In order to become a mental health counselor in New York, you'll need to have a qualifying education, passing exam scores, and a background that the board considers indicative of good character. You will also need to fulfill supervision requirements under standards set by the state of New York. While you are fulfilling your supervision requirement, you will work under a limited permit.
The information here is designed as a guide to help navigate the counselor licensure process in New York. At any point you have questions or just want to make sure you are on the right track contact the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions Mental Health Practitioners Board by calling 518-474-3817, ext. 570 or emailing one of the staff members on the contact page http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mhp/mhpcontact.htm.
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You will need to complete a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling ( http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mhp/section52-32.htm). The current requirement, in effect since January 1, 2010 is 60 semester hours. Prior to that, it was 48.
Your degree must meet one of the following requirements:
You can search for CACREP-accredited programs using the CACREP directory. You can search for license qualifying New York programs.
There will be some difference in the application process depending on which of the above categories your degree falls under. If your program was not CACREP-accredited or specifically approved by New York for mental health counseling licensure, you'll need to have your coursework reviewed. You will need to submit Form 2 along with other documentation.
Equivalent programs will include the following:
The program must include a full year of internship and/ or practicum. The board defines a year as 600 clock hours.
If you have a counseling degree that does not meet the educational requirements, you may become eligible through additional coursework. It is important that the degree itself is qualifying. The board notes that a person with a degree in school counseling would likely have some extra work to do, but would not need to complete an additional degree. A person with a degree in human services, however, would. It would be up to the individual school whether they would grant advanced placement for prior coursework; the process wouldn't necessarily involve starting over at the beginning.
The board notes that if a person is currently attending a school that hasn't been approved by New York, but is considering becoming a counselor within the state, they should carefully go over the requirements with an adviser. The next step would be deciding if classes can be completed at the school or if it would be better to transfer.
Distance learning is acceptable if it meets all requirements. However, you'll need to be aware of New York's policies regarding internship placements. You can do your internship within the state if it meets legal requirements set by the state. (New York does have a process by which out of state schools can be approved to place interns.)
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In addition to the above requirements, you'll need training in identifying and reporting child abuse. Depending on where you completed your education, this may or may not have been included in your initial program. You can find a list of approved providers on the board site Click Here. They're listed by region.
You may apply for an exemption if you'll be working in a practice where you will not have contact with either juveniles or handicapped adults who are living in residential care Click Here for the Exemption Form.
You must work under supervision for 3,000 hours before you can attain professional status (http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mhp/mhp-permits-faq.htm). At least 1,500 hours must be direct client contact. Activities like case management, record keeping, and research may be applied toward the remaining 1,500 hours.
You will work under a limited permit while you attain your hours. You will need to fill out multiple documents: a general application for counseling licensure and a separate limited permit application Click Here for the Application Forms.The board notes that it's imperative that you do not begin practice before you get your permit.
A limited permit qualifies you to work at a particular site. If you work at more than one site, you will have more than one permit.
Your supervisor may be your employer or another worker who is employed at your worksite. S/he must be competent in mental health counseling, but may hold licensure in a field other than counseling. Acceptable licenses are medicine, nursing, clinical social work, physician assisting, or psychology. The board may allow other individuals who have equivalent qualifications. There is a section in your application materials titled Requirements for Supervised Experience. The board notes that you should provide it to the person who will be supervising you.
Your supervisor should spend at least four hours a month, or one hour per week, in the following activities: providing professional guidance and oversight and reviewing your client treatment, assessment, and evaluation.
If your employer does not have a qualified licensed professional to supervise you, they may hire someone to do so. You should not hire or contract a supervisor yourself. The supervisor will need access to patient records as s/he is jointly responsible for patient care.
Your permit is good for 24 months. You may be granted up to two extensions at Board discretion. If you don’t meet the timeline, you can only perform services in a New York facility that is exempt, and you can’t hold yourself out as a licensed professional.
You will need to have completed a qualifying degree in order to get your limited permit. If the board determines that you are missing some coursework, you may be allowed to work as an intern while completing additional requirements. The board notes that school or community counseling would be considered qualifying degrees even though they would not include all the mental health counseling coursework.
You will need to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE). You will receive your registration from New York's Office of the Professions (http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/Reg/NY.pdf) after you have been authorized. You'll fill out the form, sign it in ink, and send it the NBCC. It will take about a month for you to receive confirmation from the NBCC.
At that point, you may schedule at any of the computerized testing sites.
New York has 16 testing centers.
You may schedule by calling Pearson VUE (866-904-4432) or visiting their website at www.pearsonvue.com.
The application will include questions about your education and professional fitness. There will also be questions about immigration and child support status. You will fill complete it in ink and sign an affidavit that all materials (including supplemental documents) are true. The affidavit will need to be notarized.
You will need to arrange to have some materials sent directly to the New York board.
The Certification of Education form must be submitted directly by the university where you got your counseling degree. You will fill out the first section before sending it to your school. There may be a fee involved Application Form.
Your supervisor will need to send certification of supervised experience directly to the board.
You will send your application to the following address:
New York State Education Department Office of the Professions
PO Box 22063
Albany, NY 12201
You will need to get a license verification from any state where you have held professional licensing.
If you have been actively practicing mental health counseling under license in another jurisdiction (at least five years out of the preceding ten) you may be a candidate for licensure by endorsement. You will need to provide the names and addresses of colleagues who can verify your active practice. You will need a Certification of Licensed Experience form for each colleague you listed. You'll fill out the top portion and pass it on; your colleagues will complete the form and return it to the board.
Foreign degrees may be accepted if the board determines them to be substantially equivalent.
New York will not accept the NCE in lieu of the NCMHCE. If you’ve taken the NCMHCE, you can arrange to have verification sent to the board. If you took the NCMHCE exam under nonstandard conditions, however, you may need to retake it. New York accepts Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations, but not other accommodations (for example, extra time for those for whom English is a second language).
If you are still in high school, hold a high school diploma/GED, or hold an undergraduate degree, explore suggested steps to take along the path to becoming a counselor in New York.
You can find laws and regulations online at NY MHP Laws.
You may contact the board by calling 518-474-3817, ext. 450. You can also request application forms and general information by emailing email@example.com.