The North Carolina Board of Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (NCBLCMHC) is the state agency responsible for issuing the state’s main professional counseling credential: the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC).
It also issues two other related credentials. One is the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Associate (LCMHA). This allows you to gain the necessary supervised work experience to qualify for the LPC. This is a limited license, and you can only engage in practice under the supervision of an NCBLCMHC-approved supervisor.
The other is the Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor (LCMHCS). This is an upgrade of the LCMHC and allows you to supervise LCMHAs in training.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure North Carolina
The basic steps you’ll progress through to receive a full and unrestricted license as an LCMHC are:
- Earn a qualifying master’s degree in Counseling or a related field that includes a qualifying graduate counseling experience
- Pass a qualifying exam sponsored by a national organization, in addition to passing a North Carolina jurisprudence exam
- Complete a period of supervised experience as an LCMHA
You apply for licensure by creating an online account with the NCBLCMHC’s Counselor Gateway Portal. You can upload the forms listed below to your online account to make a complete application.
Each time you apply for a license at any level you need:
- To include an application fee of $238
- To find three people who will be your professional references and have them fill out an Applicant Referee Form. One must be an LCMHC. Have these forms sent either directly to the NCBLCMHC, or to you in an envelope that’s signed across the seal and include these as part of your application for licensure.
- To submit this affidavit form to the NCBLCMHC confirming your license application is true and accurate.
In 2020 the NCBLCMHC changed the names of the titles for the licenses it issues. As you sort through the licensing forms and the NCBLCMHC’s website you’ll come across both the old and new license titles, listed here so you won’t get confused:
- The Licensed Clinical Mental Health Associate (LCMHA) was formerly the Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA)
- The Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) was formerly the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- The Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor (LCMHCS) was formerly the Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPCS)
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Licensed Clinical Mental Health Associate (LCMHA)
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying master’s degree in Counseling or a related field. You can submit transcripts that are sealed in an envelope as part of your application for licensure, or have them sent directly to the NCBLCMHC. Your education program must also include a qualifying graduate counseling experience that’s verified with this form that you need to submit as part of your application for licensure.
- Fulfill the exam requirement and arrange to have your results sent to the NCBLCMHC. You need to pass one of the following exams:
National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the NBCC
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Examination, sponsored by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC)
- At this point the NCBLCMHC will evaluate your online application to determine if it’s complete. Once your application is approved it will issue your LCMHA license.
- Once you receive your LCMHA license you can start accruing hours to qualify for full and unrestricted licensure as an LCMHC. To do this you must find a qualified supervisor and submit a Supervision Contract to the NCBLCMHC for approval. Once the contract is approved you can start practicing as an LCMHA under supervision. Your supervisor will keep track of your experience on a supervision log. Each quarter your supervisor will submit a Quarterly Report detailing your supervised experience to the NCBLCMHC.
- Once you start working with clients as an LCMHC you’ll need to make a Professional Disclosure Statement to your clients.
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
- Be an LCMHA who has fulfilled the education and exam requirements.
- Fulfill the supervised professional practice requirement. This is at least 3,000 hours of counseling experience, and must include at least 2,000 hours of direct counseling. It can be no more than 40 hours per week, and it needs to include one hour of individual, or two hours of group, clinical supervision for every 40 hours of supervised practice. Altogether you need to have at least 100 hours of clinical supervision. Once you’ve completed this requirement your supervisor will submit a Final Supervision Report to the NCBLCMHC.
- At this point the NCBLCMHC will evaluate your online application to determine if it’s complete. Once your application is approved it will issue your LCMHC license.
- Once you start practicing as an LCMHC you’ll need to make a Professional Disclosure Statement to your clients, and can use this template as a model.
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor (LCMHCS)
- Be an LCMHC.
- Earn three graduate semester credits in clinical supervision or complete 45 hours of continuing education in clinical supervision.
- Have at least five years of full-time licensed professional counseling experience, eight years of part-time experience, or an equivalent combination of the two, plus at least 2,500 hours of direct client contact. Verify this with this form and submit it to the NCBLCMHC.
- Once the NCBLCMHC approves your application it will issue your LCMHCS license. Once you’ve become a supervisor for an LCMHA you need to present them with a Supervision Professional Disclosure Statement. You can use this template as a model.
Renewing Your License
Licenses expire every two years on June 30th. You must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each two-year licensure period, including three hours in ethics. If you’re newly licensed you only need to complete 30 hours of continuing education. If you’re an LCMHCS you need to complete 10 additional hours of continuing education covering the subject of clinical supervision, for a total of 50 hours.
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Each renewal period you must also re-take the North Carolina jurisprudence exam for your licensure level. The renewal fee is $200, and you can renew through your online NCBLCMHC account.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in North Carolina?
The time you need to invest into becoming licensed in North Carolina depends on what level of license you’re going for:
- LCMHA – Six years: four years of bachelor’s education plus two years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling or a related field
- LCMHC – 7.5 years: you need a minimum of 75 weeks of supervised experience as an LCMHA to qualify for this license
- LCMHCS – 12.5 years: you need at least five years of full-time work experience as an LCMHC to qualify for this license
You can apply for licensure in North Carolina via endorsement if you hold an equivalent out-of-state license whose qualification requirements were similar to North Carolina’s. To qualify you need to have:
- Five years of full-time counseling experience, or eight years of part-time, or an equivalent combination of the two
- At least 2,500 hours of direct client contact
- An active, independent license in good standing that’s been that way for the two immediately preceding years
You’ll still need to complete the North Carolina jurisprudence exam and the NCBLCMHC will work with you to determine what documents you must provide to verify your qualifications, one of which will include an out-of-state License Verification Form completed by your state’s Board of Counseling.
Practicums and Internships
The degree program you complete to satisfy the education requirement for licensure must include a qualifying graduate counseling experience. This means it must fulfill all of the following requirements:
- At least one practicum course totaling three semester credits
- At least one internship course totaling three semester credits
- At least 17 hours of graduate counseling supervision
Altogether this must total at least 300 hours and include at least 180 hours of direct counseling experience.
To qualify for licensure as an LCMHA and subsequently an LCMHC you must pass one of the following exams sponsored by national organizations:
- National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the NBCC
- Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Examination, sponsored by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC)
You can register for either of the NBCC exams through the Center for Credentialing and Education’s (CCE) online ProCounselor portal. You can register for the CRC Examination by creating an online account with the CRCC.
All exams are computer-based. The NCE and CRC examinations are both multiple choice, and the NCMHCE exam tests your responses about different clinical simulations. You can find more information about each exam through the following:
Each time you apply for a license or renew a license you must also pass the North Carolina jurisprudence exam. This ensures you’re up to date on the laws and codes for practicing as a professional counselor. The exam’s contents are tailored to your licensure level.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for licensure at any level, you must earn a master’s degree in Counseling or a related field that’s at least 60 semester credits. Your degree must be accredited by an organization that’s recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Furthermore, it must include courses that are at least three semester credits in each of the following subject areas:
- Helping relationships in counseling
- Professional orientation in counseling
- Human growth and development theories in counseling
- Social and cultural foundations in counseling
- Group counseling processes and theories
- Lifestyle development and career counseling
- Assessment in counseling
- Program evaluation and research
Your degree must also include a qualifying graduate counseling experience.
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries in 2020, specifically for different counselor careers in North Carolina:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $52,360
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $43,700
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $39,490
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $49,350
- Counselors, all others – $44,060
- Occupational Therapists – $82,480
- Therapists, all other – $54,570
Types of Counseling Careers
Of the professions listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 22,790 employed individuals throughout North Carolina. Of those:
- 39% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 30% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 15% are Occupational Therapists
- 12% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 2% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 1% are Counselors, all others
- 1% are Therapists, all others
North Carolina Counseling Association (NCCA) – This organization is proud to represent all types of counselors from throughout the state, serving as the local branch for its national parent. Members enjoy access to discounted options for continuing education and extensive opportunities for professional networking, including an annual conference. The NCCA has many committees devoted to issues like human rights, ethics, strategic planning, conferences, and more.
North Carolina School Counselor Association (NCSSA) – Annual conferences, workshops, awards, and professional development opportunities are just some of the benefits members of this Raleigh-based non-profit organization enjoy. Founded in 1960, the NCSSA is proud to be an advocate for thousands of hard-working school counselors, today numbering 1,800 members strong.
The Association of Housing Counselors (TAHC) – Under the umbrella of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, TAHC came into being in 1994 and is today an organization of housing counselors and related professionals who are dedicated to advancing the cause of housing counseling in North and South Carolina. It offers its own certification program and opportunities for continuing education.
Addiction Professionals of North Carolina (APNC) – The local chapter representative of the Association for Addiction Professionals, this organization represents the career interests of over 100,000 addiction counselors nationally. It offers certifications, annual conferences, opportunities for advocacy, and much more.
North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse – Perhaps the best-known state agency for counselors in the North Carolina, this division is an important part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It provides a wide range of resources for the clientele it serves, as well as grants for organizations who are on the front lines of mental health and substance abuse throughout the state.
The Blanchard Institute – Providing treatments for family services, mental health, and substance abuse, this Charlotte-based company uses an integrative health treatment model to approach addictions. Its range of program options includes a partial hospitalization program, intensive and regular outpatient programs, and recovery management programs.
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Atrium Health – More than 30 urgent care centers, six freestanding emergency departments, and almost 40 hospitals make this healthcare provider one of the largest in the Carolinas with altogether more than 900 care locations. Behavioral care services are offered from a dozen hubs throughout North Carolina, each hosting a unique set of specializations.
Triangle Springs – Specializing in mental health services and substance abuse treatment, this Raleigh-based company provides a range of in-patient and out-patient options. In addition to drug and alcohol addiction, clients can find help for issues like PTSD, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and more.
Mental Health Greensboro – Besides hosting events and serving as a community connection hub, this non-profit organization has been an important part of the region for over 80 years. It’s proud of the people it helps and the strong partnerships it’s formed over the decades. Clients can enjoy services like support groups, one-on-one peer support, and recovery skills classes.