As a professional counselor in Nebraska, you may have one of several licenses – and one of several titles. You will be licensed as a mental health practitioner or an independent mental health practitioner depending on your training and qualifications. As an independent mental health practitioner you have an expanded scope of practice. You will be able to diagnose major mental disorders without consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist; you will also be able to treat those with serious mental illness without consultation.
It does not necessarily take longer to become an independent practitioner. It does take some advance planning as there are more stringent requirements regarding what constitutes appropriate training.
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As a mental health practitioner, you can seek additional certification as a professional counselor, becoming a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner-Certified Professional Counselor or a Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner-Certified Professional Counselor.
Certification does not expand your scope of duty, at least as far as the state is concerned. It does indicate that you have education that’s appropriate to professional counseling (as opposed to some other mental health discipline). It also gives you an additional title that you can use to represent yourself to the public. If you hold both licensing as a mental health professional and certification as a counselor, you are entitled to use the title Licensed Professional Counselor.
One other license type you should be aware of: Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner. If you are still in the process of fulfilling your basic requirements, this is the credential you will have.
The below information is set up to provide an easy to navigate guide to licensure and certification for the different types of counseling professions. If at any point you have questions or just want to make sure you are on the right path, contact the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services - Division of Public Health Licensure Unit at (402) 471-2115.
In order to be licensed at any level, you will need a graduate degree. The board approves professional counseling programs that either 1) are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or 2) hold school-level accreditation from a regional accrediting body and meet core curriculum requirements.
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If your counseling program was not accredited by CACREP, you will need to document your coursework when you apply. The following courses are required for mental health practitioner licensing:
You will also need to document practicum or internship experience. If you did your practicum before September 1, 1995, you will need to document that the program was approved. If you did it afterward, you will need to document that it included at least 300 hours of client contact and that at least 150 of those were face-to-face in a work setting.
If you wish to have the professional counselor certification added to your license, you will need evidence of additional counseling-related coursework (http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/crl_mhcs_mental_mentalindex.aspx).
You will need the following classes:
You will also need coursework in at least five of the areas listed below:
You will only need to document the courses on your course worksheet if your program was in a field other than counseling or was not properly accredited.
A licensing exam is required for any license above the provisional level. You may opt for either the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. Both are offered through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
In order to receive authorization to test, you will submit Attachment F: Request to take Examination (Exam Application Attachment F). You will indicate your choice of exams with a check mark. You may submit your request at any point after you have earned your master’s.
You will wait about ten working days for an approval letter from the Nebraska board. Then you will send the approval letter to the NBCC, along with the registration form and a $200 fee (http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/NE.pdf). At this point, you will wait for approximately a month. When you receive confirmation from the NBCC of eligibility, you may schedule your exam. The NBCC contracts with Pearson VUE for computerized testing. You may visit the www.pearsonvue.com website to register. Testing sessions are offered two weeks out of each month. The three Nebraska testing sites are Lincoln, North Platte, and Omaha.
You will be credentialed as a Provisionally Licensed Mental Health Practitioner until you have accrued 3,000 hours of experience working under supervision.
You will need at least 1,500 direct client contact hours. Your supervisor may be a mental health practitioner, independent mental health practitioner, psychologist, or physician. If s/he is a physician, s/he will need to document specialized training or board certification in mental health.
You will include a supervision plan with your application. Your provisional license is good for five years.
In most cases, you will need to complete a CACREP-accredited program to earn the independent license. If your program was not yet accredited by CACREP when you graduated but achieved accreditation within four years afterward, the board will consider it accredited. If the board determines that a particular non-accredited program meets standards equivalent to those set by CACREP, that program will be accepted as well.
If you graduated from an accredited program, your supervised practice requirement is just 3,000 hours – the same as it is for a mental health practitioner. At least half of your 3,000 hours of supervised practice, though, will need to be spent working with patients who have a major mental disorder.
If your program did not meet accreditation standards, you can still earn the independent license after an extended period of time spent working with clients with major mental illness (while under the supervision of a qualified professional). You will need to work for at least ten years and accrue at least 7,000 hours of work experience. At least half of these hours will need to be spent working with patients classified as having a major mental disorder. You may count years spent while provisionally licensed as well as those you earn after moving up to mental practitioner status. You may use, as documentation, sworn statements from employers and supervisors.
Before you can be licensed at any level, you will document that you are at least 19, have citizenship or resident status, and have education that meets the requirements. Provisional License Application.
You will need to send official transcripts or request that they be sent. If your degree was not from an accredited institution, you will need to provide additional evidence that your courses met the curricular standards.
You will fill out an application attesting to your character and professional fitness and included the required fee.
You should mail materials to the following address:
PO Box 94986
Lincoln, NE 68509-4986
You may fill the forms out electronically, but you should not try to send them by electronic means.
If you have ever held a license in another jurisdiction in a health or environmental field, you will need to submit a certification of your credential.
If you have held an active license in another jurisdiction for at least a year, you may be a candidate for a license by reciprocity. You will use a separate application form if you are applying for reciprocity. The application will include a verification form to send to your licensing agency. It will also include a practicum/ internship form that may be filled out by your supervisor or by the internship director at your school. (If you completed the practicum before September 1, 1995, the latter does not apply to you.)
The application form will ask if you have practiced within Nebraska prior to licensing. Nebraska may assess a per-day fine of $10 a day up to $1,000 (or other penalties) for unlicensed practice.
You will need to renew your Nebraska credentials on even numbered years. You must complete 32 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle; at least two of them must be in ethics. You do not have to earn separate continuing education units to maintain your mental health license and your associated counseling certification. Counseling continuing education hours may also be applied to maintenance of your primary license.
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 Nebraska.
The Licensure Unit Specialist for provisional licenses can be reached at (402) 471-4970.
Cindy Kelley is the Licensure Unit Specialist for other mental health licenses. You may email email@example.com or call 402-471-4905.