Your Guide to Becoming a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York

This guide was last updated on January 11, 2022.

Obtaining licensure as a mental health counselor in New York State requires the completion of a license-eligible master’s or doctoral program in counseling; the completion of a minimum of 3,000 hours of postgraduate supervised experience (1,500 hours must be direct client contact); achieving a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE); completing and submitting an application for licensure; and completing coursework or training in identifying and reporting child abuse.

The license to practice mental health counseling is granted by the New York State Office of the Professions under the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

In this guide, you’ll find easy-to-follow steps to obtain your mental health counseling license in New York State. Please keep in mind, however, that licensure requirements can change over time. We make every effort to keep our guides updated, but you should always consult the New York State Office of the Professions website, and specifically the site for mental health practitioners, for the most up-to-date and accurate information.


Complete a Master’s or Doctorate in Counseling

To be eligible for licensure as a mental health counselor in New York State, you must have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling from a program that NYSED recognizes as licensure-qualifying.

For a program to be licensure-qualifying, it must:

  • Be registered by NYSED as licensure-qualifying
  • Be accredited as a clinical mental health counseling program of at least 60 semester hours by CACREP or another acceptable accrediting agency; or
  • Be determined by NYSED to be the equivalent of such a registered or accredited program. To qualify, your program must include at least 60 semester hours, or the equivalent, of graduate study with content in the following areas:
    • Human growth and development
    • Social and cultural foundations of counseling
    • Counseling theory and practice
    • Psychopathology
    • Group dynamics
    • Lifestyle and career development
    • Assessment and appraisal of individuals,
      couples, families, and groups
    • Research and program evaluation
    • Professional orientation and ethics
    • Foundations of mental health counseling
      and consultation
    • Clinical instruction

You are also required to complete a minimum of one year (600 clock hours) of supervised internship or practicum in mental health counseling.

Once your master’s or doctoral degree requirements have been met, complete Section I of Form 2: Certification of Professional Education and have your university registrar complete Section II. Your registrar will then need to submit the completed Form 2 in an official school envelope and send an official transcript to the Office of the Professions.

Submit Your Application for Licensure

Complete Form 1 (Online): Application for Licensure and First Registration to begin the licensure process in New York. You need to include all supporting documentation and pay the combined application and first registration fee of $371. This application can be submitted at any time.

If you have additional documents or files to include in a previous submission of your application, use this link to upload additional documentation.

Complete Supervised Experience Requirements

To be license-eligible, you must submit documentation of at least 3,000 clock hours of supervised experience providing mental health counseling in a setting that is acceptable to NYSED.

The supervised experience must be obtained after you complete your master’s degree program required for licensure.

At least 1,500 hours of the required 3,000 must include direct contact with your clients. The remaining 1,500 hours can consist of other activities, including record-keeping, research, case management, professional development, and supervision.

Your experience must be completed under a qualified supervisor and in a setting that is authorized to provide such services. Your supervisor must be both registered and licensed in New York State to practice mental health counseling or can be licensed in the following areas: social work, medicine, psychology, as a physician assistant or as a registered professional nurse or nurse practitioner.

Obtain a Limited Permit

The majority of postgraduate hours will count toward licensure only if they have been obtained after the applicant has been approved for a limited permit.

A limited permit allows you to practice mental health counseling under supervision while working toward the examination and experience requirements.

Limited permits are issued under a qualified supervisor and only for specific practice sites in New York State.

First-Time Licensee

You are eligible to apply for a limited permit (Form 5) after you have:

  • Obtained your master’s or doctoral degree (and completed the required internship) from a licensurequalifying program
  • Submitted Form 1 and paid the $371 fee to the New York State Office of the Professions
  • Completed coursework or training in the identification
    and reporting of child abuse

Completing your professional experience and passing the licensing exam are not required in order for you to obtain your limited permit. The fee for a limited permit is $70.

  • The limited permit is valid for two years and may be
    extended for up to two additional one-year periods
    in certain circumstances. You can find more detailed
    information about the limited permit here.

If You Have a License From Another State or Country

If you are licensed or certified in another state or country, you must request that the licensing authority of the jurisdiction(s) in which you are qualified provide verification of your licensure or certification using Form 3: Verification of Other Professional Licensure/Certification.

Document Your Experiences

In New York State, most applicants will fill out Form 4: Applicant Experience Record at the completion of the internship or practicum. You will also need to fill out Form 4B: Certification of Supervised Experience. These hours are a combination of:

  • Assessment and evaluation
  • Completing psychosocial histories and progress notes
  • Individual counseling
  • Treatment planning
  • Group counseling
  • Consultation
  • Psychotherapy

The form is filled out by both the applicant and the supervisor, and the supervisor mails the form directly to the Office of the Professions.

You should save copies of these completed documents for your records, along with detailed documentation of your experiences.

Reminder: For each supervised experience that you include on Form 4 (the Applicant Experience Record), you must submit a separate Form 4B.

Pass the NCMHCE

New York State requires applicants to take the NCMHCE and earn a passing score. You should plan to take the NCMHCE after you have completed your graduate program and received your degree.

To be eligible to sit for the examination, you must:

  • Submit Form 1: Apply for licensure by submitting this form and including the required documentation and $371 fee
  • Submit Form 2: Ask your school to verify your education directly with the New York State Education Department on the Certification of Professional Education form.

Once you have completed the forms above and obtained NYSED’s approval, the state will inform the National Board for Certified Counselors. NBCC will then email you, and you will be able to register for the NCMHCE. The total cost to sit for the NCMHCE is $275.

What’s Next?

Once the documentation and requirements listed below have been reviewed and approved by NYSED, your license number will be issued and you will be permitted to practice independently.

  • Form 1: Application for Licensure and First Registration
  • Form 2: Certification of Professional Education
  • Form 3:  Report of Professional Experience (pre-doctoral internship)
  • Form 4: Report of Professional Experience (postgraduate)
  • Form 5A: Application for Limited Permit
  • Obtain a passing NCMHCE score

You will receive written confirmation from NYSED but can also find out if your license has been issued by checking here.

While we make every effort to keep our guides updated, this post is an informational resource only. Always consult the New York State Office of the Professions website for the most up-to-date and accurate information as licensure requirements can change over time.