Part of the state’s Department of Health, the Rhode Island Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists –henceforth the “State Board”– issues the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) credential.
As an LMHC you can do things like independently engage in the practice of clinical mental health counseling, promote mental health and wellness, treat and diagnose mental disorders, provide psychotherapy, and establish counseling treatment plans.
Steps Towards Licensure
To become a licensed LMHC you’ll need to proceed through the following steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in counseling/therapy
- Complete a qualifying practicum and internship; these are typically included as part of your graduate degree program
- Find a qualified supervisor and accrue two years of post-graduate-degree supervised counseling experience
- Apply for an LMHC license with the State Board
- Once the State Board approves your application it will register you for the National Clinical
- Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), which is sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Once you pass the NCMHCE exam the State Board will issue your LMHC license
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying graduate degree in counseling/therapy, and the practicum and internship requirement. Once you apply for licensure have your school send your official transcripts to the State Board.
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is a minimum of 2,000 hours of post-graduate-degree supervised counseling experience completed over at least two years. You’ll need at least 100 hours of supervision from your supervisor. Once you’ve fulfilled this requirement have your supervisor complete their portion of the Statement of Supervised Practice that’s included in the LMHC licensure application. Make sure you obtain your supervision from a qualified supervisor – more on that below.
- Submit an application for LMHC licensure to the State Board. The application fee is $70. Once the State Board approves your application it will register you for the NCMHCE exam with the NBCC for the next available test. The State Board will notify you about the details regarding your exam’s date and location 10 days in advance. Once you take the exam the NBCC will send your passing results directly to the State Board, who will issue your LMHC license.
You’ll need to fulfill the counseling experience requirement with a qualified supervisor who meets the following conditions. As a licensed LMHC you can also opt to be a supervisor once you’ve met these conditions.
Qualified supervisors must be a licensed LMHC, psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or independent clinical social worker. The professional must be licensed in good standing for at least five years, and have five years of clinical experience. Additionally, the licensed professional must meet one of the following requirements:
- Complete a graduate-level course on the subject of counseling supervision
- Be approved by the NBCC as a certified counselor
- Have at least two years of experience in a mental health setting supervising clinical staff
Renewing Your License
Your license must be renewed every two years by July 1st. The State Board sends out renewal notices 60 days before your license is set to expire. You can renew online. The renewal fee is $50. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Rhode Island?
It will take you around eight years to become licensed as an LMHC. Six of these years will be an investment in education: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two years to earn a master’s degree in counseling/therapy. At this point you can begin to accrue two years of post-graduate-degree supervised experience to qualify for the LMHC license.
If you’re licensed as an LMHC or its equivalent in another state and you earned your graduate degree from a CACREP-accredited program that’s at least 60 credits, then the State Board will consider an application for LMHC licensure in Rhode Island based on endorsement. Have your home state’s Board of Counseling send a completed license verification form to the Rhode Island State Board. You can apply through the application process detailed above.
Practicums and Internships
Before you can start accruing hours to fulfill the supervised experience requirement for full licensure, you must complete a supervised practicum and internship.
Your practicum must be worth at least 12 semester credits, and your internship must be one calendar year that’s at least 20 hours per week.
Practicums and internships are typically included as part of the degree program you use to fulfill the education requirement, however you can also complete these as part of a post-graduate program. Practicums and internships from CACREP-accredited programs are automatically qualifying.
To qualify for the LMHC license you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
Once you’ve fulfilled all the requirements for LMHC licensure except having passed the NCMHCE you can submit an application for licensure to the Rhode Island State Board and, upon approval, it will register you for the next NCMHCE exam.
This exam is taken on a computer at a local testing center. You’ll answer questions based on 10 different clinical simulations it gives you that are related to counseling. In total you’re allocated three hours to take the exam. You can read more details about it in the NCMHCE handbook.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for LMHC licensure you must earn a graduate degree in counseling/therapy that’s at least 60 semester credits.
Earning a graduate degree from a program that’s accredited by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) automatically fulfills the education requirement for licensure.
Right now in Rhode Island there are two schools offering CACREP-accredited graduate programs. One is a Master of Arts (MA) program and one is a Master of Science (MS) program.
If your degree program is not CACREP-accredited it must be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), be in the subject of mental health counseling or an equivalent field, include at least nine semester credits covering counseling theory and helping relationships, and include three semester credits in each of the following subjects:
- Professional orientation
- Program evaluation and research
- Lifestyle and career development
- Group counseling
- Social and cultural foundations
- Human growth and development
From all states in the nation Rhode Island ranks among the top-five for offering the highest average salaries for Rehabilitation Counselors and therapists in the “all other” category. The US Department of Labor, which details the following average annual salaries among a variety of counseling professions, specifically for Rhode Island:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $64,030
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $59,710
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $54,870
- Occupational Therapists – $88,390
- Therapists, all other – $76,700
Types of Counseling Careers
The US Department of Labor reports a total of 2,510 professionals employed in the following counseling careers working throughout Rhode Island. Of these:
- 45% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 25% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 21% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 9% are Therapists, all others
Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association (RIMHCA) – Offering opportunities for continuing education, regular events and trainings, updates on the latest relevant legislative developments, and resources for those looking for qualified counseling professionals, the RIMHCA strives to be the hub for professionals involved in this field.
Rhode Island School Counselor Association (RISCA) – Through advocacy and demonstration of leadership, RISCA strives to promote excellence throughout this niche field of counseling. It offers opportunities for professional development and networking events like an annual conference. It’s proud to claim to be the only organization in the state that’s dedicated to furthering the needs of school counselors.
Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) – This organization’s goal is to nourish and promote mental health through policy development, education, and advocacy. Equality, justice, cooperation, altruism, and compassion are just some of its most prized values. It provides extensive resources and opportunities to get involved.
National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Rhode Island – Founded by family members of people with mental health illnesses in 1983, today this organization supports research, education, and other strategies to fulfill its ultimate goals of reducing the stigma behind mental illnesses, improving access to treatment, and developing effective therapies.
Rhode Island Mental Health Parity Initiative – This community initiative seeks to provide education on the rights of state residents to receive treatment for mental health issues in the same way they have a right to receive treatment for physical health issues. This includes treatments for substance abuse disorders.
Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) – Perhaps the state agency that’s most familiar to LMHCs, this department interacts with many of the same clientele that LMHCs do. Its services are categorized by criteria like mental health, substance use disorder, developmental disabilities, and community living support (RICLAS).
Rhode Island Counseling Associates – A team of LMHCs, social workers, and more provides a range of therapy services for clients who desire to address issues like panic attacks, depression, trauma, and anxiety disorders. Additional professionals provide assistance for clients involved in group therapy programs, and manage things like medication and psychological assessments.
Newport Mental Health – Integrated mental health and substance use care is at the center of what this organization provides its clients. With the ultimate goal of improving the lives of adults, families, and children, NMH strives to provide the highest quality of care.
Thrive Behavioral Health – With locations in Warwick and Warren that merged in 2017 to become Thrive, this organization has a strong commitment to providing care for clients who are suffering from persistent and serious mental illnesses. An additional location in Providence means that today clients can obtain services from nine different Thrive locations.
Tri-County Community Action Agency – Offering services from Johnston and North Providence, the roots of this non-profit agency date back to 1964. It sponsors programs for at-risk prevention and family development, and offers services for disabled adults, families, youths, and those suffering from behavioral health issues.