How Many Years of Clinical Training Is Needed Before Becoming a Counselor?

Clinical CounselorOnce you complete a degree program, you will still need to complete years of clinical training before becoming a counselor. State boards have their own specific licensing requirements that prospective counselors must fulfill before they will issue a license to practice. Only after applicants complete a formal academic training program and complete hands-on clinical training experience can the applicant sit for the licensing certification which is designed to assess competence in the field. While the requirements do vary from state to state, it can help you to learn about general requirements and how to locate the state-specific requirements on your own. Read on to gain the knowledge you need.

What is Clinical Experience?

To gain licensure, virtually all states have a clinical experience requirement that is separate from education credit requirements. Once you complete your degree in counseling, typically a master’s degree, you must get clinical experience so that you know how to treat patients in a real-life setting. Clinical experience involves working in the setting and using applied skills to work in the healthcare environment under the supervision of a licensed professional. You will have the opportunity to explore the field, observe the roles of a counselor, and gain insight into counseling techniques as you complete your hours. Many students who want to become certified counselors feel like they gain a better understanding for the theories and practices that they have learned as they work in a clinical setting.

How Much Clinical Experience Will You Need?

There is not a set amount of clinical experience that is required across the board in the United States. Any state that administers the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification will have the same experience requirements. To sit for the NCE exam that was developed by the National Board for Certified Counselors, you will need to have at least 3000 hours of documented post-graduate counseling experience. At least 100 of these hours must be counseling supervision. All of these requirements must be met within a 24 hour period after you have been awarded your Master’s degree. Any supervisor that you work for to get clinical experience must have a CACREP accredited Master’s degree or higher to be considered a counseling supervisor. Be sure to check with your state to see which exam is administered.

How to Get Clinical Experience

Now that you know what clinical experience is, you may be wondering how you can go about finding an opportunity that will qualify. Some schools with mental health degree programs will match graduates to opportunities as soon as they graduate. Others do not offer these beneficial services. If you are not sure how to get clinical experience, start by meeting with your academic advisor to get names and contacts at your local hospitals and medical care facilities. Once you have these contacts, you can begin to fill out applications for employment or volunteer work.

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Clinical experience is not only important for you as a professional, it is also important to state boards. You must have this professional experience before you can pursue your dreams of practicing as a certified counselor. Make sure to find an academic program who will place you, and get years of clinical training before becoming a counselor so that you can sit for your exam.