In the great state of Colorado, counselors are referred to as Licensed Professional Counselors, or LPCs for short. All LPCs will receive their licensing from the State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners. This Board sets specific requirements for supervision, counseling therapy education, examination, and renewal of counselor’s licensure across the state. There are various specific counseling specialties that you can apply to be licensed for. This state relies heavily on educational background and on-the-job experience when it comes to issuing counseling licensing.
Types of Counselor Licenses in Colorado
The State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners is solely responsible for issuing mental health counseling licenses throughout the state of Colorado. There are two main mental health counselor licenses, which are the LPCs and LPCCs. If you’re looking for how to become a counselor in Colorado, you’ll need to understand the specifics involved with each of these licenses.
Each candidate must first apply for an LPCC or Licensed Professional Counselor Candidates license. This is a temporary counseling license granted to qualified candidates that allows them to practice counseling services under direct supervision. After completing the necessary work experience hours and other specified licensing requirements, candidates can be issued an LPC or Licensed Professional Counselors licensure. This is a permanent license that must be renewed every two years.
Apart from mental health counseling, there are other types of licensing that candidates may qualify for. Those interested in marriage and family therapy will need to apply for a license with the State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners.
Those interested in a license to operate as a substance abuse counselor must get a license from the State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners. Furthermore, those looking to start a career as a school counselor must obtain a license from the Colorado Department of Education. Some other popular counseling career fields include recreational therapist, pastoral counselor, youth counselor, gambling counselor, rehabilitation counselor, genetic counselor, and guidance counselor.
Instruction Required for Counselor Licensure in Colorado
LPCs are responsible for providing assessment and intervention services to groups, families, and individuals. They do this through behavioral theories, psychotherapy, and cognitive strategies. Those interested in obtaining an LPC will have to undergo a specific licensing process and meet various state requirements.
All candidates must complete a doctoral or master’s degree in professional counseling. The school must be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or an equivalent rating by the Center for Credential and Education (CCE). Once a counseling degree is obtained, the candidate can apply to become a temporary LPCC.
To do this, you’ll need to submit an online application to the State Board. As of November 2022, the application fee for an LPCC license is $40. To be eligible, you’ll need to submit your official school transcript, undergo a federal criminal background check, and complete a Healthcare Professions Profile. Once approved, an LPCC license is valid for a period of four years and gives you the ability to accrue the necessary experience to obtain your permanent LPC license.
During your time as an LPCC, you’ll need to pass both the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam and the National Counselor Examination. Additionally, you’ll need to accrue thousands of practice hours providing counseling services to others. Once you pass all of your exams and accrue the necessary number of practice hours, you can officially submit your application for a permanent LPC license. Once received, you’ll need to renew your LPC license every two years and complete continuing education credits to showcase your continued competency in the counseling field.
State Specific Requirements
Much of Colorado’s counseling licensure qualifications are weighed with educational knowledge and on-the-job experience. The State Board requires all applicants to have at least a master’s or doctoral degree in the field of counseling or a closely related specialty at an approved college or university.
All applicants will spend at least four years obtaining their undergraduate degree in mental health and wellness, counseling, or human services. Those who opt for solely a master’s degree in counseling will spend an additional two years obtaining it. Those who opt for a doctorate in counseling can expect to invest another four years on top of their bachelor’s degree to complete their educational program.
Currently, Colorado doesn’t have any reciprocity agreements with other states throughout the U.S. for those who hold a counseling degree in another state. However, the State Board will accept applications for licensing for those who are endorsed with an active counseling license in another state.
You’ll need to submit a copy of your current state’s counseling license, graduate transcripts, exam scores, a $70 fee, and other relevant information to be considered for licensing in the state of Colorado. In most cases, the State Board will only approve those who have a license from a state that has comparable counselor licensing requirements to Colorado’s licensure requirements.
After you receive your temporary LPCC license, you’re authorized to undergo supervised practice hours for up to four full years. These counseling services must be overseen by a mental health professional who has maintained a valid state license for at least two full years. They can be an LPC, LCSW, LMFT, or another licensed psychologist.
If you currently hold a master’s degree, you’ll need to accrue two years of clinical experience. On the other hand, if you have a doctoral degree, that supervised clinical experience is reduced to only one year. Regardless of your degree, you must complete at least 2,000 practice hours of counseling in the state of Colorado. At least 100 of those hours must be under direct supervision. At least 1,500 of those hours must involve direct face-to-face contact with clients under watchful supervision.
To obtain an LPC licensure, you’ll need to pass two specific examinations. The first is the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination. This is a web-based, open-book test that rates a candidate’s knowledge of relevant mental health regulations and rules throughout the state. This multiple-choice exam costs $20 to take.
If you fail the test, you may retake it in as soon as 10 days and repay the $20 testing fee. If you fail, you’ll receive necessary feedback on your previous score so that you can amend the faults for your next test. You’ll be given a period of 60 days to take the entire test. You can login and logout multiple times if you want to break the test up over multiple days. More information about the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination can be found via the test’s online handbook.
The second examination that you must undergo is the National Counselor Examination, or NCE for short. This exam is administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and is a requirement for counseling licensure in many states throughout the country. This 200-question, multiple-choice exam will test your understanding and knowledge of counseling services and theories. This test must be taken under supervision at an approved local testing center in your area. There is also an online handbook that candidates can use as a resource to discover more about the NCE examination.
Licensure and Fees
When you first apply for your temporary LPCC license, it will cost you $40. When you apply for your permanent LPC licensure, it will cost you $70 to submit the application. Additionally, you’ll need to pay around $40 to have a federal background check performed and your fingerprints added to the nationwide database. These fee amounts are always subject to changes over time.
Continuing Education Requirements
After you’ve researched how to become a counselor in Colorado and have obtained your LPC licensure, your journey doesn’t stop there. Your LPC license will only be valid for a period of two years. Your license will expire on August 31st of all odd-numbered years. You can easily file for a renewal online about six weeks before the expiration date of your current license. The existing renewal fee is $70.
Apart from submitting your LPC license renewal application alongside the $70 application fee, you’ll also need to undergo some continuing education courses. This is in an effort by the State Board to ensure that you demonstrate continuing professional competency in your field of counseling. You’ll need to adequately complete at least 40 hours of professional development activities or PDAs. Additionally, you’ll need to fully complete a self-assessment and professional practice survey.
Counselor Salary in Colorado
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an LPC in the state of Colorado is just under $60,000. Those employed as marriage and family therapists will see an average salary of just over $73,000. Those practicing as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors will see an annual salary of around $58,000.
School, guidance, and career counselors will have an average annual salary of just over $59,000. The salary that you receive will highly depend on your job’s geographical location, your field of specialty, and your overall job experience and background education.