Did you ever wonder what it takes to become a counselor?
Do you know how much training counselors go through to become licensed and able to provide independent services to this community? Many people do not know and we would like to help inform you of the process and also let you know why it is so important that Healing Grace provide a training ground for individuals called to this profession.
Becoming a counselor is in many ways like becoming a doctor; there are stages in training and practice that work like steps on a ladder to full, independent licensure. The first step is that one has to be accepted into an accredited graduate program in counseling, psychology, or social work. In graduate school students take classes on learning theory, diagnosis and treatment, counseling skills and practice, etc. Near the end of those graduate programs students are required to complete an internship. During the internship interns work in offices like Healing Grace or hospitals or mental health clinics gaining knowledge and experience in “real world” mental health care. These interns are closely supervised by both the staff at Healing Grace and their professors.
Upon graduation with a Master’s degree in either counseling, psychology or social work, a counselor can work as an employee under supervision of licensed providers. One can continue to work in this capacity with titles such as “counselor-in-training” or “mental health technician” or something related to this level of training.
If a counselor or social worker would like to become fully licensed by the state in which they wish to practice independently (i.e. open their own practice or bill insurance) they must complete the requirements by their state and register with the State under the supervision of an accredited, licensed and approved supervisor in an approved setting. Supervisors in Missouri must have 5+ years of licensure and experience and meet training requirements to supervise. Tammy Jackson, Licensed Psychologist and owner of Healing Grace does meet these standards and supervises the trainees at Healing Grace.
Prior to registering with the State, these providers must also complete a licensure exam. For counselors this is the National Counselor Examination (NCE). The purpose of this exam is to provide evidence that they learned what they needed to know in graduate school classes in order to proceed toward independent licensure. State licensure exams are no “piece of cake” and often require intense study for some time in order to pass with a high enough score.
After one has passed the exam and registered with the State, the provider is now issued a license but this license is considered Provisional due to the requirement of ongoing supervision for 2 more years. During those two years the counselor must complete 3000 hours of supervised counseling experience. You may notice the letters PLPC after someone’s name which stands for “Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor.” This means the counselor is “almost there” in the long process.
After the PLPC completes the required number of hours and years of supervision, the State again is informed and they will review the documentation and remove the word “provisional” from the person’s license. It is only at this point that the counselor is independently allowed to practice in the state of Missouri.
Altogether it generally takes about 5 years from the start of graduate school to full, independent licensure. It takes a love of the job and a love of the people to make it through this full journey.
There is a shortage of counselors in the world today. Healing Grace receives many calls daily from people requesting services. People are telling us that they have called around and the wait lists are long if they even get a return phone call. At the same time however, Healing Grace receives many calls from graduate students asking and begging sometimes for a chance at an internship. It seems many mental health agencies are nervous or uncertain about training and supervising new counselors. This is not the case with Healing Grace. We all have been through the ranks and we all know how hard it can be to get that “experience” so needed in that first job. For this reason we continue to develop a very thorough and rich training program for the interns, counselors-in-training and PLPCs we find are a good fit for our agency. Our hope is that it makes a difference in how many more people we can serve.
Further, ongoing continuing education is required by each of the licensure boards (psychologists, counselors, and social workers) to maintain an active license by the State. You may notice what recent continuing education courses each therapist at Healing Grace has taken as you review their bios on this website. We want you to know we take our training very seriously and desire to provide the most up-to-date treatment methods in our practices.