What is a Licensed Associate -- in WA State



Webmaster’s comments: Webmaster’s comments: You have graduated with a masters degree in mental health counseling, Marriage and Family, or Social Work. Now if you if you want to start your own business and see clients in private practice, you must first find a WA. State Approved supervisor and together, apply to the Washington State Health Department for an Associate’s License.   Then you will need to perform a total of 3,000 hours of supervised counseling and then apply for full licensure in your chosen category.  This needs to be completed within 6 years.

New graduates can also apply for work at licensed mental health agencies and be employed as an “Agency Affiliated Counselor.”  (see "Application forms (and more) for each of the various license classifications" below.)

In case you prefer to be a self-employed counselor (start your own private practice), I am reproducing the “Licensed Associate” regulations below [source Revised Code of Washington. (RCW) 18.225.145]. 

See: GLOSSARY OF TERMS used by Department of Health staff members,regarding licenses, permits, and certificates.


RCWs > Title 18 > Chapter 18.225 > Section 18.225.145

RCW 18.225.145

Associate licensing—Requirements.

(1) The secretary shall issue an associate license to any applicant who demonstrates to the satisfaction of the secretary that the applicant meets the following requirements for the applicant's practice area and submits a declaration that the applicant is working toward full licensure in that category:

(a) Licensed social worker associate—advanced or licensed social worker associate—independent clinical: Graduation from a master's degree or doctoral degree educational program in social work accredited by the council on social work education and approved by the secretary based upon nationally recognized standards.

(b) Licensed mental health counselor associate: Graduation from a master's degree or doctoral degree educational program in mental health counseling or a related discipline from a college or university approved by the secretary based upon nationally recognized standards.

(c) Licensed marriage and family therapist associate: Graduation from a master's degree or doctoral degree educational program in marriage and family therapy or graduation from an educational program in an allied field equivalent to a master's degree or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy approved by the secretary based upon nationally recognized standards.

(2) Associates may not provide independent 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.  (See list of approved suprvisors.)

(3) Associates shall provide each client or patient, during the first professional contact, with a disclosure form according to RCW 18.225.100, disclosing that he or she is an associate under the supervision of an approved supervisor.

(4) The department shall adopt by rule what constitutes adequate proof of compliance with the requirements of this section.

(5) Applicants are subject to the denial of a license or issuance of a conditional license for the reasons set forth in chapter 18.130 RCW.

(6) An associate license may be renewed no more than six times, provided that the applicant for renewal has successfully completed eighteen hours of continuing education in the preceding year. Beginning with the second renewal, at least six of the continuing education hours in the preceding two years must be in professional ethics.


Per the Washington State Department of Health, in December 2018 the following chart showcases the current number of Counselors in Washington State by license:

Profession Active Status Counts Pending Status Counts
Marriage & Family Therapist Associate license 572 43
Marriage & Family Therapist license 1726 125
Mental Health Counselor Associate license 2045 167
Mental Health Counselor license 7223 271
Social Workers Associates Advanced license 239 31
Social Workers Associate Independent Clinical license  1929 117
Social Workers Independent Clinical license 4448 542


Application forms (and more) for each of the various license classifications (see links below):

    (a) Licensed social work classifications:

          (i) Licensed advanced social worker (or)

          (ii) Licensed independent clinical social worker
                 (Apply for either one online or print paper forms)

    (b) Licensed mental health counselor

    (c) Licensed marriage and family therapist

Please note: 

The Washington State Department of Health has rolled out an online application for initial mental health counselor and associate credentials. Check out the features of the online application portal on YouTube. Information about how to access the online application for mental health counselors and mental health counselor associates is located on the Department’s website.

Limitation on Distance Supervision for Social Workers Repealed

“The Department of Health has filed a CR103 removing the limitations on distance supervision for social workers.

“The rule amends WAC 246-809-330, Supervised postgraduate experience requirements, repeals limitations on distance supervision to comply with statutory amendments made by Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1007

(Chapter 21, Laws of 2021). This change to the rule is currently in effect.” (Nov. 2021)
If you have questions about this please contact Brandon Williams at


Prior to the passage of HB 1063, statute and department rule placed the following limits on the number of times an associate or trainee credential could be renewed: Mental Health Counselor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Social Worker associates were limited to six renewals, while Substance Use Disorder Professional trainees (SUDPTs) were limited to four renewals.  During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, some associates and trainees ineligible for credential renewal faced barriers to completing requirements necessary for full licensure. The department’s rule amendments incorporate by reference the statutory exceptions created by HB 1063.

This rule amendment allows an exception to the limit on associate and trainee credential renewals, allowing the Secretary of Health to authorize additional renewals...when a governor-declared emergency results in barriers to training or testing. This rule is currently in effect. (Nov. 2021)

If you have questions regarding Licensed Counselors please contact Brandon Williams at

If you have questions regarding SUDPTs please contact Ted Dale at


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