Montana Counseling License Requirements
Montana is known as “big sky country,” which describes both its great plains and rocky mountains. There are just over 1,000,000 people living in the state of Montana, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 2,400 people currently working in counseling occupations in the state.1-5 If you have an interest in pursuing a career in counseling in Montana, you will need to understand the licensure regulations and the process to become one. On this page, you will learn the requirements for becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Montana as well as other counseling licenses.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Montana
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Montana
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Montana Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Montana
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Montana
Montana requires that most types of professional counselors in the state earn a master’s degree that meets requirements for the practice area pursued. A few schools in Montana offer counseling programs that meet these requirements; future counselors may find that programs completed out-of-state also meet requirements. For some licenses, prospective counselors must also meet experience and testing requirements.
1. Learn about different counseling career paths.
Professional counselors often specialize in one specific area of counseling. The first step to becoming a licensed counselor is to choose an area of specialization because the licensure pathways vary for each area. The type of counseling you want to pursue will define the degree program and other requirements you must complete.
2. Complete the degree required for your preferred area of practice.
In Montana, most counseling licenses require a master’s degree to become licensed. Professional counselors must have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field; and school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling. Addiction counselors are not required to have a graduate degree, but at least an associate’s degree is necessary.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Montana.
The final step to becoming a licensed counselor in Montana is seeking licensure by the right Montana licensing board after you have earned your degree. The Montana Board of Behavioral Health licenses mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and addiction counselors. School counselors are licensed by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. To learn more about the licensure process, continue reading this guide.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) Licensing Process
Professional counselors in Montana are licensed by the Montana Board of Behavioral Health. Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPCs) are authorized to provide counseling services, such as conducting assessments, implementing treatment plans related to mental health concerns, using affective, cognitive, and behavioral techniques to improve client wellbeing and development, and making diagnoses and referrals. To find out more about working as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. The minimum educational requirement for LCPC licensure in Montana is a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field with six credits in an advanced counseling practicum; the Board will accept a 45-credit master’s degree at the provisional licensing stage, but additional coursework must be completed before full licensure will be approved. While CACREP accreditation is not required, degree programs must meet the coursework requirements for counseling set out by CACREP.
1. Register as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Candidate (PCLC).
Begin the licensure process by submitting an application for a provisional license as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Candidate (PCLC). With this license, you have the Board’s permission to earn supervised experience and take the required exam. Fingerprint background checks through the Montana Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are also required at this stage. This check can take up to six weeks, therefore the Board suggests candidates begin the application process as soon as possible to avoid delays. The Board prefers online applications, although a paper application is available. The application checklist includes links to supplemental application forms that applicants can complete and upload to the online portal if required. As of September 2019, the application fee is $200.
2. Pass one of the required exams.
The Board requires licensure candidates to pass either the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE). Scores from exams taken as part of graduate study are accepted as long as the exam was taken within four years of application. Both of these exams are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) at Pearson VUE testing centers in Montana and across the country. To learn more about the exam process and format, review either the NCE or NCMHCE handbooks; to prepare for the exam, the NBCC also provides links to exam prep resources. The Board allows a maximum of three attempts to pass the exam after which the Board must approve any subsequent attempts.
3. Accrue supervised experience.
Provisional licensees must complete 3,000 hours of clinical work experience, at least half of which must be completed post-degree. A minimum of 1,000 post-degree hours must be direct service delivery with a maximum of 250 hours in group or co-facilitative situations. Trainees must also receive one hour of supervision for every 15 hours of work experience pre-graduation or one hour of supervision for every 20 hours of experience post-degree. The supervisor must be an LCSW, LCPC, LMFT, or a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist with at least three years of post-licensure experience and clinical training in supervision. More information about supervision requirements can be found in the Board rules.
4. Request and receive your LCPC licensure.
Once you have met the experience and exam requirements, you are ready to apply for LCPC licensure. Exam results will be sent to the Board directly from NBCC; you must submit the supervisory experience form indicating you have met the experience requirements. If you have had more than one supervisor, each supervisor must complete a separate form. These documents should be uploaded using the online portal. You do not need to resubmit an application package at this stage as the Board keeps your required documents, such as transcripts and background checks, on file while you have a provisional license.
Professional Counselor Licensure by Reciprocity in Montana
There are no reciprocity agreements for licensure in Montana, but the Board does review LCPC applications from individuals who have been licensed in other states for at least two years on a case-by-case basis. The licensure standards must be substantially similar or greater to those in Montana, including similar degree requirements, exam scores, and experience hours. Fingerprint and background checks through the Montana Department of Justice are also required. Applicants should refer to the LCPC checklist and the Board rules for required forms and instructions. The application fee is $200 as of September 2019.
Counselor Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Montana counseling licenses expire on December 31 every year and can be renewed as early as November 15. The renewal fee is $175 (as of September 2019). Licenses can be renewed online or using the paper application. Every year, licensees must complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) and additional hours cannot be carried forward into the new year. While the Board does not provide a list of approved CE providers, a description of acceptable activities is provided in the administrative rules.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Montana
The steps to becoming a licensed counselor in Montana vary as they are based on the type of counseling you wish to practice. In addition to mental health counseling, there are many other popular types of counseling professions requiring licensure, including licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and addiction counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The Montana Board of Behavioral Health licenses marriage and family therapists. The Board is currently updating the paper application, therefore applicants must use the online portal to apply; supplemental forms are available on the Board website. Applicants must have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy that is accredited by COAMFTE or CACREP or meets specific coursework requirements. Montana LMFTs use adapted psychotherapeutic and systems theories to provide counseling services in the context of interpersonal relationships and marital and family systems; these services help clients address mental, emotional, and behavioral dysfunctions and improve their relationships. To become an LMFT in Montana, you are required to:
- Register as a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate and complete fingerprint and background checks through the Montana Department of Justice.
- Earn supervised experience.
- Pass the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) national exam.
- Request and receive your LMFT license.
For more detailed information about marriage and family therapy careers, visit our LMFT career guide.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction issues licenses to school counselors. School counselors in Montana work with students, parents, teachers, and the community to develop partnerships, programs, and collaborations that promote healthy social, emotional, and academic development for all students from K-12. Applicants must complete either a CACREP-accredited graduate degree in school counseling or a graduate degree in school counseling with at least 600 hours of internship. The process of becoming a licensed school counselor in Montana is:
- Complete fingerprint and background checks.
- Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor Exam.
- Complete the required training course: An Introduction to Indian Education for All in Montana.
- Apply for and receive your school counselor license.
To learn more about the school counselor career path, review our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC)
Addiction counselors are licensed by the Board of Behavioral Health in Montana. Applicants either apply online or use the paper application form. The minimum degree requirement is an associate’s degree in a related field, such as addiction, counseling, or psychology. The applicant must complete at least 330 hours of addiction training, either as part of the degree program or through additional training courses by approved providers. The Board rules outlines the required training topics and hours needed for licensure. In Montana, LACs provide use specialized knowledge of chemical dependency, co-occuring disorders, and pharmacology to help clients struggling with addiction; services include assessment, counseling, public education, and treatment planning. To become an LAC, follow these steps to licensure:
- Register as an Addiction Counselor Candidate and submit fingerprint and background checks.
- Earn supervised experience and pass the required exam.
- Request and receive your LAC license.
Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Montana
- Peer Support Specialist (PSS)
Read more about this career pathway on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
The field of counseling can include working in a range of different specialties and using diverse treatment modalities. In addition to the major types of counseling described above, you may also pursue a professional career in one of these areas:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Montana Counseling Career and Salary Information
There are a reported 2,420 licensed counselors working in Montana, with the majority working in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (1,340)s.1-5 Those working in this category are earning an average annual salary of $45,160, which is slightly below the national average of $47,920.1 Two other fields that employ a good number of counselors are rehabilitation with 420 employed and educational, guidance, school and vocational with 660 counselors employed.4,3
Montana is expected to add around 500 new counseling jobs by 2026 according to Projections Central.6 The largest growth is projected in mental health counseling with 270 new positions opening up for a growth rate of 20.3%.6 This slightly outpaces the national projected growth in this field of 19.4%.6 All other areas of counseling are projected to grow at a slower rate than the national averages.6 No data was reported for the fields of “all other counselors” or marriage and family therapists.6
|Occupation||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Counselors, All Other||—||—|
|Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors||660||$48,010|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||—||—|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,340||$45,160|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1-5
Counseling Associations in Montana
- Montana Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors Association (MLCPCA): Advocates for and upholds the practice of clinical professional counseling through public policy, educational information, and professional development opportunities including an annual conference.
- Montana School Counselor Association (MSCA): Promotes professional training and best practices to help advance the profession of school counseling in the state.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I complete fingerprint background checks for Board licensure?
Applicants must have their fingerprints taken at a local law enforcement office or the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ). You must send the fingerprint card with the $30 fee (as of September 2019) to the DOJ for processing. The DOJ will send the results of the background checks to the Board directly; applications will not be approved until the background checks are received. Further instructions about the background check process are provided by the Board.
What are the Board’s requirements for the “advanced counseling practicum” in the degree program?
Each LCPC applicant must complete at least six credits in an “advanced counseling practicum” as part of the graduate degree in counseling. According to the Board rules, the practicum must include 200 hours of service to clients with at least 80 hours of direct service delivery. Up to 45 hours may be indirect learning, such as reviewing and assessing audio and videotapes, observing via two-way mirror, conducting research, and writing case notes. The student must also receive 30 hours of individual, face-to-face supervision and 45 hours of small group supervision. Up to 1,500 hours of supervised work experience can be accrued while completing the degree requirements, including via the advanced practicum, and used towards the supervised work experience requirements for licensure.
What are the coursework requirements for marriage and family therapy licensure in Montana?
The Board preapproves degree programs in marriage and family therapy that are accredited by COAMFTE or CACREP. If the degree is not accredited, it must be in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field and meet coursework requirements. The degree must be comprised of at least 48 credits with at least 36 credits in the six core areas: human development, family development, marriage and family systems, marriage and family therapy, professional ethics, and research. The program must also include at least nine credits of practicum that enables students to provide a minimum of 500 hours of direct client services and receive at least 100 hours of supervision.
Which Montana counseling fields have the most annual openings each year?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the greatest number of annual openings through 2026 is for mental health counselors (180), which is more than double any other reported field.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to have 90 annual openings during this period, followed by 80 annual openings for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors and 70 annual openings for rehabilitation counselors.6 No data was reported for marriage and family therapists or all other counselors.6
How do I renew a Montana counseling license?
The Board of Behavioral Health is responsible for processing renewals of mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, and substance abuse counseling licenses. The Board prefers licensees complete renewals online but paper applications are also available. Licenses expire on December 31 every year and the renewal fee is $175 for LPCs and LMFTs and $150 for LACs, as of September 2019. Licensees must complete 20 hours of continuing education each year and are advised to keep documentation in case it is requested by the Board for auditing purposes.
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