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Licensure Requirements & Information

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 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

Full Licensure

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): 

  • 3,200 hours of post- graduate, supervised experience.  [800 of the hours must be in direct client contact.]

  • 90 hours of supervision by a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker or a Licensed Associate Social Worker who has been licensed for at least two years.  [Of the 90 hours: 1) 50 must include direct supervision by a LASW or LICSW; the 50 may be in one-to-one supervision or group supervision;  and 2) 40 hours may be with an equally qualified licensed mental health practitioner; the 40 hours must be in one-on-one supervision.] 

  • Distance supervision is limited to 40 supervision hours.  Completion of 36 hours of continuing education – 6 of which is in professional law and ethics.

LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Required Degree:  M.S.W.; D.S.W.; or Ph.D.
Additional Requirement(s):

  • Minimum of 4,000 hours of postgraduate, supervised experience over a minimum three-year period. One thousand hours must be in direct client contact supervised by a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW).

  • One hundred and thirty hours of direct supervision by a LICSW or equally licensed mental health practitioner. Of the 130 hours: Seventy hours must be with a LICSW; the 70 hours may be in one-to-one supervision or group supervision. Sixty hours may be with an equally qualified licensed practitioner; the 60 hours must be in one-on-one supervision.
    Distance supervision is limited to 60 supervision hours.

Licensed Psychologist / Clinical Psychologist
Required Degree: Ph.D. or Psy.D.
Additional Requirement(s):  Must complete an internship as part of the doctoral degree program. The internship must include at least 1,500 hours of supervised experience and be completed within 24 months. The internship program must be accredited by the American Psychological Association; or be a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. If the program is not accredited by the APA or APPIC member, it must meet the requirements listed in WAC 246-924-056.

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): HIV/AIDS training – seven hours; Successfully passed national certification examination; documentation of current certification sent directly from the certifying body.
Note: Additional education required for prescriptive authority must be verified as described above.

CC - Certified Counselor
Required Degree: Must have a bachelor's degree in a counseling-related field; or higher.
Additional Requirement(s): Pass the Washington State Certified Adviser Examination in risk assessment, ethics and appropriate screening using the global assessment of functioning scale; client referral and Washington State law.  Must also have a written supervisory agreement.

Licensed Associate(s)

LMHCA – Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate
Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s):  HIV/AIDS training – four hours.
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): HIV/AIDS training – four hours.
Note: An associate is a prelicensure 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 therapists. 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.

LASWA – Licensed Advanced Social Worker Associate
Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s):

  • HIV/AIDS training – four hours.

  • If already taken the ASWB, Advanced, verification of scores must come from the testing company or verified by another state in which the applicant was credentialed. Applicants who obtained the Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work from the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) or Qualified Clinical Social Work (QCSW) from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are considered to have met the education and postgraduate experience requirements to be eligible for Washington State Licensure examination. Documentation of DCSW or QCSW must be sent directly to the department from NASW.

LICSWA – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker Associate
Required Degree: MA or higher
Additional Requirement(s):

  • HIV/AIDS training – four hours.

  • If already taken the ASWB exam, Advanced, verification of scores must come from the testing company or verified by another state in which the applicant was credentialed. Applicants who obtained the Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work from the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW) or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) or Qualified Clinical Social Work (QCSW) from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are considered to have met the education and postgraduate experience requirements to be eligible for Washington State Licensure examination. Documentation of DCSW or QCSW must be sent directly to the department from NASW.


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.

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.


Supervision Requirements for Every Category of Licensed Associate

Please click here for a complete list of the supervision requirements needed for each category of licensed associate.

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.

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: http://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?A0=LICENSED-COUNSELORS.

You can view the current RCW's and WAC's at:
http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/
ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MentalHealthCounselor/
Laws
.

 

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