Alaska’s Board of Professional Counselors (BPC) issues the credential you need to engage in counseling as an independent professional, the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). The BPC is housed within the Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development; specifically its Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.
As an LPC you can engage in the practice of counseling with the public for reimbursement. With additional education you can add the provision of distance professional services, such as those provided over the internet, to your scope of practice. Once you’ve gained years of experience as an LPC you can also opt to become a BPC-approved supervisor.
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Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Alaska
The basic steps of becoming an LPC in Alaska are as follows:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a related professional field
- Gain professional counseling experience under supervision from a BPC-approved supervisor
- Pass an exam that’s sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Apply for licensure as an LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the education requirement with a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a related professional field. Have your school send your official transcripts to the BPC.
- Before you can become licensed you’ll need to gain work experience under a BPC-approved supervisor. Your supervisor must be a licensed mental health care provider, such as an LPC. You can find a list of BPC-approved supervisors here.
- Fulfill the LPC supervised experience requirement. This is at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate-degree supervised professional counseling experience obtained over not fewer than two years. It needs to include 1,000 hours of direct counseling with clients and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. Once this is complete your supervisor will fill out a Post-Graduate Experience Verification form that’s contained within the application for licensure and send it to the BPC.
- Obtain two letters of recommendation from counselors who are familiar with your work. The forms for these are in the application for licensure. Have your referrers return the letters directly to the BPC.
- Pass an exam that’s sponsored by the NBCC. You must have passed your exam within three years of applying for the LPC license. Designate the BPC as a recipient of your official exam scores. You don’t need pre-approval from the BPC to take an exam. Passing either one of the following exams will qualify you for licensure: 1.) National Counselor Examination (NCE) 2.) National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
- Submit an application for LPC licensure to the BPC. The application fee is $200. Once the BPC has approved your application, and after you’ve paid an additional $250 initial licensure fee, the BPC will issue your LPC license.
Becoming a BPC-approved supervisor:
As an LPC you can opt to become an approved supervisor once you have five years of counseling experience. You’ll need to write a statement on your supervision philosophy, experience, and orientation and send this to the BPC along with a supervisor application. The fees associated with this are $350. In the preceding two years, you must have also earned six hours of continuing education that are related to the supervision of mental health professionals.
Alaska Counselor License Renewal
The LPC license expires every two years on October 31st. One month before the license is set to expire the BPC will mail you a renewal notice. You can renew by returning the renewal form to the BPC. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each renewal period. During your first renewal these required hours are pro-rated based on when you became licensed.
Adding distance professional services to your LPC scope of practice:
The BPC defines distance professional services as being those which are delivered via audio, visual, or data communications with a client who is physically separated from you. To add this capability to your LPC scope of practice you need to complete six hours of continuing education that pertains to distance professional services.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Alaska?
It takes approximately eight years to become an LPC in Alaska:
- Four years to earn a bachelor’s degree
- Two years to earn a qualifying master’s degree in Counseling
- Two years to earn counseling practice under the supervision of a BPC-approved supervisorv
Referred to as being licensed by credentials, if you’re an LPC in another state whose license is in good standing without an disciplinary actions against it then you may qualify. The licensing requirements for your out-of-state LPC must be substantially similar or more stringent than Alaska’s. The BPC needs to receive the following in addition to a complete application for LPC licensure based on credentials:
- Official exam scores from the NBCC
- Your official transcripts from the school where you earned your graduate degree
- Documentation of your state’s licensing requirements
- Verification that you’ve completed 40 hours of continuing education
There is an out-of-state Verification of Licensure form contained in the application for licensure that your out-of-state Board of Counseling needs to complete and return to the BPC.
Practicums and Internships
Currently Alaska’s BPC does not mandate practicum or internship requirements for LPC licensure.
You’ll need to take either one of the following exams with the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) in order to qualify for LPC licensure:
- National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
The NBCC contracts with an affiliated company to administer its exams, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). To register for either exam you’ll need to create an account through the CCE’s online ProCounselor portal. You don’t need pre-approval from the BPC to register for an exam.
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The NCE and NCMHCE exams are both taken at a local testing center on a computer. You have at least three hours to take either exam. The NCE is a 200-question multiple-choice test that covers material you learned in your graduate Counseling program. The NCMHCE provides you with 10 clinical simulations and evaluates your responses to questions about these. You can find out more information about either exam through the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for licensure as an LPC you must earn a graduate degree in Counseling or a related professional field such as Psychology, Marital and Family Therapy, Social Work, and Applied Behavioral Science.
Your degree must be from a school that’s nationally or regionally accredited and include at least three semester credits in ethics. If you earn a master’s degree it must be at least 60 semester credits. If it’s less than this you can make up the difference with additional qualifying coursework.
If your degree is in a related professional field you must include an Educational Course Work Check Sheet with your application for licensure. This confirms your graduate program covered at least eight of the following key subject areas:
- Professional counseling ethics and orientation
- Evaluation and research
- Family and marriage counseling and therapy
- Principles of diagnosis, treatment planning, etiology, and prevention of emotional and mental disorders and dysfunctional behavior
- Cultural and social foundations, including multicultural issues
- Appraisal, assessment, and testing of individuals
- Group processes, dynamics, consulting, and counseling
- Career and lifestyle development
- Human growth and development
- Helping relationship, including counseling practice and theory
Alaska is one of the most lucrative states for counselors. When it comes to Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors it offers the fourth-highest average salary of all states in the nation, and the second-highest for counselors in the “all other” category. This is according to the US Department of Labor’s 2020 report. That details the following average annual salaries for different counseling careers in Alaska:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $67,210
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $59,040
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $45,760
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $60,830
- Counselors, all others – $64,020
- Occupational Therapists – $90,340
Types of Counseling Careers
From the counseling careers listed above, the US Department of Labor reports there are a total of 2,410 professionals employed throughout Alaska. Of these:
- 40% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 32% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 12% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 12% are Occupational Therapists
- 2% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 1% are Counselors, all others
Alaska Counseling Association (AKCA) – This organization strives to enhance the development of Alaskans through their lifespan, and one of the best ways it sees of doing this is by supporting professional counselors. Every year it hosts workshops and conferences to support the development of counselors throughout the state.
Alaska School Counselor Association (ASCA) – Hosting annual awards, a scholarship, counselor licensing resources, and more, this association centers school counselors as vital professionals who make an important difference in the lives of students as they make decisions that affect their social, economic, and professional development.
Alaska Behavioral Health Association (ABHA) – Established in 1996, this organization aims to help improve the delivery of mental health and substance abuse treatment services throughout the state. This organization is proud to cite its leadership that’s comprised of more than 60 local community health providers.
Alaska Addiction Professionals Association (AAPA) – This local state chapter is an important component of its parent national affiliate, the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). Through this it offers its own certification program, professional networking resources, and more.
Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority – This state corporation is tasked with administering Alaska’s perpetual mental health trust to improve the lives of all state residents. Beneficiaries of this trust include any Alaskan who has a mental illness, a developmental disability, who suffers from chronic drug or alcohol addiction, traumatic brain injury, or who suffers from dementia-type diseases.
Alaska Division of Behavioral Health – Part of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), this division provides important resources for those facing challenges posed by issues like substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and mental health obstacles.
Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc (JAMHI) – Founded in 1985, what was originally a grassroots advocacy organization began providing general mental health services in the 1990s. It 2000 it gained the important state designation of a community behavioral health center.
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Alaska Behavioral Health – This comprehensive mental and behavioral health agency sees clients that range from children to families to the elderly to veterans. Its team of mental health professionals enjoy a range of benefits that include a retirement plan, medical benefits, and paid time off.
Alaska Community Mental Health Centers – Also part of the DHSS, this network of 34 centers and hotlines serving locales throughout the state ensure that no Alaskan is ever too far away from help. In addition to serving as first points of contact for those experience crises, these resources also play a vital role in connecting clients with professionals offering needed services.
Fairbanks Memorial Hospital – Opened in 1972, today this 152-bed hospital provides specialized care in more than 27 categories. Included among these is the hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit, which provides services including inpatient treatment for adults. A multi-disciplinary team ensures clients are attended to in mind, body, and spirit.