Oklahoma’s Board of Behavioral Health Licensure (BBHL) issues the license you need if you want to practice as a professional counselor throughout the state: the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. As an LPC you can do things like diagnose, treat, and prevent mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. You’re authorized to provide counseling treatment interventions to your clients within a professional counseling relationship.
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Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Oklahoma
Qualifying for the LPC license is a process that involves the following basic steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling. This needs to include a qualifying practicum or internship.
- Pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and an Oklahoma jurisprudence exam.
- Find a supervisor and complete a period of supervised counseling work experience as an LPC candidate.
- Pass a fingerprint criminal background check.
- Apply for an LPC license.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a closely related field. Your degree program must also include a qualifying practicum or internship. Have your school’s registrar send you your official transcripts in a closed envelope with their stamp across the seal, and include this with your application for licensure.
- Pass two exams. You need to pass the national NCE exam sponsored by the NBCC. You also need to pass a local jurisprudence exam that evaluates your knowledge about LPC laws and regulations in Oklahoma. Both exams are taken on a computer. Details are provided below. Arrange for the NBCC to forward your exam scores to the BBHL.
- Locate a supervisor so you can begin accruing supervised counseling experience. Your supervisor needs to be a BBHL-approved LPC and you must also decide on an employment site where you’ll engage in supervised practice. You can find a directory of all approved LPC supervisors in Oklahoma here. You and your supervisor will fill out a Supervision Agreement and submit this to the BBHL for approval. You must have fulfilled the education and exam requirements before the BBHL will approve your Supervision Agreement. Once this is approved, and for the duration that you’re fulfilling the supervised experience requirement, you’ll be referred to as a licensed professional counselor candidate.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. You need to accrue three years (3,000 hours) of counseling experience under the supervision of an LPC. Every 30 graduate credits in Counseling you earn beyond your qualifying master’s degree can be substituted for one year of supervised experience. However even with substitutions you still must complete at least one year of supervised counseling experience. For every 1,000 hours of experience you gain, 350 hours must be in direct client contact. Every six months during your supervision your supervisor will submit an evaluation of your performance to the BBHL.
- Pass a fingerprint background check. Locate a site on this list to get your fingerprints taken. Once you’ve done this submit your fingerprints to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) for a criminal history check. Include the results, which cannot be older than 30 days, with your application for licensure.
- Submit an application for LPC licensure to the BBHL. Once it approves your application it will issue your LPC license.
Qualifying to be a supervisor:
Once you have an LPC license for two years you can opt to become a BBHL-approved supervisor for LPC candidates who are completing their period of supervised experience. To qualify you need to complete a course of study or workshops that total 45 hours and cover the subject of counseling supervision. You also need to pass the jurisprudence exam; the Oklahoma Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Examination (OLERE). Once you qualify you can submit an application for supervisor status to the BBHL.
Each time you renew your license you must complete three hours of continuing education on the subject of counseling supervision.
Renewing the LPC License
Once you’re initially licensed your LPC credential will be valid for two years. After this time you need to renew your license annually, and it expires on June 30th. To be eligible for renewal you need to demonstrate to the BBHL that you’re completing relevant continuing education or professional development at a rate of 20 hours per year. The renewal fee is $80. To renew your license submit this form to the BBHL.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Oklahoma?
You can expect to invest around eight years into becoming a fully licensed LPC. It takes six years to acquire the education you need: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two additional years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling. Gaining three years of supervised work experience can take your time investment up to nine years, but considering that many graduate counseling programs include the opportunities for practicums and internships, you can likely get at least one year of credit from these applied to fulfilling the supervised experience requirement.
You can apply for LPC licensure by endorsement if you hold an equivalent license in another state. If you’ve been licensed for less than five years you may need to provide additional information about your qualifications to the BBHL.
Use this application form to apply, and the application fee is $145. This includes an out-of-state license verification form that needs to be completed by your state’s Board of Counseling and returned to the BBHL. You also need to request official transcripts from your school and submit these to the BBHL with your application.
Practicums and Internships
The program you use to fulfill the education requirement for licensure must include a practicum or internship where you gain at least 300 hours of classroom and supervised field counseling experiences with clients.
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Once you complete your practicum or internship have your supervisor or school official fill out this verification form and submit it with your LPC licensure application.
To become a licensed LPC you need to pass a national exam and an Oklahoma jurisprudence exam.
The national exam is sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), known as the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
The NCE is taken on a computer at a local testing center. It’s comprised of 200 multiple-choice questions for which you’ll have three hours and forty-five minutes to complete. It covers the core subject content that you learn in your graduate degree program in Counseling. You can find detailed information about the NCE exam here.
You register for the NCE exam through the online ProCounselor portal, provided by the NBCC’s partner organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
Oklahoma Jurisprudence Exam
The Oklahoma Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Examination (OLERE) is also a multiple-choice exam that evaluates your knowledge of LPC laws and regulations. You can register for the exam here, and the exam fee is between $45 and $50. If you fail the exam you can take it again after three days.
Required Education and Degrees
To qualify for licensure as an LPC you must earn at least a master’s degree in Counseling or a mental health field that is substantially equivalent. Your school needs to be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
The degree must be at least 60 semester credits and include courses that are at least three credits in each of the following:
- Human growth and development
- Abnormal human behavior
- Ethics and professional orientation
- Assessment and appraisal techniques
- Counseling methods and theories
Additional elective courses must cover a range of defined subjects. Your degree program must also include a qualifying practicum or internship.
While pre-approval is not required for your degree program to be qualifying, the BBHL maintains a list of 16 pre-approved schools in Oklahoma offering 24 education programs that it has determined fulfill the education requirement for LPC licensure.
The US Department of Labor reports the following average annual salaries, specifically for counseling careers in Oklahoma:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $46,480
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $64,040
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $30,880
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $47,510
- Counselors, all others – $40,200
- Occupational Therapists – $85,860
Types of Counseling Careers
Of the careers listed above, the US Department of Labor reports a total of 10,530 professionals employed throughout Oklahoma. Of those:
- 34% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 34% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 18% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 8% are Occupational Therapists
- 5% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 1% are Counselors, all others
Oklahoma Counseling Association (OCA) – Hosting a membership directory, therapist directory, and annual conferences, the OCA positions itself to be at the center of the latest developments in this field. Internally the OCA hosts focus groups that concentrate on issues like counselor education and supervision, multicultural counseling, addiction counseling, school counseling, and more.
Oklahoma School Counselor Association (OSCA) – Members of OSCA enjoy the range of networking events it hosts, from annual conferences and awards ceremonies to grant announcements and recognition of top education programs. It even sponsors its own scholarship program for aspiring students enrolled in graduate counseling programs.
Oklahoma Mental Health Association (OMHA) – This organization is eager to be the statewide hub for professional counselors working in mental health. It maintains a directory of professionals and serves as a go-between for potential clients who are looking for mental health services.
Oklahoma Drug and Alcohol Professional Counselor Association (ODAPCA) – This organization provides an impressive range of resources for professionals working in this field. In addition to offering opportunities for continuing education, it provides updates about the latest legislative developments, offers its own certification program, and provides a repository of relevant publications, in addition to hosting an annual conference.
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) – With a budget in the hundreds-of-millions of dollars and a team that’s around 2,000 strong, the core of this state-level agency is its 14 community mental health centers, four state-operated centers, and 10 contracting partners. It’s one of the most familiar agencies for LPCs in Oklahoma.
Hope Community Services – This Oklahoma City-based counseling offers services for children, youths, adults, and families. Providing care for 9,000 clients, this organization’s roots stretch back to 1980. Its team is comprised of more than 165 empathetic and qualified professionals.
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Red Rock Behavioral Health Services – Founded in 1974 with an annual budget of $50k, this not-for-profit community mental health provider hosts 27 offices in 13 cities throughout the state. Today its team of over 500 professionals is devoted to helping clients with services ranging from outpatient to residential, working from a budget of $35 million.
Catalyst Behavioral Services – Opened in 1973 as a non-profit substance abuse clinic, this organization operates a 55-bed co-educational residential treatment center for those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. This Oklahoma City-based organization maintains contracts with 10 different government agencies.
Calm Center – From offices in Tulsa and Sand Springs, this organization provides counseling and recovery services for its clients, including the provision of services related to substance abuse, case management, housing, education, and crisis intervention.