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Professional Counseling License Requirements in Tennessee

Navigate the Rules and Regulations to Counseling Licensure

Tennessee's Board for Professional Counselors, Marital & Family Therapists, and Clinical Pastoral Therapists issues several types of counseling licenses. Permanent licenses are issued at two levels. Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider (LPC/MHSP) is a higher level of licensing than Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). However, it is possible to work toward both licenses simultaneously. The process begins when you enroll in the educational program that best meets your needs.

The below information is designed to be a guide to counseling licensure in TN. If at any time you have questions or would like to assure yourself you are on the right path, contact the Tennessee Board for Professional Counselors, Marital & Family Therapists, and Clinical Pastoral Therapists at: 615-532-3202 or 1-800-778-4123

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Required Education

In order to become a professional counselor in Tennessee, you will need to complete a graduate degree of at least 60 semester hours (http://www.state.tn.us/sos/rules/0450/0450-01.20090209.pdf). (If your school uses quarter hours, you can multiple by .67 to get the semester hour equivalent.)

You must have coursework in each of the following areas:

  • Human behavior, learning, and personality theories
  • Abnormal behavior and psychopathology
  • Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
  • Procedures of evaluation and appraisal
  • Group dynamics, theories, and techniques
  • Counseling techniques
  • Ethics
  • Research

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

You will also need to have supervised experience in the form of a practicum or internship.

Additionally, you will need to do a practicum of at least 500 hours. At least 300 must be in a community agency or mental health setting.

If you are applying for the mental health provider designation, you will also need the following:

  • Use of the DSM
  • Treatment and treatment planning

For the LPC/ MHPC designation, you will need to document nine semester hours of coursework related to the diagnosis, assessment, appraisal, and treatment of mental disorders.

You will find a list of in-state counseling programs on the board site.

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.

Chicago, IL based Northwestern University offers another option for an online M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling modeled after CACREP's guidelines. Click here to contact Northwestern University for information about the program. (*This program is NOT available to students in WA, NV, MN, WI, AR, LA, AL, KY, NC, DE, MD, NH)

Supervised Practice

You must work under supervision for at least two years after you complete your master's degree. You will need to work at least 10 hours a week and have at least 50 contact hours of supervision each year. You will have a clinical supervisor who provides guidance and consultation as well as oversight. If you are working toward the lower status, you may be supervised by an LPC, LPC-MHSP, clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, senior psychological examiner, psychiatrist, or psychologist with mental health service provider status. If you want mental health service provider status, however, you may not be supervised by an LPC who does not have the higher designation.

Additionally, if you are working toward MHSP status, you will need to meet the following requirements: You will need to accrue at least 3,000 hours of clinical work; at least 1,500 must be face-to-face client contact. You will need a broad background – settings which focus on only one aspect of counseling will not allow you to meet the requirements. You may choose to work less than full-time, but you will need to complete your supervised experience within four years.

You must have at least an hour a week of formal, individual contact with your supervisor. You will need to accrue at least 100 individual supervision hours before you can achieve professional licensing. An additional 50 hours of supervision may be either individual or group.

If you did supervision before July 1, 2009, however, the regulations are not quite as strict.

You will work under a temporary license while meeting requirements for post-master certified practice as an LPC/MHSP.

The Examination Process

Licensure involves multiple examinations, which are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. The licensing exam for LPC status is the National Counselor Examination, or NCE. You will mail the signed registration form, required fee, and official, unopened transcripts to the NBCC at NBCC Assessment Dept. , PO Box 7407, Greensboro, NC 27417-0407. The fee is currently $185.

You will need to allow about a month for the NBCC to process your fee and eligibility materials. Once you receive confirmation, you will schedule a session at an AMP computerized testing center. There are locations around the nation. In Tennessee, you can select from Chattanooga, Johnson City, Knoxville, Memphis, or Nashville locations. Exam slots are available for two weeks out of each month, but early registration is advised, as spaces may fill. You may schedule by calling 888‐519‐9901.

You will also need to take a test of law and ethics in order to achieve your LPC licensing. The Jurisprudence Exam is given four times a year. Registration deadlines are approximately six weeks in advance. You will need to get your registration form from the Tennessee board).

In order to get the Mental Health Service Provider designation, you will also need to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. This exam is also administered by the NBCC. The registration process is the same as for the NCE. You will pay another $185 fee and again, you will be allowed to register at your choice of locations.

The Application Process: Criminal Background Check

You will need to have a criminal background check before you can get your initial licensure (http://health.state.tn.us/CBC/index.htm). The steps you take will be a little different depending on whether you are currently residing in Tennessee.

In Tennessee, your first step is to contact the vendor, L-1 Identity Solutions to register. You will need to visit www.L1enrollment.com or call (855) 226-2937. You will give the agency name as "Department of Health Licensure and Regulation" and the applicant type as "Health Licensure". You be required to pay a $48 fee. You will schedule your own appointment for some time within the coming two weeks. If you carry out all the steps correctly, your fingerprints will be automatically forwarded electronically to the correct department.

If you are living out-of-state, you have the option of sending a fingerprint card. You should visit http://health.state.tn.us/providers.htm to find the contact information you will need.

You will send your prints, along with a money order or cashier's check to the following address:

TBI – Records & Identification Unit Applicant Processing
901 R.S. Gass Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37216-2639

The process should take four to six weeks. You also have the option of coming to Tennessee and having your fingerprints scanned electronically, if you prefer.

Other Materials Required for Application

Here is a link to the application forms for Professional Counselors, Marital & Family Therapists, and Clinical Pastoral Therapists: http://health.state.tn.us/boards/PC_MFT&CPT/applications.htm

Your completed application package will include several supplemental materials.

You will need to enclose two letters of recommendation or have them sent directly. (They must be originals, not photocopies.)

You will need to have your educational institution send transcripts to the board.

The following materials will also be required to establish identity and eligibility:

  • A certified birth certificate
  • A passport photo

You will need to send your Mandatory Practitioner Profile. The profile questionaire will include questions about your education, certifications, background, and professional record (http://health.state.tn.us/Downloads/g6019027.pdf). Completed practitioner profiles are viewable online.

Your application packet will also include an affidavit and release statement that you will need to have notarized.

The application fee is $210. If you are also applying for temporary licensure as a mental health provider, there is an additional $150 charge.

Applications should be sent to the address below:

Board for PC/MFT/CPT
227 French Landing, Suite 300
Heritage Place, Metro Center
Nashville, TN 37243

You should get all your materials in to the board office at least 30 days before the meeting where you wish to have them reviewed.

If there are materials missing, the board will notify you. Applications are closed, however, after six months. If you fail to meet requirements or submit necessary materials within six months of the initial review, you will need to reapply.

Out of State Applicants

You may be granted a reciprocal license if you have met similar standards. You will need to show evidence that you have taken the required exams and have met minimum education and supervision requirements.

You will need to get clearance from the board of any other state where you have held licensing. You will submit the top portion of the clearance form to your board along with whatever fee they require.

License Maintenance

As a professional counselor in Tennessee, you will be expected to do ten clock hours of continuing education every year.

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 Tennessee.

You may contact the board by calling 615-532-3202 or 1-800-778-4123.

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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.