Rhode Island Counseling License Requirements
As of May 2021, there are over 1,900 counselors working to serve the residents of Rhode Island, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1-5 If you think Rhode Island is the right state for you to start a counseling career, you will need to understand the regulations for licensing and the process to become a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) in the state, as well as other counseling licenses.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in Rhode Island
- Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Rhode Island
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional (LCDP)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- Rhode Island Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in Rhode Island
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, prospective counselors generally must have a master’s degree in the area of counseling specialization. There are several counseling schools in Rhode Island that offer programs to meet this requirement, though out-of-state schools may also offer appropriate preparation programs. Some licensure processes may also require candidates to meet specific coursework, experience, and exam requirements. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in Rhode Island, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Choose an area of counseling specialization.
The first step towards becoming a licensed counselor is to decide which area of counseling you’d like to pursue. The steps you take to earn counseling licensure will vary depending on the type of counseling you plan to practice, and the licensure process can often take many years. Choosing an area of specialization ahead of time will help you focus your studies and experience in the right areas and meet licensure requirements as quickly as possible.
2. Complete the education necessary for your desired counseling practice area.
Each type of counseling licensure has specific educational requirements. Mental health counselors must have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field; marriage and family therapists must have a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field; and school counselors must complete a master’s degree and a school counseling preparation program. Substance abuse counselors can earn certifications with a high school diploma or GED, although a college degree can reduce experience requirements and a master’s degree is required for licensure.
3. Get licensed to practice counseling in Rhode Island.
Once you have completed your education, you are ready to apply for a counseling license through the correct licensing body in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) issues licenses for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists through the Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (HEALTH or the Board). Substance abuse professionals are first certified by the Rhode Island Certification Board (RICB) and then must be licensed as chemical dependency professionals through the RIDOH Board of Chemical Dependency Professionals (the Board). The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) issues school counselor licenses. Keep reading this guide to learn more about the different types of Rhode Island counseling licenses.
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) Licensing Process
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) issues licenses for Clinical Mental Health Counselors (CMHCs) through its Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (HEALTH or the Board). Candidates must complete a 60-credit master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field with 12 credits of practicum and a one-year internship consisting of at least 20 hours per week. HEALTH does not provide a list of pre-approved programs, so prospective counselors should ensure that the degree meets coursework requirements. CMHCs provide counseling and crisis intervention services, such as psychotherapy, assessments, and appraisals, to prevent and treat mental disorders and promote social, career, and emotional development throughout the lifespan. For more about a career in professional counseling, read our mental health counselor career guide. To become one in Rhode Island, complete the following steps:
1. Accumulate supervised experience.
After completing your education, you can begin to accrue post-degree experience. You must accrue 2,000 hours of supervised work experience in at least two years and receive at least 100 hours of casework supervision. The supervisor must be a licensed clinical mental health counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or independent clinical social worker with at least five years of clinical experience. Additionally, the supervisor must have completed a graduate course in counseling supervision, be approved by the NBCC as a clinical mental health supervisor, or have two years of experience providing supervision to clinical mental health counselors.
2. Apply for a CMHC license and permission to test.
When you have completed your supervised experience you are ready to apply for a CMHC license. Submit the application form along with transcripts and confirmation of your supervised experience. The application fee is $70 as of December 2022. Completed applications must be submitted at least 30 days before a scheduled Board meeting to be considered. The Board will review your application and, if approved, you will be given permission to test.
3. Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).
Approved candidates will be registered to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) at the next available time. The exam is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) at Pearson Vue testing centers across the country. You will receive a notification regarding the exam from NBCC about 10 days before the exam date. The NCMHCE uses a simulation-based format to test knowledge of clinical mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. The online handbook provides more information about how to register and prepare. The NBCC will send exam results directly to HEALTH within about six weeks; HEALTH will then forward your results to you.
4. Receive your CMHC license.
Once you have passed the NCMHCE exam and HEALTH has received your results, your application will be approved. Wallet-sized licenses are mailed by HEALTH and can take up to eight weeks to process after approval. You can also order a wall certificate for an additional fee from HEALTH ($30 as of December 2022).
CMHC Licensure by Endorsement in Rhode Island
The RIDOH does not have any reciprocity agreements for counseling licensure, but applications for licensure by endorsement are accepted and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Applicants should apply using the CMHC application form and submit verifications of licenses held in other states along with transcripts and proof of supervised experience. Standards in the licensing state should be similar to those in Rhode Island.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
The Board sends email expiration notices 60 days ahead with a renewal ID that can be used to renew online. The renewal can take up to five business days to be processed; the status will be updated online and you will receive a new license in the mail. As of December 2022, the renewal fee is $50. Licensees must complete 40 credits of continuing education during each biennial renewal period. Further information about continuing education, including a list of pre-approved continuing education activities, is available in the Board regulations.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in Rhode Island
Rhode Island counselors specialize in many different areas. In addition to the mental health counseling licensure process described above, licensure is also required for marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Marriage and family therapists are licensed by the RIDOH Board of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists (HEALTH or the Board). Applicants must have a 60-credit master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field, including a supervised practicum and one-year internship (20 hours per week). LMFTs in Rhode Island use therapeutic principles and techniques to help clients resolve emotional, marital, and familial conflicts, change dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors, and improve communication. Becoming an LMFT requires the following steps:
- Earn a minimum of two years of postgraduate experience, including at least 2,000 hours of direct client contact services with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy and a minimum of 100 hours of supervision.
- Submit the LMFT application.
- Take and pass the Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Receive your LMFT license.
Learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers on our LMFT career guide.
School counselors in Rhode Island are regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and must have a Support Professional Certificate. School counselors in the state promote academic achievement, work to close equity gaps, and advocate for all students. The School Counselor Certificate is valid for grades pre-K through twelfth in Rhode Island public schools. RIDE offers a progressive, multi-tiered system for certification that includes three levels: initial, full, and advanced. Prospective school counselors must have a regionally accredited advanced degree and complete an approved school counselor support professional preparation program with a 300-hour internship. Once the educational requirements are fulfilled, you will:
- Demonstrate that you meet Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) Current Competencies.
- Pass the Praxis Professional School Counselor test.
- Pass an English speaking and writing assessment (if your program was not taught in English).
- Apply online and receive your Initial Certificate.
- Complete three years under an Initial Educator Certificate in addition to the required professional learning units to either renew your Initial Certificate or progress to the Full Educator Certificate.
- Complete five years under a Full Educator Certificate and complete the appropriate number of professional learning units to be eligible for renewal or to upgrade to the Advanced Educator Certificate
For more on the career of school counseling, please read our school counseling career guide.
Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional (LCDP)
To earn licensure as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional (LCDP), you must be certified by the Rhode Island Certification Board (RICB). Once you have received your certification from the RICB, you must then be licensed by/registered with the Rhode Island Department of Health’s (RIDOH) Board of Licensing for Chemical Dependency Professionals (the Board) as a Chemical Dependency Professional (CDP). The RICB offers three primary certifications for substance abuse professionals: Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor (PADC), which is for newer addiction counselors who are beginning the process of becoming fully certified; Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC); and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC).
The minimum education for PADCs and CADCs is a high school diploma or GED, while CAADCs must have a master’s degree with relevant coursework. Substance abuse professionals in Rhode Island use specialized counseling knowledge and skills to address issues related to recovery and develop treatment plans to prevent and treat substance abuse disorders; this may include referring clients to related medical, psychological, social, or legal services as necessary. To become licensed as a chemical dependency professional, follow these steps:
- Complete formal education related to alcohol and drug education, if not completed as part of a degree (140 hours for PADCs, 300 hours for CADCs, and 180 hours for CAADCs).
- Earn one year of full-time or 2,000 hours of part-time employment as a drug and alcohol counselor with 150 hours of supervision and submit an application for PADC certification.
- Meet the supervised experience requirements for your desired certification (CADC: high school diploma: three years of full-time or 6,000 hours of part-time employment with 300 hours of supervision; associate’s degree: two and a half years of full-time or 5,000 hours of part-time employment with 250 hours of supervision; bachelor’s degree: two years of full-time or 4,000 hours of part-time employment with 200 hours of supervision; master’s degree: one year of full-time or 2,000 hours of part-time employment with 100 hours of supervision; CAADC: one year of full-time or 2,000 hours of part-time work experience as a drug and alcohol counselor with 100 hours of supervision).
- Pass the required exam (CADC applicants must pass the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC) exam and CAADC applicants must pass the IC&RC Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselors (AADC) exam).
- Submit a CADC application or CAADC application and receive your certification.
- Apply to the RIDOH and receive your LCDP license.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Rhode Island
In addition to the credentials listed above, the RICB also offers optional credentials for substance abuse counselors as well as credentials for individuals interested in working in the alcohol and drug field outside of professional counseling. These credentials are not required to become certified counselors nor do they qualify you to practice substance abuse counseling, but they may open up career and development opportunities for those who are currently certified substance abuse counselors and for individuals wanting to work outside the scope of counseling.
- Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
- Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
- Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
To learn more about chemical dependency and substance abuse professionals, read our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Trained counselors often work in many related subfields and disciplines. In addition to mental health counseling or the other fields described above, counselors may find work in the following areas:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
Rhode Island Counseling Career and Salary Information
While several practice areas in the state did not report data, the one that reported the highest number of counselors in Rhode Island is educational, guidance, and career counseling and advising with 990 counselors. The area of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling reported the highest average salary, at $64,640 a year.1,3 This is well above the national average of $53,490 for counselors in the field.1 The field of rehabilitation counseling reported 410 employed in the state, with an average annual salary of $60,230, which also far exceeds the national average of $44,740 for that practice area.4
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors and “all other” counselors in Rhode Island are expected to surpass the national growth rates through 2030 (23.1% compared to 22.9%, and 16.7% compared to 9% respectively).6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors are projected to increase by 8.6% with 80 new jobs annually and rehabilitation counselors by 4.8% and 20 new jobs annually.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||N.Av.||N.Av.|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||990||$64,340|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||N.Av.||N.Av.|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||570||$64,640|
Counseling Associations in Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Association For Addiction Professionals (RIAAP): The Rhode Island chapter of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), which provides education, clinical training and certification for addiction professionals.
- Rhode Island Association For Marriage And Family Therapy (RIAMFT): A professional organization that provides training, education, and support for marriage and family therapists in Rhode Island.
- Rhode Island Mental Health Counselors Association (RIMHCA): Provides continuing education resources and information to mental health counselors and promotes scientific research and inquiry in the field.
- Rhode Island School Counselors Association (RISCA): Advocates for the school counseling profession through furthering the needs and mission of counselors in the field.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the coursework requirements for Rhode Island mental health counselors?
All mental health counseling licensure applicants must complete a 60-credit master’s or doctoral degree with specific coursework and complete a coursework requirement form as part of the application process. At least nine credits are required in helping relationships and counseling theory and at least three credits are required in eight additional areas: human growth and development; social and cultural foundations; group counseling; lifestyle and career development; appraisal; research and program evaluation; and professional orientation. Elective courses that indicate an area of specialization can also be included for consideration. Course descriptions and syllabi may be requested by the Board to ensure coursework standards are met.
What continuing education activities are accepted for CMHC licensure renewal?
Of the 40 required continuing education hours each renewal period, at least 20 hours must be completed through formal activities, such as workshops or graduate courses. Scholarly contributions, such as publishing a peer-reviewed journal article or teaching at an accredited institution, can also be credited towards the continuing education requirements. The Board has pre-approved continuing education activities provided by mental health organizations, such as the American Mental Health Counselors Association, the Rhode Island Counselors Association, and the American Psychological Association. A full list of approved activities is available in the Board regulations.
What exams are required for licensure?
Each board sets the exam requirements for counseling licensure and the exam must be passed before a license will be issued. RIDOH requires mental health counselors to pass the NCMHCE exam and marriage and family therapy applicants to pass the AMFTRB Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) exam. The RIDE requires prospective school counselors to pass the Praxis school counseling exam. Substance abuse counselors must pass either the IC&RC Examination for Alcohol and Drug Counselors (ADC) or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselors (AADC). Sometimes these exams may be taken as part of graduate degree requirements; if the applicant has already passed the exam, results can be submitted with the application package to expedite the licensure process. Licensure by endorsement applicants must arrange for exam results to be sent to the licensing body directly.
What are the differences between substance abuse certifications offered in Rhode Island?
There are three certifications for substance abuse counseling offered by the Rhode Island Certification Board: Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor (PADC), Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC). Eligibility for each certification is based on the candidate’s education and experience. PADCs and CADCs must have a high school diploma, but a college degree at the associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level can decrease the experience requirements for CADC applicants. CAADC applicants must have a master’s degree with specific coursework in substance abuse and mental health fields as this credential is indicative of advanced knowledge of co-occurring mental and physical health disorders.
What counseling areas will have the most annual openings in Rhode Island?
Data from Projections Central is not available for all counseling areas, so only 230 average annual openings, including replacement jobs, are projected in the major reported counseling fields through 2030.6 Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors make up the largest reported type of counselors in the state, and this practice area is projected to have 100 average annual openings.6 Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling is expected to have an average of 80 openings per year.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