Counseling Licensing Requirements in West Virginia
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling issues licenses at two levels: provisionally licensed counselor and licensed professional counselor (LPC). License seekers must complete all requirements prior to earning these credentials.
Counseling Careers in West Virginia
Licensed counselors enjoy a positive job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marriage and family, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will enjoy a 23% job growth increase through 2026. Additionally, rehabilitation counselors and school and career counselors can expect a 13% increase.
- Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: Many counselors work in educational and vocational settings. A school counselor might spend a typical day counseling students, then meet with faculty and parents to address a student's academic or behavioral challenges.
- Marriage and Family Therapists: Marriage and family therapists address interpersonal issues within families and other close relationships. On a typical day, a therapist may conduct group psychotherapy sessions.
- Rehabilitation Counselors: A rehabilitation counselor helps those with disabilities live on their own. They help clients with simple day-to-day tasks such as paying bills and meeting doctor appointments.
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: Many counselors work with drug addicts and those suffering from mental illness. They may conduct group therapy sessions by addressing a specific issues such as alcoholism or PTSD or provide one-on-one psychotherapy.
- Counselors, All Other: Counselors work in a variety of settings, providing psychotherapy, access to resources, and other forms of aid. This field remains exciting both because of its emotional rewards and its financial benefits.
|Occupation||Average Salary in West Virginia|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||$45,790|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||$42,900|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$37,460|
|Counselors, All Other||$32,810|
Other Professionals Who Can Be Licensed as Counselors
West Virginia's definition of professional counseling encompasses different types of counselors and professionals in closely related fields. For example, West Virginia's art therapists can serve as counselors if they meet the requirements.
Education Requirements for Counselors
To attain either full or provisional licensing, license seekers need 60 hours of graduate coursework. They may select from a number of program options, but they need to meet West Virginia's specific curriculum requirements.
Those whose master's degree does not meet the requirements may complete coursework after their initial graduation in the required courses. Generally, license seekers should opt for a program with counseling in the title. Learn more about selecting a master's in counseling program here.
The board lists the following programs as appropriate:
- Mental Health Counseling
- Community Agency Counseling
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Pastoral Counseling
- School Counseling
- Addictions or Substance Abuse Counseling
The program should hold accreditation from a reputable body. Possible accrediting agencies include the following:
- Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP)
- National Council on Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE)
Programs should include at least three semester hours in each of the following topic areas:
- Counseling Theories
- Counseling Techniques
- Human Growth and Development
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Individual Appraisal
- Professional Responsibilities
- Emotional Disorders and Dysfunctional Behavior
- Addictions Counseling
- Group dynamics, Processes, Counseling, and Consulting
- Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy
- Research and Evaluation
- Lifestyle and Career Development
License seekers also need to complete a practicum and internship experience. They may also elect to take additional coursework in any of the following areas.
- Human Sexuality
- Biological Basis of Behavior
- Crisis Intervention
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Counseling Interventions
- Counseling Special Populations
Online Counseling Programs in West Virginia
Prospective counselors should take note of the opportunities offered by online counseling programs. Online programs prepare graduates to sit for licensure exams and often award graduate degrees in addition to undergraduate degrees and certificates. Online programs allow flexible scheduling and offer affordable tuition rates to working professionals. They also offer reduced costs on travel and campus-related expenses.
Instructors typically deliver coursework asynchronously to allow students to complete assignments at their own pace. However, many online counseling programs often require that students either complete clinical practice outside of the online classroom or brief residencies near or on campus.
West Virginia residents interested in online counseling programs can find a number of in-state options. Most notably, Marshall University offers an online master's in counseling with concentrations in clinical mental health and school counseling. Additionally, West Virginia University offers an online master's in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling. Both programs enjoy accreditation from CACREP and the Higher Learning Commission.
If your program holds accreditation from CACREP, you do not need to complete as many supervised hours of practice. West Virginia boasts CACREP-accredited programs at Antioch University, Central West Virginia University, City University, Eastern West Virginia University, Gonzaga University, and Seattle Pacific University.
How Do You Become a Counselor in West Virginia?
Your completed application file must include multiple supporting documents, including at least one professional and one personal reference. Students need to send their graduate transcripts directly to the board; they also need to sign affidavits of their applications and notarize them. Fees should be made out to "WVBEC."
To practice counseling in a certain state, the prospective practitioner needs to pay a fee to the state for the right to practice. This fee goes towards processing and registering the license for the applicant. West Virginia requires LPCs to pay a fee for their application, their initial license, and their biennial license renewal. LPCs must apply for renewed licensure before July 1 of their second year of licensure, when the license expires. The following fees apply to a LPC-licensed counselor in West Virginia, though they may not apply to every form of counseling certification or licensure:
|Licensed Professional Counselor||$200|
|Licensed Professional Counselor Renewal||$220|
The Licensing Exam
You will need to take a licensing exam, which typically means taking the National Counselor Examination (NCE) offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). If you have not already taken the NCE, you need to get permission from the Board of Examiners in Counseling. You receive a registration form once the board determines that you meet the requirements. After filling out the form and signing it, mail it to the NBCC with a $195 fee and a copy of your approval letter.
The NBCC will process your materials in about a month and send you a confirmation. At that time, you need to schedule a computer-based exam through Pearson. You may schedule your exam in Morgantown or Charleston or at any of the other computerized sites in the country.
The West Virginia board receives your scores approximately four weeks after the test. The board also accepts the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exam offered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. This exam caters to rehabilitation counselors and aligns with programs accredited by the Counsel on Rehabilitation Education.
Those who fail their licensing exam on the first attempt may retake the test one time without applying to the board again. Anyone who fails three times must document additional education and experience.
Supervised Practice Requirement
You will need to work under supervision for a specified period of time before you can attain full licensure. Those with a master's degree need at least 3,000 hours, half of which must occur in direct client counseling care.
Those with a doctorate only need 1,500 hours of post-degree supervised experience. You need to apply for a provisional license before you begin accruing hours, and your clinical supervisor must be pre-approved by the board. Practitioners should expect to receive an hour of individual supervision for every 20 hours of practice. If your clinical supervisor does not work full time at the same agency, they should set up at least two supervision sessions per month.
As a provisionally licensed counselor, you need to display a professional disclosure statement at your place of work. Your provisional license counts for 36 months. If you fail to complete your requirements in that time, you may apply for renewal -- which lasts for another 24 months. You must, however, continue working under supervision until you attain full licensure.
If you must interrupt or discontinue your supervised practice for a period of six weeks or more, you need to notify the board within the first month. You must also notify the board if you change supervisors or otherwise deviate from your supervision plan.
Out of State Counselor Candidates
If you hold a full professional license in another jurisdiction, you may qualify for licensure by reciprocity. You need a certified copy of your file sent to the board that includes exam results.
You also need to submit two professional recommendations, a completed application, and the applicable fee. Also ensure that your graduate school sends your transcripts.
License Maintenance and Renewal
Counselors in the state need to renew their professional counseling license on odd-numbered years. The first two renewals require documented proof of continuing education. Thereafter, counselors only need to provide documentation if selected for an audit.
Continuing Education Opportunities for Counselors in West Virginia
- Potomac Highlands Guild: Potomac Highlands Guild offers comprehensive behavioral health services, including residential services, crisis intervention, and outpatient psychiatric services. Counselors can earn continuing-education credits here and gain experience at one of thirteen locations in West Virginia that treat addiction, intellectual or developmental disability, and mental health issues.
- West Virginia University School of Social Work: Counselors can take on field-related coursework at West Virginia University's school of social work. This continuing-education opportunity also opens up avenues for professional networking and forming mentorship relationships. The school also maintains a Child Welfare Training Project that focuses on improving child welfare training in West Virginia.
- Recovery Point of Huntington, Inc.: Recovery Point West Virginia offers those struggling with addiction and mental health recovery programs and residential services. The organization's long-term recovery graduates maintain a 68% sobriety rate post-graduation. The organization offers continuing education credit relevant to rehabilitation and substance abuse counselors.
Resources for Counselors
- West Virginia Medical Professionals Health Program: This organization provides a mental health support network to healthcare providers in West Virginia. It offers advocacy, interventions, and case management, among other services.
- West Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors Association: This organization promotes LPCs in West Virginia and offers opportunity for networking and advocacy through events such as its fall and spring conferences. It also provides continuing-education credit to counselors.
- First Choice: First Choice offers several addiction and mental health resources to West Virginians. The organization offers roles to counselors specializing in rehabilitation and substance abuse services.
- FMRS Health Systems, Inc.: This network of regional behavioral health service centers offers career opportunities for licensed counselors. The organization's services include child behavioral services, crisis intervention, and intellectual and developmental disabilities services. They also offer continuing-education options.
- Prestera Center: Prestera Center out of Huntington provides a wide range of behavioral health services, including residential services and outpatient services. The center offers career opportunities and continuing-education credits for LPCs.
Professional Organizations for Counselors
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists: Founded in 1942, this organization provides a support network for marriage and family therapists through its job connection services, annual conference, and a minority fellowship program. The organization also offers continuing-education resources and advocates for the legal rights of couples and families.
- American Counseling Association: This organization offers several resources to counselors nationwide, including an annual conference, continuing education opportunities, and its Journal of Counseling and Development. The organization's website offers helpful guides to recently licensed counselors searching for jobs. It also offer continuing-education courses through online webinars and podcasts.
- National Board of Certified Counselors: Established in 1962, the NCC offers certification, continuing-education, and career opportunities. The organization's website lists an index of licensure requirements for each state and contact information for each state's board of examiners.