Mental Health Counselor Licensure in Iowa

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Iowa’s Licensed Mental Health Counselors(LMHCs) are credentialed and regulated by the Board of Behavioral Science. Licensure is granted on the basis of graduate education in mental health counseling, postgraduate supervised practice, and successful performance on a qualifying national examination.

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LMHC Educational Requirements

A degree can be accepted if it is in mental health counseling or is content equivalent. A student who began studies before the qualifying date can be licensed on the basis of a graduate degree of 45 semester hours. Depending on circumstances, the date may be July 1, 2010 or July 1, 2012. A candidate who begins on or after the qualifying date must have 60 semester hours.

Mental health counseling degrees accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) meet requirements. Other degrees may meet requirements, but they will need to be professionally evaluated for equivalency.

To be deemed equivalent, a program must be housed in an institution that is accredited by some agency recognized by the Department of Education.

A candidate seeking to establish equivalency on the basis of current requirements must have the following coursework:

  • Helping relationships
  • Social and cultural diversity
  • Human growth and development
  • Psychopathology
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Assessment
  • Group work
  • Career development
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Professional orientation and ethics

There must be a 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship. The practicum must include at least 40 hours of direct service; the internship, at least 240.

There are minor differences in required courses and content for students who entered programs before July 1, 2012. Rule 645—31.6 addresses content that must be covered under each course requirement ( Internship and practicum standards are also different. The rule states that the pre-2012 internship must be awarded at least three semester hours of credit and must be preceded by a practicum.

Supervised Experience Requirements

The mental health counseling graduate must work under supervision for the equivalent of two years ( He or she must accrue at least 3,000 experience hours. Of these, 1,500 must be client contact hours. The candidate will need 200 hours of supervision. This may be provided by an NBCC-approved supervisor, an LMHC with three years of experience, or another professional with equivalent credentials and experience.

The first two supervision sessions are to be carried out in-person. At least 25% of the required supervision must be in-person. Up to half may be carried out by telephone; the remainder may utilize electronic devices. Experience cannot be credited unless the candidate has finished all coursework with the possible exception of a thesis. Supervision is to be guided by a written supervision plan. The experience, and plan, must meet requirements found in 645—31.7 of Board rules.

Examination Requirement

The Iowa Board will accept the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE). The Board will provide registration information to approved candidates.

Candidates registering for NBCC examinations pay $195 to the NBCC. Once the NBCC confirms eligibility, the candidate will be allowed to schedule through the test vendor, AMP.

NBCC examinations are available in monthly testing windows at nearly 200 computerized testing centers around the nation. In Iowa, they are administered in Davenport and Des Moines.

The Iowa Board will also accept the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination. This is only available to counselors who have sufficient coursework and/or experience in rehabilitation counseling or clinical rehabilitation counseling ( There are three testing windows each year. Upcoming registration deadlines are listed on the website of the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (

The Application Process

A candidate may apply at any of several stages. The candidate may apply for a temporary license before completing supervised practice. The Board states that the temporary license is not mandatory, due to the license exemption provided for in Iowa Code Chapter 154D.4,2,b ( However, some employers may require it (

The temporary license is issued for three years. It is renewable in some instances. Temporary licenses are not issued to candidates who have met experience requirements but still need to take the examination; the examination should be completed before expiration of the temporary license.

U.S.-educated candidates who do not hold CACREP-accredited mental health counseling degrees are directed to the Center for Credentialing and Education ([email protected]). They will have their official transcripts sent to CCE. If CCE approves the education, the transcripts will be forwarded to the Iowa Board along with the approval letter. CCE can be reached at 888-817-8283.

Graduates of CACREP-accredited mental health counseling programs will have their transcripts sent to the Iowa Board.

A candidate seeking a standard licensure must submit attestation of supervision. The form is due within 30 days of conclusion.

Applicants may download the required forms (

The application fee is currently $120. Candidates who request temporary licenses also pay $120. Candidates who must establish equivalency pay a separate fee to the evaluation agency.

Out-of-State and International Mental Health Counselors

Counselors who hold mental health counseling licenses in other jurisdictions, or have held credentials in the past, must provide official verification to the Iowa licensing agency. Web-based verification is allowable in some instances.

An out-of-state licensee must provide evidence of having met similar requirements. If an endorsement candidate is unable to provide direct evidence of supervision on the prescribed form, however, the Board may consider alternative documentation, including material supplied by the state of licensure (

Certification as a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor by the NBCC is also accepted as evidence that a candidate has met the requirement for supervised practice (

Internationally educated candidates will have equivalency determined by International Educational Research Foundations, Inc. ( They may call IERF at 310-258-9451.

A counselor approved for licensure can verify (and print) license status online.

Additional Information

The Iowa Board of Behavioral Science can be found on the web at Applicants with questions may direct them to 515 281- 4422 or to the email address found in the application packet.

The Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association, a state professional organization, is a source of legislative information but does not issue licenses (

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