What are the Counselor Licensing Requirements in Arizona?

Counselors are licensed as Licensed Associate Counselors at the early stages of practice and as Licensed Professional Counselors once all requirements are met. Both credentials may be issued by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners to qualified individuals twenty-one and older. Professional counselors, mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors, social workers and marriage and family therapists are also licensed by the Arizona Board of Health Examiners. The process begins with graduate level education.

Below are mandatory requirements for licensure to become a Licensed Professional Counselor in Arizona. Contact the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners at (602)-542-1882 with questions about eligibility as well as related questions.

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Licensed Professional Counselor Education Requirements in AZ

Your program must include sixty semester hours (or 90 quarter or trimester hours). It should be accredited by CACREP or CORE. If it was, you’ll simply note the date that it got its accreditation on your application. If it wasn’t, you’ll need to demonstrate that it included content in 14 required areas:

  • Human growth and development
  • Counseling theories
  • Diagnosis, assessment and planning
  • Appraisal
  • Counseling theories
  • Counseling Ethics
  • Helping Relationships
  • Diversity Issues
  • Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Chemical Dependency
  • Career Development
  • Group Counseling
  • Pre-practicum
  • Practicum

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With the exception of the pre-practicum and practicum experiences, the requirements are one three semester hour course in each topic area. Many of these competency areas are further broken down with sub-competencies. Appraisal, for example, must cover standardized and nonstandardized tests, statistical concepts, reliability, and validity. Human development must cover theories regarding development and life transitions of individuals and families, theories of personality development and learning, and strategies for facilitating optimal development. Career development must include career development theories and career counseling techniques as well as the interrelationship between employment and other roles. Group counseling must include group dynamics, group leadership, and theories of group counseling.

Counseling theory must cover at least five of these seven theories:

  • Behavioral
  • Cognitive Behavioral
  • Psychoanalytic and neopsychoanalytic
  • Rational and emotive
  • Brief solution focused
  • Person centered
  • Adlerian

The pre-practicum requirement is 100 hours, with 40 hours of direct patient care. (Conversely, you can meet this requirement by doing 300 additional hours of practicum or internship beyond what’s required.)

The practicum requirement is 600 clock hours/ six semester hours of credit. You must be supervised by a faculty member and an approved on-site supervisor. If you were licensed before July 1, 1989, you may substitute additional post-master’s supervision for your practicum requirement (http://www.azbbhe.us/statute%202010.pdf).

The required courses together add up to less than 60 semester hours. In addition to the required courses, your program may include additional coursework in a variety of areas including crisis intervention, human sexuality, rehabilitation counseling, and counseling special populations. These classes may be included within the program as electives.

Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here.

Academic Deficiencies

If you’re found to have academic deficiencies, you can take post-master coursework to make up for them.

You may be able to work under a temporary license while awaiting licensure. If you have a criminal history or a history of disciplinary action, board approval will be necessary.


You must pass an exam before you can be licensed. Typically, the exam taken is the NBCC’s National Counselor Examination (http://www.nbcc.org/directory/AZ).

Arizona uses the computer based version of the exam. According to the NBCC’s NCE Arizona supplement, candidates will receive their registration from the Arizona board after they have been authorized to test (http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/AZ.pdf). The form should be sent to the NBCC with the original signature in ink. It should be accompanied by a $195 fee. Processing will take about four weeks from the time your payment clears. At that point, you can schedule an exam. Testing sites are located in Tucson, Mesa, and Glendale. The tests are generally administered the first two weeks of each month.

You may contact the NBCC at (336) 547-0607.

Arizona also accepts the CORE exam; this exam is specific to vocational counselors.

The Application Process

Click Here for the applications you will need from the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners.

The application process will involve several steps. You must submit a fingerprint clearance card or get your fingerprints made. If you need to get your fingerprints, you can request a card from the state by calling 602-542-1882.

You’ll also need to do a self-query from the National Practitioner Data Bank Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank. You’ll receive your query in a sealed envelope which you’ll include with your application. (Don’t do it step too early, as the board must receive it within ninety days of the date it’s processed – and all application materials should be sent together.)

Plan to obtain an official, sealed transcript, a verification of your practicum and pre-practicum, and a sealed copy of your licensing test scores.

You will make a photo of your driver’s license, social security card, or ID and fill out a residency form, documenting that you do indeed have the right to work in Arizona.

You will fill out a behavioral health license form and a supplement which is specific to counseling. The basic application will ask professional fitness questions.

You will need to send a $250 fee with your application. (A separate licensing fee will be required later.)

Applications should be sent to the following address: Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, 3443 North Central Avenue, Suite 1700, Phoenix, AZ 85012.

You may call the board at (602) 542-1864 if you are unable to print the forms. (Be sure to leave your name, address, and tell the type of application you’re requesting.)

Supervised Practice

Before you can be credentialed as Licensed Professional Counselor, you will need to work full-time for two years (or the equivalent as a part-time worker) under supervision. This is typically done in an employee capacity. However, a post-master’s (doctoral level) internship can also count toward fulfilling the requirement. Generally, you can substitute a clinical internship for one year of your work experience requirement.

You may be supervised by an Arizona licensed professional counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or marriage and family therapist. If you were supervised by someone else, you must file a request for exemption with supporting documentation.

You must submit portions four and five of the Counseling Licensure Application Supplement before you can be awarded your professional license.

Out of State Applicants

You are eligible for a reciprocal license if you meet certain basic requirements:

  • You have been licensed as a professional counselor for five years.
  • Your license is active and in good standing.
  • You worked at least 6,000 hours in behavioral health in the qualifying during the five year period before you apply.
  • You met the minimum standards for education, experience, and/ or supervision of that state. (In other words, you can’t have been grandfathered in.)
  • You also need to have passed Arizona’s licensing exam. This test is a common one – administered throughout the country. If you haven’t passed it, however, you’ll need to do so before earning your reciprocal license.

If you have ever held a state license in any profession, you will need to mail a verification form to that municipality before sending in your licensing application.

Working Under a Reciprocal License

During the time that you are working under a reciprocal license, you are restricted from having your own private practice.

You can eventually upgrade to a standard Arizona license. You do this by working at least 1,600 hours over a period of at least a year, with a minimum of 50 hours of clinical supervision. Then you fill out an upgrade application and submit it with the required fee. The application includes verification of work experience and of supervision.

License Renewal

In order to maintain your license, you’ll need to do continuing education: thirty contact hours every two years. This must include three clock hours each of 1) mental health law or behavioral health ethics and 2) cultural competency and diversity. You should maintain documentation of your continuing education for four years (48 months) after your license is renewed.

You will submit a signed application form and a money order, certified check, or cashier’s check. On the form you will attest that you are in compliance with (or exempt from) patient records regulations. You again will fill out a form documenting your citizenship or residency status.

Additional Information

If you are still in High School, hold a High School Diploma/GED, or hold a bachelor's degree, check out suggested steps to take along the path to becoming a counselor in Arizona.

You may contact the board by emailing [email protected] or dialing 602-542-1882.

You may want to become a member of the Arizona Counselors Association to stay current in the field.

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