In order to gain a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) credential from the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health & Human Services Professionals, you’ll need four things: a graduate-level education, passing examination scores, supervised experience, and a satisfactory professional and legal background.
The application process differs for those who are already credentialed as a certified clinical mental health counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and individuals meeting counseling requirements in Massachusetts for the first time.
Counseling Careers in Massachusetts
A counseling career presents many opportunities to change lives. The field is also experiencing rapid growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, counseling is projected to see a 23% job growth rate over the next decade. With a growing elderly population and increased services for veterans and people with disabilities, the national demand for counselors is at an all-time high. Rising school enrollment has fueled a need for school and career counselors. As more states seek treatment for prisoners instead of prolonged incarceration, substance abuse and mental health counselors are also in high demand. Below are only a few career paths you may be interested in.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Education, guidance, and school counselors help students develop social and academic skills. Vocational counselors work primarily with adults and older students, assisting in job searches, career planning, and skill development.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: Serving families and partners, marriage and family therapists encourage clients to discuss emotions, process life changes, and develop positive coping methods for addressing interpersonal conflicts.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help people with mental, developmental, physical, or emotional disabilities live independently. These counselors also provide clients with disability management resources and services.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: These counselors specialize in treating clients with addictions, behavioral disorders, and mental illness. Working for private facilities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies, they provide individual or group therapy and develop client treatment plans.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors find employment in a wide variety of settings, work with diverse client bases, and specialize in many different areas. Some choose to concentrate on addictions and substance abuse, while others are experts on parenting, stress management, or aging.
|Occupation||Average Salary in Massachusetts|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$66,640|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$46,310|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
Professionals in fields closely related to counseling are eligible to obtain state licensure. The American Art Therapy Association reports that art therapists are included in Massachusetts counselor licensing laws and can be licensed as professional counselors. According to the Massachusetts Board, individuals who hold degrees in creative arts therapy, rehabilitation counseling, and educational developmental psychology qualify for licensure. Rehabilitation counselors have a separate exam and licensing process.
Education Requirements for Counselors
If you are just beginning your career, you must complete at least 60 semester hours of coursework in counseling and related fields. While some of these hours may be completed outside of a master's program, your master's program should have included at least 48 semester hours of coursework. If you have previously completed a program comprised of less than 48 hours, you may complete an advanced certificate or a doctoral program in lieu of a second master's.
You must meet specific coursework requirements in order to be licensed by examination in Massachusetts. Coursework requirements include three semester hours, or four quarter hours, in each of the following areas:
- Human Growth and Development
- Counseling Theory
- Social Cultural Foundations
- Helping Relationships
- Special Treatment Issues
- Group Work
- Research and Evaluation
- Professional Orientation
Prospective Massachusetts counselors must also complete both a practicum and an internship.
- Practicum: Prior to earning your master's degree, you should have at least 100 hours of supervised practicum experience. This should include at least 40 hours of either face-to-face direct client work or peer roleplaying and laboratory work. You must also complete at least 25 supervised hours over half a term, at minimum. Ten of these should consist of individual supervision, and five must involve group supervision in a cohort of ten students or fewer.
- Internship: A pre-master’s internship should consist of 600 hours, with at least 240 involving direct client contact. An internship must include at least 45 hours of supervision, and at least 15 hours should be individual and at least 15 should be as part of a group.
You may meet any remaining credit hour requirements through electives. These may include additional courses in special treatment issues or counseling-related studies, such as community mental health, special populations, or treatment modalities. If your master's curriculum required between 48 and 60 semester hours, you must complete additional counseling-related coursework. Certified clinical mental health counselors are considered to have met all educational requirements.
While the board does not have the resources to review applications prior to submission, the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MaMHCA) offers one-on-one application assistance. You may already have your credentials, but MaMHCA can review your credentials before you apply for licensure; a review does not guarantee acceptance.
Online Counseling Programs in Massachusetts
Once you’ve learned how to become a licensed counselor in Massachusetts, it’s time to select an educational path. Distance learners may choose from several online counseling programs available in Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts offers online master’s programs in both school counseling or mental health counseling. Bridgewater State University also offers an online master’s degree in school counseling that allows candidates to earn a degree and Massachusetts counseling licensure simultaneously. However, as counselor requirements vary by state, distance learners should verify counseling license requirements for the state in which they plan to practice.
There are numerous benefits to earning an online degree in counseling. Online counseling programs let distance learners study anytime, from anywhere, providing a flexible schedule. Many programs are specifically intended for working adults and allow students to balance school with work and family obligations.
Online degrees are also economical, and online students avoid many of the costs associated with campus living, including transportation and parking fees. Some schools charge the same tuition for in-state and out-of-state distance learners. An online counseling program may also help degree candidates meet counseling requirements in Massachusetts. Many institutions assist with supervised field placement, a requirement to become a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) in Massachusetts.
How Do You Become a Counselor in Massachusetts?
All candidates must provide certain supporting documents for the application review. Find more information here.
- Have your two most recent supervisors fill out professional reference forms.
- Include sealed graduate transcripts.
- Acquire verification of your pre- and post-master’s supervision.
- You’ll need an National Clinical Mental Health Counseling exam score report.
- Make sure you have a passport-quality photo to attach to your application.
- You must get your affidavit notarized.
- Include the $117 nonrefundable fee.
If you have a criminal history or have received professional disciplinary action, you should attach an explanation. Minor traffic violations with fines under $200 are exempt. Materials should be sent to the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals.
The process for obtaining Massachusetts counseling licensure involves paying a non-refundable fee. However, applicants seeking an initial license do not need to pay all of the fees listed below.
When applying for Massachusetts counseling licensure, candidates must pay a $117 fee at the end of the application process. The state charges an online return fee for canceled payments. Applicants must also pay a renewal fee every two years on Dec. 31 of every odd-number year to keep their Massachusetts counseling licensure current.
|Application Fee for Marriage and Family Therapist, Mental Health Counselor, or Rehabilitation Counselor||$117|
|Renewal License Fee for Marriage and Family Therapist, Mental Health Counselor, or Rehabilitation Counselor (Every 2 years)||$155|
|Wall Certificate License||$27|
|Duplicate or Replacement License||$17|
|Certified Statement of Registration||$15|
|Late Renewal Fee||$57|
|Online Payment Return Fee||$23|
The Licensing Exam
All candidates must take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam through the NBCC. The application may be downloaded directly from the NBCC site. After signing it, send the original, along with sealed transcripts and a $185 fee, to the NBCC.
Typically, it takes about four weeks to receive approval from the NBCC, after which you are given a six-month window to schedule your exam. While exams are usually scheduled on weekdays during the first two weeks of the month, some testing sites keep Saturday hours.
In Massachusetts, you may schedule an exam at the Boston, Framingham, or Holyoke sites. If you prefer, you can also take the exam at a testing center in another state. To schedule an exam, call AMP or visit their website. You may contact the NBCC with further questions at email@example.com.
Exam scores are valid for five years. They are valid longer if you are currently licensed elsewhere.
The Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association offers review sessions for the licensing exam, and further information on how to become a therapist in Massachusetts. Click here to find out when sessions take place.
Supervised Practice Requirement
Prospective counselors must complete at least two years of supervised practice, or at least 3,360 total hours, including 960 hours of client-based practice. Up to 25 of the face-to-face client hours may be earned through group counseling situations.
Supervisors must be staff members who have fulfilled Board requirements or formally contracted outside supervisors. You should be supervised one hour for every 16 hours of face-to-face client work. Out of a total of 130 supervised hours, at least 75 of them must be individual. You may begin accruing hours after fulfilling the 60-semester hour requirement.
If you meet your experience requirements while working part-time, you must do so within a six year time frame. Half of your experience should be direct client contact. You must complete 50 hours of supervision under a licensed mental health counselor before obtaining licensure. This requirement may be met through either pre- or post-master’s supervised experience.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
If you have ever held counseling credentials outside of Massachusetts, you must provide official license verification from any state in which you have been licensed. If you are already credentialed as a certified clinical mental health counselor, including verification can further simplify the application process.
License Maintenance and Renewal
You must renew your license every two years, and unless you’re renewing for the first time, you must provide evidence of having completed 30 hours of continuing education. Continuing education should meet the standards of the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association.
Applicants who Completed Degrees before July 1, 1998
If you completed your degree before July 1, 1998, you need at least 48 semester hours of coursework. You are not subject to all the above coursework requirements. You must; however, document coursework in the following areas:
- Theory, Practice, and Techniques of Counseling
- Human Psychology, Development, Behavior and Learning, and Personality
In addition to the above requirements, you must have completed coursework in six of the following areas:
- Populations and Cultures/Social and Cultural Foundations
- Group Dynamics and Development
- Professional Orientation, Ethics, and Legalities
- Research and Evaluation
- Addiction Disorders
- Marriage and Family/Human Sexuality and Lifestyle
- Psychotherapy Treatments, Techniques, and Modalities
- Career and Lifestyle Choices/School Counseling
- Appraisal/Assessment/crisis Intervention
- Psychopharmacology for Non-medical Professionals
You will still need a 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MaMHCA) Continuing Education: Designated by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions, MaMHCA provides continuing education activities for licensed mental health counselors in Massachusetts. The MaMHCA also creates guidelines for licensed mental health counselors and continuing education providers. Candidates can complete continuing education courses at home, during the annual conference, and at workshops.
- Massachusetts Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: MAMFT offers numerous resources for individuals wondering how to become a therapist in Massachusetts. MAMFT also provides licensed therapists with opportunities to earn continuing education credits and meet the 30-hour training requirement for license renewal. Courses cover various topics, including working with multicultural clients.
- Bridgewell Center for Professional Innovation: The center offers continuing education workshops for licensed social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, drug and alcohol counselors, national certified counselors, and psychologists. The center is approved by the Massachusetts Collaborative of the National Association of Social Workers, the Board of Substance Abuse Counselors, and the Marriage and Family Therapy Continuing Education Board.
Resources for Counselors
- Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH): As the state mental health authority, the DMH provides needy individuals with access to mental health and supplemental services. The DMH operates more than 30 offices and facilities across the state.
- Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals: This state agency provides mental health professionals who meet counseling requirements in Massachusetts with licensure. The board also administers and enforces licensing regulations and contracts with exam vendors.
- Statewide Advocacy for Veterans' Empowerment: SAVE works to prevent suicide and mental health distress by identifying issues facing veterans. The group serves as a liaison between veterans, families, and government agencies.
- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, School Counseling Page: Part of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, this webpage provides school counselors with vital information, including an overview of the Massachusetts Model for School Counseling.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts: NAMI-Massachusetts is a state resource for individuals and families facing challenges related to mental illness. The Alliance provides free grassroots advocacy, mental health family-based education, and family and peer support.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- Association for Behavioral Healthcare: Massachusetts’ leading mental health and addiction services advocate for more than 30 years, ABH represents over 80 provider organizations. ABH offers two types of membership: organizational and associate. Individuals may join as associate members to receive professional opportunities.
- Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association: This statewide association provides mental health counseling students, educators, and other professionals with information and resources. Serving more than 2,300 members, the association also advocates for the advancement of mental health services. Membership benefits include continuing education programs, supervisor training and certification, and scholarship opportunities.
- American Counseling Association: With 56 chartered branches around the globe, ACA is the world’s largest professional organization for counselors of all kinds. Members gain the opportunity to attend an annual conference, enroll online continuing education courses, and explore job listings.