The West Virginia counseling profession has undergone some important changes recently. For example, a new law established a certification process for recovery residences who offer help to patients recovering from substance abuse and addiction. The legislature also increased funding for substance abuse recovery programs in an attempt to fight the state's opioid addiction crisis. This guide covers the types of counseling jobs available in West Virginia, as well as licensing requirements and resources for counseling students and professionals.
Counseling Careers in West Virginia
West Virginia counseling careers vary by setting and specialty. Counselors may work in locations like schools, private practices, rehabilitation centers, or hospitals. Counselors can also specialize in certain populations or disorders. For example, some counselors work mostly with teenagers, while others specialize in substance abuse. The sections below highlight some counseling job options.
School, Guidance, Vocational, and Educational Counselors
School and educational counselors work with students to help create supportive learning environments, educate students on topics like drug abuse, and connect learners to resources. Guidance and vocational counselors work with clients of all ages to help them identify strengths, skill sets, and possible career paths.Explore Career Information Explore West Virginia School Counselor Certification
Marriage and Family Therapists
These licensed counselors provide mental health services for couples, families, and individuals. They can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, and outpatient centers. They often specialize in helping clients with family issues, but they can treat patients with mental health disorders as well.Explore Career Information
These therapists help patients with mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral disorders live and work more independently. Many rehabilitation counselors work in hospitals and inpatient medical facilities, helping people cope with physical difficulties.Explore Career Information Explore West Virginia Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor
These specialized therapists work with patients who struggle with addictions to substances and behaviors. They may counsel patients individually or lead group therapy sessions. They may work in settings like nonprofit organizations, hospitals, treatment centers, and private practices.Explore Career Information Explore West Virginia Substance Abuse Counselor Certification
Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors see patients with various backgrounds and challenges. Some counselors specialize in treating people with specific ailments, like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress. Others treat particular populations, such as geriatric patients or children. These professionals work in settings like private practices, hospitals, and inpatient facilities.Explore Career Information
How Much Do Counselors Make in West Virginia?
The table below details salary ranges for different types of counselors throughout West Virginia and the United States. Although the pay for West Virginia counselors tends to be lower than the national average, it's important to note that the Mountain State boasts a below-average cost of living.
Education Requirements for Counselors in West Virginia
Education and Coursework
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling offers two types of credentials: licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). Both LPC and LMFT candidates must hold master's degrees with at least 60 credits of graduate-level study.
Qualifying LPC programs must earn accreditation from one of the following organizations: the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), Council for the Accreditation for Education Preparation, or Council on Rehabilitation Education.
Both LPC and LMFT candidates must hold master's degrees with at least 60 credits of graduate-level study
In addition to practicum and internship requirements, LPC candidates must earn at least three graduate-level credits in each of the following 12 subject areas: counseling theories; research and evaluation; counseling techniques; marriage, couples, or family counseling; human growth and development; principles of etiology; social and cultural foundations; lifestyle and career development; individual appraisal; group dynamics; professional responsibilities; and addiction counseling.
LMFT programs must hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, CACREP, or SACS. Furthermore, brochures and catalogs for the programs must clearly state the intention to train LMFTs. The counseling board recommends that LMFT candidates submit transcript review forms before proceeding with the licensing process.
Practicum and Internship
Both LPC and LMFT candidates must complete internships and practica during their graduate programs. LPC students must earn three credits for the internship and three for the practicum. LMFT internships must include 300 contact hours with patients and a mix of families, couples, and individuals.
Online Counseling Programs in West Virginia
Students with work and family obligations may be attracted to the flexibility of online programs. Several schools in West Virginia offer online counseling programs, including West Virginia University, which offers an online master's in clinical rehabilitation and counseling.
Students with work and family obligations may be attracted to the flexibility of online programs
Students who enroll in out-of-state online programs can also earn licensure in the Mountain State, as long as the degrees meet West Virginia's requirements. All online counseling students must complete in-person internships, which they can often do at approved facilities near their homes.
How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor in West Virginia
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling oversees the counseling licensure process in the state. After graduation, candidates apply to take their respective licensing exams. LPC candidates take the National Counselor Exam and LMFT applicants take the test offered by the American Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.
If they pass, candidates earn provisional licenses and then complete a 3,000-hour internship. The board approves some candidates for temporary licenses, which allow learners to start their internships while they wait up to six months to take their exams. After candidates complete their internships, they can apply for full counseling licensure.
Out-of-state Counselor Candidates
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling considers licensure by endorsement on a case-by-case basis. The board reviews the other state's licensure requirements at the time that a candidate earned their license. If the jurisdiction in question required at least as much education and experience as West Virginia currently does, the board approves the endorsement.
Furthermore, professionals who have maintained ongoing caseloads for five of the previous seven years can transfer their licenses regardless of their previous state's requirements. However, these candidates must apply for waivers and provide proof of passing grades on national counseling exams.
Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal in West Virginia
LPC and LMFT licenses expire every year on June 30. Candidates must earn 35 contact hours of continuing education each year to apply for renewal. Two hours must come from classes that concentrate on common disorders in veterans and their families, and three hours must come from ethics courses. The remaining 30 hours can cover any mental health topic, so long as the courses meet the state's other requirements. Only 20 hours can come from home study, which includes online courses.
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling approves all continuing education experiences that hold accreditation from the National Board for Certified Counselors or the American Counseling Association. Graduate-level counseling classes at accredited universities also qualify.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in West Virginia
- At Health This online continuing education provider offers classes in text and audio formats. It features classes for all types of counselors, including LMFTs and LPCs with several specialties. Featured classes include topics like EMDR therapy, strengths-based clinical assessment, and trauma-informed care. Professionals may also subscribe to At Health's weekly newsletter.
- ITR Training Institute, LLC This organization helps mental health professionals feel more confident while using the Instinctual Trauma Response Method™. The institute offers online courses and in-person sessions. Professionals may also join consultation calls, in which counselors review case studies and ask questions about the method.
- Elite CME The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling approves this national continuing education provider. Professionals can search for available classes based on the number of hours and course type. Elite CME provides book, correspondence, and online continuing education, all of which count toward the state's home-study limit.
Resources and Professional Organizations for Counselors in West Virginia
- West Virginia Medical Professionals Health Program This organization provides a mental health support network to healthcare providers in West Virginia. It offers advocacy, interventions, and case management, among other services.
- West Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors Association This organization promotes LPCs in West Virginia and offers opportunities for networking and advocacy through events such as its fall and spring conferences. It also provides continuing education opportunities.
- First Choice First Choice offers several addiction and mental health resources to West Virginians. The organization also offers job opportunities for counselors specializing in rehabilitation and substance abuse services.
- FMRS Health Systems, Inc. This network of regional behavioral health service centers offers career opportunities for licensed counselors. The organization's services include child behavioral services, crisis intervention, and intellectual and developmental disability services. It also offers continuing education opportunities.
- Prestera Center Prestera Center — out of Huntington — provides a variety of behavioral health services, including residential and outpatient services. The center also offers career opportunities and continuing education credits for LPCs.
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists Founded in 1942, this organization provides a support network for marriage and family therapists through its job connection services, annual conference, and minority fellowship program. The organization also offers continuing education resources and advocates for the legal rights of couples and families.
- American Counseling Association This organization offers several resources to counselors nationwide, including an annual conference, continuing education opportunities, and its Journal of Counseling and Development. The organization's website offers helpful guides to recently licensed counselors seeking employment. It also offers continuing education courses through online webinars and podcasts.
- National Board of Certified Counselors Established in 1962, NBCC offers certification, continuing education, and career opportunities. The organization's website features an index of licensure requirements for each state and contact information for each state's board of examiners.