1. The licensure process begins with your education. It is a relatively simple process if you graduate from a Master's program approved as leading to licensure by the New York State Education Department. Virtually every graduate program educating mental health counselors in New York has been approved except for the distance learning programs.
2. Save all of your syllabi and other related course materials. Sometimes applicants find that SED challenges the titles or content of certain courses. If you have the course syllabus and other materials you will be ready to respond to any questions an examiner might have. This could save you a lot of time.
3. Request an application packet and apply (Form 1 and $$) about 3 months before you graduate. Send in the basic application. This allows the SED to start a file on you ahead of time. This too could save time later in the process. ALWAYS make copies of everything you send to the SED! Papers get lost and that could cost you weeks if not months in the processing of your application.
4. If yours is a licensure qualifying program in New York, the school can submit Form 2 to verify that you will graduate, rather than waiting for the conferral of your degree. Your education must be approved (you will receive a letter) before they can issue you a limited permit.
Those applicants who have returned to school to take the additional courses that will make them eligible for licensure, will find that their applications will go to the Comparative Education Unit where it could be weeks before they receive an approval.
5. Once your education has been approved you can look for a job. You cannot send in the application for your limited permit until you have a job and a supervisor who can sign the limited permit application. If you find a job before your education has been approved you can ask your supervisor to write a letter (submitted with Form 5) asking the SED to expedite your application approval as you could lose the job if you don't have a limited permit ASAP.
*Note: Unless your work site is an exempt setting, if you begin to work as a mental health counselor without either a limited permit or a license, you will be breaking the law! In addition, your supervisor will be breaking the law. It is considered a Class-1 felony and could prevent your ever being licensed in New York State.
6. The limited permit is a temporary license given to you for 2 years. If you have not completed your 3,000 hours in those two years, you can receive an extension of 1 year. You can also receive an additional year upon request for a total of four years. The clock starts on your 3,000 hours only when your limited permit has been issued! It is often posted online before the applicant receives it in the mail. In addition to client contact hours (at least 1500 hours), mental health counselors can count time used for phone calls to and from clients, record keeping, supervision, professional development and any other time related to your work with clients. Your internship hours do NOT count toward the 3,000 hours. Contact the NYMHCA office to request forms that can be used to log your hours. You will not be asked to submit the logs with your application. They are just to make the record keeping easier for you.
**If you do not complete your 3,000 hours with both the 2-year limited permit and the 2, one year extensions, there are no other options available to you. You can never be licensed as a mental health counselor in New York. So a letter from you and your supervisor asking that the clock be stopped on your permit, must be sent immediately to the Office of Professions if you realize that you can not complete your hours within the 4 years. Once you find additional work or a different job that will allow you to complete your hours, you can request that the clock begin again on your permit.
7. Some applicants will find employment in exempt settings. These are settings that do not fall under the requirements of the licensure law. An example of an exempt setting might be a state agency. Agencies that are run by the state or federal government are exempt and the counselor does not need a limited permit to work there. If you have a question about a work setting and the need for a limited permit, contact the SED. If your potential employer tells you that the agency is considered an exempt setting, ask to see a copy of their operating certificate. It will tell you if they are allowed to provide clinical services at that site and if they are exempt.
8. The supervisor at your job needs to be licensed as a mental health professional in the State of New York. This does not include LMSW's. In the event that your job does not have an on-site supervisor that can work with you, an off-site supervisor is also acceptable by the SED. Of course the off-site supervisor would have to be paid by the agency where you work. The off-site supervisor would also need access to clients and client records as part of their supervisory responsibility and to comply with HIPAA regulations. Mental health counselors cannot be supervised in any setting by an LMSW.
9. Unpaid employment is also acceptable for licensure. For those who want to accrue extra hours or have trouble finding paid employment, volunteer work can also count toward licensure. Supervision is still required and in some cases off-site supervisors would be needed. You will also need an another limited permit for that additional work site.
10. The licensure exam can be taken at any time after your education has been approved. The approval of your education also comes with clearance to take the licensure exam. You may decide to take the exam after you receive approval from the Office of Professions while your diagnosis education is fresh in your mind. But since the exam is experiential in nature and tests your diagnostic abilities, some counselors take the exam after they have accrued at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience. That could give them enough experience to competently pass the exam. If you fail the exam you will have plenty of time to take it again before your limited permits run out. NYMHCA offers licensure examination preparation workshops that can help you take and pass the exam the first time. Information on the workshops can be found on this website.
11. You can take the licensure exam as many times as you need to pass it and whenever you decide to take it. You can take the exam after you graduate with your Master's degree. You can take it after you have accrued 1,000 or more hours of experience, or you can take it after you have accrued all of your 3,000 hours. The Office of Professions does not dictate when to take the exam and you lose nothing by not taking until you are ready, or if you need to take it a few times before passing it.
12. Contact the State Education Department (OP.NYSED.gov) (518-474-3817)if you have a specific set of circumstances that might not fit into the general outline of the licensure application process. Make sure you record the name of the person you speak to, their department, and what they tell you about your application. Keeping good records can help you to resolve difficulties more quickly and efficiently.
13. Contact NYMHCA for help if needed.