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Kentucky Counseling License Requirements

A Kentucky counseling license can open up doors to a satisfying career continuously learning about health and human behavior and helping others. Almost 8,000 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. Although each process is slightly different, there are some common steps to pursuing counseling licensure in Kentucky.

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 two years, 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 Department of Professional Licensing is responsible for issuing mental health counselor licenses, while the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Marriage and Family Therapists issues marriage and family therapist licenses. School counselor licenses are issued by the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board and substance abuse counseling credentials are issued by the Kentucky Board of Alcohol and Drug Counselors. Continue reading to learn more about these processes.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process

The Kentucky Department of Professional Licensing 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 graduate degree in counseling comprised of at least 60 credits, including content in 10 core areas and a 600-hour practicum or internship, is required for LPCC licensure in Kentucky. Programs are not pre-approved by the Department, but additional coursework documentation is required for applicants who have completed degree programs that are not accredited by CACREP.

1. Register as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA).

Once your education is complete, you can submit an application to the Department for an 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 September 2019). 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 September 2019 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 $18 as of September 2019 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 their website. The NCE tests for general counseling skills and knowledge through multiple-choice questions, while the NCMHCE is a scenario-based exam that uses 10 clinical examples 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 September 2019). 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.

Professional Counselor 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 September 2019) and should be submitted using the online portal.

Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

Licenses must be renewed annually in Kentucky using the online portal. The renewal fee is $150 as of September 2019. All licensees are required to complete 10 hours of continuing education each year and an additional six hours of CE in suicide assessment, treatment, and management every six 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 Department’s administrative rules and lists of approved providers are available to download on the “Resources” section of the Department’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 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. Aspiring LMFTs should apply online or use the MFTA paper application or LMFT paper application. To earn licensure, the Board requires candidates to:

  • Register as a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (MFTA).
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Apply for LMFT licensure and permission to take the AMFTRB marriage and family therapy exam.
  • Request and receive your LMFT license.

More information about LMFTs and what they do can be found on our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board offers a certificate in school counseling. Applications can be submitted through the online portal or by paper application. The first step is to complete a master’s degree in school counseling. The Board provides a list of educator preparation programs, although not all schools on this list may 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:

  • Register for a provisional certificate as a 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 counseling.

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 issues three permanent credentials to substance abuse counselors: Registered Alcohol and Drug Peer Support Specialist, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC). The peer support credential is designed for individuals who have been in recovery for at least two years and the minimum degree requirement is a high school diploma. CADCs must have a bachelor’s degree and LCADCs must have a graduate 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; LCADCs have additional training in clinical mental health counseling. To earn a substance abuse counseling credential, follow these steps:

  • Register as a Temporary Registered Alcohol and Drug Peer Support Specialist or as a Temporary Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (Temporary CADC) or as a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Associate (LCADCA) and submit a supervision plan.
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Pass the required IC&RC exam (the Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for CADC and the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for LCADC).
  • Request and receive your license or certification in alcohol and drug counseling.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Kentucky

  • Adult Peer Support Specialist (APSS)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Family Peer Support Specialist (FPSS)
  • Youth Peer Support Specialist (YPSS)

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 speciality. 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 7,980 counselors working in Kentucky, almost half are employed as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (3,910) and an additional 3,150 are employed as educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (data is not available for the counselors, all other category).1-5 Salaries for Kentucky counselors range from $37,200 for rehabilitation counselors to $58,770 for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors.4,3 Marriage and family therapists and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors fall within this range at $41,280 and $42,240 respectively.2,1

The job market for Kentucky counselors is expected to grow in all reported areas through 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.6 Marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors are both projected to grow the fastest at rates above national averages (25.0% compared to 23.4% nationally and 24.7% compared to 23.1% nationally).6 This will result in 70 and 580 new jobs respectively.6 The growth in these fields is followed by substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (21.9% and 300 new jobs), rehabilitation counselors (12.4% and 120 new jobs), and educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (10.8% and 380 new jobs).6

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors3,150$58,770
Marriage and Family Therapists210$41,280
Rehabilitation Counselors710$37,200
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors3,910$42,240

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5

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 Department 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 Department 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 Department 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 be comprised of 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 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 they also have a valid Kentucky teaching license and at least one year of teaching experience, they only need to complete one year of provisional school counseling before they can upgrade to a standard license.

How many annual openings will there be for counselors in Kentucky?

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests many annual opening in counseling fields through 2026.6 The largest number of reported annual openings is projected for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors (420), followed by mental health counselors (330), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors (190), rehabilitation counselors (120), and marriage and family therapists (40).6

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, 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, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
6. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm