You will need a master's degree and state issued credential to become a mental health counselor or school counselor. If you have a strong academic background and a little experience with the helping professions, you should have many options. You can, if you choose, even pursue dual licensing in school counseling and mental health.
If you are interested in school counseling, select an Arts and Science major – this requirement allows a lot of options!
You may enter a graduate mental health counseling program with a degree in any field. An undergraduate Psychology degree is common preparation for graduate school in the field of counseling. You should earn at least a 3.0. Read up on selecting an undergraduate counseling major here.
Graduate counseling programs value work or volunteer experience -- you'll be listing this on your resume when you apply and may also reference it in your essay or professional statement.
There are lots of options. You may discover some by checking with your local United Way. You might deliver meals on wheels, help elders take care of their homes, or teach day camp. If you’re interested in the academic side of counseling, you might look into programs like Vermont Reading Partners or Central Vermont Adult Basic Education.
Begin the application process early. Schools may have only one admission deadline each year You may need to take the GRE. You will probably be asked for three references.
If you are entering a school counseling program, you may need to take a pre-professional skills test. (High scores on other assessments may exempt you.)
If you are going into mental health counseling, you will enroll in a 60 semester hour master's program. Master's programs between 48 and 60 semester hours are sometimes acceptable if you make up the additional courses post-master. Your degree program must have a class in diagnosis, assessment, and treatment to be considered qualifying. It must also include at least five of the seven core requirements. You can visit the Vermont Board of Allied Mental Health to see the full list of program requirements.
Your education will take you out into the field. Vermont sets experience requirements higher than many states. As a future school counselor, you will need at least 600 hours of internship. You must have some experience with both elementary (grades prek-6) and secondary (grades 7-12) students.
If you are in the mental health counseling track, you will need 1,000 hours of combined practicum and internship. This is above the minimum set by the CACREP accrediting agency. (If your degree includes at least 600 hours of internship, you will again be allowed to make up the difference through a post-master academic course.)
If you are in the mental health counseling track, training doesn’t end when you get your degree. You will need to accrue 3,000 hours of post-master experience. You do this by taking a job as a counselor in a community setting where licensure is not mandated. You may begin your supervised work experience after you have finished degree requirements (even if you have a few licensing requirements left to complete).
If you will be doing supervised practice within Vermont, you must register on Vermont's roster of non-licensed, noncertified psychotherapists. You will fill out a professional fitness questionnaire and write a professional disclosure statement at this time.
As a prospective mental health counselor, you will need to pass both the National Counselor Examination and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. You will receive testing information from the Vermont Board once you have demonstrated eligibility.