A part of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), the Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) Division issues the credential you need if you want to engage in the practice of mental health counseling as an independent professional: the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). Before you can become licensed you’ll need to complete a period of supervised experience and gain experience in this field.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Hawaii
These are the basic steps you need to take to become an LMHC:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a practicum
- Complete a period of supervised counseling experience
- Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) that’s sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Apply for an LMHC license
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Fulfill the education requirement with a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a practicum. Have your school send your official transcripts to PVL. When you’re submitting an application for licensure, include this form that verifies your education and this form that verifies your practicum.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of supervised post-graduate mental health counseling experience, including 100 hours of face-to-face supervision. This must be completed over a minimum of two years and a maximum of four years. To verify you’ve fulfilled this your supervisor will fill out this form and then return it to you so you can include it with your application for licensure. Your supervisor needs to be one of the following licensed professionals:
Submit an application for LMHC licensure to PVL. You can apply by mail or online. The application fee is $60. While your application is pending you can check its status here.
Once your application has been approved PVL will notify the NBCC that you’re authorized to register for its exam. It will also send you a letter notifying you that you’re eligible to take the NCE exam, and explaining how to register for this with the NBCC. The exam is offered year-round from a testing center on Oahu. Once PVL is notified that you’ve passed the exam it will issue your LMHC license after you’ve paid the licensure fee. This fee is $444 but is also pro-rated depending on when your license is issue in the licensure cycle.
- Clinical social worker
- Mental health APRN
- Marriage and family therapist
- Physician with a specialty in psychiatry
Renewing Your License
The LMHC license expires every three years on June 30th. The next expiration year is 2023 and every three years after. PVL mails out renewal reminders on May 1st. You can renew online or by requesting a renewal form by mail. The renewal fee is $282. There are no continuing education requirements.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Hawaii?
You can become licensed as an LMHC in Hawaii in as soon as about eight years. This breaks down as follows:
- Four years to earn a bachelor’s degree
- Two years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling
- Two years of supervised counseling experience
If you’re a licensed LMHC in anther state who’s licensure requirements were substantially similar to Hawaii’s then you can contact PVL about establishing a reciprocity agreement.
Military spouses can substitute demonstrated competency as an LMHC in lieu of fulfilling the supervised experience requirement and apply for licensure via endorsement. Military spouses who are already licensed LMHCs in another state can apply for licensure in Hawaii based on endorsement.
If you’re not a military spouse and Hawaii PVL cannot establish a reciprocity agreement you will have to meet Hawaii’s licensing requirements to become an LMHC and apply through the normal step-by-step process outlined above. However PVL does accept out-of-state passing results on the NCE exam and qualifying education completed out-of-state.
Practicums and Internships
The graduate program you use to fulfill the education requirement must incorporate a counseling practicum that’s at least six semester credits (10 quarter credits) and includes at least 300 hours of supervised client contact. The duration of this must span two academic terms and can include mental health practicum intern experience.
To become an LMHC you need to pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
This is a 200-question multiple-choice exam for which you’ll have three hours and forty-five minutes to complete. Questions related to the core content of your graduate counseling degree program. You can find more information about the NCE through its exam handbook.
Once PVL approves your LMHC licensure application it will notify the NBCC that you’re qualified to test. You register for the NCE with the NBCC’s partner organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). To register you’ll need to create an online account with the CCE’s ProCounselor portal.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for licensure as an LMHC you must earn a graduate degree in Counseling or in an allied field that’s related to the practice of mental health counseling. This must be at least 48 semester credits (72 quarter credits), and be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Your graduate degree program must include courses that are at least three semester credits in each of the following topics:
- Professional ethics and orientation
- Program evaluation and research
- Measurements and tests
- Appraisal of human behavior
- Lifestyle and career development
- Group practice and theory
- Counseling applications and theories
- Cultural and social foundations
- Human growth and development
If you’re lacking study in a specific area you can make up for it with additional qualifying coursework.
Your education program must include a qualifying practicum.
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for a range of counseling careers, specifically for Hawaii:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $60,790
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $69,060
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $43,410
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $55,300
- Counselors, all others – $58,660
- Occupational Therapists – $87,080
Types of Counseling Careers
From the counseling career categories listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 3,210 professionals employed throughout Hawaii. Of these:
- 55% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 22% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 9% are Occupational Therapists
- 5% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 5% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 3% are Counselors, all others
Hawaii Counselors Association (HCA) – Striving to be the number-one go-to hub for counselors throughout the state, the HCA’s member divisions include the Hawai’i Mental Health Counselors Association (HMHCA), the Hawai’i Association of Counselors and Educators in Government (HACEG), the Hawai’i Career Development Association (HCDA), and the Hawai’i Multicultural Counseling and Development Association (HMCDA).
Hawaii School Counselor Association (HSCA) – Proud to serve professionals in this field from both the public and private sectors, the HSCA’s history stretches back to its founding in 1962. In addition to a president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, and treasurer, the HSCA board is comprised of seven members.
Hawaii Association of Addiction and Drug Abuse Counselors (HAADAC) – Hosting trainings as a local representative of its national parent affiliate the National Association for Addiction and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), this association also provides resources for its own certification program and national conferences.
Hawai’i Association for College Admission Counseling (HACAC) – Sponsoring forums, an annual conference, neighbor island college fairs, discounted events, and much more, this non-profit organization is dedicated supporting the professionals who help students make a seamless transition to post-secondary education.
Mental Health America (MHA) of Hawaii – This organization is proud to make the claim of being the leading mental health advocacy and education organization in Hawaii for the past 75 years. An affiliate of its national parent organization, the MHA of Hawaii seeks to expand mental health action, understanding, and awareness.
Hawaii Behavioral Health Services Administration – This state-level agency is an important component of Hawaii’s Department of Health. It oversees four divisions that have a vital impact on mental and behavioral health: the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, the Adult Mental Health Division, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division, and the Developmental Disabilities Division.
Hawai’i Behavioral Health – With two locations on the Big Island plus offices on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, this organization has been promoting a suite of integrated services to help Hawaii’s youths and families since 1993. These include employment services, behavioral health services, personal assistance habilitation, and more.
Mental Health Kokua (MHK) – With its founding back in 1973 as a non-profit organization, today as a United Way agency MHK offers a range of important resources including intensive outpatient services, safe havens, case management, peer coaching, and community integration.
Hale Na`au Pono Wai`anae Coast Community Mental Health Center – This non-profit organization was founded in 1986 but its roots trace back further with strong community ties. Translated as “the Center for Inner Balance,” the name of this company reflects its mission: to provide mental health services that reflect respect for clients’ cultural diversity.
The Queen’s Medical Center – As the largest non-profit hospital in Honolulu, this medical center is comprised of divisions that offer many important services. Included among these is the Behavioral Health Services division. This provides clients with a range of treatment options for a variety of issues, including a hospital-based program for adults and adolescents, day treatment services, and a family treatment center.