How to Become a Counselor in Virginia - Online Counseling Programs
How to Become a Counselor in Virginia
As in many other states, counselors in Virginia who have completed 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 (LPC-MHs). The state’s premier professional organization for LPCs and LPC-MHs is the Virginia Counselors Association, a local branch of the American Counseling Association whose mission is to “provide best counseling practices that enhance human development and functioning throughout the lifespan and promote public confidence in the counseling profession.”
Licensure for Virginia LPCs and LPC-MHs is managed by the state Board of Counseling, a division of the Virginia Department of Health Professions. Licensure requirements for counselors in Virginia, including education, supervision, examination, fees, renewal, and “licensure by endorsement,” 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.
Counselor Education in Virginia
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Licensure as a professional counselor in Virginia requires the completion of a graduate degree program from a college or university accredited by a regional accrediting agency.
Appropriate degree programs should be at least 60 semester hours of graduate study in the following core coursework with a minimum of three semester hours in each:
Professional counseling identity, function, and ethics
Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
Counseling and psychotherapy techniques
Human growth and development
Group counseling and psychotherapy, theories and techniques
Career counseling and development, theories and techniques
Appraisal, evaluation, and diagnostic procedures
Abnormal behavior and psychopathology
Multicultural counseling, theories and techniques
Diagnosis and treatment of addictive disorders
Marriage and family systems theory
In addition to the coursework listed above, Virginia LPC licensure also requires the completion of a 600 hour supervised internship, with at least 240 hours of direct client contact. This requirement is distinct from post-graduate supervision, which is also necessary for LPC licensure in Virginia.
“Supervision” is shorthand for directed, post-graduate experience in professional counseling under supervision in a work setting. Virginia requires LPCs to complete 3,400 hours of supervision, with at least 2,000 hours of direct client contact and a minimum of 200 hours of face-to-face direction from an approved supervisor at a rate of at least one hour of direction for every 40 hours of practice.
After board approval, applicants for a professional counselor licensure in Virginia requires a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling 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.
Virginia LPC licenses expire annually on June 30 of each year. License renewal requires payment of the appropriate fees and the completion of continuing education.
LPCs in Virginia are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education (CE) during each one-year renewal period. At least two of these hours must focus on professional ethics, standards of practice, or laws governing behavioral science professions in Virginia.
CE hours may be earned through formal activities, such as graduate academic courses and workshops, seminars, conferences and classes offered by federal, state, or local government agencies or licensed health facilities and hospitals. They may also be obtained through publication, presentations, program development, dissertation , clinical supervision/consultation, leadership, and practice-related programs.
The Virginia Board of Counseling has an alternative route to licensure for counselors who have already obtained their licenses in other states. This process is called “licensure by endorsement”. Out-of-state applicants must have a valid and in good standing license from another state, educational and supervision requirements that are comparable to those set forth by Virginia, complete an appropriate application with fee and submit required documents for verification - including a passing score on a counseling examination.
Description: The Virginia Bureau of Health Professions offers primary care specialists, including LPCs and LPC-MHs, assistance in repaying qualified medical education loans in exchange for service at a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area for a minimum of two years full time.
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.
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.
Description: LPCs and LPC-MHs in Virginia 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.
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.