How to Become a Counselor in Massachusetts

State of Massachusetts

Counselors in Massachusetts who have completed their licensure are known as Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs). The premier professional organization for LMHCs in the state is the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association, which was a state chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association formed in 1981.

Licensure for LMHCs in Massachusetts is managed by the state Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions, a division of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Licensure requirements for counselors in Massachusetts, including those relating to education, supervision, examination, fees, and renewal, 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 aspiring LMHCs in the state.

Counselor Education in Massachusetts

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Licensure as a mental health counselor in Massachusetts requires the completion of a 60 semester hours degree in counseling or a related field after July 1, 2017. Pre-July 1, 2017 preparation programs must follow the outlined counselor education requirements by the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation of Massachusetts.

A minimum of three semester-hour graduate level courses must be taken in each of the following content areas:

  1. Counseling theory
  2. Human growth and development
  3. Psychopathology
  4. Social cultural foundations
  5. Clinical skills
  6. Group work
  7. Special treatment issues
  8. Appraisal
  9. Research and evaluation
  10. Professional orientation

Internship Requirements

In addition to the coursework listed above, LHMC licensure in Massachusetts requires the completion of both a practicum and an internship as part of the degree program. The practicum must be at least 100 hours of supervised clinical experience in mental health counseling providing direct client contact with a minimum of 40 hours of face-to-face client contact and 25 hours of supervision. The internship must be at least 600 hours of supervised experience in clinical mental health counseling face to face with clients. A minimum of 240 of those hours must be in direct client contact, with at least 45 hours of supervision.

Both the practicum and internship requirements are distinct from post-graduate supervision, also a requirement for LMHC licensure in Massachusetts.

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Supervision Hours

“Supervision” is shorthand for post-degree, directed experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Massachusetts requires aspiring LMHCs to complete two years of full-time or equivalent part-time supervision totaling 3,360 hours. Of those hours, at least 960 must be in direct client contact, with a maximum of 250 in group client contact. (The rest must be in individual client contact.) Additionally, there must be at least 130 hours of supervision from an approved supervisor—at least 75 of which must be individual supervision.

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Examination

Mental health counselor licensure in Massachusetts requires a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE), which 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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LMHC Licensure Fees

LMHCs in Massachusetts can expect to pay the following fees for their application, renewal, and examination:

LMHC Application: $117

LMHC License Renewal: $155

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LMHC License Renewal

LMHC licenses in Massachusetts expire on December 31 of every odd year. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate renewal fee and completion of continuing education.

Continuing Education

LMHCs in Massachusetts must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education (CE) in professional counseling during the two-year renewal period to successfully renew their licenses. The number of hours of CE may be prorated for first-time licensees. Up to 50 percent of those hours may be obtained via online or home study, though all programs must be approved under the standards of the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association.

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Average Counselor Salary in Massachusetts

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

Average Counselor Salary in Massachusetts
Type of Counselor Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor $21.89 $45,520
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselor $31.68 $65,890
Marriage and Family Therapists $24.46 $50,890
Mental Health Counselor $21.65 $45,030
Rehabilitation Counselor $19.16 $39,840

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Massachusetts Counseling Scholarships

The following scholarships and loan repayment programs are available to aspiring LMHCs in Massachusetts:

Haberman-Williams Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association (MaMHCA) Scholarship Program

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $1,000
  • Description: MaMHCA offers this one-year, non-renewable scholarship to a member in good standing who is enrolled in a graduate program studying counseling. Further criteria include a minimum 3.4 GPA, demonstrated dedication to mental health issues in the community and field of mental health counseling, exhibited leadership, and commitment to attend MaMHCA Board of Directors meetings throughout the scholarship year.

Massachusetts State Loan Repayment Program

  • Type: Loan Repayments
  • Amount: Between $20,000
  • Description: Massachusetts LMHCs 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-time service. A half-time service commitment option may also be available.

American Addiction Centers’ Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship Program

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: $2,500 to $5,000
  • Description: American Addiction Centers offers three scholarships to provide financial assistance to full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate school students pursuing careers in behavior health and addiction-related studies, including counseling.

Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students

  • Type: Scholarships
  • Amount: To Be Decided by School
  • 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 who are studying professional counseling (amongst other health professions).

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*Licensure information including requirements, salaries, renewals, and fees were retrieved as of May 2017. Information may have changed since, check with the state's board of licensing for more information.