How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor in Tennessee

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with disabilities learn to live independently. They can work in government agencies, schools, and hospitals, among other employers. Since rehabilitation counselors provide medical services, states regulate their profession by granting license to only the most trained and competent professionals.

The Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists acts as Tennessee's counselor board, and sets the state's rules and regulations on how one can become a counselor. Rehabilitation counselors in Tennessee can possess either a licensed professional counselor (LPC) license or a licensed professional counselor with a mental health service provider endorsement (LCP/MHSP) license.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 13% through 2026. Now is a terrific time to enter this field, as professionals who gain licensure in Tennessee are poised to enter a rapidly growing market. This guide outlines the necessary steps to becoming a rehabilitation counselor in Tennessee, including education, experience, and licensure requirements.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Tennessee

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Tennessee here

Education and Experience Requirements

Rehabilitation counselors throughout the U.S. must meet their state's education and experience requirements for licensure. The information in this section covers the latest requirements for how to become a counselor in Tennessee. Prospective students should check with the Tennessee counselor board to make sure they have the most up-to-date information.

Education and Coursework

LPC and LPC/MHSP candidates can possess a bachelor's degree in any subject. However, the state requires candidates to complete a regionally accredited master's in counseling program that includes 60 or more credits. Tennessee does not require candidates to select a program with programmatic accreditation, however programs must meet the state's experience requirements, which can vary between the licenses.

Tennessee LPC and LPC/MHSP candidates can possess a bachelor's degree in any subject but must complete a regionally accredited master's in counseling program

All LPC/MHSP candidates in Tennessee must complete specific coursework in the master's or post-graduate certificate program. This coursework includes at least nine hours related to the mental disorders' assessment, diagnosis, appraisal, and treatment. These additional courses prepare graduates for clinical settings such as hospitals or rehab centers.

Most master's in counseling programs emphasize coursework in research methods in counseling, psychopathology in counseling, and career development, among other topics. Students should also note whether programs offer specializations tailored to their career tracks, such as rehabilitation counseling. Prospective learners interested in career-focused programs should research programs with non-thesis options. Tennessee does not require candidates to complete a thesis project; however, programs that include a thesis often better prepare graduates for doctoral study and careers in academia.

Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:

Practicum and Internship

While earning their master's degree, LPC and LPC/MHSP candidates must complete at least 500 internship hours, 300 of which take place in a mental health setting. To qualify for licensure, candidates then must obtain at least two years of professional experience under a supervisor's guidance. Within that same two-year time frame, LPC/MHSP candidates must complete 50% more work hours than LPC candidates.

Application and Exam Requirements for Tennessee Rehabilitation Counselors

In addition to education and experience requirements, the Tennessee Board for Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapists requires LPC and LPC/MHSP candidates to pass licensure exams. For instance, LCP candidates sit for the National Board of Certified Counselors' (NBCC) National Counselor Examination (NCE). Candidates take this exam just before or after earning their master's degrees and must correctly answer approximately 95/160 questions to pass. Test takers who earned their master's degrees more than one year before their test dates should create and follow a study schedule.

a completed application includes academic transcripts, two recommendation letters from licensed professional counselors, test scores, and documented experience

LPC/MHSP candidates take the NCE exam as well as two additional exams: the National Clinical Mental Health Exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam. Professionals in different medical careers can also take the exam to prove their competency with relevant state laws.

Once licensure candidates meet all application requirements, they create an account on the Tennessee Department of Health website and submit their applications electronically. A completed application includes academic transcripts, two recommendation letters from licensed professional counselors, test scores, and documented experience. LPC/MHSP candidates submit the same application. The Tennessee Department of Health takes approximately eight weeks to process applications.

Out-of-State Rehabilitation Counselor Candidates

LPCs and LPC/MHSPs based in Kentucky can practice in Tennessee without applying for Tennessee licensure. Rehabilitation counselors from every other state must undergo licensure by examination. They complete the same application process as all first-time licensure candidates and, depending upon their level of experience, may need to take additional exams, earn additional graduate credits, or gain work experience under Tennessee LPCs or LPC/MHSPs. Out-of-state rehabilitation counselors should research Tennessee counseling requirements as soon as they decide to relocate.

The Tennessee Department of Health does not accept endorsements at this time.

Rehabilitation Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Tennessee recently updated its online renewal system. Through their online accounts, LPCs and LPC/MHSPs renew their licenses every two years. Renewal requirements include 20 hours of continuing education credits, only five of which may be completed online. At least three hours must relate to professional ethics. Rehabilitation counselors should consult the NBCC website for the latest information on continuing education courses in their local communities.

In Tennessee, LPCs and LPC/MHSPs renew their licenses every two years

Newly licensed LPCs and LPC/MHSPs do not need to complete professional development for the remainder of the year they first earn licensure. Licenses remain valid for that year plus two additional years.

Resources and Organizations for Rehabilitation Counselors in Tennessee

Students and established rehabilitation counselors alike should explore professional organizations and free resources to help them succeed. The organizations and resources below boast excellent benefits, including professional development courses, mentoring programs, and discounts on professional liability insurance. In most cases, student members pay low membership fees and still receive all the benefits that professional members enjoy.

  • American Counseling Association The ACA provides members with personalized resources to match their career settings or goals. Student members can also access Career Central, which boasts a private job board and expert advice on how to become a counselor.
  • American Rehabilitation Counseling Association Rehabilitation counselors who join the ARCA receive excellent continuing education opportunities and networking events. Compared to professional members, student members save over 80% on membership fees while receiving all the same benefits.
  • The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs A programmatic accreditation agency, CACREP grants accreditation to only the best counseling bachelor's and master's programs. Prospective students can use this resource to find programs that satisfy Tennessee's requirements for LPC or LPC/MHSP licensure.
  • Counselors for Social Justice CSJ members ensure that their clients -- many of whom come from marginalized groups -- receive the best care. Student members receive the same benefits as professional members, including access to grant opportunities and professional development courses.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors Even before earning state licensure, counselors-in-training should research NBCC certification benefits. Licensed counselors become board certified to advance their careers and increase their salary potential. NBCC provides information for students planning to pursue certification.
  • National Rehabilitation Association The NRA lobbies at the state and federal levels to advance both the counseling profession and patient care. Undergraduate and graduate students studying full time can join both the NRA and one of its divisional organizations. Joining a divisional organization involves an additional fee.
  • Tennessee Counseling Association A division of the ACA, the TCA brings together Tennessee counselors from all backgrounds. Although counselors and students from throughout Tennessee may join, most TCA events take place in Memphis and other cities in the state's western half.
  • Tennessee Department of Health The Tennessee Department of Health regulates counselor licensure throughout the state. As a result, students should consult department resources throughout their education to remain current on the latest licensure requirements.
  • Tennessee Licensed Professional Counselors Association TLPCA provides professional and student members the most up-to-date information concerning initial licensure and renewal. Student members can access the TLPCA forum to learn from experienced Tennessee counseling professionals.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation The Tennessee Department of Human Services offers this service to individuals with mental and physical disabilities. Students can use this resource to learn more about how rehabilitation counselors who work for the state government perform their jobs.

Explore More Pathways to Becoming a Counselor in Tennessee

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