How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor in Washington

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% rise in employment for rehabilitation counselors in the U.S. between 2016 and 2026. Due to the increased need for counselors who work with individuals struggling with physical, mental, and developmental impairments, rehabilitation counselors around the country are in high demand.

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals live more independently and offer vocational guidance, often in a clinical setting. To fully evaluate the needs of their clients and patients, rehabilitation counselors undergo extensive training related to psychology, human services, growth and development, and sociology. Rehabilitation counselors develop treatment plans, locate resources, and advocate for patients and clients of all ages.

Prospective rehabilitation counselors must meet specific education and experience requirements before qualifying for licensure. This guide offers a comprehensive review of how to enter this profession in the state of Washington.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Washington

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Washington here

Education and Experience Requirements

Rehabilitation counselors in Washington must earn a graduate degree and complete requisite contact hours with patients and clients. Counselors in civil service positions who hold credentials from a national credentialing body may be exempt from some of the educational requirements. However, according to state statutes and the requirements outlined by Washington's Department of Health (DOH), licensed counselors must meet the milestones described below.

Education and Coursework

Mental health counselors in Washington are required to earn a master's degree or a doctoral degree in counseling or behavioral science. Behavioral science programs must relate to mental health counseling, while core coursework must cover counseling theory and counseling philosophy. Learners need to complete coursework in at least seven content areas, as defined by Washington's DOH, and must take classes in at least five of the following areas:

  • Individual counseling
  • Counseling groups
  • Counseling couples and families
  • Assessment and diagnosis
  • Ethics and law
  • Developmental psychology
  • Psychopathology and abnormal psychology
  • Research and evaluation

Additional content areas, such as developmentally disabled people, career development counseling, and developmental psychology, relate directly to rehabilitation counseling. Applicants for licensure also complete four hours of AIDS/HIV training.

Washington does not require a degree from a particular accrediting body; however, when applying for licensure, students submit official transcripts for review.

Within their graduate counseling curriculum, students should also complete a practicum, an internship, or both. Learners who complete a master's or doctoral program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) receive credit for 50 hours of postgraduate supervision and 500 hours of post graduate experience.

Rehabilitation counselors who work in vocational rehabilitation do not need a graduate degree. To become a vocational rehabilitation counselor, learners only need to complete a bachelor's or master's degree and earn qualifying scores on one of several national certifications.


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


Practicum and Internship

To become a licensed mental health counselor, learners must complete 36 months or 3,000 hours of supervised experience. At least 1,200 hours should be earned through direct counseling, while 100 hours must be under the immediate supervision of an approved licensed mental health counselor (or the equivalent). Students who attend CACREP-accredited programs receive partial credit toward practicum, internship, and experience requirements.

Vocational rehabilitation counselors must complete one or two years of industrial experience, depending on their degree.

Application and Exam Requirements for Washington Rehabilitation Counselors

To apply for licensure as a rehabilitation counselor in Washington, candidates submit documentation of completed education and experience requirements. Applicants must also pass a national certification examination prior to application. Washington accepts national certifications offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). To register for an exam, students submit information through the Center for Credentialing and Education's website.

Counselor candidates must pass a national certification examination offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) prior to application

Candidates submit scores from the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The NCE covers generalist content, while the NCMHCE focuses on clinical mental health competencies. NBCC provides comprehensive handbooks for both exams, complete with information on registration, scheduling, and post-examination processes. Handbooks also include sample questions and tips for examination preparation.

Washington's DOH requires candidates for mental health counselor licensure to submit a completed application packet. This packet includes forms to verify education, experience, and examination requirements. Candidates also submit official transcripts and pay a $191 application and initial licensing fee.

Candidates for vocational rehabilitation services submit transcript information, proof of experience, and national credentials. Acceptable exams include those administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

Out-of-state Rehabilitation Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state applicants must submit credentials from all states where they are credentialed. Applicants pay a $25 verification of certification charge alongside other application fees. Additional application materials mirror those of in-state applicants, and candidates can access appropriate forms through Washington's DOH.

Rehabilitation Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

To maintain counseling certification in Washington, practicing counselors must submit a renewal application annually on or before their birthday. The renewal fee is $106.

Every two years, counselors must complete 36 hours of continuing education coursework. At least six hours of these continuing education requirements must be in law and ethics. Additionally, applicants must complete six hours of training in suicide, treatment, and management every six years.

To maintain counseling certification in Washington, practicing counselors must submit a renewal application annually on or before their birthday

Washington accepts seminars, workshops, training programs, and presentations as continuing education content. To meet continuing education requirements, applicants can complete up to 20 hours of distance learning programs. They can also earn up to six hours of credits based on learning experiences, community service, research, and publications.

Resources and Organizations for Rehabilitation Counselors in Washington

Professional organizations and associations offer valuable resources to rehabilitation counselors in Washington, including insight into research and issues in the field and the opportunity to build collaborative relationships with colleagues. Official departments and agencies within Washington also provides access to information on rehabilitation services, local and statewide initiatives, and available programs.

  • American Counseling Association ACA, founded in 1952, is the largest professional counseling association in the world. Online resources include newsletters, webinars, listservs, and blogs, while conferences and events bring together counseling professionals for face-to-face interaction. ACA also provides continuing education information and a knowledge center with information on licensure requirements, ethical guidelines, and mental health resources.
  • American Rehabilitation Counseling Association Through newsletters, legislative and research updates, workshops and training programs, and collaboration opportunities, ARCA provides leadership and facilitates an understanding of the field of rehabilitation counseling. ARCA offers regular, professional, student, retiree, and new professional memberships to rehabilitation practitioners and students.
  • Center for Change in Transition Services Housed at Seattle University, CCTS works to improve post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. CCTS offers professional development and trainings, agency connections, and transition services, as well as opportunities to participate in programs and projects around the state. Additional resources include lesson planning and assistive technology support; information on postsecondary options; and information on assessment techniques for careers, independent living, interests, and self-determination.
  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification CRCC offers current and future rehabilitation counselors access to licensure and continuing education resources. Through CRCC's online community, rehabilitation counseling professionals also gain access to the latest news, research, and advocacy initiatives in the field.
  • National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns An affiliate of the National Rehabilitation Association, NAMRC focuses on rehabilitation issues as they relate to diverse groups and minority persons. The association provides trainings, mentorship programs, scholarship opportunities, and research and news updates.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors With career, ethics, policy, and document resources, NBCC supports counseling professionals in all areas. NBCC offers information on state licensure, exams, and government initiatives, alongside a counselor directory for counseling professionals and the general public.
  • National Council on Rehabilitation Education Dedicated to promoting and providing quality services to persons with disabilities, NCRE offers information on professional standards, career opportunities, and research updates to rehabilitation education professionals. NCRE holds two conferences each year to address issues including training priorities, federal funding, and research initiatives in the field.
  • National Rehabilitation Association Founded in 1923, NRA is the oldest association for rehabilitation professionals in the country. Bringing together rehabilitation counselors, educators, and researchers, the association works with communities to promote understanding of rehabilitation services. Resources include career information, publications, and updates about policy initiatives.
  • Washington State Department of Health Washington's DOH provides individuals, communities, and practitioners comprehensive information on public health, emergency response, and disease and injury prevention. Its website also hosts extensive content on licensing, permits, and certifications in numerous areas. Rehabilitation counselors and mental health professionals can access links and resources related to education, experience, and renewal requirements.
  • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation DVR promotes independent living and employment among individuals with disabilities through counseling services, employment assistance, and training programs. DVR offers specialized services for employers and individuals alike, with additional resources geared toward tribal vocational rehabilitation needs. Individuals can access data, assessments, reports, DVR partnership resources, and pre-employment transition services.

Explore More Pathways to Becoming a Counselor in Washington

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