Counseling Licensing Requirements in Rhode Island

Rhode Island treats the mental health counseling profession as a unique discipline and offers licensing separately from other mental health fields. License seekers need a graduate degree that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP). Standards include both pre- and post-degree supervised experience. License seekers also need to take a clinical mental health licensing exam.

The information below serves as a guide to the process of earning Rhode Island counseling licensure. For questions, contact the Rhode Island Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.

Counseling Careers in Rhode Island

A degree in counseling can take you in many different directions, including work related to rehabilitation, substance abuse, families, communities, and youth. You might work with the elderly in a hospital, guide kids in schools, lead group therapy in prison as a limited license professional counselor (LLPC), or help veterans make the transition from military to civilian life. You could work for a clinic with an LPCC Rhode Island license or open your own private practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counseling jobs outpace many other professions in terms of growth. Substance abuse counseling, school counseling, and occupational therapy are projected to see a higher-than-average job growth rate.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Counselors in these positions help people with the choices they make in education and employment. Many work in schools, while others find employment at career centers or state offices. All of these jobs give you the satisfaction of knowing you helped better someone’s life.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists provide counseling to couples and families struggling with relationships, jobs, and other stresses. They might work for a clinic or run their own private practice, overseeing a business and providing therapy.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehab counselors offer assistance to individuals overcoming significant life trauma, including physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. They often work for private or veteran’s hospitals and clinics.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These counselors provide therapy to individuals and families wrestling with addiction or psychiatric problems. They work in private offices, hospitals, group homes, and correctional facilities.
  • Counselors, All Other: Many other counseling occupations fall under this heading, including genetic counseling, recreational therapists, and community counselors. Generally speaking, these counselors provide guidance to people making changes in their lives. They might work for civic agencies, hospitals, clinics, or labs.
Occupation Average Salary in Rhode Island
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $61,410
Rehabilitation Counselors $55,520
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $50,020
Counselors, All Other $32,740

Source: BLS

Education Requirements for Counselors

License seekers need at least a master's degree, doctorate degree, or a certificate in advanced graduate studies. Your program should focus on mental health counseling. Holding a master's in a related field will qualify graduates for licensure, but license seekers may need to complete additional coursework to meet state requirements. The Rhode Island board considers the following fields allied to mental health counseling: community mental health, psychology, counseling psychology, and counselor education -- specifically a degree in education with a major in counseling or psychology. The board may accept other degrees on the condition that they meet core curriculum.

License seekers must possess at least 60 graduate semester hours (90 quarter hours) in counseling and therapy. When you turn in your application, you need to document coursework in the following areas:

  • Helping Relationships and Counseling Theory
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Groups
  • Career and Lifestyle Development
  • Appraisal
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Professional Orientation

License seekers need 12 semester hours of practicum experience and a full year of internship experience equalling 20 hours per week. These requirements must occur under the supervision of an accredited institution.

Internships give students practical work experience. Alternatively, practicums serve as classroom-based learning, with activities like role play. Students may use practicum experiences to meet the requirements. Another option includes completing a master's in an area like agency counseling followed by a post-master's advanced certificate in mental health counseling. Rhode Island does not require mental health counselor licensing for those who provide services in governmental agencies, developmental service programs, or accredited academic institutions.

Online Counseling Programs in Rhode Island

You can enroll in some of the best counseling schools online. The opportunity to study at a great college outside of your state particularly benefits anyone interested in pursuing their LLPC license in Rhode Island. There are no online counseling programs in Rhode Island, but students can enjoy exceptional counseling programs in neighboring states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or New York. This proximity helps with the onsite requirements of some programs.

Schools like the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Fitchburg State, Southern New Hampshire University, and New York University-Steinhardt all offer online degrees in counseling. Some of these programs provide undergraduate-level education, while others offer on-campus programs. These programs typically offer the same, or similar, support services and networking opportunities.

How Do You Become a Counselor in Rhode Island?

Mental Health Counselor License Application

License seekers need to include a number of supplemental documents with their application:

  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Your Birth Certificate, Lawful Alien Documentation, or Citizenship Paperwork
  • A Passport-Quality Photo
  • A Notarized Application
  • A $70 Fee

When you send your materials to the board, you need to staple your fee to the front of the application. The course worksheet and supplementary documents follow the main part of the application.

Some documents need to go to the Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists through third parties, such as university transcripts and score verification documents.

You should submit materials to the board 30 days in advance. The process normally takes four to eight weeks. Those with disciplinary history should expect it to take longer. Rhode Island College notes graduates can earn licensure earlier by submitting their application and current transcripts toward the end of your last semester. After completing the requirements, send your final transcript. License seekers can make changes to their application for up to a year.

Licensing Fees

Rhode Island charges varying fees for counselor licenses. Some occupations, like marriage and family therapists, pay slightly more than others to maintain their license. Applications must bear a notary’s stamp and arrive at the office 30 days prior to the scheduled board meeting. Licenses last for two-year periods, after which, counselors must renew them. The state streamlined its process by offering information about how to become a licensed counselor in Rhode Island.

Request Type Fee
Marriage and Family Therapist $130
Mental Health Counselor $70
Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor $75
Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal $50
License Reactivation $130

Source: State of Rhode Island/Justia

The Licensing Exam

Rhode Island uses the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) that is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

You will be authorized and registered for the NCMHCE by the Rhode Island board once you complete your application.

Supervised Practice Requirement

You need two years of supervised post-degree experience. During this time, you need to accrue at least 2,000 hours of direct client service and at least 100 hours of direct supervision.

Your approved supervisor needs to work as a clinical mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, independent social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist. They need two years of experience supervising clinical mental health staff, NBCC supervisor certification, or graduate school coursework in supervision.

Out of State Counselor Candidates

Those with licensure from a state that lists similar requirements to Rhode Island may earn licensure without examination.

License Maintenance and Renewal

License holders need to renew their license every other year, on even-numbered years. They also need to complete 40 credits of continuing education during each renewal cycle.

At least 20 of your continuing education credits must come through formal programs, and those wishing to renew their license must document their continuing education and maintain records for four years after the renewal.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Rhode Island

  • Ethics for Counselors: This website provides courses approved by the state Department of Health to meet counseling requirements in Rhode Island, including this six-hour exploration of ethics and behavior for counseling professionals. Accredited by the NBCC, the program costs $19.
  • EMDR Therapy -- Treating Anxiety: Offered by AtHealth, this course, accredited by the American Psychological Association, looks at the use of EMDR treatments for anxiety issues like panic disorders and phobias. The course costs $70 for four credits.
  • New England Addiction Technology Transfer Center: Part of Brown University’s School of Public Health, this organization offers several continuing-education opportunities to mental health counselors, all of which are approved by the NBCC. These include online classes with instructors, virtual self-paced courses, webinars, and live events.

Resources for Counselors

  • Mental Health Association of Rhode Island: An affiliate of Mental Health America, MHARI works to prevent mental illness and promote mental health through advocacy and education. The organization’s site brims with resources for counselors, including the Rhode Island Mental Health Tool Kit.
  • Rhode Island Department of Health: The official state agency responsible for licensing counselors, the department of health serves as the ideal place to turn for Rhode Island counseling licensure information and applications for initial license or renewal.
  • State of Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals: This state agency deals with behavioral health and offers help to counselors, including licensing details, Centers of Excellence information, and access to public records.
  • The Substance Use and Mental Health Leadership Council of RI: SUMHLC promotes a coordinated system of statewide, community-based mental healthcare and substance abuse prevention programs. The organization hosts trainings, workforce development, and provides technical assistance and information.
  • Rhode Island Mental Health Advocate: This independent state agency provides access to education and legal help focused on Rhode Island mental health laws. The organization’s attorneys offer free investigative, legal, and advocacy services.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Rhode Island: This organization focuses on support, education, and advocacy concerning mental illness. Members benefit from events, networking opportunities, and continuing education. They can attend the national convention, get access to periodicals and reports, and enjoy all the latest information.
  • Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association: The state organization representing licensed mental health counselors, RIMHCA offers an array of resources and services to its professional members. These include training opportunities, networking with other state counselors, advocacy on behalf of the profession, and legislative updates.
  • Rhode Island School Counselor Association: This organization connects the professional school counselors of the state through advocacy, continuing education programs, events, and support services. School counselors can also attend RISCA's fall conference and use the organization's website to link to the American School Counselor Association’s professional development courses.
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