Get started on your career in counseling.
You have a genuine interest in helping people overcome problems so they can be their best selves, and an amazing ability to listen with empathy and an open mind. You've decided that a career in mental health counseling is definitely your calling. Now what?
If you're planning to work in Massachusetts, here are the educational, work, and other requirements you'll need to meet to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). In earning this credential, you'll be able to work as a mental health counselor in a range of settings—from schools to residential facilities, hospitals, and more.
- Get your bachelor's degree at an accredited university.
- Get your master's degree in a 60-credit, regionally accredited graduate program in mental health counseling or related field.
- Accrue 3,360 hours of supervised post-master’s work in the mental health counseling field.
- Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination.
- Apply for the LMHC License through the state of Massachusetts.
- Maintain your skills and license through continued professional development.
1. Get your bachelor’s degree at an accredited university.
Start by getting an undergraduate degree and plan to earn a master’s degree.
While it’s helpful to have your bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a behavioral science, many graduate schools don’t require your undergraduate degree to be in a major related to counseling.
Check the prerequisite requirements for the graduate schools you’re researching.
Getting Started as a Mental Health Counselor
You think you might have what it takes to become a great counselor, but you’re not sure where to start. That’s where we come in. Check out our e-book for the answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions about launching a career in mental health counseling.
2. Get your master’s degree in a 60-credit, regionally accredited graduate program in mental health counseling or related field.
This takes about 3 years of full-time study, or longer if you study part time. Related fields are:
- Adjustment Counseling
- Clinical Psychology
- Counseling & Psychology
- Counselor Education
- Expressive Therapies
- Rehabilitation Counseling
- Another mental health counseling field that the state's licensure board has determined to be a related field
In Massachusetts, your graduate program has to include a minimum 100-hour practicum and a minimum 600-hour internship providing mental health counseling in a clinical or educational setting. Some graduate programs require more hours than the state requirement.
A practicum is an introduction to working in the field and initial skill building, while an internship is where you further develop clinical skills. In these field experiences, you'll take on the duties of a mental health counselor under the supervision of a licensed clinician.
You'll need to be flexible in your availability to schedule hours for your practicum and internships. Each internship site has different requirements for when you'll need to be present. Many sites require daytime hours. Most internships require 21-25 hours of work a week, Monday to Friday. The majority of practicums and internships are unpaid.
After graduation, you’re eligible for paid work in the field as a master’s-level clinician; however, you’ll have more work to do to get your LMHC License.
A Word on Accreditation
All state licensing boards require that licensees graduate from a regionally accredited university through the Council of Higher Education regional associations. There are 2-3 states that also require additional accreditation from a professional counseling accreditation board (CACREP). Massachusetts does not require this additional accreditation.