A State by State Counselor Guide

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) 741-5735 or 1-800-778-4123 ext. 741-5735.

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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 (https://www.tn.gov/health/article/pcmft-licensure). (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.

CACREP Accredited Online Master's in Counseling Program:

Northwestern's Top-12 Ranked CACREP Accredited Online M.A. in Counseling program offers both full and part time options that allow you to earn a degree on your own schedule. GRE scores are not required for this program. Request information.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations in: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Click here to contact Antioch University and request information about their programs. Antioch is a private, not-for-profit university. (*This program is NOT available to students in CA, IL, IA, KS, MO, NH, ND)

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 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.

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 affiliate at CCE Assessment Dept. , PO Box 7407, Greensboro, NC 27417-0407. The fee is currently $275.

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 a Pearson VUE computerized testing center. There are locations around the nation. In Tennessee, you can select from Chattanooga, Jackson City, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, and Brentwood 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 866-904-4432.

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 can get your registration form from the Tennessee board or the NBCC.

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 $275 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://tennessee.gov/health/topic/CBC-check). The steps you take will be a little different depending on whether you are currently residing in Tennessee.

In Tennessee, you will have fingerprints made electronically. Your first step is to register with MorphoTrust (formerly L-1 Identity Solutions). You will need to visit http://www.identogo.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 $38 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 to MorphoTrust for electronic processing. You will need to register with MorphoTrust using information found on the Board website http://tennessee.gov/health/article/CBC-instructions.

Other Materials Required for Application

Here is a link to the application forms for Professional Counselors, Marital & Family Therapists, and Clinical Pastoral Therapists: https://www.tn.gov/health/article/pcmft-applications1

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 questionnaire will include questions about your education, certifications, background, and professional record (https://www.tn.gov/health/article/pcmft-applications1). 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 Board for PC/MFT/CPT in Nashville.

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, 60 days after notification of deficiency.

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.

The Tennessee Board has formal reciprocity with Kentucky.

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) 741-5735 or 1-800-778-4123 ext. 741-5735.

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