Licensure Requirements & Information in Washington State.



Counselor/Therapist Licensing Requirements

The information in this section is for professionals looking to practice as Mental Health Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, or Psychotherapists in the State of Washington, those who are new to the counseling profession or those relocating to Washington State.

This information serves as an introduction to Washington State counseling regulations and procedures and is intended to help provide counselors information, especially those new to the counseling profession or new to the State of Washington.

Information and links are intended to assist you in becoming a licensed counselor, licensed counselor associate, and provides general information to help facilitate information for licensed associates seeking supervision hours.

Mental Health Professional License Titles

A mental health professional is a health care practitioner who offers services for the purpose of improving an individual's mental health or treat mental illness. This broad category includes psychiatrists (D.O. or M.D.), clinical psychologists (Psy.D or Ph.D.), Psychotherapists, clinical social workers (MSW or MSSW, LICSW, LICSWA), Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT, LMFTA), psychiatric nurses (RN, LNP, MHNP, NPP), mental health counselors (LMHC, LMHCA), professional counselors (CC, AAC), pharmacists, addictions counselors (CDP, CDPT) as well as many others. While often dealing with the same illnesses, disorders, conditions, and issues, they differ predominantly in their scope of practice. The laws regarding required education and training across the various professions is perhaps the most significant difference.

There are many types of Mental Health professions to choose from.  Persons choosing to legally practice in the state of Washington as a private practice mental health professional, must have earned a minimum of a Master’s Degree and hold a current license along with satisfying the mandated requirements for their field.  The list below represents license categories and license types accepted on the Counseling Washington website.

Licensure Requirements and Types

Fully Licensed:

LMHC - Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Required Degree: M.A.; M.S.; M.C.; or higher
Additional Requirement(s): 2-3 years of post-master's supervised clinical experience

LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Required Degree: M.A.;  M.S.; M.C. ; or higher
Additional Requirement(s): 2-3 years of post-master's supervised clinical experience

LASW  – Licensed Advanced Social Worker
Required Degree: M.S.W.; D.S.W.; or Ph.D.
Additional Requirement(s):  Click here to link to the WA Department of Health for the latest requirements.

LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Required Degree:  M.S.W.; D.S.W.; or Ph.D.
Additional Requirement(s): Click here to link to the WA Department of Health for the latest requirements.

Licensed Psychologist / Clinical Psychologist
Required Degree: Ph.D. or Psy.D.
Additional Requirement(s):  See the latest information from WA Department of Health.

Licensed Psychiatrist
Required Degree: M.D. or D.O.
Additional Requirement(s): The education and training requirements for psychiatry are set by the ACGME and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Physicians who pass the examination are granted board certification, which is a prerequisite to subspecialty certification.
Note:  This is the only level of licensure that allows the practitioner to prescribe mental health medications.

ARNP – Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner
Required Degree: Graduation from an approved Nurse Practitioner Program and an active R.N. (Registered Nurse) license in Washington State; or higher.
Additional Requirement(s): You should find all requirements from the ARNP link above.

CC - Certified Counselor
Required Degree: Must have a bachelor's degree in a counseling-related field; or higher.
Additional Requirement(s): You should find all requirements from the CC link above.

Note: Scope of practice: A certified counselor may treat clients with a global assessment of functioning of sixty or less if conditions in RCW 18.19.200(3) and WAC 246-810-0201(3) are met. A certified counselor must not be the sole treatment provider for a client with a global assessment of functioning score of less than 50."

Licensed Associates: 

LMHCA – Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate

Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s):  You should find all requirements for the LMHCA link above.
Note: An associate is a pre-licensure candidate who has a graduate degree in a mental health field under RCW 18.225.090 and is gaining the supervision and supervised experience necessary to become a licensed independent clinical social worker, a licensed advanced social worker, a licensed mental health counselor or a licensed marriage and family therapist. Associates many not independently provide social work, mental health counseling or marriage and family therapy for a fee, monetary or otherwise. Associates must work under the supervision of an approved supervisor. Independent social work, mental health counseling or marriage and family therapy is the practice of these disciplines without being under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

To view Counseling WAC definitions click here.

LMFTA – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate
Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s): All requirements can be found from the LMFTA link above.

LICSWA – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker Associate
Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s): Check the LICSWA link above for latest information.

Important Notice for Licensed Associates and their Supervisors

Approved supervisors supervising a licensure candidate and applicants for initial licensure as a marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, licensed advanced social worker or licensed independent clinical social worker are reminded of the requirement to complete 36 hours of continuing education (6 of which must be in the subject of professional ethics) as required in RCW 18.225.090. Applicants for licensure will be required to attest on the application form that they have completed the required continuing education hours.

Please also note that this is not a new licensing requirement. Applicants applying for an associate credential are not required to complete the continuing education requirement prior to licensure, however once becoming a Licensed Associate Counselor, Therapist or Social Worker, the continuing education requirements of the counseling profession apply. See Also: What is a Licensed Associate - WA.

For more information regarding what an approved supervisor should be providing you to attest to their status, see Counseling Washington’s sample declaration of supervision form.


Continuing Education Requirements

The Health Professions Quality Assurance Office has an extensive list of frequently asked questions and information about continuing education requirements for the health professions: reporting periods, acceptable courses, number of hours needed to stay current, how to document courses, what courses are acceptable, distance learning, and when you can count some agency training. There is also information about becoming an approved continuing education provider. The links provided in the above information include the continuing education requirements for each licensure category.

What are industry-recognized local, state, national, international organizations ?
WAC 246-809-620 says recognized organizations or institutions include, but are not limited to, the following organizations:

Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy;
Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work;
Washington Chapter of the National Association of Social Work;
American Mental Health Counselors Association;
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy;
Clinical Social Work Federation;
National Association of Social Workers;
Washington Mental Health Counselors Association;
National Board for Certified Counselors;
Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care

Additional Credentials

There are many other types of credentials that a mental health professional may process although most do not allow a person to operate as a private practice counselor without one of the Full or Associate Level Licenses described above.  Counseling Washington has an extensive list of additional credentials related to the counseling field located on the Counselor Acronyms section of this site. 

Note: Counseling Washington only supports and promotes listings of counselors in private practice whose license type requires a minimum of a master’s degree or better to keep in line with the requirements set forth by Washington State.  See our History and Objectives page for more information

Special note:  You are responsible for knowing all laws and rules related to Mental Health Counselors.  Sign up to receive notifications when laws and rules change at:

You can view the current RCW's and WAC's at:


Can a fully certified SUDP have a private practice?

Generally speaking an additional qualification is required.

Plus, Additional information, extracted from an email from Ted Dale, Program Manager, Office of Health Professions, Washington State Department of Health, in response to an
Email inquiry 6/21/2022.

“A full SUDP certification does allow you to work in private practice, but an SUDP Trainee must work in a licensed SUD agency.  This was actually a facility rule that was changed by legislation 5-6 years ago, and essentially the agency rules said you could only work with this credential in a licensed SUD agency.  It was this one line that was struck out, which (now) enables SUDPs to work in private practice.

“I can also tell you that there are some things to note going forward.  For example, many courts require their drug/alcohol evaluations to come from an SUD agency.  It may be a carryover from when everyone was in an agency, but it is still in their rules so they won’t take assessments from private practice SUDPs.  Additionally, SUD agencies generally only take assessments from other agencies.  So if you have a client that goes to an agency for treatment they may not take your assessment but will do their own.  But you can work in private practice and you won’t get in trouble with DOH for doing so.

“I hope that helps to answer your question, about SUDP’s in private practice.”

WA. Counselor Directory: find a therapist near you.

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