Counselor Licensing Requirements in the District of Columbia

As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the District of Columbia, you’ll be licensed by the Department of Health, Health Regulation & Licensing Administration. You will need to show that you have the requisite education and experience, have passed a licensing exam, and have an acceptable professional and legal background.

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Counseling License Education Requirements

You must complete a degree at the master's level or higher from a school that is accredited by some agency recognized by the Department of Education ( The program must include coursework in the following:

  • Human growth and development
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Counseling practice and theory
  • Individual appraisal and assessment
  • Emotional disorders and dysfuntional behavior
  • Cultural and social foundations/ multicultural counseling
  • Professional orientation and ethics
  • Program evaluation and research
  • Career and lifestyle development

The program must also include a practicum or internship.

You do not necessarily have to have a separate course in each of the above content areas, but you must be able to demonstrate that your program covered all the requirements.

The program must include at least 60 semester hours of coursework (or the equivalent, if the institution uses quarter or trimester hours). If the degree is in counseling, all semester hours will count toward the semester hour requirement. Some courses outside of the degree program may count; the board will evaluate these individually.

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

The board approves courses in the following counseling-related content areas:

  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Social science
  • Psychiatric nursing
  • Human services
  • Behavioral science
  • Family counseling
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Student counseling/ personnel services
  • Mental health and human services
  • Individual/ family development
  • Creative arts therapy
  • Family and community services

If you choose to take a mental health counseling program within DC, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Programs (CACREP) lists two schools with accredited programs in Washington D.C.. Gallaudet University offers a program that prepares students to be general mental health counselors and also gives specialized training in counseling the hearing impaired. According to the website, it’s the only school in the world with this particular emphasis.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations in: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Antioch is a private, not-for-profit university. (*This program is NOT available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, ND)

Supervised Practice Requirement

As a graduate, you may practice under the supervision of a counselor, independent clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

You will need to complete 3,500 hours of counseling under supervision before you earn your professional license. This is to be completed over a two to five year period. (The time frame may be extended under special circumstances.) You must have at least 200 hours of direct supervision by a supervisor who meets board requirements. Direct supervision includes time spent observing you or consulting with you. A supervisor should be available to you, if needed, during 3,300 hours, though this could be through the use of communicative devices.

The following requirements must be met: You must be supervised one hour for every 35 hours you worked. 100 of the supervision hours must be performed by a supervisor who was licensed in their own municipality or who would have qualified for licensing as a professional counselor according to DC standards. 100 of the hours must have been individual supervision. You will need to earn a satisfactory rating by each of your supervisors.

You may count hours earned after you received a master’s in a counseling-related field, even if you were at the time enrolled in a doctoral or post-master’s specialist program.

If you need assistance finding a supervisor, you may click here to contact the District of Columbia Mental Health Counselors Association.

Counseling Licensure Examination

You’ll be required to take a licensing exam ( Generally, this is the National Counselor Examination which is given by the NBCC. If you already took a licensing that was required by the board of another state, this may be accepted in lieu of the NCE. The board accepts exams administered by the National Academy of Certified Mental Health Counselor and the Commission for Certified Rehabilitation. (The NACMHC is now a specialty under the banner of the NBCC.)

As an NCE candidate, you’ll receive your registration form from the DC board ( You’ll send it to the NCC, accompanied by a testing fee (currently $195). About four weeks later, you’ll get your confirmation from the NBCC and can schedule an examination at either the DC testing site or a testing site in another state. You may schedule your exam by calling 888-519-9901 or visiting Tests are generally scheduled during the first two weeks of the month. The fee will give you a six month window. You should be aware that spots do fill up.

You may email [email protected] if you have questions about the testing process.

The Application Process

You must submit a signed application along with supplemental form and supporting documentation. The application packet will ask you about your educational and work background and your professional fitness; it will ask if you owe the DC government moneys in excess of $100.

You must submit two identical photos that are recent and original (as opposed to photocopied or computer-generated). They should be approximately two inches by two inches, of passport quality, and have your name on the back.

You must include a fee made payable to the DC Treasurer.

You should have your transcripts sent directly to the board, but the board will accept them if they arrive, sealed, with your application.

You must get FBI and state criminal background checks (,a,1194,q,501826.asp). You may choose to do a live scan background check. You may schedule online or by calling (877) 783-4187. There are options if you live outside DC or can’t get to a live scan site. If you prefer to use DC Metropolitan Police Department, you may call 202-442-9004.

If you’ve changed your name, you’ll need to send documentation.

Click Here for the counselor licensure application and additional materials.

You may send applications to the following address: Department of Health, Health Professional Licensing Administration, Board of Professional Counseling, 899 North Capitol St., NE, First Floor, Washington, DC 20002.

You may call 1-877-672-2174 if you have questions during the application process.

Out of State Applicants

You will need to submit verification of all past or current licenses.

If you took a different equivalent exam you will need to send certified results.

Foreign Applicants

If you received your graduate education in another country, you’ll need to demonstrate that your training was substantially equivalent. You may have your education evaluated by a board-approved private evaluation service. Conversely, you can furnish proof that the institution was accredited by an agency recognized by the government of the country where it was located.

If supporting documentation is in a language other than English, you’ll need to have it translated and have the translator sign that it’s accurate.

The board may choose to interview a foreign applicant to determine that training was indeed equivalent.

Counseling License Maintenance

With the exception of your first renewal, you will be required to complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years. Six of the hours must be in ethics and four in trauma counseling. You will need to submit documentation which includes the sponsor’s name and address, program information, dates, hours, and verification of completion. You may get continuing education credit for some activities other than formal coursework – for example, publication in a professional journal.

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 Washington DC.

You may contact the board by calling (202) 724-4900 or (877) 672-2174.

District of Columbia Board of Professional Counseling

DC Mental Health Counselors Association

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