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Mental Health Counselor Licensure in South Carolina

mental health counselor in South Carolina

South Carolina mental health counselors are credentialed as Licensed Professional Counselors. Some, but not all, of South Carolina's LPCs have the authority to assess and treat serious mental disorders. Scope of practice is determined by supervised professional experiences beginning at the practicum level.

All LPCs complete graduate degrees, pass a national examination, and complete a supervised practice requirement. Licensed Professional Counselor Intern (LPC-I) is the first credential that an in-state counselor will hold.

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Educational Requirements

A prospective counselor must complete an accredited graduate degree program. South Carolina will accept accreditation by a regional accrediting institution or by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. The graduate degree must include a minimum of 48 semester hours (72 quarter hours).

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The following content must be covered:

  • Helping relationship
  • Human growth and development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Group dynamics/ processing/counseling
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Research and evaluation
  • Professional orientation
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychopathology diagnostics

Each of the above content requirements is to be demonstrated through one three semester hour course. (4.5 quarter hours is accepted as the equivalent.) If all required coursework is not included in the original degree, the candidate can complete additional coursework post-degree. The application packet includes a description of concepts that fall under each required content area (http://www.cce-global.org/prof/apps).

Additionally, the student must have a counseling practicum of at least150 hours.

A student who seeks the authority to assess/ treat serious disorders should have a practicum that covers assessment and treatment of these disorders as well as a 600 hour internship that is supervised by a mental health practitioner with qualifying experience. The application review agency notes that a graduate can be licensed as an LPC-I without completing the internship, but that the internship determines the level of practice at the LPC-I level (http://www.cce-global.org/downloads/apps/sc-lpcapp.pdf).

Examination Requirements

South Carolina will accept either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) for licensing purposes. Both are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCMHCE is a national specialty examination for mental health counselors, but the Board notes that in South Carolina, authority to assess serious conditions is not dependent on passing a particular examination.

South Carolina candidates can take the examination after their education has been reviewed. Once the initial application materials have been approved, the Center for Credentialing & Education will send out an examination registration form. The approved candidate will submit the form along with a $195 fee to the NBCC.

Candidates schedule their examinations through Applied Measurement Professionals (www.goAMP.com). South Carolina sites include Columbia, Georgetown, and Spartanburg. Candidates are allowed to test in other states.

The examination takes four hours and is available in a computer-delivered format during two week testing cycles throughout the year. Candidates can find upcoming testing cycles in the registration materials found on the ‘South Carolina’ page of the NBCC site (http://www.nbcc.org/directory/SC).

Test takers receive unofficial results immediately after the examination. CCE may not receive official results, however, for four to six weeks.

A candidate for licensure who has already taken a qualifying examination but needs verification may contact the NBCC Examination Department (www.nbcc.org/certifications/ScoreVerification.aspx). The Department can be reached at (336) 547-0607.

Supervised Experience Requirements

Graduates who are completing their post-degree practice work under Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern status. They hold intern status for two years. Interns must accrue at least 1,500 hours of direct client experience under appropriate supervision. 150 of the hours are to be under immediate supervision, performed by an LPC supervisor or candidate. Up to 50 hours of group supervision may be credited.

The remaining experience may be obtained under a qualified mental health practitioner such as an LPC supervisor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The South Carolina Board does not require that the professional who is providing the supervision be onsite. However, it does require that the professional be available to the intern.

The “Confirmation of Clinical Supervision” form, found in the application packet, is submitted at the end of the supervisory period.

The Application Process

The South Carolina Board contracts with the Center for Credentialing & Education, Inc. (CCE), which is under the banner of the NBCC. CCE accepts applications and reviews education and credentials. Applications can be found on the CCE site (http://www.cce-global.org/prof/apps). Applicants are advised to read the statutes and regulations before applying.

The applicant will need official transcripts documenting graduate education. Content requirements are documented through official course descriptions or syllabi.

Photocopied examination score reports can be accepted.

Applicants who are physically present in the United States must document legal status.

The application includes an affidavit that must be notarized. A fee of $170 is charged for the application and educational review.

The application is to be sent to CCE- SC Review in Greensboro, North Carolina.

CCE grants pre-approval. The South Carolina Board grants official approval upon receipt of the application file.

Out-of-State Counselors

Licensure by endorsement may be granted to counselors who are licensed in other U.S. jurisdictions on the basis of similar or higher requirements (http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t40c075.php). License status must be verified; ‘Verification of Licensure’ forms are found in the license application packet. Supervised practice must be documented but may be verified by the state of licensure. CCE notes that the out-of-state counselor must keep the qualifying license active during the review process.

Individuals who have not yet attained licensure in another state will need to apply first at the intern level. The South Carolina Board notes that only after the intern license has been granted can the Board consider supervised experience hours that were accrued previously. The intern will still hold LPC-I status for two years. 150 hours will need to be completed under the immediate supervision of a qualifying South Carolina professional.

The South Carolina Board does allow professionals with intern licensure to maintain private practice -- though this is not something that the Board recommends that those who are newly credentialed do (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/counselors/index.asp?file=faq.htm). The intern will need to ensure that appropriate supervision is in place, whatever the work setting.

International Candidates

Internationally educated applicants will need to have English language proficiency as well as comparable education and experience.

Transcript reviews can be performed by any of the following organizations:

  • Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc (ECE) www.ece.org
  • World Education Services, Inc. (WES) www.wes.org
  • American Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Offices (AACRAO) www.aacrao.org

The applicant is to have the review performed before submitting application materials to CCE.

Additional Information

The South Carolina Board of Examiners for the Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Psycho-Educational Specialists (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/counselors/index.asp?file=licensure.htm) can be reached at 803- 896-4658.

Applicants are asked to direct questions to the Center for Credentialing & Education (http://www.cce-global.org).

The American Mental Health Counselors Association of South Carolina is an additional resource, but is not involved with the licensing process (http://amhca-sc.groupsite.com/main/summary).

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