West Virginia Counseling License Requirements
There are currently over 3,200 counselors working in West Virginia across a range of counseling fields with 480 anticipated annual openings, including replacements, through 2030.1-6 Keep in mind that counseling licensure in West Virginia is a detailed and thorough process that can take many years. If you are interested in obtaining a West Virginia counseling license as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or another major type of counseling professional, continue reading this guide to learn more about the steps you will need to take to be successful.
Table of Contents
- How to Become a Counselor in West Virginia
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
- Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in West Virginia
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- School Counselor
- Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Other Professional Counseling Careers
- West Virginia Counseling Career and Salary Information
- Counseling Associations in West Virginia
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Become a Counselor in West Virginia
Professional counselors in West Virginia often must be licensed in the state and have a master’s degree in a related area. Multiple schools in West Virginia offer counseling programs that meet the state’s education requirements for different areas of counseling. The licensure process may also require that specific exam and work experience requirements be met. If you already hold a license in another state and are looking to practice in West Virginia, visit our Counseling License Reciprocity Guide.
1. Choose an area of counseling specialization.
In West Virginia, the pathway to counseling licensure will vary based on the area of counseling you’d like to pursue. It is a good idea to choose your area of focus ahead of time as each licensure process has different degree and coursework requirements. Licensure can take many years and your path will need to be planned out in advance.
2. Finish the education required for your counseling practice area.
Most counseling licenses in West Virginia require at least a master’s degree in a related area with specific coursework 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; and school counselors must complete a master’s degree in school guidance, counseling, or a related field. Substance abuse counselors can earn certification with a high school diploma and additional related training, but a master’s degree in a behavioral science field is required for the advanced credential.
3. Earn the license required to practice in West Virginia.
The final step towards a counseling license is to apply for licensure with the body that oversees your area of focus. The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling (WVBEC or the Board) licenses mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists; the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) is responsible for school counseling licensure, and the West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVCBAPP) issues credentials for alcohol and drug counselors. Continue reading this guide to find out more about the pathways to licensure available in West Virginia.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Licensing Process
The West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling (WVBEC or the Board) is responsible for the licensure process of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). In West Virginia, LPCs use a variety of models of human behavior to prevent, assess, and treat disorders, maladaptive behaviors, and emotional stresses; they work with individuals, couples, families, and groups at all stages of the lifespan. If you would like to learn more about a career as a professional counselor, read our mental health counselor career guide. LPCs must have a master’s or doctoral degree from a counseling program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Council for the Accreditation for Education Preparation (CAEP), the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), or a comparable accrediting body. If their program is not accredited, the applicant must demonstrate that their 60-hour graduate counseling program’s coursework was substantially similar to that of an accredited program, including a supervised internship and practicum.
1. Apply for provisional LPC licensure and request permission to test.
The first step in the licensure process is to submit an application packet to the Board, along with transcripts, professional recommendations, and personal references. The Board’s Credentialing Committee meets approximately every two months to review applications and approve applicants for testing. The application fee is $250 as of January 2023. If you wish to begin accruing supervised experience before you pass the required exam, you may request a temporary permitwhen submitting your application packet.
2. Pass one of the required exams.
Once the Board confirms you have met all educational requirements for licensure, you will receive approval to take one of the required exams. All applicants must pass the National Counselor Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam (CRC) administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). These are multiple-choice exams that test your knowledge of core counseling competencies, such as assessment, treatment planning, and referral. Exam prep materials are available online (NCE and NMHCE, CRC). Applicants may attempt the exams up to three times over a one-year period.
3. Receive a provisional license and accrue supervised experience.
After successfully passing one of the exams, you will receive a provisional license from the Board that enables you to gain supervised work experience. Applicants with a master’s degree must complete 3,000 hours of supervised counseling work experience, while applicants with a doctoral degree must complete 1,500 hours. Up to 600 hours may be credited for work experience completed during a master’s-level practicum or internship. For all applicants, at least 50% of all hours must be providing direct services to clients and 150 hours must be individually supervised. Before beginning your supervised experience, you and your supervisor must submit a supervisor registration form and contract. At the beginning, halfway through, and at the end of your supervised experience your supervisor must submit a verification and assessment form. Finally, you will submit quarterly logs halfway through and at the end of your supervised experience. The supervisor must have the Approved Licensed Professional Supervisor (ALPS) credential. More information about supervision can be found in the Board rules.
4. Receive your LPC license.
Once you have met all licensure requirements and verified your supervised work experience, the Board will approve your application. You can begin to practice independently once you receive your license in the mail.
LPC Licensure by Endorsement in West Virginia
Applications for licensure by endorsement are accepted on a case-by-case basis and the requirements of the state where the applicant is licensed must be equal to or greater than those in West Virginia. Reciprocity applicants must submit an application packet. If you have been actively practicing counseling for at least five of the seven years preceding your application, some of the application requirements will be waived (professional recommendations, transcripts, and supervision records). The Board also accepts results from the National Counselor Exam (NCE), the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) Exam. The endorsement application fee is $300 as of January 2023.
Counselor License Renewal and Continuing Education Information
Licenses are renewed annually by June 30; the renewal fee is $145 (as of January 2023). The Board mails renewal information directly to licensees. All licensees must complete 35 hours of continuing education units (CEU) every two years, including three hours in ethics training and two hours of veteran mental health training. Licensees must submit proof of CEU completion and, if selected for a random audit, must submit course materials for all CEU courses.
Additional Counseling Careers and Licenses in West Virginia
West Virginia counseling licensure pathways vary depending on the area of counseling practice. In addition to mental health counseling, the state also offers licensure for other major types of counseling professionals: licensed marriage and family therapists, school counselors, and substance abuse counselors.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
To become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in West Virginia, you must apply for a license through the West Virginia Board of Examiners in Counseling (WVBEC or the Board). LMFTs in West Virginia use adapted psychotherapeutic and systems theories to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in the context of marriage and family systems by working with couples and families on an individual or group basis. The Board requires applicants to have a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy from a program accredited by CACREP, the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), or a comparable accrediting body. The program must include a 300-hour practicum. The LMFT licensure process requires candidates to follow these steps:
- Apply for a provisional license and, if desired, a temporary permit to begin accruing supervised experience prior to passing the exam.
- Pass the Marital and Family Therapy National Examination from the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
- Earn 3,000 hours of supervised experience if you hold a master’s degree, or 1,500 hours of experience with a doctoral degree. Up to 600 hours of practicum experience may be counted towards this requirement.
- Receive your LMFT license.
To discover more about licensed marriage and family therapist career pathways, visit our LMFT career guide.
West Virginia school counselors are certified by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) with a student support certificate. School counselors work in educational settings with students from early childhood through twelfth grade. There are three levels of certification offered: Initial, Professional Five-Year, and Permanent. To receive initial certification, you need to complete a master’s degree or higher in counseling from an accredited institution and complete an accredited school counselor preparation program, including a clinical experience component. To receive the professional five-year student support certificate or higher, you must complete an additional six semester hours of college/university coursework. Once you have met the educational requirements, you will need to:
- Apply for an initial certificate.
- Complete six semester hours of additional coursework.
- Pass the Praxis exam in school counseling.
- Complete two years of full-time experience.
- Request your Professional Five-Year Student Support Certificate.
If you would like to read more about the school counseling profession, see our school counselor career guide.
Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC)
The West Virginia Certification Board for Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVCBAPP) offers two certifications for prospective substance abuse counselors: Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) and Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC). The steps to earn certification are the same for both credentials and are based on the applicant’s highest level of education and work experience. ADCs must have at least a high school diploma, although an accredited degree can reduce work experience requirements, while AADCs must have a master’s degree in a behavioral science field with a clinical application. West Virginia substance abuse counselors must be proficient in numerous core competencies, such as assessment, treatment planning, counseling for addiction-related disorders, and professional ethics. To earn an alcohol and drug counselor credential, follow these steps:
- Complete 300 hours of alcohol and drug education and training, if not completed as part of degree requirements.
- Accrue supervised experience (12,000 hours for ADC with a high school diploma; 11,000 hours for ADC with an associate’s degree; 10,000 hours for ADC with a bachelor’s degree; and 8,000 hours for ADC with a master’s degree or higher; 6,000 hours for AADC, 2,000 of which must be post-master’s).
- Submit your application (ADC, AADC).
- Pass the required International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) exam (the Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for ADC applicants and the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor exam for AADC applicants).
- Receive your ADC or AADC certification.
Optional Substance Abuse Counseling Credentials Offered in West Virginia
In addition to the ADC and AADC credentials, WVCBAPP also offers several optional credentials that are not required in order to practice substance abuse counseling, but will allow you to further demonstrate your specialized skill set, or receive a formal credential if you do not qualify for ADC or AADC certification.
- Certified Criminal Justice Professional (CCJP)
- Peer Recovery (PRSS)
- Prevention Specialist (PS)
More details about substance abuse counseling career pathways can be found on our substance abuse counseling career guide.
Other Professional Counseling Careers
Counseling is a diverse field and you may specialize in a variety of areas. Other types of counseling career pathways can include:
- Rehabilitation Counselor
- Gambling Counselor
- Genetic Counselor
- Youth Counselor
- Guidance Counselor
- Pastoral Counselor
- Recreational Therapist
West Virginia Counseling Career and Salary Information
The majority of West Virginia’s counselors are working in two practice areas: substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (1,440 counselors) and educational, guidance, and career counseling and advising (1,100 counselors).1,3 Average counselor salaries range from $37,080 for “all other” counselors to $51,110 for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors.3,5
Long-term projections for counseling jobs in West Virginia are very positive. According to Projections Central, by 2030 there will be close to 660 new counseling jobs in the state across all areas.6 The highest rate of growth is expected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (27.9% increase) and marriage and family therapists (23.1% increase).6 Educational, guidance, and career counselor and advisor jobs are expected to increase by 10.3%, resulting in approximately 120 new jobs.6
|Occupation||Number Employed1-5||Average Annual Salary1-5|
|Counselors, All Other||130||$37,080|
|Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors||1,100||$51,110|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||50||$43,550|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||1,440||$41,520|
Counseling Associations in West Virginia
- West Virginia Association of Addiction and Prevention Professionals (WVAAPP): State affiliate of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) that provides training, hosts an annual conference, and advocates on behalf of substance abuse counselors and the communities they serve.
- West Virginia Counseling Association (WVCA): Focuses on improving residents’ access to counseling services and quality of life through counseling education and promotion of the counseling profession.
- West Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors Association (WVLPCA): Working to promote the development of counseling professionals through networking opportunities, advocacy, and licensure information.
- West Virginia School Counselors Association (WVSCA): Supports professional school counselors by representing and advocating for the profession with legislatures and the public to ultimately improve school counseling programs and student outcomes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the coursework requirements for West Virginia LPC licensure?
An aspiring LPC must have a 60-credit master’s degree in counseling or a related field. The Board also sets strict coursework requirements, including for degree electives. Degrees must include coursework in 12 core areas, such as counseling techniques, individual appraisal, and group dynamics, plus three credits of practicum and three credits of internship. Electives must cover topics such as human sexuality, crisis intervention, and rehabilitation counseling. Applicants can use the transcript evaluation form to determine whether their degree meets the Board’s standards.
Can West Virginia counselors provide online counseling?
According to the Board, any counselor or marriage and family therapist who provides services to a West Virginia resident, including those via online or other technologically-mediated methods, must be licensed in West Virginia even if they reside in another state. West Virginia LPCs and LMFTs using online methods to provide services must ensure they follow the same ethics and confidentiality standards and continually evaluate the use of online methods in their practice using up-to-date research and guidelines. LPCs and LMFTs are advised to check the licensing requirements in any state where clients may reside if they are providing online services.
Does West Virginia offer licensure by reciprocity for alcohol and drug counselors?
The alcohol and drug counselor standards in West Virginia are based on international standards set by the IC&RC, therefore it is possible for alcohol and drug counselors licensed in other states to apply for West Virginia licensure by reciprocity. Successful applicants can maintain their license in both jurisdictions; the reciprocity application fee is $150 as of January 2023. West Virginia alcohol and drug counselors seeking licensure in other states should contact the equivalent licensing body directly for more information.
How many openings will there be for West Virginia counselors each year?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 480 annual openings in West Virginia for counselors through 2030.6 The greatest number of average annual openings is projected for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (200), followed by educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors (120).6 Rehabilitation counseling, “all other” counseling, and marriage and family therapy positions may also have 80, 60, and 20 average annual openings, respectively.6
What continuing education (CE) activities are accepted for LPC license renewal in West Virginia?
Licensees must complete 35 hours of CE every two years, with three hours in ethics and two hours in veterans’ mental health; the Board accepts a variety of CE activities for license renewal. Graduate-level courses taken at accredited institutions are credited at a rate of 15 CE hours per semester credit or 10 CE hours per quarter credit. The Board also accepts credit for publishing in a peer-reviewed journal or book, attending CE activities required by the employer, and presenting to professional audiences. More information can be found in the Board rules.
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