The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, Counseling and Therapy Practice Board (CTPB) issues the license you need if you want to engage in clinical counseling as an independent professional: the Licensed Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC).
Before you can become fully licensed as an LPCC you’ll need to gain two years of supervised counseling experience. This is done as an Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). As an LMHC you must always work under a CTPB-approved supervised experience arrangement. Once you’ve earned enough supervised counseling experience you can apply for full licensure as an LPCC.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in New Mexico
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a counseling-related field that includes a practicum or internship
- Pass the NCE exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Become an LMHC and accrue supervised counseling experience for two years
- Pass the NBCC’s NCMHCE exam
- Become an LPCC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a related field that includes a practicum or internship. Have your school send you your transcripts in a sealed envelope and submit these with your licensure application. Also request your school to send your transcripts directly to the CTPB.
- Find a supervisor who is licensed as an LPCC, marriage and family therapist (LMFT), professional art therapist (LPAT), independent social worker (LISW), psychologist, or psychiatrist. Before you can start accruing hours of supervised counseling experience you’ll need to get a supervised experience plan (Form C) approved by the CTPB. Have your supervisor fill this out and return it to you in a sealed envelope, and submit this with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for LMHC licensure to the CTPB. The application fee is $75. Once the CTPB approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to register for its exam.
- Register with the NBCC for its National Counselor Examination (NCE). In the meantime the CTPB will issue your LMHC license on the condition that you pass the NCE exam within six months. Once you have your LMHC license you can start working under supervision, accruing hours of clinical counseling experience to fulfill the requirements for full LPCC licensure. There is a $75 license issuance fee.
Licensed Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC)
- Fulfill the experience requirement as an LMHC. You need to accrue 3,000 hours of post-graduate-degree clinical client contact and 100 hours of face-to-face post-graduate supervision. You can apply up to 1,000 hours from a practicum or internship that was part of your degree program towards fulfilling the 3,000-hours requirement. Once you’ve fulfilled this your supervisor will fill out a verification of postgraduate supervised hours form (Form B) and give this to you in a sealed envelope that you need to submit with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for LPCC licensure to the CTPB. The application fee is $75. Once the CTPB approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to register for its exam.
- Register with the NBCC for its National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). In the meantime the CTPB will issue your LPCC license on the condition that you pass the NCMHCE exam within six months. There is a license issuance fee of $220. You cannot be a supervisor as an LPCC until you’ve passed the NCMHCE exam.
Renewing Your License
The LMHC and LPCC licenses expire biennially every two years. Renewal notices are sent out by the CTPB in mid July in the year your license expires. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education over a two-year period between October 1st and September 30th, including six hours in ethics. You can renew online. The renewal fee is $75 for the LMHC and $220 for the LPCC.
If you’re engaging in supervision as an LPCC then you need to have three hours of continuing education on the topic of supervision.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in New Mexico?
It will take you at least eight years to become fully licensed as an LPCC. You’ll need to invest at least six years into education: four years into earning a bachelor’s degree and two years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling or a related field. At this point you can qualify to become an LMHC and accrue the additional two years of supervised counseling experience you need to qualify for full LPCC licensure.
You can apply for the LPCC license via reciprocity, also referred to as licensure by credential, if you’ve held an equivalent license in another state for at least five years. Your license needs to be in good standing with no disciplinary actions against it over this period of time. You also need to fulfill New Mexico’s education requirement for licensure.
You can apply by submitting an application for LPCC licensure via reciprocity to the New Mexico CTPB. You also need have your out-of-state Board of Counseling fill out a license verification form (Form A) and send it to the CTPB.
Practicums and Internships
The degree program you use to fulfill the education requirement for LMHC and LPCC licensure must include a supervised practicum or internship that focuses on the provision of counseling services within a professional setting. This must count for at least nine semester credits.
The LMHC and LPCC licenses each have their own exam requirement:
- LMHC – National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- LPCC – National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
While both exams are sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), before you can register with the NBCC for your exam you first must submit an application for either LMHC or LPCC licensure to the New Mexico CTPB. Once the CTPB approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to test and you can then register for an exam with the NBCC.
You’ll register for your exam through the online ProCounselor portal, which is maintained by an NBCC-affiliated organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
Both exams are taken on a computer at a local testing center. The NCE exam allocates three hours and forty-five minutes for completion and is comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions covering core content from your education program’s curriculum. The NCMHCE exam presents you with questions on 10 different clinical simulations, for which you’ll have three hours to complete. You can read more about both exams through the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for LMHC or LPCC licensure you must have a master’s or doctoral degree in Counseling or a counseling-related field from a school that’s accredited by an organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Fields that are counseling-related are defined as the following:
Family and human studies
Art therapy or art education
If your degree is in a counseling-related field then you’ll need to submit this form (Form E) with your application for licensure, verifying that your degree program contains a practicum, is at least 48 semester credits, and that it includes at least three credits covering each of the following:
- Professional orientation
- Research and program evaluation
- Lifestyle and career development
- Group work
- Helping relationships
- Cultural and social foundations
- Human growth and development
Your degree program also needs to include at least 12 semester credits in total devoted to these specialized clinical studies subjects:
- Case study
- Psychodynamics and psychotherapy
- DSC IV Diagnosis
- Clinical supervision
- Treatment planning
- Advanced training
In 2020 the US Department of Labor reported the following average annual salaries for a range of counseling careers, specifically for New Mexico:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $57,500
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $49,200
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $38,310
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $50,430
- Counselors, all others – $45,010
- Occupational Therapists – $84,150
- Therapists, all other – $68,990
Types of Counseling Careers
From the careers detailed above the US Department of Labor reports a total of 4,580 professionals working statewide in New Mexico. Of those:
- 36% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 32% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 14% are Occupational Therapists
- 10% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 4% are Therapists, all others
- 3% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 2% are Counselors, all others
New Mexico Counseling Association (NMCA) – Hosting an annual conference while facilitating professional development, legislative advocacy, and offering extensive networking opportunities, this organization is comprised of four divisions: the New Mexico Career Development Association (NMCDA), the New Mexico Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling (NMALGBTIC), the New Mexico Association of Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (NMSERVIC), and the New Mexico Mental Health Counselors Association (NMMHCA).
New Mexico Mental Health Counselors Association (NMMHCA) – The roots of this organization stretch back to 1979. Striving to be the number-one organization for those in this field, it represents mental health counselors working in private and public practice. It’s divided into northern, southern, and central regions of representation.
New Mexico School Counselor Association (NMSCA) – Sponsoring regular events including an annual conference and awards ceremony, the mission of the NMSCA is to promote excellence throughout this professional field. Its board is made up of dedicated volunteers.
Behavioral Health Providers Association of New Mexico (BHPANM) – Through collaboration, this organization focuses on advocating for a sustainable behavioral health system for all in New Mexico. It sponsors trainings, an annual conference, engages in legislative advocacy, and maintains a repository of important resources.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Mexico – Founded in the 1980s by a dedicated group who saw the necessity for mental health education and support in New Mexico, today members from a variety of professional backgrounds are proud to come together and engage in community outreach activities.
New Mexico Human Services Department – This state-level agency is comprised of four main divisions: the Medical Assistance Division, the Income Support Division, the Child Support Enforcement Division, and the Behavioral Health Services Division. The latter division serves as the substance abuse and mental health authority for the entire state.
New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) – An executive state-level government agency, the NMDOH’s subdivisions include its Injury and Behavioral Epidemiology Bureau, its Mental Health Program, and its Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program.
Albuquerque Collaborative Therapeutics – Providing comprehensive behavioral and psychological services using evidence-based practices like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, this team of clinical social workers and LPCCs help clients with issues like PTSD, behavioral support consultations, and developmental disabilities.
Age to Age Counseling – Staffed by a team of LPCCs, LMHCs, and master social workers, this Albuquerque-based practice helps individuals, families, couples, and groups address issues with treatments like aromatherapy, a sand tray, psychological testing, and the expressive arts.
Amistad Family Services – This Las Cruces-based organization hosts an infant mental health program and circle of security sessions with parents and individuals. It also provides child and parent psychotherapy and EMDR treatments. It has a multi-disciplinary team made up of LMHCs, clinical and master social workers, and a marriage and family therapist.