Arizona Counseling License Requirements

A Complete Guide To Becoming a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC) or Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Arizona

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The Arizona State Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (AZBBHE) issues the credential you must obtain if you want to engage in counseling as an independent practitioner anywhere throughout the state: the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Before you can become an LPC you’ll need to complete a period of supervised work experience as a Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC).

Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Arizona

To qualify for the LAC license and subsequently full licensure as an LPC you’ll need to complete these basic steps:

  • Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a qualifying supervised counseling practicum.
  • Pass a qualifying national counseling examination.
  • Become an LAC and start accruing hours of supervised counseling work experience.
  • Apply to become licensed as an LPC.

Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC)

Application Requirements:

    1. Fulfill the education requirement by earning a graduate degree in Counseling that includes a qualifying practicum. Obtain official transcripts from your school in a sealed envelope and include these with your application for LAC licensure. If you’re within a year of graduating from your program you can opt to obtain a one-year temporary LAC license for $50 by indicating such on your LAC license application.
    2. Complete the background check requirements. Obtain a self-query report from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). This confirms that you haven’t been sanctioned for malpractice in Arizona or any other state. Include a self-query report that’s not more than 90 days old with your application for licensure. You’ll also need to complete a fingerprint background check for $40. The details for this are included in your application, and involve working through the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS).
    3. Submit an application for LAC licensure to the AZBBHE, including a $250 application fee. You can check the status of your application online. There’s a section on your application where you indicate which national counseling exam you’d like to take. Once the AZBBHE approves your application it will clear you to test with the national exam organization that sponsors the exam you’ve chosen. At this point you’ll be able to register to take an exam through your exam provider.
    4. Pass a qualifying national counselor examination. Once the AZBBHE is notified that you’ve passed your exam it will issue your LAC license. Passing any one of the following exams fulfills this requirement:
  • National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the NBCC
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam (CRCE), sponsored by the Commission on Rehabilitation
  • Counseling Certification (CRCC)

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Application Requirements:

    1. Fulfill the supervised work experience requirement. You need to accrue 3,200 hours of post-master’s counseling experience over a period of at least two years. This needs to include at least 100 hours of direct supervision –at least 50 of which are from an LPC– and 1,600 hours of direct client contact. Your supervisor and/or employer will fill out the relevant portions on your LPC licensure application to verify you’ve fulfilled this requirement. They’ll return these to you in sealed envelopes, and you need to include these with your application for licensure.
    2. Submit an application for LPC licensure to the AZBBHE. Include a $250 application fee and another self-query report from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). You can check the status of your application online. Once the AZBBHE approves your application it will issue your LPC license.

Renewing Your License

The LAC and LPC licenses expire every two years. You can renew your license by submitting a renewal form to the AZBBHE. You can also renew online. The renewal fee is $325. To be eligible to renew you must attest to completing 30 hours of continuing education, including a three-hour tutorial on Arizona statutes and regulations, three hours in behavioral health ethics, and three hours in cultural competency and diversity. You can keep track of your continuing education on this form, and include it with your renewal form.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Arizona?

You can expect to invest a total of eight years into becoming fully licensed as an LPC. It will take you at least six years to fulfill the education requirement: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and at least two additional years to earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling. From this point you can become licensed as an LAC and accrue an additional two years of supervised counseling experience to qualify for full LPC licensure.

Reciprocity

If you’re a licensed LPC in another state and your state’s requirements for licensure are equivalent to Arizona’s then you can apply for an Arizona LPC license based on endorsement. Use this application to apply, and the application fee is $250.

The AZBBHE also needs to receive the following in addition to the materials outlined in the step-by-step application process above:

  • Official verification of your LPC license from your state’s licensing board
  • Official exam scores from a qualifying national counselor examination from the sponsoring organization

On your application you can opt to obtain a one-year temporary license for $50. This will allow you to practice under supervision until your full LPC license application is approved.

Practicums and Internships

When you’re fulfilling the education requirement, your degree must include a supervised counseling practicum that’s 700 hours and includes 240 hours of direct client contact. CACREP-accredited programs are understood to automatically include this.

If you’re fulfilling the education requirement with a doctoral degree and it includes a clinical internship, then up to one year of this can be credited towards fulfilling the LPC’s supervised work experience requirement.

Required Exams

There are three qualifying national counselor examinations that are recognized by the AZBBHE. Passing any one of these will qualify you for LAC licensure and subsequent LPC licensure:

  • National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the NBCC
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam (CRCE), sponsored by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counseling Certification (CRCC)

You can register for your chosen exam through its sponsoring organization once the AZBBHE has notified them after approving your application for LAC licensure.

All exams are taken on a computer. You can find more information about each exam by reviewing its associated guidebook:

  • NCE – 200 multiple-choice questions; three hours and 45 minutes allowed for testing
  • NCMHCE – multiple-choice questions where one or many answers can be selected; three hours allowed for testing
  • CRCE – 175 multiple-choice questions; 3.5 hours allowed for testing

Required Education and Degrees

The most direct way of fulfilling the education requirement for licensure as an LAC and subsequently as an LPC is to earn a graduate degree in Counseling from a program that’s at least 60 semester credits and accredited by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Right now there are four schools in Arizona offering six graduate programs that are CACREP-accredited. These include:

  • One Master of Education (M. Ed) program
  • Three Master of Arts (MA) programs
  • Two Master of Science (MS) programs, one of which is offered online

Your degree program must include a qualifying supervised counseling practicum, and programs that are CACREP-accredited are understood to automatically include this.

You can also fulfill the education requirement for licensure by earning a graduate degree in Counseling that’s at least 60 semester credits from a non-CACREP-accredited school, as long as it’s accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). If you go this route then your degree must also include at least 24 credits total in the following subjects:

  • Ethical practice and professional orientation
  • Program evaluation and research
  • Group work
  • Assessment
  • Career development
  • Helping relationships
  • Cultural and social diversity
  • Human growth and development
  • Career development

If your academic transcript is lacking in any of these areas then you can fill in any holes with additional post-graduate coursework.

When qualifying with a non-CACREP-accredited degree you must ensure your program includes a qualifying supervised counseling practicum.

The AZBBHE can also designate degree programs outside this context as fulfilling the education requirement for licensure. It maintains a list of self-designated qualifying education programs on this page of its website.

Note that the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) merged with the CACREP in 2017.

Salary Information

In 2020 the US Department of Labor reported the following average annual salary statistics for a range of counseling careers, specifically for Arizona:

  • Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $51,140
  • Marriage and Family Therapists – $49,100
  • Rehabilitation Counselors – $34,120
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $45,100
  • Counselors, all others – $41,820
  • Occupational Therapists – $95,180
  • Therapists, all other – $61,150

Types of Counseling Careers

Of the counseling careers listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 20,380 professionals employed throughout Arizona. Of those:

  • 43% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
  • 29% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
  • 10% are Occupational Therapists
  • 10% are Rehabilitation Counselors
  • 5% are Marriage and Family Therapists
  • 2% are Counselors, all others
  • 1% are Therapists, all others

Resources

Arizona Counselors Association (AZCA) – Advocating for both counselors and students, this organization serves as the hub for professional counselors throughout the state. It maintains a directory of job opportunities, links for internships, provides trainings, sponsors annual events, and much more. Its roots stretch back to its founding in 1950.

Arizona School Counselors Association (AzSCA) – This organization empowers school counselors to lead system change through support at the state and national level. It does this with legislative advocacy, through the provision of professional support for development, and by providing resources like annual networking events.

Mental Health America (MHA) of Arizona – Promoting the mental health and well being of all residents through advocacy, education, and the shaping of public policy, this organization offers an annual conference, trainings, and plenty of opportunities to get involved in this field throughout the state.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Arizona – This organization is dedicated to ending the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses, and it sees education as the best way forward for accomplishing this. It serves as a resource for mental illnesses, in addition to hosting a peer leadership council along with annual events.

Arizona Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors – As the state affiliate of the NAADAC, this organization offers resources relating to its own certification program and professional development. Its goal is to advance professionalism, policy, and services in this field.

Career Opportunities

Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) – This state-level department provides a range of important services for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable populations. These includes services aimed at promoting health, reducing addiction to drugs and alcohol, and providing assistance to those with mental and behavioral health issues.

COPE Community Services – With nine clinics and centers distributed throughout the Tucson area, this organization is an important provider of a range of services from youth programs and medical treatments to behavioral health and therapy. It sees the value in integrating physical and mental healthcare.

Friendship Community Mental Health Center – Founded in 1995, this Phoenix-based organization tailors its mental health services to children, adults, and seniors. It offers outpatient programs, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs.

Interfaith Community Services – Serving the local community from three different Tucson office locations, this organization specializes in health advocacy, health education outreach, end of life care, and mental health. It has been fulfilling its mission to provide compassionate service since its founding in 1985.

Terros Health – With 10 locations throughout the Phoenix area including two that are dedicated specifically to counseling, this healthcare company has been providing primary care services and specializing in mental health and substance abuse treatment since 1969.