Counseling Licensing Requirements in Arkansas
The Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling issues generalist licenses for counselors at two levels, licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed associate counselor (LAC). LAC is intended to be a temporary license while you work on experience requirements for the LPC.
The board also issues specialty licenses for counselors with advanced competencies in specialized branches of counseling and therapy.
Counseling Careers in Arkansas
Counseling is a growing, diverse field that offers an array of possibilities. Increased attention and support for mental health means professional opportunities abound. Earning Arkansas clinical licensure prepares you to work with people of all ages and in a variety of settings, including in a rehabilitation center, school, or clinical setting. Regardless of the location or age group, completing your counseling requirements in Arkansas means you can make a difference in the lives of others.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: These professionals prepare students for college, their career, and life. They monitor students’ academic development and help them select classes that align with their goals.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: In this role, counselors help couples and families to cope with challenges like divorce. They help individuals develop mechanisms to examine their feelings in order to be emotionally empowered.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: This field provides individuals the physical, development, mental, and emotional support they need to lead a healthy life. These counselors may support people through one-on-one and/or group sessions, as well as help them identify necessary life resources.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These practitioners help individuals with addictions, behavioral issues, and mental health challenges. They design appropriate plans of treatment to help both clients and their family on their road to recovery.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors come in all shapes and sizes, and the position can fit just about any field or interest you have. This could include becoming a credit, finance, or personal branding counselor, or opening your own private practice.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Arkansas|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$53,340|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$47,290|
|Counselors, All Other||$39,240|
Education Requirements for Counselors in Arkansas
The board accepts accreditation from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the Council on Rehabilitation Education, and the U.S. Department of Education. Some of these accreditations are school level; there are also standards that must be met at the program level. The board notes that these standards are set by professional organizations. Students need a total of 60 semester hours.
Specific coursework requirements include the following:
- Professional Identity
- Social and Cultural Diversity
- Career Development
- Human Growth and Development
- Helping Relations and Theories
- Group Work
- Research and Program Evaluation
- Abnormal Psychology/ DSM and ICD/ Psychopathology
- Family and Relationships
The requirement for each of the above is three semester hours or the equivalent.
You must also have at least nine semester hour of practicum and/or internship experience. Distance learning is accepted as long as it meets the same standards. The application currently asks applicants to note whether specific courses were online or traditional. The Arkansas board expects grades of B or above.
Online Counseling Programs in Arkansas
Earning your Arkansas counseling licensure opens an array of career options, especially given the state’s steady growth in residents. The number of people who live in the state increased 3% between 2010 and 2017, which no doubt means a necessary increase in counseling services too.
The state offers several online programs that prepare you for your counseling career. For example, the University of Central Arkansas offers a bachelor’s degree in addiction studies and a master’s degree in school counseling. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock also offers an online undergraduate psychology degree. Online degrees offer numerous benefits. You'll save money because you avoid paying room and board expenses, and courses are often delivered asynchronously, which means you can login according to the time and place that best fits with your schedule. You, your classmates, and your professors also interact virtually through discussions, which provides an opportunity to exchange ideas and build knowledge with others despite the distance between you.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Arkansas?
Before applying for licensure, you will need to pass a criminal background check, demonstrate that you are a U.S. citizen or that you have a Green Card, and submit academic transcripts. You will also need to submit three references, and two of them should be from mental health professionals. You can use letters that are on file with placement offices or other boards as long as they're not more than five years old.
Another part of your application is your statement of intent. This is your scope of practice.
Fees should be made out to the Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling. Applications are normally held on file for only twelve months. You may; however, request an extension.
Your expenses for your Arkansas clinical licensure depend on the kind of counseling you intend to practice. The state requires you to pay original licensure fees in addition to any expense necessary to renew your license. The Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy offers details on how to acquire your counseling license in the state. A license ensures individuals possess the necessary knowledge and skill that their positions require.
|Application Package Fee (if ordered & mailed)||$200|
|Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal||$300|
|Associate Licensed Counselor Renewal||$250|
|Supervising Counselor Approval Processing Fee||$50|
The Licensing Exam
You will need to pass both written and oral examinations. A situational exam may be required as well. The written exam for LAC is the National Counselor Examination (NCE), which is contracted through the National Board for Certified Counselors. The Arkansas board also contracts with the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) for the administration of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). You may take the NCMHCE once you’ve completed the second phase of your supervision requirement.
You will need to get authorization from the Arkansas board before you can apply to the NBCC to take either exam.
You may be authorized to take the NCE exam as early as your final semester of graduate studies. You will need to get a letter from a university official that includes your projected graduation date.
Otherwise, you will get your registration form from the Arkansas board after your degree has been conferred. You will fill out the form, sign it in ink, and send it to the NBCC with a $195 fee. It will take about a month for you to be approved to take the exam. Once you have it in hand, you’ll schedule it at your choice of locations. You may take the exam in Fayetteville or Little Rock; or you may opt instead for a testing center in another state. You’ll need to visit the Applied Measurement Professional site (www.goAMP.com) or call 888-519-9901 to schedule an appointment. Tests are generally administered for two full weeks each month.
The Arkansas board will schedule you for an oral exam after receiving your NCE scores, final transcripts, and other required materials. The board may question you about your credentials, statement of intent, and knowledge of the profession. If you have previously completed an oral exam with the Arkansas board for a different license, you may not be required to do so again.
If you do not perform satisfactorily on the oral exam, or the board has unresolved questions, they may ask you to complete a situational exam. This could take the form of a live demonstration or CD, DVD, or other technology-assisted demonstration. The board reserves the right to request other documentation in the event of unresolved questions.
LPC Supervised Practice Requirements
If you have education at the master's level, you will work under supervision for three years. An additional 30 semester hours of graduate work can reduce your experience mandate to two years. A total of 60 semester hours of counseling coursework beyond the master's level can reduce it to one year.
Another option for reducing the supervision requirement is taking and passing the NCMHCE. One year of supervised work experience is the minimum for any candidate, regardless of experience.
The board considers 1,000 client contact hours to be a year and divides the total time into phases accordingly. Supervision requirements will depend on your current phase. The amount of supervision you will require depends on what phase you are in. You will automatically begin in phase I, whatever your educational level. Credit by examination is not an option until after you’ve finished phase II.
Your clinical supervisor must be board-approved. The board considers it to be a potential conflict of interest if your clinical supervisor is in a position to dismiss you from employment.
You will need to have a supervision plan in place before seeing clients. You will also need to notify the board of proposed changes in supervision. Supervision reports should be filed every six months.
Normally the standard 3,000 hours of supervision takes place over three years, but this can be extended. You are expected to complete all supervised practice requirements within six years. If there are extenuating circumstances that prevent you from doing so, you will need to document these to the board. It will be at the board's discretion whether you can have an extension.
Out of State Candidates - LPC Requirements
As an out-of-state applicant, you will be expected to meet substantially similar requirements.
If you are coming from a state that required only 2,000 hours of post-degree supervised practice and you are unable to document an additional 1,000 hours, you will be expected to work as an LAC for a short period of time. If you are licensed in good standing in another state and have had continual licensure for seven years, you can substitute the NCMHCE for 500 hours of your supervised experience. If you have completed post-masters internships or practicums (beyond what is required for licensure), three semester hours will take the place of 100 client contact hours.
If your state required a different licensing exam, it may be accepted for licensing purposes, if it is determined to be equivalent.
You will need to submit license verification from each state where you have held mental health licensure. If you have current sanctions with another board, they will need to be resolved before you can be licensed in Arkansas.
If your degree was earned in another country, you must have your credentialed reviewed by an evaluation agency. You will also need to have application materials translated into English.
License Maintenance and Renewal
As a licensed professional counselor, you must renew your license every two years. During this time, you must complete 24 clock hours of continuing education: 22 of the hours must support your statement of intent, and two must be in ethics. Passing scores on an examination may take the place of continuing education units. Ten percent of renewals will be audited by the board.
You must also file a new statement of intent with the board each renewal period.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Arkansas
- AtHealth.com: This provider of online educational programs supports the ongoing learning of mental health professionals so they remain up-to-date on contemporary research, knowledge, and best practices in their field. Classes explore topics such as ethics, risk management, suicide assessment, and cultural competence. Arkansas mental health professionals can earn 19 continuing education credits through this online provider.
- NetCE: Arkansas counselors may earn continuing education credits through independent home study classes. These courses explore subjects like suicide prevention and ethics. Arkansas permits all 24 required continuing education credits to be earned through independent study.
- American Mental Health Counselors Association: This membership organization helps professionals meet their continuing education requirements through home studies per the approval of the NBCC. Topics of study explore mental health issues and ethics. Association members receive a discount on their studies, which are intended to help them stay abreast of the latest research and best practices.
As an LPC or LAC, you may be granted a specialist license. These licenses are based on credentialing by a national or state agency, plus board approval and fee payment. Oral examinations may be required in some instances. There are a wide variety of specialties.
- The Arkansas board accepts any specialist certification granted by the NBCC.
- The Arkansas board issues supervision specialist licenses. You will need three years' worth of work experience, plus relevant coursework and supervised experience. You will need to file additional paperwork with the board.
- The technology-assisted distance counseling specialization requires relevant training. You will need a written plan for meeting the 2005 American Counseling Association Code of Ethics provisions regarding distance counseling. Distance counseling should be included within your statement of intent.
- You may be granted a pastoral counseling specialization if you are credentialed by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors or the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. (You may be credentialed at one of several levels.)
- You may earn an appraisal specialization by meeting the standards of the school psychology specialization of either the Arkansas State Department of Education or the National Association of School Psychologists. You can also meet the requirement by passing the Praxis II School Psychologist Examination.
Other specialties, and applicable credentialing agencies, are as follows:
- Rehabilitation Counseling (credentialing through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification)
- Dance Therapy (credentialing through the American Dance Therapy Association)
- Play Therapy (credentialing through the Association for Play Therapy)
- Hypnotherapy (credentialing through the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists)
- Mediation (credentialing through Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution)
- Recreational Therapeutic Counseling (credentialing through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification)
- Applied Behavioral Analysis (credentialing through National Applied Behavioral Analysis)
- Drug and Alcohol (credentialing through the Arkansas Substance Abuse Certification Board)
The Arkansas board will continue to review specialization requests.
Resources for Counselors
- Arkansas Board of Examiners in Counseling and Marriage & Family Therapy: This commission sets licensure rules and regulations in the state. Professionals should visit its website to understand requirements to receive and renew their license, as well the associated fees.
- National Board of Certified Counselors: This nonprofit provides information on ethics to ensure counselors demonstrate behavior that aligns with minimum conduct standards. It makes its code of ethics available online.
- Arkansas Department of Education: This state department offers an array of resources for professional school counselors. These include online videos about the school counselor program, reference materials, and a listing of conferences and training available online.
- CollegeBoard for Counselors: This resource provides school counselors with online institutes, recognition programs, and various professional learning opportunities. In addition, it features answers to frequently asked questions and downloadable handouts.
- The National Council on Rehabilitation Education: Job seekers will find this organization’s job board particularly helpful if they are looking for opportunities in rehabilitation education. It lists career openings with employers located around the world.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- Arkansas Mental Health Counselors Association: This membership organization is committed to the education of all mental health professionals, as well as to the mental well-being of the state’s residents. It ensures members remain aware of legislative policies, enjoy opportunities to earn continuing education credits, and receive exposure to networking opportunities. This is a state chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association.
- Arkansas Counseling Association: This association not only supports its members’ ongoing training and development, but also encourages the public’s trust in the profession. It promotes ethical practice, caring for self and others, and acquisition and application of knowledge. Members enjoy professional development opportunities through conferences and free online offerings, as well as discounts to various events like seminars and workshops.
- Arkansas School Counselor Association: This membership association supports school counselors’ efforts to prepare students for future academic and professional pursuits as they evolve into productive citizens. It empowers its members with the knowledge and resources they need to help students succeed in school, their community, and the world. It provides professional development and access to timely, relevant information about the field.