Kentucky Counseling License Requirements
As of May 2021, over 9,300 individuals work as counselors in Kentucky within the major counseling occupational groups, including those working as Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs).1-5 If you’d like to pursue a career as a professional counselor, you should know about the process of counseling licensure in Kentucky, including the education and experience needed to be qualified. This guide includes information about licensure processes, the state job outlook, and professional organizations that can help you achieve your goal.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Kentucky
- Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Kentucky
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Kentucky Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Kentucky
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Kentucky
In Kentucky, most professional counselors must be licensed by the state to practice in their specific area of work. The licensure process can include degree, experience, and exam requirements. Many counseling programs in Kentucky are available to help you meet requirements. Though the process for each license type is slightly different, there are some common steps to pursuing counseling licensure in Kentucky, which are outlined below. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Kentucky, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Choose which area of counseling to pursue.
Creating a plan before you begin the counseling licensure process is essential. There are many different types of counseling and you may find that a specific type interests you more than others. Spend some time researching your options to help narrow your counseling focus.
2. Complete the degree(s) necessary for your counseling practice area.
Most Kentucky counseling licenses require at least a master’s degree to be eligible for licensure. Professional counselors must have a graduate degree in counseling with at least 60 credits; marriage and family therapists must have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field; and school counselors must complete a graduate degree in school or guidance counseling. Substance abuse counselors can earn certification with a bachelor’s degree or a high school diploma for those who have been in recovery for at least one year, although a master’s degree in a clinical behavioral science field opens up the doors to advanced certification.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Kentucky.
To earn a counseling license, you must apply to the state body that oversees your preferred area of counseling. The Kentucky Board of Licensed Professional Counselors (the Board) is responsible for issuing mental health counselor licenses, while the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board) issues marriage and family therapist licenses. School counselor licenses are issued by the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) and substance abuse counseling credentials are issued by the Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC). Continue reading to learn more about these processes.
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
The Kentucky Board of Licensed Professional Counselors (the Board) is responsible for licensing mental health counselors, known as Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs). LPCCs specialize in mental health counseling and provide assessment, evaluation, treatment planning, and counseling services based on psychotherapeutic and related counseling methods. If you would like to learn more about a career as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. A master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree in counseling comprising at least 60 credits, including content in nine core areas and a 600-hour practicum or internship, is required for LPCC licensure in Kentucky. Programs are not pre-approved by the Board, but additional coursework documentation is required for applicants who have completed degree programs that are not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
1. Register as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA).
Once your education is complete, you can submit an application to the Board for a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) license, which enables you to work under clinical supervision. New applications can be completed online using the new applicant online portal and it costs $50 to apply (as of November 2022). After submitting, you will need to complete criminal background checks at the state and federal levels before your LPCA license will be issued. The processing fee for a Kentucky background check is $20 as of November 2022 and it can take approximately 10 days to be processed. The federal background check can be completed electronically, by mail, or through an authorized third party. The fee is $20 as of November 2022 and processing times vary depending on when your materials are received.
2. Accrue supervised experience.
The LPCC license requires candidates to complete 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, including at least 1,600 hours of direct client contact and 100 hours of individual, face-to-face supervision. Supervision must be provided by an individual who holds an LPCC supervisor (LPCC-S) license. LPCC-S must have an active LPCC license in good standing, at least two years of experience, and proof of completion of an approved supervision training course. A list of approved supervisors is available online.
3. Pass the required exam.
A passing score on either the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) is required for licensure. These exams are offered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), which also provides handbooks, study guides, and content outlines on its website. The NCE tests for general counseling skills and knowledge through multiple-choice questions, while the NCMHCE is a scenario-based exam that uses 11 case studies to test for mental health counseling knowledge.
4. Request and receive your LPCC license.
You can upgrade your LPCA license online once you have met all the requirements for Kentucky’s LPCC license. It costs $150 to apply for an LPCC license (as of November 2022). Licensure confirmation will be displayed via the online portal once your application has been processed. You will also be able to print license certificates and cards via the online portal.
LPCC Licensure by Reciprocity in Kentucky
Kentucky offers licensure reciprocity to individuals licensed in Tennessee. According to the reciprocity agreement, licensed professional counselors with mental health service provider designations (LPC/MHSPs) in Tennessee are eligible for LPCC licensure in Kentucky if they have five years of work experience. LPCs in Tennessee who do not have the MHSP designation are not considered equivalent and are not eligible for licensure by reciprocity. Applications from counselors licensed in other states are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must have a 60-credit graduate degree, an active counseling license, and five years of work experience to be considered. Applications for licensure by reciprocity or endorsement cost $150 (as of November 2022) and should be submitted using the online portal.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses must be renewed annually in Kentucky using the online portal. The renewal fee is $150 as of November 2022. All licensees are required to complete 10 hours of continuing education annually and an additional six hours of CE in suicide assessment, treatment, and management every six years as well as three hours on the law for regulating professional counseling every three years. New licensees are required to complete three CE hours on domestic violence within three years of full licensure. Examples of approved providers are provided in the Board’s administrative rules and lists of approved providers are available on the Board’s website.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Kentucky
Professional counseling license pathways will vary depending on the area of counseling that interests you. Other major types of Kentucky counseling licensure covered in the guide include licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Kentucky Board of Licensure for Marriage and Family Therapists (the Board) is responsible for issuing marriage and family therapy licenses. Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) in Kentucky assess and treat cognitive, emotional, and behavioral conditions related to marital and family systems using psychotherapy and counseling techniques. They are not authorized to administer psychological tests. A master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field with specific coursework from a regionally-accredited institution is required for LMFT licensure. To earn licensure, the Board requires candidates to:
- Apply to become a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (MFTA).
- Accrue at least two years of post-licensure experience in the practice of marriage and family therapy with at least 1,000 hours of direct, face-to-face, or telehealth contact as well as a minimum of 200 hours of clinical supervision.
- Apply online for LMFT licensure or submit the LMFT paper application and request permission to take the required exam.
- Take the Marital and Family Therapy National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
More information about LMFTs and what they do can be found on our LMFT career guide.
The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) issues five-year Provisional and Standard Certificates for School Counselor, Primary-Grade 12. The first step is to complete an approved master’s degree in school counseling. The Board provides a list of approved educator preparation programs, although not all schools on this list have a school counseling program. In Kentucky, school counselors work with students from primary school to twelfth grade to assist with social, developmental, and academic achievement using age-appropriate counseling theories and interventions. Earning a standard certificate in school counseling requires you to complete these steps after earning your master’s degree:
- online portalApply for a Provisional Certificate for School Counselor and submit a background check.
- Complete three to six additional credits of graduate-level study in counseling or school counseling.
- Complete the required provisional school counseling experience (one year if you are a certified teacher in Kentucky with at least one year of experience or two years if you are not a certified teacher or have the necessary experience).
- Request and receive your Standard Certificate for School Counselor.
Read more about this pathway on our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)
In Kentucky, the Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC) issues the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC) credentials to substance abuse professionals. CADCs must have a bachelor’s degree while LCADCs must have a 60-hour master’s degree in a behavioral science field with a clinical application. Kentucky substance abuse counselors use substance abuse and recovery theories to provide emotional, social, and behavioral assistance to those struggling with substance abuse disorders; however, LCADCs have additional training in clinical mental health counseling. To earn a substance abuse counseling credential, follow these steps:
- Register for temporary training credentials (Temporary Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (TCADC) to earn experience for CADC licensure or Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Associate (LCADCA) to earn experience for LCADC licensure).
- Obtain required education and supervised experience (CADC: 300 education hours and 4,000 hours of supervised work experience; LCADC: 180 education hours and 2,000 hours of work experience with 100 hours of direct supervision).
- Pass the required IC&RC exam (the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) exam for CADC or the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) exam for LCADC).
- Request and receive your license or certification in alcohol and drug counseling.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Kentucky
In addition to the credentials listed above, additional optional credentials for substance abuse professionals are available.
- Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC): Offers the Registered Alcohol and Drug Peer Support Specialist (RADPSS) credential to applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent, two years of recovery from a substance-related disorder, a passing score on the Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ICADC) Peer Recovery (PR) exam, 40 classroom of hours of training, and 400 hours of experience, 25 of which must be under a CADC or LCADC supervisor.
- Kentucky Certification Board for Prevention Professionals (KCBPP): Offers the Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS) credential for applicants with a bachelor’s degree, 2,000 clock hours of prevention work experience, 150 hours of training, 120 hours of supervision by a CPS, and a passing score on the Internationally Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (ICADC) Prevention Specialist (PS) exam.
Read more about substance abuse counselors and what they do on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
A counseling degree can lead to many different careers and areas of specialty. In addition to the major types of counseling licensure outlined above, you may also be interested in the following counseling career paths:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Kentucky Counseling Career and Salary Information
Of the 9,370 counselors working in Kentucky, almost half are employed as educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (4,170) and an additional 3,920 are employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.1-5 Salaries for Kentucky counselors range from $42,580 for rehabilitation counselors to $57,830 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors.3,4 Marriage and family therapists and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors fall within this range at $57,210 and $45,310 respectively.1,2
The job market for Kentucky counselors is expected to grow in all reported areas through 2030 according to Projections Central.6 The fields of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling and marriage and family therapy are both projected to grow the fastest, at rates above national averages (25.9% compared to 22.9% nationally and 16.7% compared to 16.3% nationally, respectively).6 This will result in 1,060 and 80 new jobs respectively.6 The growth in these fields is followed by the subfield of “all other” counseling (11.1% and 20 new jobs); rehabilitation counseling (9.8% and 80 new jobs); and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling (9.3% and 390 new jobs).6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||90||$52,760|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||4,170||$57,830|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||400||$57,210|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||3,920||$45,310|
Counseling Associations in Kentucky
- Kentucky Association of Addiction Professionals (KAAP): As a branch of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), this organization provides those working in the substance abuse counseling field with professional training opportunities and conferences.
- Kentucky Counseling Association (KCA): A branch of the American Counseling Association, this professional association has numerous regional chapters and issued-based divisions for members to get involved in.
- Kentucky School Counselors Association (KSCA): This non-profit organization is a branch of the American School Counselors Association and provides professional support to school counselors, such as training opportunities, advocacy support, and networking events.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of degree should I complete to become a professional counselor?
The Board sets graduate degree requirements for licensure and professional counselors in Kentucky must have a 60-credit graduate degree in counseling from a regionally-accredited institution. The Board does not provide a list of approved programs but completing a CACREP-accredited program requires less documentation during the application process. Your degree program must include content from the following core areas: the helping relationship; human growth and development; lifestyle and career development; group dynamics, process, counseling, and consulting; assessment, appraisal, and testing of individuals; social and cultural foundations, including multicultural issues; principles of etiology, diagnosis, treatment planning, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders and dysfunctional behavior; research and evaluation; and professional orientation and ethics. The degree must also include a 600-hour supervised practicum or internship.
What exams are required for counseling licensure in Kentucky?
The Board accepts passing scores from either the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE). Both exams are offered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Handbooks for the NCE and NCMHCE exams are available through the NBCC. Exams are held at Pearson VUE exam centers across the country, generally during the first two weeks of each month.
Can I take an online degree to earn counseling licensure?
The Board does not provide a list of approved programs for LPCC applicants, including online programs. The Board advises that any program, whether completed on-campus or online, must comply with the Board’s regulations. This means the institution must be regionally accredited; the degree must comprise at least 60 credits at the graduate level; and the student must complete a 600-hour practicum or internship as part of the degree.
Do I need to be a teacher before I can become a school counselor in Kentucky?
The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) does not require school counseling candidates to have a teaching license before becoming a school counselor. However, a teaching license and relevant experience can be beneficial during the licensure process. The Board issues provisional licenses to all candidates that are valid for five years. During this time, provisional school counselors must complete two years of school counselor experience. If you already have a valid Kentucky teaching license and at least one year of teaching experience, you only need to complete one year of provisional school counseling before upgrading to a standard license.
How many annual openings will there be for counselors in Kentucky?
Data from Projections Central predicts many annual openings in counseling fields through 2030.6 The largest number of reported average annual openings is projected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (530); followed by educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (440); rehabilitation counselors (90); marriage and family therapists (60); and “all other” counselors (20).6
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021 Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm