How to Become a Counselor in Tennessee

Counselors in Tennessee who have obtained their licensure are known as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)—although those who have continued their education and further developed their clinical skills can also obtain licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors-Mental Health Service Providers (LPC-MHSPs). The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs is the Tennessee Counseling Association , a branch of the American Counseling Association whose mission is to “enhance the quality of life in Tennessee and society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity.”

Licensure for Tennessee LPCs is managed by the state Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Pastoral Therapists, a division of the Tennessee Department of Health. Licensure requirements for counselors in Tennessee, including education, supervision, examination, fees, renewal, and “licensure by reciprocity,” are examined in further detail below, along with salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as scholarships and loan repayment programs available to LPCs in the state.

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Counselor Education in Tennessee

Licensure as a professional counselor in Tennessee requires the completion of a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited program by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), or similar accredited body.

Appropriate degree programs will include 60 graduate hours of coursework with instruction in each of the following core content areas:

  1. Theories of human behavior, learning, and personality
  2. Abnormal behavior
  3. Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
  4. Evaluation and appraisal procedures
  5. Group dynamics, theories, and techniques
  6. Counseling techniques
  7. Multicultural counseling
  8. Ethics
  9. Research
  10. Clinical Practicum or Internship

In addition to this coursework, individuals pursuing licensure with a mental health designation are also required to take coursework on use of the DSM and treatment and treatment planning.

Internship Requirements

Tennessee LPC requires the completion of a supervised field experience, either in the form of a practicum or an internship. Both must be at least 500 hours long, with at least 300 hours in a mental health or community agency setting. It must also be supervised by an individual with, at minimum, a master’s degree in counseling, social work, psychology, or psychiatry.

This practicum/internship requirement is distinct from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in Tennessee.

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Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Tennessee requires aspiring LPCs to complete two years of supervision with at least 1000 hours of direct client contact and a minimum of 50 hours of consultation from an approved supervisor.

Applicants seeking licensure with mental health service designation (LPC/MHSP) must complete 3,000 hours of clinical supervised experience with half relating to direct face-to-face client contact.

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Tennessee LPC licensure requires a passing score on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, a 200-question, multiple-choice examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. It assesses knowledge, skills, and abilities in effective counseling services.

A passing score on the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam is also required. Upon board approval and successful completion of the National Counselor Examination (NCE), applicants must achieve a passing score on this exam reviewing Tennessee law and the current American Counseling Association Code of Ethics.

For individuals pursuing professional licensure as a counselor with mental health designation (LPC/MHSP), a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is required in addition to the NCE and the Jurisprudence exam. The NCMHCE tests knowledge of assessment, diagnosis, counseling, psychotherapy, administration, consultation and supervision. It consists of 10 clinical mental health counseling cases and assesses clinical problem-solving ability by testing identification, analysis and treatment. It is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

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LPC Licensure Fees

Tennessee LPCs can expect to pay the following fees for their license application, renewal, and examination:

LPC Application: $200

LPC Biennial License Renewal: $115

Mental Health Service Provider Upgrade Application: $75

Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam Fee : $100

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LPC License Renewal

Tennessee LPC licenses expire biennially on the last day of the month of the licensee’s birthday. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and the completion of Continuing Education. New licensees are exempt from the continuing education requirement during their first renewal period.

Continuing Education

LPCs in Tennessee are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years. Individuals who received their license during their first year do not have to pursue continuing education hours. Three of these hours must focus on professional ethics or state codes, rules, and regulations. Acceptable CE activities consist of graduate-level coursework from nationally or regionally accredited institutions of higher education, and attendance at educational events sponsored or approved by national, state, regional, or local professional associations. Multimedia courses may also be used to accrue CE hours, although they should only account for a maximum of 10 hours during each renewal period.

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Additional Information

For Counselors Licensed in Other States

The Tennessee Board of Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marital and Family Therapists, and Licensed Pastoral Therapists has an alternative route to licensure for counselors who have already obtained their licenses in other states. This process is called “licensure by reciprocity”. Out-of-state applicants must hold a current license as a professional counselor or equivalent that is in good standing, whose board is in reciprocity agreement with Tennessee and pass the Tennessee Jurisprudence Examination.

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Average Counselor Salary in Tennessee

The following types of Tennessee counselors can expect to earn these average hourly and annual wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics :

Type of CounselorsAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Wage
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors
Rehabilitation Counselors
All Other Counselors

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Tennessee Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to Tennessee LPCs and LPC-MHSPs:

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To Be Decided
  • Description: Applicant must be working or planning to work directly with children; be pursuing graduate-level studies for one year in fields that address the special needs of children and youth, such as counseling; be a U.S. citizen and permanent resident of a state with a Junior Auxiliary Chapter, such as Tennessee; and be planning to attend a U.S. college or university for full- or part-time study.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $5,000
  • Description: This award from the American Psychological Foundation is available to one full-time graduate student in good standing at an accredited university who has demonstrated a commitment to stigma issues.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $2,500 to $5,000
  • Description: American Addiction Centers offers three scholarships providing financial assistance to full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers in behavioral health and addiction-related studies, including counseling.
  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Between $30,000 and $50,000
  • Description: LPCs and LPC-MHSPs in Tennessee are eligible to apply for loan repayment assistance in exchange for working in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) at a site approved by the National Health Service Corps. Funding is tied to HPSA score and is in exchange for two years of full- or half-time service.
  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To Be Decided
  • Description: The Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program provides funds to schools, which in turn offer scholarships to full-time, financially needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds that are studying professional counseling, amongst other health professions.

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*Licensure information including requirements, renewals, scholarships and fees were retrieved as of November 2019. Information may have changed since, check with the state’s board of licensing for more information.