On this page you will find a complete consumer’s guide to Washington State Counselor and Therapist credentials and licensure. It is important to note that you will NOT find all credential categories within the counselor profiles presented on the Counseling Washington web site. Counseling Washington only accepts counselor profiles that meet all Washington State credential requirements allowing them to privately practice within the state. We have indicated below, in green, those licenses represented on the Counseling Washington Therapist Directory.
In the mental health professional world there is "certification" and there is "licensure". To explain further, as this can be somewhat confusing, certification and licensure do not mean the same thing. Private practice counselors must have a minimum of a Master's Degree to practice in Washington State. They are granted a license by the State of Washington to privately practice their profession. On the other side, certifications may not require any degree. Generally those who only hold certifications would not be authorized to provide private practice counseling services. These counselors are generally found in Agency environments where additional supervision is provided.
Once a person has met all requirements to be in private practice counseling, they are free to add additional certifications to their expertise. Many private practice counselors have more than one designation so you will see credential combinations such as LMFT, CDP however a person holding only a CDP credential would not be listed on this site.
Washington State Counselor Credentials
Reference: Mental Health Licensing and Credentials
A new state law created eight counseling credentials beginning July 1, 2009. It abolished the registered counselor credential on July 1, 2010. Counseling applicants must apply in one of the following professions:
Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)
Masters level clinical mental health counselors with advanced experience who have met state requirements for licensure.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor - Associate (LMHCA)
Designates a Counselor who has completed the Masters Degree program and is working under approved supervision toward a mental health counselor license.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Masters level marriage and family therapists with advanced experience who have met state requirements for licensure.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist - Associate (LMFTA)
Designates a Counselor who has completed the Masters Degree program and is working under approved supervision toward a marriage and family therapist license.
Masters level clinical social workers with advanced experience who have met all state requirements for full licensure.
Designates a Social Worker who has completed the Masters Degree program and is working under approved supervision toward a social work independent clinical license.
Licensed Social Worker Advanced (LSWA)
Must have a master's or doctorate social work degree from an educational program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, and have completed a minimum of 3,200 hours of postgraduate, supervised experience.
Licensed Social Worker Associate Advanced (SWAA)
Minimum requirements to practice as a Social Worker Associate Advanced requires a master’s or doctorate in social work educational program accredited by the council on social work education. It also requires state licensure verification from the state of Washington, requires 4 hours of HIV/AIDS training, and associates must work under the supervision of an approved supervisor.
To practice as a psychologist, a counselor must have completed of a doctoral degree; must have a total of 3300 hours of supervision; must complete an internship as part of the doctoral degree program including at least 1500 hours of supervised experience within 24 months. They are also required to have 7 hours of HIV/AIDS training; successfully passed national written examination (EPPP); and have successfully passed the Washington State jurisprudence examination. Psychologists must renew their license every year on or before their birthday. Psychologists are required to complete 60 hours of continuing education every three years, four hours must be in ethics.
Agency Affiliated Counselor (AAC)*
(No minimum education or experience requirements).
An Agency Affiliated Counselor is a person who is employed (in a counseling role) by, or has an employment offer with, an agency or facility that is licensed or certified by the State of Washington. The agency or facility sets the degree and experience requirements for employment, if any. No degree. experience, or scope of practice standards are established or required by the State of Washington. [The Washington State Legislature wasn't going to raise the ire of the mental health treatment facilities who are free to reduce costs by keeping their employment standards as low as they wish.] WARNING: The disclosure statement that all other categories of counselors are required to provide to new clients is NOT required in treatment facilities. Instead, you will be given a general disclosure statement that covers the facility as a whole, but does NOT disclose the qualifications of the individual counselor to whom you may be assigned. As a client of such a facility, it is your responsibility to inquire about the qualifications of each of the counselors who are assigned to your case and decide whether it is someone you wish as a counselor. What kind of employment standards does the agency have? You will have to ask, because, in this instance, the State of Washington is not safeguarding the interests of the public.
Certified Adviser (CA)
New applicants are required to have a (two year) associate of arts degree, including a supervised internship, in a counseling related field. [Washington State] Certified Advisors are authorized to do private practice counseling, but only within the limitations, restrictions and guidelines of RCW 18.19.200 [The scope of practice of certified counselors and certified advisers consists exclusively of the following:
(1) Appropriate screening of the client's level of functional impairment using the global assessment of functioning as described in the fourth edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, published in 1994. Recognition of a mental or physical disorder or a global assessment of functioning score of sixty or less requires that the certified counselor or certified adviser refer the client to a physician, osteopathic physician, psychiatric registered nurse practitioner, or licensed mental health practitioner, as defined by the secretary, for diagnosis and treatment.]
Certified Counselor (CC)
Persons "grandfathered in" to this category may have no degree. New applicants for certified counselor category must have a (four year) bachelor’s degree in a counseling related field. Certified Counselors are authorized to do private practice counseling, but again, only within the limitations, restrictions and guidelines of RCW 18.19.200. All counselors are required to give a disclosure statement to new clients. This enables consumers to check individual credentials and experience. Note: a number of highly qualified counselors, even some with doctorate degrees and years of experience, were unable to meet some of the new licensing requirements and could only qualify for this category.
Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP)
Chemical Dependency Professionals often are recovering alcoholics or addicts and, historically, there were little academic requirements. New CDPs are required to have at least an (2 year) associate of arts degree and to have completed all the supervised counseling experience requirements. As of March 2017 the State of Washington allows a private practice counselor to use the designation of CDP provided they are licensed as an ARNP, LMHC, LMFT, ASW, ICSW, Psychologist, Physician, or Physician’s Assistant.
Chemical Dependency Professional Trainee (CDPT)
(No minimum education or experience requirements).
CDPT designates a counselor who is working under supervision in a state licensed chemical dependency treatment facility toward a chemical dependency professional certification. To become a CDPT the applicant must only agree to this statement: "I declare I am obtaining the education and experience required to receive a chemical dependency professional credential." Unlike applicants for other types of credentials (above) who are working on their supervised internship, the applicant does not need to have the degree first. The trainee certification can be renewed four times. This means that the CDPT may work as a chemical dependency counselor for a total of five years without completing his/her associate of arts degree. This is a policy permits chemical dependency treatment facilities to lay off seasoned Chemical Dependency Professionals and stock the facility with trainees--insuring profits while depriving facility clients of the services of experienced chemical dependency counselors. WARNING: The disclosure statement that all other categories of counselors are required to provide to new clients is NOT required in treatment facilities. Instead, you will be given a general disclosure statement that covers the facility as a whole, but does NOT disclose the qualifications of the individual counselor to whom you may be assigned.
(No minimum education requirements.)
To practice in the state of Washington, a Hypnotherapist must have a valid verified Washington State license. Also, four hours of additional HIV/AIDS training is required. Hypnotherapists must renew their registration every year on or before their birthday. Continuing education is not required. For more information please go to DOH web site.
Sex Offender Treatment Provider
Sex Offender Treatment Providers must have a minimum of a Master’s degree and a Washington state verified license, a minimum of 2,000 hours professional experience including at least 250 hour of evaluation experience and at least 250 hours of treatment experience. All providers are required to hold a current credential in another health profession in Washington or a state or jurisdiction other than Washington. They also need an additional 4hours of HIV/AIDS training, scored 90% or higher on their exam, provide signed statement stating the applicant does not intend to practice the profession for which he or she is credentialed by another state within the state of Washington without first obtaining an appropriate credential to do so from the state of Washington, obtained professional training within the last three years and attend 50 hours of courses, seminars or formal conferences directly relating to the evaluation and treatment of sex offenders or victims of abuse. Providers must renew their certification every year on or before their birthday. Forty hours of continuing education is required every two years. For more information, please go to www.doh.wa.gov.
Changes to Counselor confidentiality in law, RCW 5.60.060 (9), became effective on July 26, 2009. It applies to only licensed mental health counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists and licensed independent clinical social workers. It doesn't apply to licensed advanced social workers. "Providers may not disclose, or testify about, any information they learned about their client regardless of how they got the information. All information needed to provide the counseling service is considered privileged."