Becoming a Counselor in Louisiana
Louisiana licenses mental health counselors and certifies school counselors. Both credentials are issued to those with master's level education. School counselors are regulated by the Department of Education, Licensed Professional Counselors by the Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners.
You can even choose to pursue the credentials in combination. In this instance, your title would be Professional Counselor in a School Setting.
If you get a good foundation, there are many pathways. Here are some tips.
If you are a High School Student or have your High School Diploma in Louisiana:
You can choose any program at the undergraduate level. Many would-be counselors do choose programs in the social sciences, for example, family studies or psychology. The advantage to degrees in the social services is that they can open up opportunities to do internships or get paid experience in the field before it’s time to apply to graduate school. Learn more about undergraduate program options here.
Schools may set a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.8 or 3.0. It can be an advantage to have grades well above the minimum. It's not a substitute, though, for having strengths in other areas. If you don't have paid experience, you may want to volunteer for the schools or for an organization like Volunteers of America Baton Rouge. There are many different types of volunteer opportunity -- even leading scrapbook sessions with individuals with mental illness. Find opportunities you're passionate about and stick with them; they can look good on your resume as you prepare for graduate school admission.
If you have a Bachelor’s Degree:
Begin researching master's programs well in advance. Expect to submit a resume and personal statement.
If your goal is to become a professional counselor, you should enroll in a program that is accredited by CACREP or is substantially equivalent. Courses in counseling psychology are acceptable provided they meet all standards. The Louisiana Board currently requires 48 semester hours. However, in 2015, the requirement will be going up to 60. CACREP-accredited mental health programs are typically 60.
If your goal is to become a school counselor, you should enroll in a master's program that includes at least 24 semester hours of coursework in the specific content areas mandated by Louisiana. The Louisiana Counseling Association reports that the state is preparing a model based on the American School Counselor Association National Model.
Complete your coursework and practicum and intern hours. You may choose to pursue membership in the Louisiana Counseling Association to make connections in the professional world.
If you are in the school counseling track, you will be ready for licensure soon after graduation.
If you are applying for LPC status, you will complete a supervised practice requirement first.
You must register as an intern before beginning any employment where you will be providing mental health counseling services. You will need a board-approved supervisor. You will also need to write a Declaration of Practice and Procedures. You can see an example on the Board site.
You will work for at least two years under supervision to be eligible for LPC status. If you do not accrue 3,000 hours in those two years, you may continue. However, if you fail to complete requirements within seven years, you'll need to register again.
You will need to take a licensing exam at some point before applying for licensure as an LPC. The National Counselor Examination is the one that's typically taken. Louisiana also accepts the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. Both exams are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.
School counselors are required to take the NTE core examination and school counseling examination.