What are the Professional Counselor License Requirements in Massachusetts?

Are you interested in becoming a counselor in Massachusetts? In order to be credentialed as a Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health & Human Services Professionals, you’ll need four things: graduate level education, passing examination scores, supervised experience, and a satisfactory professional and legal background.

The application process will differ a bit depending on whether you're already credentialed as a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or whether you're meeting counseling requirements for the first time in Massachusetts.

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What are the Education Requirements for Counselors in Massachusetts?

If you are just beginning your career, you will need at least 60 semester hours of coursework in counseling and related fields. However, the coursework does not all have to completed as part of your master's program. Generally, you are expected to have a master's that includes at least 48 semester hours of coursework. If you completed a master's in the past that included fewer than 48 hours, you may complete an advanced certificate or a doctoral program in lieu of a second master's.

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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
  • Psychopathology (identification, diagnosis, and treatment planning)
  • Social cultural foundations
  • Helping relationships
  • Special treatment issues
  • Group work
  • Research and evaluation
  • Appraisal
  • Professional orientation

If you want to practice as a counselor in the state of Massachusetts, you will also need to complete both a practicum and an internship.

  • Practicum: You should have at least 100 hours of supervised practicum experience prior to conferral of your master's degree. This should include at least 40 hours of either face-to-face direct client work or peer role plays and laboratory work. You will need at least 25 hours of supervision, completed over a minimum of half a term. This must include at least ten hours of individual supervision and at least five hours of group supervision (in a group of no more than ten students).

  • Internship: You must have 600 hours of pre-master’s internship with at least 240 hours of direct client contact. During this time, you will have at least 45 hours of supervision (at least 15 individual and at least 15 as part of a group).
You may meet the remaining credit hour requirements through electives. These may include additional courses in special treatment issues or other counseling related studies, for example, community mental health, special populations, treatment modalities, or outreach and prevention.

If you completed a master's that was between 48 and 60 semester hours, you will need to complete additional counseling-related coursework.

The board does not have the resources to review applications prior to submission or payment of application fees, but notes that the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MaMHCA) offers one-on-one assistance. You may have your credentials reviewed by MaMHCA before applying for licensure. MaMHCA does offer the following disclaimer: Their review does not guarantee acceptance by the board. You may reach MaMHCA at 508 698-0010. If you are certified as a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, you are considered to have met the educational requirements.

Applicants who Completed Degrees before July 1, 1998

If you completed your degree before July 1 of 1998, you need at least 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
  • Psychopathology (including etiology, dynamics, and treatment)
  • 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.

Testing Requirements

You must take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam through the NBCC. You may download the application directly from the NBCC site. Sign it in ink and send the original to the NBCC along with sealed transcripts and a $185 fee. Materials should be mailed to NBCC Assessment Dept. , PO Box 7407, Greensboro, NC 27417-0407.

It will take about four weeks for you to receive your approval from the NBCC. You will have a six month window in which to schedule your exam. Exams are usually scheduled on weekdays during the first two full weeks of the month; some sites also have Saturday hours.

You may schedule in Massachusetts at the Boston, Framingham, or Holyoke sites. You can, if you prefer, schedule at a testing center in another state. You can arrange your exam by calling AMP at 888-519-9901 or visiting www.goAMP.com. You may address questions to the NBCC by emailing [email protected]

If you've already taken the exam, your scores are valid for five years . They are valid longer if you are currently licensed elsewhere (http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/docs/dpl/boards/mh/mhc-app.pdf).

The Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association offers review sessions for the licensing exam. Click here to find out when these are offered.

Supervised Practice

You must work for at least two years under supervision. You'll need at least 3,360 total hours, with at least 960 hours of face to face work with clients. Up to 25 of the face to face client hours may be in group counseling situations.

You will be supervised either by a staff member who has fulfilled board requirements or an outside supervisor who has been formally contracted. You should be supervised one hour for every 16 hours of face to face client work. You must have a total of 130 supervision hours, at least 75 of them individual. You may begin accruing hours once you've completed your 60 semester hour requirement.

If you fulfill 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. Before you can be licensed, you must have a total of 50 hours of supervision by a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. This requirement may be met through either pre- or post-master’s supervised experience.

The Counselor Application Process in Massachusetts

You will need to collect some 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.
  • Also get verification of your pre- and post-master’s supervision.
  • You’ll need an NCMHC score report.
  • Make sure you have a passport quality photo to attach to your application.
  • You will need to get you affidavit notarized.
  • You will include a nonrefundable fee of $117.

If you have any history criminal or professional disciplinary action, you’ll need to attach an explanation. (An exception is minor traffic violations with fines under $200.) Materials should be sent to Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals, 1000 Washington Street, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118-6100.

Information for Out of State Applicants

You will need to get official license verification from any state where you have held licensing. If you are credentialed as a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, make sure and include verification – this can simplify the application process.

Other Professionals who can be Licensed as Counselors in Massachusetts

Professionals in closely related fields are eligible for licensing. The American Art Therapy Association reports that art therapists are included in Massachusetts counselor licensing laws and can be licensed as professional counselors. The Massachusetts board lists creative arts therapy, rehabilitation counseling, and educational developmental psychology as related fields where applicants can hold degrees. Rehabilitation counselors have a separate exam and licensing process (Click Here to learn more).

Maintaining Your Counseling License

You will need to renew your license every two years (Click Here for renewal information.). You will need 30 hours of continuing education unless it's your first renewal, in which case continuing education will be prorated. Continuing education should meet the standards of the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association. You may want to contact the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association about continuing education.

Additional Information for Becoming a Counselor in Massachusetts

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 Massachusetts.

You can call the board at 617-727-3080. You may visit the State Book Store at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/spr/sprcat/catidx.htm to get official copies of relevant Massachusetts statutes. You may choose instead to visit the bookstore at Room 116, State House, Boston, MA 02133.

Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association

Massachusetts School Counselors Association

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