Part of the state’s Department of Labor and Industry, you’ll work with the Montana Board of Behavioral Health (BBH) as you fulfill the requirements to become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). Becoming an LCPC allows you to independently engage in professional clinical counseling with clients for compensation.
To earn the LCPC license you’ll need to first complete a period of supervised experience. During this time you’ll have LCPC Candidate status. This allows you to gain counseling experience on the condition that you must always work under supervision.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Montana
To become fully licensed as an LCPC you’ll follow these basic steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a practicum
- Pass a fingerprint background check
- Become an LCPC Candidate and start accruing hours of supervised counseling experience
- Pass an exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Apply for an LCPC license
You can apply for Candidate and full LCPC licensure online. You can also apply by mailing in the documents linked to in the step-by-step process detailed below.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) Candidate
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a practicum. Have your school send your official transcripts to the BBH, and include an Academic Summary Sheet with your Candidate licensure application.
- Gain credit towards fulfilling the LCPC’s supervised experience requirement, if applicable. You can apply hours of supervised counseling experience you earned as part of your academic degree program towards fulfilling up to 1,500 hours of the LCPC supervised experience requirement. To claim credit fill out this form with your academic supervisor and include it with your Candidate licensure application.
- Complete a fingerprint background check with your local law enforcement agency or the Montana Department of Justice; include a consent form.
- Locate a supervisor. As an LCPC Candidate you must practice under supervision until you’ve fulfilled the requirements for full LCPC licensure. Your supervisor needs to be an LCPC or allied mental health professional. Your supervisor’s license needs to be active and in good standing, and they need to have either three years of experience as a fully-licensed LCPC or have completed supervisor training that’s either one semester or 20 hours in length. Fill out a Training and Supervision Plan with your supervisor and submit this with your Candidate application.
- Submit an application for an LCPC Candidate license to the BBH. The application fee is $200. Once the BBH approves your application it will issue your LCPC Candidate license.
Renewing the LCPC Candidate license:
You’ll need to re-register your LCPC Candidate status every year with the BBH. The cost for this is $85. There are no continuing education requirements for Candidates. You can re-register your status online or by mail with this form.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is 3,000 hours of supervised counseling work experience, which must include face-to-face supervision at a rate of one hour for every 20 hours of professional counseling experience. You can claim credit for up to half of the 3,000 hours if they were included as part of your degree program. 1,500 hours of the 3,000 hours must be obtained after you’ve earned your degree. Of these post-degree hours, 1,000 must involve direct client contact under face-to-face supervision. Once you’ve fulfilled this requirement you and your supervisor can complete a Evaluation of Supervised Experience form and submit this to the BBH.
- Fulfill the exam requirement. You must pass one of the following exams sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC); you don’t need pre-approval from the BBH to register with the NBCC for an exam, and when you register with the NBCC arrange to have your exam results sent to the BBH:
Complete a fingerprint background check with your local law enforcement agency or the Montana Department of Justice; include a consent form.
Submit an application for a full LCPC license to the BBH. You can find this application on the BBH’s Forms Page or you can apply online. The application fee is $200. Once the BBH approves your application it will issue your LCPC license.
- National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
Renewing the LCPC license
Your LCPC license expires every year. You can renew it online or by mail with this form. The renewal fee is and $149. To be eligible for renewal you must attest to completing 20 hours of continuing education, including two hours that are related to suicide prevention.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Montana?
You can expect to invest around eight years into becoming a fully-licensed LCPC. Most of this is education: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling. At this point you’ll be qualified to become an LCPC Candidate. Considering you can probably gain credit for some hours of supervised counseling experience you completed as part of your degree program, it should take you around two years to accrue enough hours to qualify for full LCPC licensure.
While Montana doesn’t have reciprocity with any other state, you can apply for LCPC licensure as an out-of-state candidate if you have a current and active license that’s in good standing, and the licensing requirements in your state were substantially equivalent to Montana’s. This includes meeting Montana’s education, supervised experience, exam, and fingerprint background check requirements. Arrange to have your state’s Board of Counseling send official verification of your license to the Montana BBH. The BBH also needs your exam scores from the NBCC. You can apply via the application process detailed above.
Practicums and Internships
As part of fulfilling the education requirement for licensure you must complete an advanced practicum in counseling that’s included in your degree program and at least six semester credits. This must be supervised, and include 30 hours of face-to-face direct supervision plus 45 hours of small group supervision. It also needs to include 200 hours of client service.
You need to pass either one of the following exams that are sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) to qualify for full LCPC licensure:
- National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
Both these exams are taken on a computer at a local testing center. You’ll have at least three hours to complete either exam. The NCE is 200 multiple-choice questions covering the core topics of your graduate degree program. The NCMHCE gives you 10 clinical simulations and asks you questions about these. You can find more information about each exam through the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
To register for an exam you’ll go through the NBCC’s partner organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), and sign up through the CCE’s online ProCounselor portal.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for Candidate status and full LCPC licensure you must earn a graduate degree from a program that is primarily counseling in nature. If the program is at least 45 credits you can qualify for LCPC Candidate status. To qualify for full LCPC licensure the program must be at least 60 semester credits.
The Montana BBH recognizes the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) as the gold-standard for educational quality. While it’s not an outright requirement for your graduate program to be CACREP-accredited, the BBH does require that your program include core courses as defined by the CACREP as a minimum curriculum requirement. These are:
- Program evaluation and research
- Testing and assessment
- Group work and group counseling
- Helping and counseling relationships
- Career development
- Human growth and development
- Cultural and social diversity
- Ethical practice and professional counseling orientation
Montana is home to four schools that offer eight CACREP-accredited graduate programs. These include:
- Four Master of Science (MS) programs
- Two Master of Arts (MA) programs
- One Master of Education (M.Ed) program
- One Ph.D program
If your program was at least 45 credits but less than 60, you can make up the remaining 15 credits in a graduate program while you’re an LCPC Candidate. You’ll have five years to earn a total of 60 credits, and you cannot become fully licensed as an LCPC until you’ve met the 60-credit requirement.
Your degree program must also include a qualifying practicum, which is automatically included with CACREP-accredited programs.
The US Department of Labor reported the following average annual salaries for a range of counseling careers, specifically for Montana:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $47,920
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $46,980
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $37,760
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $42,770
- Occupational Therapists – $76,670
Types of Counseling Careers
From the counseling careers listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 2,970 professionals working throughout Montana. Of those:
- 54% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 22% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 12% are Occupational Therapists
- 11% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 1% are Marriage and Family Therapists
Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana – Dedicated to ensuring health equity with adequate services for all Montanans, this organization focuses on advocacy, coordination, communication, and providing networking opportunities for a wide assortment of professionals working in this field. It also hosts a virtual job board with employment vacancy listings from throughout the state.
Montana Association for Addiction Professionals (MAADAC) – This organization strives to advance policy, professional development, and services within this field. As the local representative of its national parent organization it offers its own certification program. Members enjoy advantages like free opportunities for continuing education.
Montana School Counselor Association (MSCA) – This organization advocates for school counselors while simultaneously promoting ethical and professional practices. It has developed its own guidelines and supports school counselors as they work collaboratively with community stakeholders. It also offers opportunities to participate in relevant local and national research.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montana – Support groups, county-level resource guides, a simplified client-based rating system, education programs, and annual events like a fundraising walk and snowmobile ride are just a few of the things that make NAMI Montana a great organization to be affiliated with.
Pacific Northwest Association for College Admission Counseling (PNACAC) – This organization recognizes the importance of counselors who help students make life-altering decisions. It sponsors awards, members-only resources, grants, a members directory, scholarships, professional development opportunities, and an annual conference.
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) – This is one of the most relevant state-level departments for LCPCs who need to connect their clients with services. DPHHS is comprised of divisions devoted to issues like addictive and mental disorders, developmental services, child and family services, community services, and early childhood family support.
Yellowstone Counseling Center – Serving clients for issues like anger, infertility, domestic violence, grief, anxiety, depression, and marital problems, this Billings-based organization has a staff team that can take advantage of an interdisciplinary background in fields like counseling, social work, and marriage and family therapy.
Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center – Founded in 1967, this organization has received such positive community feedback that today it has grown to serve clients from 18 locations throughout the eastern portion of the state. It offers a wide range of outpatient services, as well as residential treatment options.
Montana Healthcare Foundation – This Bozeman-based healthcare provider’s focuses include American Indian Health, public health, Medicaid, and behavioral health. In the latter category it offers specialized integrated behavioral health programs, programs addressing substance abuse prevention and treatment, and a maternally-focused child and family program.
Western Montana Mental Health Center – This organization focuses on treating mental health issues and clients challenged by drug and alcohol addiction. Population specializations include adults, adolescents, and children. It offers services from 24 locations throughout Western Montana. Founded in 1971, today this organization is proud to employ 800 professionals who serve more than 15,000 clients.