The Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling (ABEC) issues the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential that allows you to engage in professional counseling throughout the state. Before you can become a fully-licensed LPC you’ll need to gain supervised work experience as an Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC). Once you’ve gained years of experience as an LPC you can also opt to become an LPC Supervisor.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Alabama
Becoming fully licensed as an LPC is a process that involves these basic steps:
- Earning a master’s degree in Counseling from a qualifying school that includes a practicum and internship
- Passing the National Counselor Examination (NCE) that’s sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Becoming an ALC and gaining 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience
- Becoming an LPC
Associate Licensed Counselor (ALC)
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying master’s degree in Counseling that includes a practicum and internship: 1.) Have your school send your official transcripts to the ABEC. 2.) Complete a Course Work Reporting Worksheet and include this with your ALC application for licensure. 3.)Have your supervisors from your practicum and internship fill out references for you. Also get a reference from a professor who is familiar with your counseling skills. Include these three references with your ALC application for licensure.
- The purpose of obtaining an ALC license is so you can gain hours of supervised counseling work experience to become fully licensed as an LPC. To do this you’ll need to locate an approved supervisor. The ALC maintains a list of approved supervisors on its supervisor webpage. Have your supervisor fill out a Proposed ALC Plan of Supervision form and include this with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for ALC licensure to the ABEC with a $200 application fee. Include a Proof of Citizenship form. Once the ABEC approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to take its NCE exam.
- Register with the NBCC for its NCE exam. Once the ABEC is notified that you’ve passed this it will issue your ALC license after you’ve paid a $150 licensing fee. Once you have an ALC license you can start accruing hours of qualifying experience to fulfill the LPC’s supervised experience requirement.
Renewing the ALC license:
Your ALC license expires every year, and you can renew it online. The renewal fee is $150. To be eligible for renewal you need to complete 10 hours of continuing education, including two hours in ethics.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the LPC supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of supervised experience; 2250 hours of direct counseling experience and 750 hours of indirect service. You need 100 hours of supervision every year, and 50 hours of that must be one-on-one face-to-face individual supervision. Your supervisor will submit a Supervision Progress Report to the ABEC each year, and once you’ve completed the supervised experience requirement they will submit a Final Supervision Progress Report. For every 15 semester credits you earn in counseling beyond a qualifying master’s degree, you can subtract 1,000 hours from the supervised experience requirement.
- Once the ABEC is notified by your supervisor that you’ve completed the supervised experience requirement it will issue your LPC license. The LPC licensing fee is $300.
Renewing Your LPC license:
The LPC license expires every two years, on July 31st of even-numbered years. You can renew online or by submitting a renewal form like this one. The renewal fee is $300. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education.
Becoming an LPC Supervisor:
You can opt to become an LPC Supervisor once you’ve earned five years of full-time LPC work experience. To qualify you also need to complete one of the following, and then submit an application to the ABEC; the fee is $150:
- Complete an academic course in supervision from a qualifying graduate program
- Attend a supervision training event that’s approved by the ABEC and at least 24 hours
- Become licensed or certified as a supervisor from a recognized national counseling organization
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Alabama?
You can expect to invest around eight years into becoming licensed as an LPC in Alabama. Six of these years will be in education: four years earning a bachelor’s degree and two additional years earning a master’s degree in Counseling. At this point you can qualify to become an ALC and start accruing hours of supervised experience. You need 3,000 hours to become an LPC, which will take at least 1.5 years to complete.
If you’re currently licensed as an LPC in another state, you can qualify for LPC licensure in Alabama if the requirements for your out-of-state license are equivalent to Alabama’s current requirements. When applying for licensure via endorsement you need to include a copy of the administrative rules that were in place at the time you were licensed. Use this application to apply with the ABEC. The application fee is $200 and the LPC biannual licensing fee is $300.
To be eligible you must have passed the NCE exam. Have the NBCC send your scores to the ABEC. Have your state verify your LPC license with the ABEC, and have your school send the ABEC your official transcripts. You also need three letters of recommendation from people who are familiar with your counseling practice, including two former clinical experience supervisors. Include a Proof of Citizenship form with your application.
The ABEC may notify you with information on how you can remedy any areas that lack equivalency. It can issue you a one-year provisional license that allows you to engage in the practice of counseling under specific supervised conditions while you remedy any deficiencies.
Practicums and Internships
The graduate degree program you use to fulfill the education requirement for ALC or LPC licensure must include a practicum and internship.
The practicum needs to be at least 100 hours and include at least 40 hours in direct service work with clients. Each week you need to have one hour of individual supervision and 1.5 hours of group supervision.
Your internship needs to be at least 600 hours and include 240 hours of direct service work with clients. Each week you need 2.5 hours of supervision, including at least one hour of individual supervision.
You need to include recommendations from your practicum and internship supervisors with your application for ALC licensure.
To become licensed as an ALC and subsequently as an LPC you’ll need to pass the the National Counselor Examination (NCE) that’s sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
This is a 200-question multiple-choice exam that’s taken on a computer at a local testing center. You have three hours and forty-five minutes to complete it. It covers the core content of the graduate coursework you took in your master’s program. You can learn more about the exam in the NCE handbook
The NCE is administered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), which manages the online ProCounselor portal you use to register for the exam once you’ve received authorization from the ABEC.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for licensure as an ALC and subsequently as an LPC you must have a master’s degree in Counseling from a program that’s at least 48 semester credits. Your degree program must be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). It must also be accredited by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or include equivalent content.
Right now there are 11 schools in Alabama offering 28 programs that are accredited by the CACREP. These include:
- 10 Master of Science (MS) programs
- Five Master of Arts (MA) programs
- Two PhD programs
- 11 Master of Education (M.Ed) programs, one of which is offered online
Programs accredited by the Commission on Rehabilitation and Education (CORE) were formerly acceptable but CORE merged with the CACREP in 2017.
Your degree program must also include a qualifying practicum and internship.
For your degree program to include content that is equivalent to that found in a CACREP-accredited program it needs to have graduate coursework in each of the following:
- Professional orientation
- Evaluation and research
- Appraisal of individuals
- Career and lifestyle development
- Group counseling, dynamics, and processing
- Helping relationship
- Multicultural and social foundations
- Human growth and development
- Counseling theory
The US Department of Labor reported the following average annual salaries for a range of counseling careers, specifically in Alabama:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $53,120
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $42,480
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $44,960
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $43,060
- Counselors, all others – $50,270
- Occupational Therapists – $85,760
- Therapists, all other – $46,820
Types of Counseling Careers
From the counseling careers listed above the US Department of Labor reports a total of 8,940 professionals employed statewide. Of those:
- 50% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 21% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 15% are Occupational Therapists
- 9% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 3% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 2% are Counselors, all others
- 1% are Therapists, all others
Alabama Counseling Association (ALCA) – The mission of this organization is to enhance human development for people across all lifespans, a mission it has been fulfilling since its founding in 1966. The ALCA is proud to serve as the main professional organization in Alabama for LPCs, who constitute over three-quarters of its 2,000-strong statewide members.
Alabama School Counselor Association (ALSCA) – Dedicated to the promotion of counseling excellence throughout all schools in the state, this organization is divided into nine regional chapters to ensure access to its resources are as widely and evenly distributed as possible. Every year the ALSCA sponsors events and honors distinguished professionals with awards.
Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (AADAA) – Offering annual events including conferences with member discounts, this non-profit organization sponsors its own certifications and maintains a rubric for evaluating education programs with the ultimate goal of maximizing quality.
Alabama Association of Addiction Counselors (AAAC) – This non-profit professional organization is proud to serve as a resource hub for its more-than 150 members. As the local branch of its national parent organization, membership in the AAAC brings benefits like discounted rates for its professional certification program and a newsletter detailing the latest legislative developments in this field.
Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) – Providing vital services and resources for over 200,000 Alabama citizens with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities, and substance use disorders, the ADMH is a familiar acronym for ALCs and LPHs throughout the state.
Thrive Counseling and Trauma Therapy – A team of LPCs, ALCs, and clinical social workers give this organization a special kind of professional approach to counseling. With locations in Birmingham, Hoover, and Trussville, Thrive specializes in helping clients with issues like eating disorders, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.
Oasis Counseling for Women and Children – This Birmingham-based center offers services like play therapy for kids, adolescent counseling, and counseling for women and families. Its professional blend of LPCs, ALCs, marriage and family counselors, and social workers of a variety of levels give counselors an important collaborative framework.
WellStone – Founded in Huntsville, today this non-profit community organization is the largest provider of behavioral healthcare in North Alabama. It provides resources for adults, children, and adolescents who are facing challenges to their health and well-being posed by issues like substance abuse and mental illness.
Huntsville Hospital – Consisting of its namesake healthcare provider along with several other hospitals, medical centers, and dozens of affiliated physicians offices, this network provides a wide range of services for important issues. Included among these are those offered through Behavioral Health Services, a part of Huntsville Hospital.