Counseling Licensing Requirements in Alabama
Alabama lists two levels of counseling licensure: associate licensed counselor and licensed professional counselor (LPC). If you fulfill initial licensing requirements in Alabama, you will practice as an associate (ALC) before attaining status as a licensed professional counselor. If you hold licensure from another state, you may apply for a licensure through endorsement. The information below serves as a guide to counseling licensure in Alabama.
Counseling Careers in Alabama
Earning a degree in counseling places professional helpers at the forefront of an industry dedicated to the emotional and social wellbeing of individuals, groups, and communities. Counselors residing in Alabama who acquire Alabama counseling licensure enjoy the opportunity to work in areas such as school counseling, family therapy, and substance abuse counseling. While each counseling specialization presents unique rewards and challenges, professional counselors employ core techniques necessary for the treatment of a diverse range of issues. The following counseling occupations demonstrate commonly pursued careers in this field. As more mental health providers explore creative and holistic forms of evidence-based treatment, these careers present exciting opportunities for innovative approaches to counseling.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: This counseling speciality focuses on student development and academic success. School counselors assist students individually and in group settings to help them develop coping skills and perform academically. Guidance and vocational counselors help students identify career goals.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: These professionals view the family unit as their client and help couples and families overcome challenging relationship issues. Marriage and family therapists help their clients learn effective parenting styles, communication skills, and emotional self-regulation.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Employed in areas such as community rehabilitation clinics and residential care agencies, rehabilitation counselors assist individuals with mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disabilities lead fulfilling and self-sustaining lives. Rehabilitation counselors coordinate care and locate resources in addition to treatment planning.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Approximately 20% of these professionals work in outpatient mental health clinics. Mental health and substance abuse counselors develop treatment plans and tailor interventions to fit a client's challenges.
- Counselors, All Other: In addition to the specializations described above, counselors work in areas such as crisis intervention, scientific research, and consultation. Crisis intervention counselors help individuals de-escalate from life-threatening events. Counselors in consultation roles assist in program planning and evaluation.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Alabama|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$52,830|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$39,920|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$41,670|
|Counselors, All Other||$42,880|
Education Requirements for Counselors
Students must first complete a graduate-level educational program at a regionally accredited college. The program should hold accreditation from either the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). Requirements include the completion of at least 48 semester hours (72 quarter hours). Learn more about selecting a master's in counseling program here.
According to the CACREP site, Alabama boasts accredited master's programs in multiple specialties, including mental health counseling and marriage and family counseling. CORE lists five Alabama rehabilitation counseling programs with full accreditation or candidacy status.
The Alabama Board will ask you to document coursework in the following content areas when you apply:
- Human Development
- Counseling Theory
- Helping Relationships
- Social and Multicultural Foundations
- Group Dynamics
- Lifestyle and Career Development
- Research and Evaluation
- Appraisal of Individuals
- Professional Orientation
You will also need to document a practicum of at least 100 hours (through a regionally accredited school) and an internship of at least 600 hours. During the internship, you'll perform the types of duties that an employee would. Your internship must include at least 2 ½ hours per week of supervision, with at least one hour of individual supervision. Direct service requirements include 40 hours for the practicum and 240 for the internship.
Online Counseling Programs in Alabama
As described above, prospective counselors seeking Alabama licensure take the first steps toward certification by completing a CACREP or CORE-accredited program. Pursuing a graduate degree online offers several advantages, including the ability to maintain employment while attending school part-time, around-the-clock remote access to course materials, and the convenience of completing assignments at home. Technological advances make individual and group counseling simulations possible for online students, and real time videoconferencing software applications allow students to engage in live lectures.
The University of Alabama offers a CACREP-accredited online MA in rehabilitation counseling that consists of 60 credits, including two fieldwork courses that students complete at an approved location in their local community. Students enrolled in this program complete didactic coursework entirely online. The University of Alabama also offers a 30-credit online Ed.S. in counselor education that prepares students for school counseling certification. Online colleges throughout the country that participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements accept qualifying Alabama students to their distance education programs. For example, Thomas University, located in Thomasville, Georgia, offers a CORE-accredited online MS degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling. Students can view more information on counseling requirements in Alabama and selecting an online counseling program here.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Alabama?
When you apply for associate status through the state, you will submit an application that addresses your professional fitness, details your education and clinical experience, and describes your counseling philosophy. You will agree to follow the board's ethical standards, and you will sign an affidavit and have it notarized. You will also need to request graduate transcripts and ask three professional references to fill out recommendation forms, submitting them to the board. At least two must come from professional/ clinical experience supervisors.
Visit the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling (ABEC) website to find the ALC and LPC application forms. You will submit your ALC application with a $200 fee. Later you will pay a separate licensing fee.
Establishing Academic Eligibility
If your program holds accreditation from the CACREP or CORE, schools assume that your education meets the highest standards. Generally, if your program does not hold accreditation from the CACREP or CORE, you can document educational equivalency by submitting course syllabi.
Those without syllabi must send three alternative documents meeting one of two criteria: an institutional or a application document. Institutional documents include course catalogs or letters from professors. Application documents include assignments, reading lists, or notarized letters from contemporaries subsequently licensed in Alabama. Both criteria must be met using the three documents.
Out-of-state students who the board judges do not possess equivalent training may practice under provisional licensure while fulfilling additional requirements.
The following table provides an overview of fees associated with ALC and LPC Alabama certification. Not all fees apply, though depending on the type of certification, candidates for Alabama counseling licensure pay some of the fees included below. All candidates pay a $200 application fee upon submission of their application. ALC candidates pay $150 and LPC candidates pay $300 once certification requirements meet approval by the ABEC. Certification renewal fees for LPCs apply every two years while ALCs pay renewal fees annually. Licensed counselors who do not renew their license within the allotted time frame pay a license reactivation fee.
|Application Package Fee (if ordered & mailed)||$25.00|
|Licensed Professional Counselor||$300.00|
|Associate Licensed Counselor||$150.00|
|Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal||$300.00|
|Associate Licensed Counselor Renewal||$150.00|
|Supervising Counselor Approval Processing Fee||$150.00|
|Duplicate or Replacement License||$15.00|
|License Reactivation||$50.00 per year not to exceed $250.00|
|Written License Verification||$25.00|
The Licensing Exam
According to ABEC, you become eligible to take the licensing exam after completing your education; you may, however, need to wait until you complete practice requirements.
As a mental health counselor, you will take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NBCC reports that you must provide an approval letter from ABEC before you can register for the exam. Students submit a registration form (which they receive from the state) and a $275 fee along with a copy of the letter.
After you get your confirmation, you may schedule an exam at any testing site. Alabama harbors testing sites in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Decatur, and Dothan. The state generally offers testing the first two weeks of each month. When you submit the fee, the state allots you six months to schedule your test.
LPC Practice Requirement
Before you can become licensed as a professional counselor, you will need to fulfill a practice requirement. This entails working under supervision. Students must gain supervision approval by filling out a form found on the ABEC website.
Education can reduce the number of experience hours required. If you hold a master's but no additional graduate coursework beyond that, the requirement amounts to 3,000 hours. If you hold 15 semester hours of acceptable graduate-level professional counseling coursework beyond your master's, your practice requirement may only amount to 2,000 hours. Another 15 hours may reduce it to 1,000 hours. The Code of Alabama requires associates to practice under supervision for at least 1,000 hours before being granted status as licensed professional counselors.
Students must complete a minimum number of hours in direct counseling care and in indirect counseling care. While the total hours range from 1,000-3,000, the direct counseling requirement equals three-fourths of the total requirement, leaving indirect counseling at one-fourth.
Supervising counselors typically conduct the supervision element; however, supervision associates may complete the supervision element with the requisite paperwork.
The state requires an annual supervision report showing that over the course of the year students receive 100 hours of supervision, 50 of which must include face-to-face time. This should equal about two hours per week for the year.
Out of State Candidates - LPC Requirements
The Alabama Board notes that candidates licensed in other states may apply for Alabama licensure through endorsement. The same applies to those licensed in Puerto Rico or U.S. territories. The state expects license seekers to demonstrate that the standards in place where they received their license mirror those of Alabama.
If you cannot demonstrate equivalency, you may still hold licensure on the basis of equivalent content. You will need to send an application, curriculum vitae, NCE scores, and a $200 application fee. You must request that your universities send transcripts and that your state board send a verification of your license. Three recommendation forms should go the board (at least two of them from supervisors).
The state will place you in one of three academic equivalency categories based on your license. If you received your license September 1, 2003 or later, you will need to demonstrate that your master's program included at least 48 semester hours of coursework. If you received your license between January of 1980 and August of 2003, 30 semester hours will suffice. If you received your license between 1980 and September 1, 1994, you do not need to demonstrate that your coursework covered the current eleven content areas. You do, however, need to show that it included counseling theory, testing and appraisal, and a practicum or internship experience.
Under Alabama code, you may waive the requirement for NCE testing if you completed an equivalency exam.
License Maintenance and Renewal
As an associate licensed counselor, you must renew your license every year. As a licensed professional counselor, you need to renew your license every two years. In addition to fees, you must submit evidence of continuing education. LPCs must perform 40 formal contact hours every two years. You also need to keep your documentation for three years after the renewal period. In 2012, the board began requiring a mandatory audit of 10% of randomly selected LPCs.
Generally speaking, continuing education activities must be approved by the NBCC or the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. If another state has approved the activity, you will need a statement from the board. You may earn credit for other events if you submit content outlines, presenter qualifications, and clock hours to the board for approval beforehand.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Alabama
- Alabama Association for Play Therapy Promoting mental health through play, AAPT offers continuing education seminars and workshops throughout the year that focus on play therapy and a variety of other mental health topics. Previous workshops included training in child trauma, intervention strategies for military veterans, and integrative play therapy to treat abuse.
- Alabama School of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies In addition its to community advocacy endeavors, ASADS features continuing education workshops for professionals. The organization hosts annual workshops. For example, the 2018 workshop included topics in human trafficking and therapeutic responses to rampant heroin and prescription opioid abuse.
- Advanced Clinical Training Institute Headquartered in Gulf Shores, Alabama, the Advanced Clinical Training Institute provides low-cost online continuing-education credits approved by the NBCC. Its continuing education catalog allows professional counselors to preview course materials at no cost. Online courses vary in length and topics include ethical standards in counseling, substance abuse in older adults, and brief family therapy.
Resources for Counselors
- Alabama Department of Human Resources Founded in 1935 to assist Alabama residents in need of basic resources, this public agency provides information on employment opportunities and state policies, such as child abuse reporting and elder abuse protection.
- Crisis Center Birmingham In addition to providing crisis hotlines for children, teens, and adults, the Crisis Center offers crisis prevention educational programs and scholarship opportunities for crisis center volunteers and students.
- University of Alabama Counseling Center Resources These free online resources assist counseling students and individuals in therapy. Although geared toward University of Alabama students, these resources are accessible to anyone. Topics include information on alcohol and drug abuse, emotional health, and self-help topics.
- School-Counselor.org This website features information on anger management, communication skills, and self-esteem development. In addition to practitioner resources, School-Counselor.org provides an overview of school counselor duties and theories of school counseling.
- GoodTherapy.org This comprehensive website includes information on therapeutic techniques, theories, psychotropic medication, and private practice resources. GoodTherapy.org connects professionals with continuing education opportunities online and across the country.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- Alabama Counseling Association The state branch of the American Counseling Association, ALCA serves more than 2,000 members by providing continuing education opportunities -- including an annual conference hosted by cities throughout the state. ALCA provides links to topics such as accredited online counseling programs, career information, and scholarly publications.
- Alabama School Counselor Association The largest division of ALCA, ALSCA emphasizes professional ethics and positive community relations. Its emerging leaders program facilitates professional growth for recent graduates. ALSCA provides resources on topics such as bully prevention, cyber safety, and grief. ALCA's free online newsletter features articles on issues faced by school counselors, including teen pregnancy, dual enrollment for high school students, and K-12 career development.
- Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors This gatekeeper organization ensures that counselors with knowledge of addictions and interventions receive recognition for their expertise. In addition to two alcohol and drug counselor certification programs, AAAC hosts an annual conference that provides networking and continuing education opportunities. Members of AAAC receive malpractice insurance and access to webinars and the latest addiction and recovery publications.