Counseling Licensing Requirements in South Dakota

Two levels of South Dakota counseling licensure are available: licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed professional counselor-mental health (LPC-MH).

Although you must be licensed first as an LPC, you may save time by completing education requirements simultaneously for the higher license. The process begins when you enroll in a graduate program that meets South Dakota's curricular standards.

The following information is a guide to South Dakota counseling licensure. If at any point along the way you have questions about LPC requirements in South Dakota or want to make sure you are on the correct path, contact the South Dakota Board of Examiners for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.

Counseling Careers in South Dakota

Careers for licensed counselors in South Dakota include opportunities to work in behavioral health and social work services, addiction and prevention support, and marriage and family therapy. Counselors can work in private practice with individuals and communities, or with mental health workgroups, corrections facilities, and inpatient healthcare providers. Mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorder counselors around the U.S. are projected to experience a 23% job-growth rate between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Marriage and family therapists are projected to see a comparable rate of growth, contributing to the number of available jobs for counselors throughout the country. Many counselors provide care in several areas, adding to their potential career opportunities.

  • Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Educational, guidance, and school counselors help students develop the skills needed to succeed in academic settings. Vocational counselors provide support to job seekers, assisting them in choosing career and employment paths.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists work closely with couples and families to identify, manage, and cope with issues in their relationships. They help patients and clients develop the skills and tools needed to handle emotions, experiences, and decisions in marriage and family contexts.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors work with patients and clients as they cope with mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disorders and disabilities. They assist individuals in managing and overcoming these challenges in employment and daily life.
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Substance abuse and behavioral health counselors assist patients and clients with addiction and behavior disorders through individual and group therapy. They help clients and patients deal with the stresses of daily life in their recovery. Mental health counselors provide support in a variety of areas, including anxiety, stress, and grief. They also offer resources, skills, and tools to manage individual conditions.
  • Counselors, All Other: Counselors may work in genetic counseling, with government agencies or churches, bereavement centers, and funeral homes. These counselors provide services to individuals or groups as needed.
Occupation Average Salary in South Dakota
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors $41,680
Marriage and Family Therapists $40,080
Rehabilitation Counselors $41,930
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $41,980

Source: BLS

Education Requirements for Counselors

Education Requirements for LPC Status

You will need a master's, doctorate, or educational specialist degree. Your school should hold institutional accreditation from a regional accrediting agency. The following are acceptable accrediting agencies.

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • New England State Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Northwest Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Western College Association

Your degree should include, at minimum, 48 semester hours. If your program holds program level accreditation through CACREP, it will meet South Dakota's curricular requirements. You will find CACREP-accredited programs at South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.

Many other master's programs in counseling are available.

If your program does not hold CACREP accreditation, you must have a sequential program of study that includes coursework in each of the following content areas:

  • Counseling Theory
  • Counseling Techniques
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Helping Relationships
  • Group Counseling
  • Lifestyle and Career Development
  • Appraisal of the Individual
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Professional, Legal, and Ethical Considerations

You will also need to complete a practicum and internship.

Prior to beginning your practicum, you will need to have completed courses in counseling theory and counseling techniques. Your practicum must include 100 total hours; at least 40 of these must be direct service. You will need face-to-face evaluation.

Your internship must include at least 600 total hours with at least 240 hours of direct client contact.

Education for LPC-MH Status

To become an LPC-MH, you will need a graduate program in mental health counseling that is CACREP-accredited or that is considered equivalent. You should have 60 semester hours of coursework. If your program is not CACREP-accredited, it must develop the following competencies:

  • It must teach the etiology of mental disorders and dysfunctional behavior; it must also teach how to promote mental health and diagnose, prevent, and treat illness and dysfunction.
  • It must cover methods for assessing mental states and identifying mental illness or deviant behavior. You will need to learn various techniques for obtaining data and then translating your findings into DSM categories.

Additionally, you must also have course content in each of the following:

  • Theories for Initiating, Maintaining, and Terminating Psychotherapy Across Settings and Modalities
  • Mental Health Promotion, Education, and Outreach
  • Psychopharmacological Medicines (Classification, Indications, Contraindications)
  • Guidelines for Intake and Mental Health History

Online Counseling Programs in South Dakota

Online counseling programs in South Dakota provide opportunities for students that seek to become counselors or advance their careers in the field. Online degrees offer coursework online with clinical and internships requirements done under close supervision by an instructor at an approved location. Programs prepare students for licensure in South Dakota.

The University of South Dakota offers an online master of science degree in addiction studies, which is ideal for counselors already working in the field. The program has two tracks, one standard path and one advanced path for certified or licensed addictions counselors or students with a bachelor's degree in addictions. The University of South Dakota also has an online graduate certificate program in addiction studies, aimed at supporting certification by the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals.

How Do You Become a Counselor in South Dakota?

You will need to have official transcripts sent. You will also identify, on a supplemental worksheet, which courses meet specific curriculum requirements. If the course title does not make the content clear, you should include a course syllabus or course catalog description.

You will attest to the veracity of your application and have the affidavit notarized. You will need to include a $100 nonrefundable fee with your application. You will also need to include a copy of your driver's license.

You application should be mailed to the South Dakota Board of Examiners for Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists.

You will send your application to the board after you have completed all requirements.

Licensing Fees

Counselors must hold a license from the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) to become a licensed counselor in South Dakota. There is a $195 fee for this application and subsequent licensure.

Licensing fees for counselors in South Dakota vary by specialty. Mental health counselors pay an initial application fee to become an LPC, but can also apply to become an LPC-MH or LPC in marriage and family therapy. Substance abuse and addictions counselors pay additional licensure fees. Application fees for counselors in South Dakota are not prorated throughout the year, regardless of when an applicant submits materials. Applications for psychologist examination fees are prorated. For renewal of any licensure, fees may vary if reinstatement is required or if any late penalties apply.

Request Type Fee
National Board of Certified Counselors Application Package Fee $195
Licensed Professional Counselor Application Fee $100
Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Application Fee $100
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Application Fee $100
Licensed Addiction Counselor, Certified Addiction Counselor, and Certified Prevention Counselor Application and Examination Fee $250
Licensed Addiction Counselor Renewal Fee $200
Psychologist Examiner Application Fee $300 (prorated)
Psychologist Examiner Renewal Fee $300
Certified Addiction Counselor and Certified Prevention Counselor Dual Renewal Fee $262.50
Licensed Addiction Counselor and Certified Prevention Counselor Dual Renewal Fee $287.50
Certified Addiction Counselor or Certified Prevention Counselor Renewal Fee $175

Source: NBCC, South Dakota Legislative Research Council

The Licensing Exam

To become an LPC, you will need to take the National Counselor Examination. To become an LPC-MH, you will need to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination as well.

You will take your licensing examination(s) through the NBCC.

You will apply directly to the NBCC for authorization. The process is the same for both exams. You will download the application from the NBCC website and send it with an official sealed transcript and a $195 fee.

You must wait to hear back from the NBCC before you can schedule your exam. You may schedule by phone or online. There is one testing center in the state, which is in Sioux Falls. You may test in another state if you prefer.

If you test as a South Dakota candidate, score verification will be sent automatically, approximately a month after you test.

Supervised Practice Requirement

Supervised Practice for LPC Licensing

You will need to work under clinical supervision until you have accrued 2,000 hours of work experience. At least 800 hours must be direct patient care. During this time, you must have 100 hours of direct supervision. At least 50 of these must be face-to-face.

Your clinical supervisor must be board approved. If you will be doing supervised training within South Dakota, you must have a supervisory plan in place before you begin accruing your hours. You will need to notify the board if you change supervisors.

Supervised Practice for LPC-MH Certification

In order to be licensed at the LPC-MH level, you will need to obtain 2,000 direct client service hours within a clinical setting. Your supervisor must hold the highest level of licensing within their discipline, which is an LPC-MH.

You may simultaneously apply up to 1,000 hours of work experience and up to 50 hours of supervision toward both LPC and LPC-MH requirements, as long as the experience meets all requirements for the higher license.

Out of State Counselor Candidates

If your state has similar requirements, you may be granted a license by endorsement. You will submit an LPC endorsement application, and, when qualified, a general LPC-MH application.

You will have the state where you are currently licensed fill out a verification form. You will find an endorsement application package on the board's website.

License Maintenance and Renewal

You will need to renew your LPC license each year. You must complete 40 hours of approved continuing education every two years. At least four must be in ethics.

Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in South Dakota

  • South Dakota Counseling Association: The South Dakota Counseling Association is an NNCC-approved continuing education provider in South Dakota. The SDCA offers professional development opportunities to members and resources for counselors to obtain information about continuing education information from affiliate associations.
  • Stronghold Counseling Services, Inc.: Stronghold Counseling Services emphasizes faith in counseling and provides counseling services in addition to resources for current counseling professionals. Trainings offered by Stronghold Counseling Services are NBCC-approved to provide continuing education in South Dakota. Trainings in life-crisis management and non-judgemental counseling are available several times a year.
  • NAADAC, Association for Addiction Professionals: NAADAC offers continuing education resources through webinars, seminars, conferences, study courses, magazine articles, and certificate programs for addiction and prevention counselors. Continuing education resources are free for NAADAC members. NAADAC is one of the continuing education organizations approved by the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals.

Resources for Counselors

  • South Dakota School Counselor Association: The South Dakota School Counselor Association unites and supports school counselors from around the state. The SDSCA provides professional development, advocacy, ethical support, and resources to school counseling professionals that work with and promote student success.
  • South Dakota State University Resources for School Counselors: School counselors in South Dakota can access the information provided by South Dakota State University for details about how to better advise and work with their students as they pursue academic goals.
  • South Dakota Department of Social Services: The South Dakota Department of Social Services has information about education, application, and licensure requirements for counseling professionals in the state. They also provide resources for child protection and support, medical eligibility, and other social service offerings.
  • South Dakota Counseling Association: The South Dakota Counseling Association offers ethical information, networking resources, and event listings to support counselors in the state. The SDCA also has five specialty areas and eight local chapters available to counseling professionals.
  • State Bar of South Dakota: The State Bar of South Dakota works with mental health professionals throughout the state to offer provider listings and mental health support for the legal community in South Dakota.

Professional Organizations for Counselors

  • South Dakota Counseling Association: The South Dakota Counseling Association is a branch of the American Counseling Association. The SDCA brings together counseling students and professionals from throughout the state of South Dakota and offers networking and professional development opportunities to members. The SDCA has five areas of specialty and eight local chapters in South Dakota.
  • South Dakota Mental Health Counselors Association: The South Dakota Mental Health Counselors Association is a chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. The SDMHCA works to connect mental health professionals and to advance the field throughout the state.
  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy is open to marriage and family therapists throughout the country. Members have access to continuing education and networking opportunities, publications, insurance discounts, and research resources.
  • South Dakota Association of Addiction and Prevention Professionals: The South Dakota Association of Addiction and Prevention Professionals is a branch of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. SDAAPP holds annual conferences and workshops for addiction counselors and educators in South Dakota. Members can also become members of NAADAC.
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