Becoming a Counselor in Rhode Island
Interested in serving Rhode Island as a counselor? It takes a lot of education and training to get the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential. School counseling also requires a master’s. Fortunately, you may be in the field drawing a paycheck long before graduate school completion. Here are some tips to get you started.
If you are a High School Student or High School Grad in RI
Look for volunteer or other entry level experience. You may serve as a peer to a developmentally disabled individual through Best Buddies Rhode Island. You could also volunteer at a senior care facility like Saint Elizabeth Community, assisting with activities or acting as a one-on-one companion. You can find links to a lot of other organizations on the site of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health care. Paid employment may also be an option. Technicians work in fields like chemical dependency without graduate education.
You can major in any subject as an undergraduate, but do take at least a few social science courses. Rhode Island College currently requires six semester hours of psychology or related subjects. Prerequisites vary a little from school to school -- it's a good idea to look ahead. Learn about undergraduate counseling and related programs here.
Your individual career goals might lead you to select a particular major. If you are interested in rehabilitation counseling, you may have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s en route to a master’s (and get finished a little sooner).
A bachelor's degree in Psychology is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling.
If you are a College Graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree
Begin gathering materials for the application process well in advance. The GRE is often required. You will typically be asked for official transcripts and a statement of professional goals. You may be asked for reference letters or a performance-based evaluation.
If you are interested in school counseling, enroll in a master's program at a regionally accredited institution. Your program must include 300 hours of practicum. There can be advantages to completing a CACREP-accredited program -- Rhode Island requires you to meet content competencies set by CACREP.
If you are interested in becoming a mental health counselor, you should also enroll in a master’s program through a regionally accredited institution. You will need a total of at least 60 semester hours of study. Depending on the school, you may need to complete two programs to meet Rhode Island's mental health requirements; you can complete a shorter master's program that teaches core counseling curriculum and an advanced certificate that includes additional coursework and fieldwork required for licensure. (If you are interested in general agency counseling, or in substance abuse with co-occurring disorders, you won't necessarily have to do the second part; still, you’ll have more employment options if you do.)
Rhode Island sets practical experience requirements high. You will need 12 semester hours of practicum and a year of internship to become a mental health counselor. The good news? You may meet this requirement while employed!
If you want the mental health counseling license, your training won't be over at quite the same time your schooling is. You will need to work under supervision for two years post-degree.
As a prospective mental health counselor, you will need to take the NCMHCE. This is a national mental health counseling specialty exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.
The paperwork can be time consuming. If you are going into mental health counseling, you’ll need to procure references and have a passport photo made. Your application will need to be notarized.