New Mexico Counseling License Requirements
Nearly 4,000 counselors were working in four of the five major counseling fields in the state of New Mexico as of May 2021.1-5 If you want to work as a professional counselor here, you will likely need to become licensed, and, for most types of counseling, you will need a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling. Keep reading to learn how to become licensed as a Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC), as well as find information on other types of counseling licenses in the state.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in New Mexico
- Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in New Mexico
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- New Mexico Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in New Mexico
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in New Mexico
Most types of counseling licenses in New Mexico require applicants to have a master’s degree or above that meets certain coursework requirements. Many New Mexico counseling programs are available to help you meet these requirements. In addition to a degree, counseling licensure usually requires passing a national exam and gaining supervised experience. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in New Mexico, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Decide which area of counseling to pursue.
Before you get your counseling degree you should think critically about which type of counseling you would like to practice. Each counseling type has its own degree requirements, so the more clarity you have prior to pursuing your degree, the sooner you can begin working as a counselor.
2. Earn the degree(s) required for your counseling practice area.
Most counseling licenses in New Mexico require a master’s degree or doctoral degree in professional counseling or a closely related field, but there are still options available for those without graduate degrees. For example, school counselors have several different pathways they can take to licensure, and not all of them require a master’s degree. Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (LADACs) can become licensed with an associate degree if they complete the maximum number of supervised experience hours.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in New Mexico.
Finally, after you have the degree required to practice in your desired counseling field, you will be ready to begin the process of becoming licensed. Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LPCCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADACs) are regulated by the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board (the Board), while school counselors are regulated by the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). Continue reading to find out more about how to become licensed as a professional counselor in New Mexico.
Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC) Licensing Process
To become a Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC) in New Mexico, you must get licensed by the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board (the Board). Applicants must have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field of at least 48 credit hours and with certain content area and practicum requirements. To obtain the required postgraduate professional clinical counseling experience, applicants will first become Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs). Then they can continue the process to become full LPCCs. You can read more about what professional counselors do on our mental health counselor career guide. To become one in New Mexico, you will follow these steps.
1. Apply to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC).
A license as an LMHC will allow you to earn supervised counseling experience without a full license. This license is intended to be a transition license between finishing your master’s or doctoral degree and qualifying for your full license. An application fee of $75 is due with the notarized application (as of December 2022). You must also include a 2×2 color photo, Attachment C or your Experience Plan, to be completed by your supervisor and included in a sealed envelope, official transcripts, and the Curriculum Worksheet (Attachment E). Once the license is issued, an initial licensure fee of $75 is required along with the application fee. If your application is approved, you will be authorized to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE). You must pass the NCE prior to your LMHC being issued and beginning clinical experience.
2. Accrue supervised clinical experience.
In order to become an LPCC, you will need to accrue at least two years of supervised postgraduate professional clinical experience as an LMHC. 3,000 hours of postgraduate clinical client contact (up to 1,000 can be from the internship or practicum) and 100 hours of face-to-face supervision are required. You will need to submit a statement from each supervisor (attachment B) during the application process in a sealed envelope verifying your supervised experience.
3. Take and pass the national exam.
Before you can practice as a licensed counselor in the state, you will need to pass National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCMHCE uses 11 case studies designed to test applicants’ problem-solving ability. A handbook for the NCMHCE is available online.
4. Apply for LPCC licensure.
Once you have accrued your clinical experience and passed the required exams, you are ready to apply for licensure. The application fee is $75 as of December 2022 and you will include a photo, Attachment B: Statement of Verification of Postgraduate Supervised Hours completed by your supervisor and sealed in an envelope, and official transcripts.
5. Receive your license.
After the Board has verified that you have met all requirements, you will be granted a Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC) license and be able to practice independently in New Mexico. An additional fee of $220 is required for the initial license.
LPCC Licensure by Reciprocity in New Mexico
If you are licensed as a professional counselor in another state, you can apply to be an LPCC by reciprocity. To do this, you will complete the notarized Licensure by Reciprocity Application, submit the $75 application fee, a 2×2 photo, Attachment A: Statement of Registration, Certification, or Licensure as a Counselor or Therapist in Another State (sent directly from the state in a sealed envelope), and official transcripts.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
The initial LPCC license will be good for 24 months, then licenses are required to be renewed annually. Renewal notices will be mailed in the middle of July. For each renewal period, licensees must complete and submit proof of 40 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) including 12 CEU hours of ethics. If you provide supervision, you will also need to take nine CEU hours of supervision. Licenses can be renewed online and cost $220 to renew.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in New Mexico
In addition to Professional Clinical Mental Health Counselors, New Mexico licenses other types of counselors. Other major counseling areas in the state include licensed marriage and family counselors, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
The New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board (the Board) also regulates the counseling profession of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) in the state. LMFTs are required to have a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy that meets certain coursework requirements and includes a 12-month supervised practicum. You also must:
- Apply for the Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapy (LAMFT) license, which must include a plan for completing the required hours of work experience and supervision.
- Complete two years of postgraduate marriage and family therapy experience, with 1,000 hours of clinical contact with clients and 200 hours of supervision, 100 hours of which must be individual supervision.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy (NMFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Submit your application to the Board online.
- Receive your LMFT license.
For more about what licensed marriage and family therapists do, read our LMFT career guide.
To become a school counselor in New Mexico, you must become licensed by the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). School counselors in the state are equipped to ensure their students (PreK-12) are growing physically, socially, intellectually, emotionally, and vocationally. Applicants should have a master’s degree with 36 to 42 graduate hours in school counseling and a practicum in a school setting to qualify. Licensed New Mexico mental health counselors (LPCCs or LMHCs) and those with a National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential can also qualify to become school counselors without meeting the preceding educational requirements. After obtaining a qualifying master’s degree, the basic process for becoming a school counselor is:
- Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor exam.
- Apply for teacher licensure, pass a background check, and receive your Level 1 school counselor license.
- After three full years of licensure on a Level 1 license, advance to a Level 2 license (good for nine years).
- After three full years of licensure on a Level 2 license, advance to a Level 3 license (good for nine years).
If you want to read more about being a school counselor, see our school counselor career guide.
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC)
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (LADACs) in New Mexico are also licensed by the New Mexico Counseling and Therapy Practice Board (the Board). LADACs need a minimum of an associate degree in counseling or a related field or an unrelated field (reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis) with certain coursework requirements. Qualifying education must include 276 clock hours in the following areas: 180 hours in substance, 90 hours in counseling, and six hours in substance abuse counseling ethics. Before you can begin accruing experience, you need to apply to become a Licensed Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA). If you hold a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in counseling, the hours of experience you are required to accrue decrease. The general steps to becoming an LADAC are:
- Apply to be a Licensed Substance Abuse Associate (LSAA) online to begin accruing supervised experience.
- Earn the supervised experience in alcohol and drug abuse counseling required for your education level (associate’s degree: three years (3,000 client contact hours) with 200 hours of direct supervision; bachelor’s degree: two years (2,000 client contact hours) with 100 hours of supervision; master’s degree: one year (1,000 client contact hours) with 50 hours of supervision).
- Take and pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) exam.
- Apply online for your license to practice as an LADAC.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in New Mexico
In addition to the credentials listed above, the New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc. (NMCBBHP) offers several optional credentials for substance abuse professionals who wish to further their training and specialize their skills. While these credentials are not necessary to practice substance abuse in New Mexico, they may qualify applicants to practice in support positions and/or qualify current substance abuse counselors to extend their practice to other areas.
- Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
- Certified Family Peer Support Worker (CFPSW)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
- Certified Peer Support Worker (CPSW)
If you would like to learn more about substance abuse counseling, read our substance abuse counselor career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
You may also be interested in other areas of professional counseling. To learn more about any of the careers below, click the link.
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
New Mexico Counseling Career and Salary Information
In New Mexico, more counselors practice substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling than any other field and they also earn the highest average annual salary (1,710 total employed, earning $60,720).1 Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors earn the second-highest average salary at $59,680, followed by marriage and family therapists at $56,070.2,3
Projected job growth for counselors in New Mexico is below the national average, though still positive. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling jobs are expected to grow by 18.7% through 2030, the fastest of any practice area reported in New Mexico, but this is still lower than the national projected rate of 22.9% growth in this category.6 The practice area of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling is the only one expected to match national growth at 11.6% (compared to 11.5% nationally).6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||N.Av.||N.Av.|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||1,590||$59,680|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||300||$56,070|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,710||$60,720|
Counseling Associations in New Mexico
- New Mexico Alliance of Addiction Professionals (NMAAP): New Mexico branch of NAADAC (the Association for Addiction Professionals) that advocates on behalf of the addiction workforce in New Mexico while providing training and networking opportunities.
- New Mexico Counseling Association (NMCA): Provides networking forums to promote the professional development of counselors.
- New Mexico School Counselor Association (NMSCA): Organization promoting excellence in New Mexico school counseling by providing networking opportunities, collaboration, and professional development.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a professional mental health counselor in New Mexico?
After you get your graduate degree in counseling, New Mexico requires you to gain 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience and pass a series of exams. For most applicants, fulfilling these requirements takes at least two years to accomplish.
How much do counselors in New Mexico make?
New Mexico counselor salaries depend on geographical location, the type of counseling practiced, and the employer, as well as other factors. The average salary of the four primary counseling types in New Mexico with available data is $54,540 per year.1-5
Can I become a counselor without a degree in New Mexico?
All counseling practice types discussed on this page require a degree, though some other types of counseling may not. While most counseling careers require a master’s degree, it is possible to become a substance abuse counselor in the state with an associate degree.
Does New Mexico offer licensure by reciprocity for professional counselors?
Yes, to apply to be an LPCC in New Mexico by reciprocity, you will submit an application online along with a Statement of Registration, Certification, or Licensure as a Counselor or Therapist in Another State (sent directly from the state in a sealed envelope), and official transcripts. You will also need to send a photo and the application fee.
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