Counseling Licensing Requirements in Alaska
Becoming a licensed professional counselor in Alaska requires a special license that is earned through the Alaska Board of Professional Counselors. Alaska licenses mental health professionals as counselors based on education, test scores, and professional fitness. The process for becoming a licensed counselor in Alaska differs depending on whether you are completing your education and getting your initial license within the state or coming from another municipality.
This guide can help direct professionals along the path toward obtaining a counseling license in Alaska. Any questions regarding eligibility or related topics should be directed to the Alaska Board of Professional Counselors.
Counseling Careers in Alaska
Counselors work one-on-one with patients or small research groups to address healthcare and therapeutic needs that benefit the local community. You can work in mental health as a clinical therapist or stand at the forefront of drug abuse management as a substance abuse counselor. You could also help families to maintain open discourse in marital or family therapy or support children and young adults as a guidance or vocational counselor. The following list details just a few of the many career opportunities available to a certified counselor in Alaska.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: As a guidance and vocational counselor, you will work with students to help them identify future career interests. These professionals conduct interviews and aptitude tests with young adults to identify performance strategies for success.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: These therapists help couples and families identify and express the tensions that hurt their relationships. As a marriage and family therapist, you guide clients through shared trauma or important decisions and connect them to special resources to improve relational dynamics.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors assist patients to increase their quality of life and independence. They work with clients dealing with temporary issues or lifelong needs by evaluating abilities, developing treatment plans, and locating resources to maintain the client's independence and agency.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: As a substance abuse therapist, you work one-on-one with patients to establish recovery plans, teach families and friends how to positively support patients in recovery, or work with recovery groups to facilitate community support systems. As a behavioral mental health counselor, you can help patients identify toxic situations or environments exacerbating emotional turmoil and guide them toward the path of recovery.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors work with young children in schools or adults in civic and social organizations to increase communication skills and articulate emotions. Outpatient care centers and family services benefit from the input of licensed professionals by providing context and insight into complex interpersonal situations.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Alaska|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$69,820|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$62,030|
|Counselors, All Other||$55,970|
Education Requirements for Counselors in Alaska
Alaska statutes specify that you must hold a graduate level education. One option includes a master's degree in counseling or a related field from a regionally or nationally accredited school. Coursework must include at least 60 units of counseling, but courses count toward this requirement whether taken as part of the master's program or afterward. Professionals with a master's degree in a counseling-related field, but whose education does not meet Alaska counseling licensure standards, can enroll in a post-master's certificate program. The University of Alaska-Anchorage does not list certain courses because the program supplements the education that a candidate already possesses. Your academic adviser at UAA will put together an individual plan based on licensing requirements in Alaska.
Another option for professionals includes obtaining a doctorate degree in a counseling-related field from an institution that holds national or regional accreditation. Regional accrediting agencies include the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
If your program received accreditations from CACREP or one of the approved six regional accrediting, you do not need to document specific content requirements. If your program held accreditation from a different body, you will need to submit a form that lists the courses showing competency areas. You should also provide relevant data, such as course dates and credit awarded, in this situation. The Alaska board has defined ten areas of competency, and you must complete coursework in at least eight of them. Competency areas include helping relationships, group dynamics, social and cultural foundations, and lifestyle and career development.
If you do not complete 60 units of acceptable coursework, you can take additional courses through an online school or on campus.
Therapists Trained in Related Fields
Alaska's broadly defined education standards make it possible for some therapists trained in related fields to obtain licensure as professional counselors. The American Art Therapy Association notes that Alaska's art therapists may receive licensing if they meet licensing standards, and that most art therapy programs work toward aligning themselves with professional counseling standards.
Online Counseling Programs in Alaska
Given Alaska's often extreme weather conditions, many state university programs offer online educational opportunities. For example, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in social science with a focus in psychology at the University of Alaska Southeast. You may also continue your education with an online master's degree in counseling at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, where participants receive training in both educational systems and community involvement. With your master's degree, you can transition directly into the university's postgraduate counseling certification program to prepare for state licensure. Continue your education even further with specialized occupational endorsements from the University of Alaska Anchorage, such as endorsement in children's behavioral health.
Online and hybrid programs offer flexibility to students of counseling while simultaneously providing up-to-date resources. Online asynchronous programs allow you to enroll in classes, access course materials, and submit assignments and exams at your own pace. Similarly, hybrid programs combine the benefits of online learning with periodic synchronized online classes, lectures, meetings, and workshops to foster a cohort community and general group engagement. When searching for programs, consider which of the various educational formats available best fit your needs.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Alaska?
You may apply to the board after completing all requirements, with the exception of testing and supervised practice. The application will ask you to list professional positions held during the previous five years. It will also ask professional fitness questions. You will also submit certified transcripts, a $50 application fee, and a criminal records check. The application must be notarized. You can get the criminal justice information from the Department of Public Safety. All materials should be received by the board 90 days before the date that you plan to test.
You must submit professional recommendations from two counseling professionals. References should fill out the included forms within the application packet and submit them directly to the board.
Alaska requires that all counselors pass a licensing exam administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) prior to applying for state licensure. The cost of this exam varies by year. After passing the exam, you will need to submit an application to the state for licensure, which takes approximately four to six weeks to process and costs $200. Once your application passes, license activation costs an additional $500 and must be renewed biennially. For a complete breakdown of these costs, check out this PDF provided by the Alaska Department of Commerce. Depending on the specific type of counseling you wish to pursue, other fees for licensing and registration may be required.
|Licensed Professional Counselor||$500|
|Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal||$250-$500|
|Supervising Counselor Approval Processing Fee||Varies|
|Duplicate or Replacement License||$200-$500|
|Written License Verification||$20|
Source: Alaska Department of Commerce
The Licensing Exam
Alaska requires professionals to pass the computer-based version of the National Counselor Examination (NCE), given by NBCC. According to Applied Measurement Professionals, the exam is administered in Anchorage in the Carrs Center. Questions may be addressed to Alaska's Licensing Examiner.
LPC Supervised Practice Requirements
You must practice 3,000 hours under supervision by a psychiatrist, psychologist, family therapist, mental health nurse practitioner, psychological associate, social worker, or counselor. The supervising professional may hold their license/certification in a state other than Alaska. However, it will need to be someone with at least five years counseling experience who has completed the certification process to become a supervisor within the state.
The supervised practice must take place over at least a two year period, with a minimum 1,000 hours of direct counseling practice. In most cases, the experience must include 100 hours of face-to-face supervision; 50 of them should be individual hours. If the counseling takes place in a very remote location; however, the board may allow supervision by electronic means or by telephone. A written request must be submitted beforehand, and good cause must be provided (i.e. no appropriate supervisor within a reasonable distance).
Your supervisor must fill out a notarized form before a license is granted. The form will request the number of counseling and supervision hours obtained and ask questions about your character and professional competency.
Out of State Candidates - LPC Requirements
If you hold a counseling license in another jurisdiction, you may still obtain Alaska counseling licensure. The process you go through depends on the difference between your jurisdiction's standards and that of Alaska. If they are similar, you may apply for licensure by endorsement.
You may not need to take the NCE if you have previously taken another licensing exam equivalency. You should mail passing scores directly to the board.
You must include a license verification form completed by every state where you held a license. The form will ask about each license status if granted by endorsement or through reciprocity. This form also asks about disciplinary actions, and some states may require you to pay a fee for verification.
As an out-of-state applicant, you also need to provide criminal justice information from your state of residence.
If you are a foreign applicant, you must show that your program included content in eight out of 10 content areas. In addition, you must demonstrate English language competency.
License Maintenance and Renewal
Licenses expire on October 31 of all odd numbered years. Renewal generally involves meeting 40 contact hours of continuing education; for your first renewal, your requirement may be less. With licenses between one year and 18 months old, you must document at least 30 contact hours and 20 hours for licenses issued less than one year ago.
The board will audit some candidates. If selected for audit, you must submit verification within 30 days of the time that you received the notification. Always retain records of your continuing education for three years.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Alaska
- NetCE Continuing Education: Certified by the NBCC and by the Association of Social Work Boards, NetCE offers courses certified by the Approved Continuing Education board for professional counselors. Courses provided include specializations in behavioral addictions, borderline personality disorders, and mindful clinical practice. Additionally, NetCE provides ethics courses required for license renewal.
- Occupational Endorsement Certificates: Continuing education opportunities online for counselors in Alaska include occupational endorsement certification from various universities. The University of Alaska-Anchorage provides a 12-credit certification in children's behavioral health, in which students learn about social skill development, effects of trauma, and behavioral supports available for children and young adults.
- Alaska Department of Health Training and Conferences: Professionals can participate in an intensive training workshop, conference, or presentation series for credit through the Alaska Department of Health. You can receive credit while networking with potential employers and colleagues and sharing your research with other interested professionals.
Resources for Counselors
- Division of Behavioral Health, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services: This resource connects professionals and students of behavioral health all over the state, providing links to conferences, workshops, ongoing educational opportunities, and current events in the field.
- AAMFT Minority Fellowships Program: Provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, this resource expands access to mental health facilities and treatment in minority communities. This group offers fellowships, training opportunities, and networking possibilities.
- GCI Suicide Prevention Grant, Anchorage Community Foundation: Suicide has become a serious problem in Alaska. Administered by the ACF, this granting body specifically addresses suicide prevention by supporting individuals and group organizations devoted to this key public health issue.
- Arctic Slope Community Foundation: Dedicated to bringing communities of the Arctic Slope together, this foundation helps fund outreach programs in the arts, education, and healthcare services.
- Behavioral Health Aide, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium: Focused on bettering healthcare for Alaska natives, this consortium brings together village-based professionals and young colleagues to administer and maintain certification levels in tribal health.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, Inc: This group helps connect mental health professionals locally, offering access to child and adult services and employment listings in the Anchorage and Fairbanks areas.
- Alaska School Counselor Association: This networking community brings school counselors together from all over the state. Discussion forums and regional groups offer safe spaces to communicate professional issues or quandaries, fostering group awareness of current issues. Additionally, this association meets once each year for a statewide conference, giving members a chance to present current research and local trends to interested colleagues.
- Prevent Connect: Oriented around community outreach and awareness, Prevent Connect promotes awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. Open dialogue about serious local issues effectively increases community awareness and empowers victims to share their stories. The yearly Prevent Connect web conference educates counselors nationwide on current issues regarding family health.