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Path to Clinical Mental Health Counselor Licensure (LCMHC)

In Rhode Island, the mental health counseling profession is treated as a unique discipline and licensed separately from other mental health fields. To be a counselor, you will need a graduate education that meets specific curriculum requirements. The standards include both pre- and post-degree supervised experience. You will also need to take a clinical mental health licensing exam.

The below information is a guide to the counseling licensure process in Rhode Island. If at any point you have questions about the LCMHC requirements in Rhode Island or just want to make sure you are on the right path, call the Rhode Island Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists at (401) 222-2828 or email: website@health.ri.gov.

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Education

You will need to have at least one of the following graduate degrees: master's, doctorate, or certificate in advanced graduate studies. Your program should be in mental health counseling. It is also acceptable to have a master's in an allied field and take additional graduate coursework so that you meet the same curricular requirements as someone completing a master's in counseling. The Rhode Island board considers community mental health, psychology, counseling psychology, and counselor education to be allied fields. It is also acceptable to have a degree in education with a major in counseling or psychology. Other degrees may be accepted, at the board’s discretion, but they must include the core curriculum.

Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here.

You must have a total of at least 60 graduate semester hours, or 90 quarter hours, in counseling/ therapy.

When you turn in your application, you will document coursework in the following areas:

  • Helping relationships and counseling theory (9 credits)
  • Human growth and development (3 credits)
  • Social and cultural foundations (3 credits)
  • Groups (3 credits)
  • Career and lifestyle development (3 credits)
  • Appraisal (3 credits)
  • Research and program evaluation (3 credits)
  • Professional orientation (3 credits)

You will need to have 12 semester hours of practicum and a full year of internship, to equal 20 hours a week or the equivalent. These courses must be under the supervision of an appropriately accredited institution.

Internship gives real world work experiences. Practicums are sometimes classroom-based, with activities like role-play. You may have the option to select practicum experiences to meet your needs.

You have the option of completing a short master's in an area like agency counseling and then continuing on to do a post-master's advanced certificate in mental health counseling to prepare for licensure. Rhode Island does not require mental health counselor licensing for those who provide services at governmental agencies, developmental service programs, or accredited academic institutions.

Capella University, offers three online CACREP- accredited master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

When you apply to the board, you will list required coursework by category, and then list your counseling electives below that.

Supervised Experience

You will need two years of supervised post-degree experience. During this time, you will accrue at least 2,000 hours of direct client service. You will need to have, at minimum, 100 hours of direct supervision.

Your approved supervisor will be either a clinical mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, independent social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist. S/he will either have two years of experience supervising clinical mental health staff, be an NBCC certified supervisor, or have taken a graduate course in supervision.

Testing

Rhode Island uses the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The exam is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

You will be authorized and registered for the NCMHCE by the Rhode Island board once your application is complete.

You can find a study guide at www.nbcc.org.

If you need to check the status of your registration, you should email examinations@nbcc.org with Rhode Island in the subject line.

The Application Process

Mental Health Counselor License Application (Opens in a PDF)

You will need to include a number of supplemental documents with your application:

  • You will need two letters attesting to your good character. They should be from within the past six months.
  • You will need to document your right to work within the state. This will require a birth certificate if you were born in the United States, documentation of citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not.
  • You will need to affix a passport quality photo to your application.
  • You will need to have your application notarized.
  • You will need to include an application/ licensing fee of $70. You make it out to “Rhode Island General Treasurer” .

When you send your materials to the board, you will staple your fee to the front of the application. The main part of the application will be followed by the course worksheet, then the supplementary documents.

Some documents will need to be sent to the Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists by third parties:

  • Have your university send official transcripts.
  • If you have already taken the NCMHCE, request score verification from the NBCC.
  • If you have been licensed elsewhere, you will need to complete the top portion of the verification form and send it to the licensing agency. The agency will send it directly to the Rhode Island board.

Materials should be sent to the following address:

Rhode Island Department of Health Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage & Family Therapists
3 Capitol Hill, Room 104
Providence, RI 02908-5097

You should have all materials submitted to the board 30 days in advance of the meeting where you wish them to be reviewed.

The process normally takes four to eight weeks. If you have any disciplinary history, it may take longer.

Rhode Island College, an institution that has been educating counselors for many years, notes that is possible to take steps toward licensure early: submit your application and current transcript toward the end of your last semester. When you have finished all your requirements, send your final transcript.

Your application is valid for a year. If anything is missing, and you don't remedy it within that time, you will need to begin the process again.

Out of State Applicants

If you are licensed in a state that has similar or higher requirements, you may be licensed without examination.

License Maintenance

You will need to renew your license every other year, on even numbered years. You will need to complete 40 credits of continuing education during each renewal cycle. An exception is your initial licensure period.

At least 20 of your continuing education credits will need to come through formal programs. You must get documentation of your continuing education and maintain records for fully four years following renewal.

Additional Information

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 Rhode Island.

If you have questions about the application process, you may call (401) 222-2828.

You may also want to explore joining the Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association.

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*Most states require completion of a CACREP accredited master's in counseling program or a program
that covers very specific curriculum in order to be licensed as a counselor. It is recommend that you follow up
with your state licensing board to review specific educational requirements and determine whether a
program meets your state's counselor licensure requirements.