The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA), Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board (BHHSLB) issues the license you need if you want to practice professional counseling throughout the state: the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
Initially as you work towards becoming an LMHC you’ll need to start out as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate (LMHCA). This license allows you to gain supervised experience and qualify for the exam you must pass to become fully licensed as an LMHC.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Indiana
Starting out as an LMHCA and progressing towards becoming an LMHC involves these basic steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in an area of Mental Health Counseling; have your school send your official transcripts to the BHHSLB when you apply for licensure
- Complete a qualifying practicum and internship
- Pass an Indiana jurisprudence exam covering the rules and laws for licensing and practice
- Pass the NCE exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Gain supervised experience as an LMHCA
- Pass another NBCC exam, the NCMHCE, and become a licensed LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate (LMHCA)
- Fulfill the education requirement with a qualifying graduate degree in an area of Mental Health Counseling. Use Form C in the LMHCA application packet to verify this. Form C1 can also help you in verifying this.
- Fulfill the 700-hour practicum and internship requirement. This is typically completed as part of your education program. Your practicum experience is verified with Form P, and your internship is verified with Form I, both of which are in the LMHCA application packet.
- Submit an application packet for LMHCA licensure to the BHHSLB. Note that the application packet contains a Form AI Advanced Internship, which you can disregard because the law no longer requires this. Include the following with your application: 1.) $50 application fee 2.) Optional $25 for a temporary permit fee – You can choose to practice as an LMHCA on a temporary permit once you’ve fulfilled all requirements for licensure except having passed the NCE exam; you have one year to pass the NCE exam with a temporary permit and it cannot be renewed 3.) Results from a criminal background check
- Fulfill the examination requirements. Once the BHHSLB approves your application it will notify you how you can take the jurisprudence exam. Pass this with a score of 75% or better. The BHHSLB will also notify the NBCC that you’re authorized to register for its National Counselor Examination (NCE).
- Register with the NBCC for its NCE exam. Once the BHHSLB receives your passing results from the NBCC it will notify you how you can print off your LMHCA license online. As an LMHCA you can start accruing hours to fulfill the LMHC’s supervised experience requirement.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
Fulfill the LMHCA education, practicum, and internship requirements.
Fulfill the advanced internship requirement by completing at least 300 hours of an advanced internship. This is typically included in your education program after your normal internship. Verify this using Form AI that’s included in your LMHC application packet.
Fulfill the supervised clinical work experience requirement. This is at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate clinical experience completed over a period of at least two years. It must include at least 100 hours of work under the supervision of an LMHC or other equivalent supervisor. Once you complete this have your supervisor fill out Form E2 to verify your experience and Form S2 to verify your supervision. Both forms are contained in your LMHC licensure application packet.
Submit an application packet for LMHC licensure to the BHHSLB. Include a $50 fee and your results from a criminal background check.
Fulfill the examination requirements. Once the BHHSLB approves your application you’ll be able to take the jurisprudence exam, which you must pass again with a score of at least 75%. The BHHSLB will also notify the NBCC that you’re authorized to register for its National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
Register with the NBCC for its NCMHCE exam. Once the BHHSLB receives your passing results from the NBCC it will notify you how you can print off your LMHC license online.
Renewing Your License:
The LMHCA and LMHC licenses expire every two years on March 31st of even-numbered years. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle. You can renew online by creating an account with the Professional Licensing Agency (PLA), or you can submit a renewal form by mail. Make sure to include a renewal fee of $100.
The LMHCA can only be renewed twice, so it’s important that you complete the supervised experience requirement and become an LMHC in a timely fashion.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Indiana?
You’ll need to invest at least six years into obtaining the education you need to qualify for the LMHCA and LMHC licenses: four years into earning a bachelor’s degree and at least two additional years to earn a master’s degree in an area of Mental Health Counseling. You need two additional years of supervised experience to qualify for the LMHC license, bringing your total investment to eight years.
If you’re a licensed LMHC in another state in good standing then you can apply for an equivalent license in Indiana via endorsement, also referred to as applying through exemption from examination. As part of qualifying by this route you must have passed the NCMHCE exam previously. Fill out Form EE in the application for LMHC licensure via endorsement to qualify for an exemption from re-taking the NCMHCE exam. You’ll need to have your out-of-state Board of Counseling officially verify your license using this form. When you apply for licensure via endorsement you can also opt to obtain a temporary permit. The application fee is $50, and the temporary permit fee is $25.
Practicums and Internships
To qualify for licensure as an LMHCA and subsequently an LMHC, you need to complete a practicum and internship. Your practicum must be at least 100 hours and include at least 40 hours of direct service with clients.
Your internship must be at least 600 hours and include at least 66 hours of face-to-face supervision. While its not required for LMHCA licensure, you’ll need to complete an additional 300-hour advanced internship before you can become an LMHC. This usually takes place after you’ve completed your initial practicum and internship.
You can supplement not having completed an advanced internship with additional internship and/or practicum hours that are part of a graduate-level program. You just need to make sure that when you apply for LMHC licensure you have a total of 1,000 hours between your practicums and internships.
Practicums and internships are typically included as part of a graduate education program in Mental Health Counseling, however this is not a strict requirement. You can complete your practicum and internships away from your school as supervised practice as long as the site where you complete these is approved by a school official as being equivalent to those offered as part of a graduate program in Clinical Mental Health.
If you complete an internship as part of a doctoral program you can apply the hours you gain towards fulfilling the supervised work experience requirement.
To become a licensed LMHCA or LMHC in Indiana you must pass two examinations: one offered by a national organization and the other covering the rules of practice in Indiana.
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) sponsors the exams you must pass to be eligible for your counselor credential:
- LMHCAs must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- LMHCs must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
Both exams are computer-based. Testers are allocated three hours and forty-five minutes for the NCE exam, which is multiple choice, and three hours for the NCMHCE exam, which evaluates your response to 10 different clinical simulations. You can find detailed information about either exam in the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
You must obtain pre-authorization from the BHHSLB to take your exam. Once you have this you can create an online account with the company that NBCC contracts to manage its exams, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
You’ll also need to pass a jurisprudence examination to become licensed, covering the statutes and rules of being an LMHCA or LMHC. This is comprised of 30 questions in multiple-choice and true-false format. You must answer at least 23 questions correctly to pass. Once the BHHSLB approves your application for licensure it will mail you instructions on how to take the jurisprudence exam.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for LMHCA and subsequent LMHC licensure, you must earn a master’s or doctoral degree in an area of Mental Health Counseling. The school you graduate from must be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Your graduate program must include at least 60 semester credits in counseling. If you’re applying with a master’s degree that was at least 48 semester credits you can supplement it with additional education to reach a total of 60 credits. Your program must include coursework in the following content areas:
- Clinical instruction
- Skills and knowledge for the practice of psychotherapy and mental health counseling
- Contextual dimensions of mental health counseling
- Human growth and development
- Foundations of mental health counseling
- Professional ethics and orientation
- Program evaluation and research
- Appraisal and assessment of individuals
- Career and lifestyle development
- Group dynamics, counseling, processes, and consultation
- Helping relationship, including counseling practice and theory
- Cultural and social foundations of counseling
An internship and practicum are commonly included as part of a graduate program in Mental Health Counseling.
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries for different counseling careers in 2020, specifically for Indiana:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $51,850
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $47,560
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $40,230
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $45,860
- Counselors, all others – $54,050
- Occupational Therapists – $81,440
Types of Counseling Careers
There are a total of 15,670 professionals employed in the careers listed above according to the US Department of Labor. Of those:
- 33% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 29% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 21% are Occupational Therapists
- 9% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 5% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 3% are Counselors, all others
Indiana Counseling Association (ICA) – With an eye towards being the preeminent association for all types of counselors in the state, the ICA offers benefits like legislative updates, a student mentoring program, resources for continuing education and development, and an annual conference that offers you extensive networking opportunities.
Indiana School Counselor Association (ISCA) – All students need support as they develop academically, professionally, socially, and emotionally. The ISCA sees school counselors as being instrumental to achieving this, which is why it strives to maximize the support it provides to school counselors who’ve dedicated their careers to this end.
Indiana Association for Addiction Professionals (IAAP) – Offering forums, a national conference, and even its own private certifications, the IAAP is proud to provide members with access to professional development tools plus a network of colleagues and allies at both the state and national levels.
Indiana Association for College Admission Counseling (INACAC) – Helping aspiring college graduates find their best-fit school has important implications not only for one’s career but also emotional well-being and stability. This organization sponsors annual events like a national conference, professional development workshops, college fairs, and more. Its committees are devoted to issues like legislative lobbying, membership, and inclusion, access, and success.
Family and Social Services Administration – One of the most familiar state-level agencies for LMHCAs and LMHCs, professionals who work with behavioral and substance abuse issues are particularly familiar with this administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. It offers a host of addiction and mental health services for residents throughout the state.
Community Health Network (CHNw) – With a network of advanced care facilities, hospitals, and dozens of community health centers throughout the state, CHNw provides care for everything from cancer treatment and surgery to x-rays. It’s proud to provide vital health services to all residents of Indiana, including those in Central Indiana where it’s the largest provider of behavioral health services.
Ascension – This healthcare organization includes over 150,000 associates, 40,000 aligned providers, and more than 2,600 sites of service. In 2020 it provided $2.4 billion in care to people living in poverty and through community program benefits. Its St. Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis offers youth and adult programs, with additional options for mental and behavioral healthcare available from six other locations throughout the state.
Eskenazi Health – Offering high-quality healthcare to residents of Central Indiana for 160 years, each year this organization serves more than one million clients seeking outpatient care. Proud of hosting the state’s first community mental health center, it has since expanded its scope of mental health services, offering treatment options from 16 locations throughout the Indiana.
Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana – Serving more than 4,000 people in Northeast Indiana every year, this non-profit organization provides a wide range of services including resources for parents, mental health training, recovery classes, a housing program, a workplace wellness program, and more.