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Rhode Island Counseling License Requirements

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country by size, but it is home to a rich history and over 1,000,000 residents.1 Currently, there are 2,180 counselors working to serve the residents of Rhode Island, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).2-6 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.

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 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 complete a master’s degree and a school counseling preparation program. Substance abuse counselors can earn certifications with a high school diploma, 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 issues licenses for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists through the Marriage, Family and Mental Health Licensing Unit and for chemical dependency professionals through the Chemical Dependency Profession Licensing Unit. The Rhode Island Department of Education 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). First, candidates must complete a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field with 12 credits of practicum and at least 600 hours of internship. The Department 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 no less than 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 October 2019. 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 permitted 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. The NCMHCE uses a simulation-based format to test knowledge of clinical mental health assess, diagnosis, and treatment. The online handbook provides more information about how to register and prepare. The NBCC will send exam results directly to the Department within six weeks.

4. Receive your CMHC license.

Once you have passed the NCMHCE exam and the Department has received your results, your application will be approved. Wallet-sized licenses are mailed by the Department and can take up to eight weeks processed after approval. You can also order a wall certificate for an additional fee from the Department ($30 as of October 2019).

Professional Counselor 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 Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

The Department 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 October 2019, the renewal fee is $50. Licensees must complete 40 credits of continuing education (CE) during each biennial renewal period. Further information about CE, including lists of pre-approved CE providers and activities, is available in the Department 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 Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). Applicants must have a 60-credit graduate degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field, including a supervised practicum and internship. 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 supervised experience.
  • Apply for LMFT licensure and permission to take the AMFTRB marriage and family therapy exam.
  • Pass the exam and submit results to the RIDOH.
  • Receive your LMFT license.

Learn more about licensed marriage and family therapist careers on our LMFT career guide.

School Counselor

School counselors in Rhode Island are regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Education and must be certified as educators. School counselors in the state promote academic achievement for all students, work to close equity gaps, and advocate for every student. Prospective school counselors must have a regionally accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree and complete an approved school counselor preparation program with a 300-hour internship. Once the educational requirements are fulfilled, you will:

  • Demonstrate that you meet 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).
  • Receive your school counseling certification.

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, you must be certified by the Rhode Island Certification Board (RICB) and apply to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH). The RICB offers three primary certifications for substance abuse professionals: Provisional Alcohol and Drug Counselor (PADC), which is meant to be a transitional certification for a maximum of two years; Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC); and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC). Each certification has different education and experience requirements. 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).
  • Apply for PADC certification, if desired.
  • Earn supervised experience.
  • Pass the required exam (CADC applicants must pass the IC&RC Examination for Alcohol and Drug Counselors and CAADC applicants must pass the IC&RC Examination for Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselors).
  • Apply for and receive a CADC or CAADC certification.
  • Apply for and receive an LCDP license, if you are a CAADC holder.

Other Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in Rhode Island

  • Advanced Certified Prevention Specialist (ACPS)
  • Associate Prevention Specialist (APS)
  • Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS)
  • Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS)
  • Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS)
  • Student Assistance Counselor (SAC)

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 many practice areas in the state did not report data, the one that reported the highest number of counselors in Rhode Island and that pays the highest annual salary is educational, guidance, school, and vocational counseling with 1,050 counselors earning an average of $62,800 a year.4 This average salary is above the national average of $60,160 for counselors in the field and is also above the median household income in Rhode Island of $61,043.4,1 The field of rehabilitation counseling reported 560 employed in the state, earning an average annual salary of $57,430, which also far exceeds the national average of $39,930 for that practice area.5

Of the major practice areas reporting, Rhode Island is only expected to increase its counseling jobs through 2026 by a small margin.7 Though the projected growth of counseling jobs for these areas falls below the national average of projected growth, it still outpaces the state’s population growth between 2010-2018 of 0.4%.7,1 The practice area including substance abuse and behavioral counseling is projected to have the fastest growth reported, with a 7.7% increase expected through 2026.7

OccupationNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Counselors, All Other
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors1,050$62,800
Marriage and Family Therapists
Rehabilitation Counselors560$57,430
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors550

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2-6

Counseling Associations in Rhode Island

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 graduate 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. 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 Department to ensure coursework standards are met.

What continuing education (CE) activities are accepted for CMHC licensure renewal?

Of the 40 required CE 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 CE requirements. The Department pre-approves CE 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 providers and activities is available in the Department regulations.

What exams are required for licensure?

Each Department 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 exam. The RIDOE 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 or Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselors. 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 the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not available for all counseling areas, therefore only 140 annual openings, including replacement jobs, are projected in the major reported counseling fields through 2026.7 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 110 annual openings.7 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling will also have 30 openings per year.7

References:
1. US Census Bureau, Quick Facts, Rhode Island: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/RI
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Marriage and Family Therapists: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211012.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Rehabilitation Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211015.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Counselors, All Other: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
7. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections 2016-2026: https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm