Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA

Frequently Asked Questions

Counselor Licensure:

 

What is a counseling license?

A counseling license allows counseling professionals with the proper education, experience, and supervision to offer counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults in NJ. A counseling license is required to work in a community agency setting. It is not required, but is highly recommended, for individuals working in schools and in higher education settings. There are two types of license in NJ. The first license is called the Licensed Associate Counselor (LAC), which may be likened to a “temporary permit.”  The second level license is called the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

 

What is an LAC and what jobs will I be eligible for if this is earned?

A licensed associate counselor  (LAC)is a protected title license or a “temporary permit.”  This means that when you obtain your LAC, you can call yourself a licensed associate counselor on your resume, on business cards to your clients, to the general public, to other professionals and in any other way in which professional designations may be used. Individuals have a LAC cannot: (a)  call themselves licensed counselors or (b) work in independent practice. This means that you must always receive supervision when you work with clients. It means that you cannot work in a private practice setting. An LAC practices counseling under the direct supervision of a licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

"Counseling" is defined by NJ law as:

“offering to assist or assisting, for a fee or other compensation, an individual or group through a counseling relationship to develop an understanding of interpersonal and intrapersonal problems and to plan and act on a course of action to restore optimal functioning to that individual or group, but does not mean rehabilitation counseling.”

As a LAC, you can work as a counselor offering professional counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults. You may work in a community agency, school, or higher education setting.

 

How do I get my LAC?

To obtain your LAC, you must furnish satisfactory evidence that you:

1. Have completed a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours in a planned educational program, which includes a master’s degree or doctorate in counseling from a regionally accredited institution of higher education, of which 60 graduate semester hours are distributed in at least eight of the following areas:

  • Counseling theory and practice
  • The helping relationship
  • Human growth and development and maladaptive behavior
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Group dynamics, processes, counseling, and consulting
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Research and evaluation
  • The counseling profession

2. Have passed the National Counselor Examination of the National Board for Certified Counselors. Prior to beginning the credentialing process please contact the NJ State Licensing Board at http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm or call (973) 504-6415. In order to register to take the exam, you may need to obtain an exam registration form from the NJ state credentialing board. The NJ State Credentialing Board representatives can determine whether you are eligible to receive an exam registration form. The registration form will list the exam dates, registration deadlines, and exam locations for state credentialing exams. For more information about the exam, you can also log onto: http://www.nbcc.org/nce. It is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED that you take the exam as soon as possible after the completion of your 60 graduate credits in counseling.

3. Have a plan for completing supervision requirement for LPC.

4. Apply to the NJ Professional Counselors Examiners Committee. Applications can be found at NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Professional Counselors Examiner Committee website http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm.

 

Before I complete my LAC requirements, is there a particular setting where my hours must be earned (non-profit or profit setting)?

While enrolled in a university practicum/internship course, you may complete your hours in either a non-profit or profit setting. However, upon graduation and before obtaining your LAC title, you may only work at a non-profit setting. Once you obtain your LAC title, however, you may work under supervision in both non-profit or profit settings. Therefore, if you wish to work in a for-profit setting, you MUST have your LAC and be supervised.

 

What can I do with an LPC?

An LPC is a counseling license with both title and service protections. This means that when you obtain your LPC, you can call yourself a licensed professional counselor on your resume, on business cards, to your clients, the general public, to other professionals, and in any other way in which professional designations may be used. Individuals who do not have an LPC cannot call themselves professional counselors. They also cannot offer the services of a licensed professional counselor by using another title (psychotherapist, counselor, coach).

As an LPC, you can work as a professional counselor offering counseling services to children, adolescents, and adults. You may work in a community agency, school, or higher education setting. You may work in a private practice setting. Under the law, you may also work without supervision. You may also receive reimbursement from third party payers, including insurance and managed care companies.

 

How do I get my LPC?

To obtain your LPC, you must furnish satisfactory evidence that you:

1. Have completed a minimum of 60 graduate semester hours in a planned educational program, which includes a master’s degree or doctorate in counseling from a regionally accredited institution of higher education, of which 45 graduate semester hours are distributed in at least eight of the following areas:

  • Counseling theory and practice
  • The helping relationship
  • Human growth and development and maladaptive behavior
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Group dynamics, processes, counseling, and consulting
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Research and evaluation
  • The counseling profession

2. Have passed the National Counselor examination of the National Board for Certified Counselors. Prior to beginning the credentialing process please contact the NJ State Licensing Board at http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm or call (973) 504-6415. In order to register to take the exam, you may need to obtain an exam registration form from the NJ State Credentialing Board. The NJ State Credentialing Board representatives can determine whether you are eligible to receive an exam registration form. The registration form will list the exam dates, registration deadlines, and exam locations for state credentialing exams. For more information about the exam, you can also log onto: http://www.nbcc.org/nce. It is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED that you take the exam as soon as possible after the completion of your 60 graduate credits in counseling.

3. Have completed 4500 hours (equivalent to 3 full years) of supervised full-time counseling experience in a professional counseling setting acceptable to the board. Seven-hundred and fifty (750) hours of those hours may be completed in a 12-month period after receiving a 60-credit Masters degree in counseling. An applicant may eliminate one year of the required supervised counseling experience by substituting 30 graduate semester hours beyond the 60 graduate credits in counseling if those graduate semester hours are clearly related to counseling and are acceptable to the committee. In no case, however, may the applicant have less than one year of supervised professional counseling experience after completion of 60 graduate credits in counseling, which includes a master’s degree in counseling from a regionally accredited institution.

 

Where and when do I sign up to take the National Counselor Exam?

It is highly encouraged that you take the National Counselor Exam immediately after the completion of 60 graduate credits in counseling, which includes a master’s degree in counseling from a regionally accredited institution of high education. In order to register to take the exam, you may need to obtain an exam registration form from the NJ State Credentialing Board. Therefore, contact the NJ State Licensing Board at http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm or call (973) 504-6415. The NJ State Credentialing Board representatives can determine whether you are eligible to receive an exam registration form. The registration form will list the exam dates, registration deadlines, and exam locations for state credentialing exams. For more information about the exam, you can also log onto the National Board for Certified Counselors website at: http://www.nbcc.org/nce.

 

What are CEU credits and how do I earn them?  Also, when do I need to begin earning CEU credits?

The New Jersey Professional Counselors examiners Committee has adopted regulations that require 40 contact hours of continuing education for license renewal. Therefore, you must begin to earn CEU credits upon receiving your LPC in order to have your license renewed two years later.

The regulations specify the following:

  • The licensee must complete 40 contact hours of continuing education during the biennial review period (i.e., the 2-year period which precedes the renewal).
  • At least five of the 40 hours must be in ethical and legal standards of the profession.
  • A maximum of 10 contact hours earned in addition to the 40 required credits may be carried to the succeeding renewal period.
  • The following are acceptable sources of continuing education:   Courses or programs approved by the National Board for Certified Counselors; The American Counseling Association; The American Psychological Association; the American Psychiatric Association; The National Association of Social Workers; The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy; The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselors Certification; The American Orthopsychiatric Association; The American Medical Association; the American Nursing Association; The National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors; or member boards of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Inc.
  • One contact hour means a 60-minute session with a maximum 10-minute break
  • Counselors must retain documentation of continuing education and submit it to the New Jersey Examiners Committee at its request. Attendance verification shall include a certificate or statement from the instructor, including the name of licensee, the sponsor, the title, location, date of course/program, signature of the program official, and the number of continuing education hours. Documentation must be retained for five years following the renewal period. Falsification may result in disciplinary measures, including the suspension of the license.

 

How long will it take to earn my LPC?

To earn your LPC, you must complete 4500 hours of a planned supervised counseling work experience with one hour per week of supervision with a qualified supervisor (i.e., a licensed professional counselor, licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.)  This is equivalent to three years full-time counseling work. Note that the Board will accept NO MORE than 1500 hours per year for the supervised counseling experience.

 

After I complete my 60 graduate credits in counseling, what type of work setting will help me obtain my LPC work experience?

The following work experience requirements should be available to you:

  • Counseling work:  It might seem that this goes without saying, but in order to get the LPC license you must be offering counseling services to clients. These services are very broadly defined and include individual, group, and marriage/family modalities. Your primary responsibilities should be to offer counseling services. The counseling work can be done in agencies, schools, special programs, hospitals, colleges, clinics, treatment centers as well as a variety of other places.
  • Full-time or part-time work:  You can accumulate hours by working part-time, as long as you are doing supervised counseling work. You can use work experiences from different settings, but you can’t claim that you work more than full-time (1500 hours per year is the maximum number of hours you can claim each year). For example, you can work two different part-time counseling jobs or a full-time non-counseling job (these hours would not count) and a part-time counseling job, but you can’t claim that you work a full-time counseling job and a part-time counseling job during the same time period.
  • A “real, valid” supervision relationship:  Your supervisor needs to meet with you at least once a week for one-hour of face-to-face supervision. The relationship should involve diagnosis, developing, and reviewing treatment plans as well as treatment interventions. Be careful about this. Some work settings may offer “counseling services” to clients, but do not have a licensed supervisor to help employees get their LPC license. A site may offer a supervisor without a license and then someone else (with a license) who will “sign-off” on your hours. These work situations should be avoided.
  • An agreement regarding work hours and supervision hours: You should work out in advance with your work setting and plan for your supervised experience. Clearly delineate how often a licensed supervisor will meet with you and how many work hours you will accumulate and at what rate.
  • The LPC application paperwork: Download the application from their website http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/medical/procounsel.htm and have your supervisor periodically document your hours. This way, if you change jobs or your supervisor leaves, the hours are already documented.
  • Counseling-related job title:  Often when the State Licensing Board is evaluating an applicant’s work experience, they look at the job title to help determine if the work experience is counseling-0realted. Be careful about your job title, especially when you are working in a “non-clinical” setting. Job titles like “academic advisor” or “client advocate” or “educator” can create confusion for the State Licensing Board.
  • Best counseling practices:  Your work experience prior to obtaining your LPC license helps socialize you to the profession and becomes the basis for the rest of your professional experiences. Additionally, after you obtain your LPC license, you will be able to supervise others, so you want this work experience to expose you to the “best” counseling work possible. Some work settings, either out of ignorance or neglect, offer services in a less than completely professional manner. Avoid these settings if you can.

 

What is a SAC?

A SAC is a Substance Awareness Coordinator, a state mandated position in NJ schools who works with at-risk students.

 

How do I become a SAC?

The requirements for the SAC Certification are:

  • A bachelor’s degree in Health, Human Service, Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, or a field leading to Teacher Certification
  • A program of studies comprised of 24 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree which meets the requirements of the NJ state Department of Education.
  • Upon employment and while serving under provisional certification candidates must demonstrate completion of a state approved district residency of no fewer than 6 months (full time) and no longer than one year (part time).
  • Course Sequence:
  • EDUC  6810  Schools, Communities and Substance Abuse
  • COUN 7703  Developmental Across the Lifespan
  • COUN 7707  Family Systems & Counseling
  • COUN 7707  Intro to Counseling Theory & Practice
  • COUN 7713  Addictions
  • COUN 7708  Prevention and Education
  • COUN 7719  Crisis Intervention
  • COUN 9701  Practicum (100 hours in a school setting with a state certified SAC)

 

What areas of study should I concentrate on for the comprehensive exam?

One study approach should be a review of the core graduate courses. The exam is built on your acquired knowledge of counseling and psychology. Therefore, a thorough review of your graduate courses is an important part of your study process.

 

Is there a study guide that can aid me in studying for the comprehensive exam?

A highly recommended study aid is Rosenthal, H. G. (2002). Encyclopedia of Counseling: Master Review and Tutorial for the National Counselor Examination and State Exams. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge. Another recommend study guide is Johnson, S.J. (2003). Therapist’s guide to clinical intervention: The 1-2-3’s in treatment planning. Academic Press.

        

When should I take the comprehensive exams, and when should I sign up?

The comprehensive exam is an assessment of your cumulative knowledge of counseling and psychology. Therefore, it is recommended you take the exam when you are near completing the program. The comprehensive exam is offered twice a year, once in the Fall semester, once in the Spring semester. Sign-ups begin six weeks prior to the exam date. You can register for the exam with the Psychology and Counseling Department receptionist.

 

How can I decide if earning an LPC or going on to earn a doctoral degree is right for me?

The LPC provides you with the ability to work in any and all mental health settings in which other licensed practitioners are eligible to work (e.g. hospitals, substance abuse centers, and private practice). Therefore, a doctoral degree provides no advantage over an LPC as a practitioner.

However, if you're professional goal is to work in academia and/or a research institute, than a doctoral degree is the degree of choice. A doctorate provides you with a greater advantage obtaining a college-level teaching position as well as an advantage in working in a research setting.

 

What is the difference between a Ph.D., Psy.D., and Ed.D.?

The Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is a traditional scientist-practitioner degree. The Ph.D. requires training in both clinical practice and research, and consists of the completion of a research-based dissertation. A doctoral internship is also required.

The Ed.D. or Doctor of Education, is based in the Department of Education. As with the Ph.D., an Ed.D. is a scientist-practitioner degree with dissertation and doctoral internship requirements.

The Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology, is the newest of the doctoral degrees. A Psy.D. is a practitioner-based degree. It usually does not require a dissertation, although some schools require a thorough clinical or theoretically based paper. A Psy.D. also requires a doctoral internship.

 

How will earning a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D. further my career opportunities?

A doctoral degree will further enhance your career opportunities if your goal is to work as a researcher or as an academician in additional to direct practice. The doctoral degree also provides additional classroom training given that a typical course requirement will be 4-5 years post your M.A. program.

 

What is the difference between a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and counseling?

Counselors are trained in diagnosis, assessment, and counseling. Their target population is relatively healthy people in need of professional assistance for “everyday” problems (e.g. residential changes, occupational stressors, school related anxiety, relational complications).

Clinical psychologists are trained in diagnosis, assessment, and psychotherapy. Their target population is those persons with more severe psychopathology.

Due to their respective trainings and approaches, counselors traditionally are more apt to work in college counseling centers and private practice with a presumably “healthy” population. Clinical psychologists are more apt to work in hospitals and psychological clinics, in addition to private practice (e.g. more “unhealthy” individuals).

There is much overlap between counseling and clinical psychology in assessment, treatment, and populations served. The distinction between “healthy” and “unhealthy” individuals is not always clear. As such, both disciplines frequently work in similar settings with similar populations.