Counseling Certifications

Professional Counseling Certifications

The Importance of Certification

Certified Counselors are mental health professionals who have usually not only passed rigorous exams, but have voluntarily gone beyond the average to achieve excellence in certification.

Many counselors choose to pursue certification through third party (nongovernmental) agencies. All states use third party examinations as part of the licensing process for professional counseling. Third party examinations are often used for school counseling, as well.

  • The National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential can be prestigious to those who attain it. The NCC certification is a voluntary certification that goes beyond the legal requirements for licensure. NCCs have shown their dedication to their profession and to providing the best services possible.
  • NCCs are held to an enforceable Code of Ethics, which delineates ethical counseling practice. NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors) provides an established process for dealing with concerns and taking disciplinary actions.
  • NCCs must complete regular continuing education in order to maintain their certification. This ensures that NCCs are up to date on developments and best practices in the profession, so that they can provide you with consistently high-quality service.
  • NCCs are able show their areas of expertise with NBCC specialty certifications: the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) and National Certified School Counselor (NCSC). These certifications show that a counselor has met national standards for a specialty practice, including additional education and experience requirements and a specialty examination.

Specialty certifications can often indicate expertise in counseling disciplines that are often not recognized separately by state licensing boards.

Capella University offers three online CACREP — accredited Master’s programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.


In some states, the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination is used as part of the licensing process for clinical counselors. Counselors in other states may choose to take it as part of the certification process for the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor credential.


The Commission on Rehabilitation Counseling Certification grants a national credential to rehabilitation counselors. The best path to ensure eligibility is to attend a CORE-accredited program in rehabilitation counseling. Other programs can be considered acceptable if coursework and experience requirements are met. Candidates will eventually take an examination.

The George Washington University Graduate School of Education & Human Development Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Rehabilitation Counseling graduate program ranked 6th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and is Accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). Click Here to request information about the Master’s of Arts in Education and Human Development in Rehabilitation Counseling program.


School counselors have two certification options. “National Board certification” is through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. In order to pursue this certification, a school counselor must have acquired three years’ experience working under license. NBPTS certifications implement a portfolio review process to determine that an applicant has a high level of proficiency.

The other option for school counselors is through certification via the National Board for Certified Counselors. This option will involve taking a school counseling examination. In order to receive the school counseling credential through the NBCC, a counselor must also hold NCC status. This route is exclusive to school counselors who have completed a graduate counseling program of at least 48 semester hours.

NYU Steinhardt’s online MA in Counseling and Guidance, Counseling@NYU, prepares aspiring school counselors to become transformative leaders and critical resources for pre-K-12 students in public and private schools across the country. Request information.

CACREP-accreditation can be important to a counselor who is seeking NBCC credentials. If a school counselor attended a CACREP-accredited program, s/he will not need to meet post-graduate supervision requirements set by the NBCC.


The NBCC offers the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) credential in collaboration with the International Association of Addiction and Offenders Counselors.

Antioch University offers a new Online MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that is in the CACREP accreditation process and mirrors the CACREP-accredited program delivered on campus. Specializations are available in the following: Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling (SAAC) and Counseling Military Service Personnel and their Families (MSPF). Click here to contact Antioch University and request information about their programs.

There are many organizations that will certify individuals with less than a Master’s degree to work with people with addictions. The process will vary from state to state due to varying standards among states for people who work with drug or alcohol offenders in state agencies. MAC certification is a more advanced level of substance abuse certification.

Master Addictions Counselors must meet all standards for the NCC credential, plus some others, as well. These counselors must demonstrate that their graduate counseling education consisted of 12 semester hours in addictions or that they had 500 CE hours in the field. The counselors need at least two years of post-Master’s supervised experience in the addiction arena. Total experience of three years is usually required.


Some counselors attend programs that combine counseling with expressive arts therapies. Art therapy specialists become eligible for the Registered Art Therapist (ATR) credential through a combination of qualifying education and supervised experience. Board certification for a Registered Art Therapist is an additional step and requires an exam.

Music therapists are certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapists.

Dance therapists are certified through the Dance/Movement Therapy Certification Board.


The American Association of Pastoral Counselors offers certification for Pastoral Counseling. There are several certification categories available. The American Association of Pastoral Counselors provides a full roster of counselor licensing boards throughout the U.S. To review the roster, please click here.

For information on licensure relevant to clergy and pastoral counselors, it’s best to contact your state’s counselor licensing board directly.


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