A part of the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling, referred to henceforth as the State Board, issues the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) credential. This allows you to provide mental health counseling like psychotherapy to clients throughout Florida.
The process for becoming an LMHC involves fulfilling specific education, exam, and supervised experience requirements. To earn your supervised experience you’ll need to first apply with the State Board to become a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (RMHI).
Once you’ve become a full LMHC you can apply to become a qualified supervisor for other RMHIs who are aspiring to become LMHCs.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Florida
The process of becoming an LMHC involves the following main steps:
- Completing a qualifying graduate degree, which is most directly accomplished by earning a master’s degree in Counseling from a program that’s accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
- Completing an internship or practicum, which is typically included in CACREP-accredited programs
- Gaining two years of supervised experience from a qualified supervisor
- Passing an exam from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
You can apply online by creating a new applicant account with the Florida Department of Health, or you can apply by mailing in the documents referenced below to the State Board.
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Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (RMHI)
- Meet the education requirement. Earn at least a master’s degree from a mental health counseling program that’s accredited by the CACREP. These generally automatically include a qualifying internship or practicum experience that you also must complete to qualify for licensure. You can also fulfill the education and internship requirements with non-CACREP-accredited graduate programs, however they must meet specific conditions. Once you’ve fulfilled the education requirement, have your school send your official transcripts directly to the State Board in a sealed envelope.
- Find a supervisor. The purpose of becoming an RMHI is so you can gain the necessary supervised work experience to become a full-fledged Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). When you submit an application to become an RMHI you’ll need a qualified supervisor to fill out their portion on your application. You also must include a written letter from your supervisor stating that they have agreed to provide you with supervision while you’re a registered intern.
- Submit an application to become an RMHI along with a $150 application fee. Once the State Board approves your application you can start practicing under supervision and accrue hours to fulfill the LMHC supervised experience requirement. You have five years to accomplish this, after which time your RMHI credential expires. While there are no continuing education requirements for the RMHI, if you have not become an LMHC within five years then you must pass the NBCC exam before you can re-apply for another RMHI credential.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Complete the supervised work experience requirement. This must be completed over at least two years and include 1,500 hours of face-to-face client psychotherapy and at least 100 hours of supervision. You must do this with an approved supervisor, which you establish as an RMHI. Once you’ve fulfilled this requirement your supervisor will submit a Verification of Clinical Experience form to the State Board.
- Take and pass the NBCC’s National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE). You don’t need clearance from the State Board to register for this; you can take it as soon as you’re ready. Designate the State Board as the recipient of your passing score.
- Before you can become licensed you must complete an eight-hour Florida Law and Rules Course and a three-hour HIV/AIDS Course. You can find approved providers of these online courses here.
- Submit an application for LMHC licensure to the State Board. Include a $180 application fee and a letter from the school where you completed your practicum or internship verifying such.
Becoming a Qualified Supervisor
- If you want to qualify to be a supervisor for RMHIs you must complete five years of clinical experience. You can qualify for two of these years with a post-master’s clinical internship, and the remaining three years must be earned post-licensure.
- Complete a graduate-level training course, or continuing education, in supervision.
- Submit an LMHC Qualified Supervisor application to the State Board. Once it’s approved you’ll receive authorization to supervise RMHIs.
Renewing Your LMHC License
Your LMHC license expires every two years on March 31st. 90 days before this date you’ll receive a renewal reminder notice in the mail, however you must renew the LMHC through your online account with the Florida Department of Health. There is a $120 renewal fee. Except during your first renewal period when you’re exempt, you must complete 30 hours of continuing education to be eligible for renewal. You can find approved continuing education courses here.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Florida?
Completing the education segment of the LMHC license takes approximately six years – four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and an additional two years to earn a master’s degree. That will qualify you to become an RMHI, which allows you to complete two years of supervised work experience. At that point, after a total of eight years, you can meet the requirements for becoming an LMHC. Adding three additional years of qualifying experience means you can also supervise aspiring RMHIs.
The Florida State Board can issue the LMHC License based on reciprocity provided that:
- You’ve held an equivalent LMHC license and have actively practiced for at least three of the past five years
- You’ve met equivalent education, experience, and exam requirements
- You still must complete the Laws and Rules Course and HIV/AIDS course
Follow the application process detailed above to apply for the LMHC license via reciprocity. There’s a Certificate/License Verification Form contained within the LMHC application for licensure that you must have your out-of-state Counseling Board fill out and return to the Florida State Board.
Practicums and Internships
Part of becoming eligible for licensure includes completing a qualifying practicum or internship.
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If you fulfill the education requirement by earning a graduate degree from a CACREP-accredited mental health counseling program, then it’s understood that your education automatically includes a qualifying practicum or internship.
If you’re fulfilling the education requirement with a non-CACREP-accredited graduate degree, then you must ensure that it includes an internship, practicum, or field experience that’s at least 1,000 hours. This must include at least 280 hours of direct client services.
You can decide to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), once you feel ready. You must pass this to become an LMHC, and additionally if you need more than five years to practice under supervision as an RMHI.
The NCMHCE is administered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). The CCE manages the online ProCounselor portal where you can register for the NCMHCE. The exam itself presents you with clinical scenarios on which you will be evaluated. You can learn more about the exam through the NCMHCE Handbook.
Required Education and Degrees
The most direct route to fulfilling the education requirement for licensure is by earning a graduate degree from a mental health counseling program that’s accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). To be qualifying, the program must be at least 60 semester credits or 80 quarter credits of clinical and didactic instruction, and must include a course in substance abuse and a course in human sexuality. There are currently 16 CACREP-accredited mental health counseling programs offered in Florida.
You can also fulfill the education requirement with a non-CACREP-accredited graduate degree provided that it includes an acceptable practicum or internship, and that it’s at least 60 semester credits, including three semester credits in each of the following subject areas:
- Diagnostic processes
- Counseling practice and theories
- Human growth and development
- Psychopathology treatment and diagnosis
- Human sexuality
- Group practice and theories
- Individual assessment and evaluation
- Lifestyle and career assessment
- Program and research evaluation
- Cultural and social foundations
- Substance abuse
- Mental health counseling legal, ethical, and professional standards
If you qualify via this route then you must fill out parts I, II, and III of the Educational Worksheet included in the application to become an RMHI.
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salary information for different types of counselor careers, specifically for Florida:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $50,200
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $46,330
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $36,640
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $44,820
- Counselors, all others – $36,380
- Occupational Therapists – $83,550
- Therapists, all other – $50,630
Types of Counseling Careers
Of the 49,090 professionals total working in the different counselor occupations listed above, the US Department of Labor reports they break down by percentage as follows:
- 39% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 28% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 15% are Occupational Therapists
- 7% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 4% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 4% are Counselors, all others
- 2% are Therapists, all others
Florida Counseling Association (FCA) – Promoting high standards of professional counseling and public policy advocacy are just a few of the goals of this organization. Founded in 1939, the FCA has risen to include 10 divisions with 28 local district chapters, and annual conventions that attract over a thousand counselors.
Florida School Counselor Association (FSCA) – By creating systemic change and through leadership and advocacy, the FSCA strives to implement its goal of expanding the influence and image of professional school counselors throughout the state.
Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA) – Through advocacy, legislative efforts, professional development, and networking, this organization works to achieve its mission of advancing the clinical mental health counseling profession. With roots stretching back to 1978, this is the state chapter of its national affiliate.
South Florida Association of Christian Counselors (SFACC) – Founded in 2005, this non-profit organization offers members on-demand webinars, networking opportunities, and educational options that qualify as continuing education.
Jewish Counseling Association of Florida (JCAF) – Bringing together the best and brightest Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals, this organization offers members events, training options, and opportunities for networking.
Florida Department of Children and Families – This is perhaps the single-most familiar state-level department for counselors throughout Florida. It provides services that address issues like substance abuse, human trafficking, child welfare, domestic violence, disabilities, adult protective services, and much more.
Criminal Mental Health Project (CMPH) with the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida – In light of the fact that Miami-Dade County is home to the largest percentage of people with serious mental illnesses of all urban areas in the nation, the CMHP was founded to provide a treatment solutions for diverted non-violent offenders suffering from serious mental disorders and co-occurring substance use disorders.
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Memorial Healthcare System – This healthcare provider network has been serving the residents of South Florida since 1953. It’s proud of its reputation as a leading healthcare system and operates hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers throughout the region.
The Collaborative Counseling Center – Offering services for individuals, couples, families, and teens, this Miami-based counseling agency specializes in issues like chronic illness, grief and loss, infertility, substance use disorders, trauma, and much more.
Lotus Counseling Center – Operating out of three different locations in the Miami area with a team of mental health professionals, this agency provides services like online medication management, family conflict resolution, marriage and couples counseling, and counseling for issues like anxiety and depression.