should look for CACREP accreditation and pre-approval from the Ohio state board.

How Do You Become a Counselor in Ohio?

Candidates can visit the information page for their prospective license to download forms and submit a contact form to the license coordinator.

Criminal Background Checks

To be registered or credentialed at any level, you must complete a criminal background check through both the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI. To do so, download the appropriate form and take it to the police or motor vehicle department, or a web check vendor.

You should include one of the following as your reason for needing fingerprints:

  • ORC 4757.101
  • CSWMFT Board
  • Required for Licensure

If you are out of state, the process will take a little longer. You may fill out an online contact form to get the materials you need.

Licensing Fees

Obtaining an Ohio counseling licensure incurs fees, which vary depending on level of licensure. Typically, the more advanced a license is, the more expensive it is to obtain and renew. Moreover, in-state residents often pay less in fees than out-of-state students, and transfer students may have additional fees, as well.

Request Type Fee
Licensed Professional Counselor $60
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor $75
Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal $40
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Renewal $40
National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) $185

Source: Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board

The Licensing Exam

Ohio's licensing examinations are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). You will take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to become a PC and later take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination to become a PCC.

You can obtain an eligibility letter and registration forms from the Ohio board by submitting a request form along with the required educational validation. This is the first step in the professional application process. If you are in an approved program, you can apply to take the NCE as early as your final semester by submitting a letter or transcript, depending on circumstance. If you are not in a pre-approved program, send your transcripts after your degree has been conferred.

The fee is currently $185 per exam. Tests are offered twice per month. You may register for exams at any participating Pearson VUE site.

The board should receive your test scores four weeks after the end of your test week. Licensure also requires passing a laws and rules exam.

Supervised Practice Requirement

Before you can earn PCC licensure, you must complete at least two years of supervised practice. Each year must include at least 1,500 hours of counseling work, with at least half of them in clinical client service, and you must be involved in the evaluation and treatment of mental disorders. You should complete about one hour of supervised practice for every 20 hours that you work, totaling 150 direct hours of face-to-face, supervised practice over the course of two years. Remember to log all supervision.

Eventually, each of your supervisors must fill out a clinical field evaluation and evaluation and verification of supervised experience form and send materials to the Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage & Family Therapist Board.

Out of State Counselor Candidates

In order to be licensed by endorsement, you will need to have a qualifying degree that meets Ohio’s curricular standards in areas related to the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. If your degree doesn’t meet these standards, you may have to take additional coursework. The post-master’s requirement could include courses in the following areas:

  • Clinical Psychopathology, Personality, and Abnormal Behavior
  • Methods of Prevention and Intervention of Mental and Emotional Disorders
  • Evaluation of Mental and Emotional Disorders
  • Diagnosis of Mental and Emotional Disorders
  • Treatment of Mental and Emotional Disorders

You must have one course in each of the above above subjects, with a total of 20 semester hours in related areas. If you took a different examination in another jurisdiction, the board may or may not judge it as equivalent to Ohio’s standards. If you need to take the NCE in Ohio, and you are applying by endorsement, note this on your application. If you have been licensed five or more years in another state, Ohio’s board may be more flexible in evaluating your credentials. If the board determines that, based on your education, you are not entitled to take the exam, you may request a hearing.

As a foreign applicant, you may be licensed if the state of Ohio determines your education is equivalent.

License Maintenance and Renewal

Professional counselors and professional clinical counselors must renew their licenses every two years. This requires 30 clock hours of continuing education (CE), including three hours in ethics. Generally, CE hours come from pre-approved classes, but some forms of CE, like online classes, may need to be submitted for approval later.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Ohio

  • Ohio Counseling Association: The OCA assists licensed counselors, counseling educators, supervisors, and clients throughout the state of Ohio. OCA membership includes access to CE opportunities, a statewide professional network, and professional support. The OCA offers in-person and distance learning courses for professionals that meet the NBCC CE provider guidelines.
  • Counseling, Administration, Supervision, and Adult Learning: Cleveland State University offers CE for professionals in the mental health field. CSU’s training is approved by the NBCC and is offered in half-day and full-day workshops. These courses are offered at the downtown campus, and the West Center campus. There is a variety of classes, and students should review class offerings ahead of time.
  • Free State Social Work: This organization is approved by NBCC and Approved Continuing Education to provide CE for professional counselors. Counselors are allowed to complete up to 30 hours of distance learning for each renewal to accommodate for other professional obligations. Students can register for an account, complete the coursework, and pass the exam to print certificates of completion.

Resources for Counselors

  • Ohio School Counselor Association: The OSCA provides support for professional school counselors in Ohio. Members have access to professional development, leadership training, and a statewide network.
  • American College Counseling Association: This organization is for professionals who work or plan to work in higher education. Members have access to a global network, CE opportunities, and grants.
  • American Counseling Association: The ACA is one of the largest professional counselor organizations. Membership includes insurance, CE opportunities, and access to special offers from partner organizations.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association: AMHCA offers opportunities for collaboration, education, and leadership among mental health professionals. AMHCA offers both student and practitioner memberships. Practitioners have access to liability insurance, while students can receive advanced training.
  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: AAMFT offers resources for professionals specializing in marriage and family therapy. Members can network with other professionals, and have access to CE opportunities and cutting-edge information regarding the marriage and family field.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • Society of Counseling Psychology: SCP is also known as Division 17 of the American Psychological Association. Its goal is to facilitate personal and interpersonal functions in people’s lives at any age. Students can apply to the Barbara A. Kirk Award and Donald E. Super Fellowship.
  • American School Counselor Association: ASCA members have access to multiple scholarships for professionals pursuing higher education to work in school counseling. The ASCA also provides current professionals with resources and professional development.
  • Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International -- Chi Sigma Iota: This national honor society supports both professional and academic excellence in counseling. Its mission is to promote scholarship and support research and innovation in the counseling field. Students can use this site to access scholarships and fellowships to help fund their education.
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