If you want to work as a psychology, counseling, or social work professional in Colorado, you’ll need the appropriate state licensure before you’re eligible to help those in need. Licensing criteria differ by state and title, so it’s important to ensure that you get the right credentials for the kind of position you desire.
Want to learn more about earning your license as a mental health provider in Colorado? Read on to find out about the state’s requirements for starting a successful career in this rewarding field.
Psychology Licensure in Colorado
Psychology licensure in Colorado allows you to work as a general or specialized clinical psychologist in settings where you treat patients without supervision. To qualify as a licensed psychologist, you’ll need to meet the criteria established by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) State Board of Psychologist Examiners, which oversees the rules and regulations for licensing in the state.
A doctoral degree is the minimum education requirement to become a licensed psychologist in Colorado. Most often, this will be a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree, though other degrees like a Doctor of Education might also qualify.
To meet state requirements, your doctorate must be from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or another program that meets the equivalent standards. It must:
- Consist of at least 3 academic years of full-time graduate study
- Involve a minimum practicum experience of 400 hours
- Include an APA-accredited internship, or the substantial equivalent, lasting 1 full-time year or 2 half-time years for a total of 1,500 hours
Psychology licensing requirements
Before you can begin the postdoc experience that you need to earn your license, you must first apply to be a Licensed Psychologist Candidate (PSYC). This limited license is valid for 4 years and allows you the time to complete the requirements for licensing.
To apply for a psychology license in Colorado, you need to complete at least 1,500 hours of postdoctoral experience practicing psychology over the course of at least a year. Your experience should include:
- At least 75 hours of direct supervision under a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, with at least 50 hours of face-to-face, individual interaction
- At least 50 hours of training in racial/ethnic bases of behavior, with at least 3 hours of supervision in this area
When you’ve completed your postdoc experience, you’ll be eligible to take the exams required for Colorado licensure. These include:
- The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP): This exam, administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), consists of 225 multiple-choice questions and must be passed with a score of at least 500 out of 800.
- Colorado’s Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination: This online test is specific to the rules and regulations for practicing psychology in Colorado and must also be passed with a minimum score of 500 out of 800.
Your exam results are valid for 5 years from the date they were taken. You must complete your application and obtain your license within this time period, or you’ll need to retake the exam and submit another application fee if you wish to get your license at a later date.
A Colorado psychology license is valid for 2 years. To renew your license, you must complete 40 professional development hours (PDHs) that are approved by the board. Prior to completing PDHs, you must develop and complete an official Continuing Professional Development Plan to document your learning goals and compliance in completing the PDHs.
Your professional development hours may or may not be the equivalent of clock hours. For example, 1 online continuing education hour equals 1 PDH, while a 1-hour workshop or seminar is equivalent to 3. Authoring or editing earn you even more, such as 20 PDHs for writing a journal article or 40 for authoring a scientific book.
Colorado doesn’t offer license reciprocity for psychologists. If you earned your psychology license in another jurisdiction, you can apply for Licensure by Endorsement. To be eligible, you typically need to meet the education, experience, and exam qualifications required by Colorado. If a written exam wasn’t required in your jurisdiction, you may be exempt if you’ve practiced psychology independently for at least 20 years. You might also be exempt from certain postdoctoral experience requirements if hold specific credentials.
All candidates for psychologist Licensure by Endorsement, regardless of any exemptions, must pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Examination.
Therapy Licensure in Colorado
Licensing for marriage and family therapists in Colorado is administered by the DORA State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners. The board offers three different types of licenses: Provisional Marriage and Family Therapist (MFP), Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate (MFTC), and Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT).
The minimum education requirement for any of these licenses is the completion of a master’s degree program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) or an equivalent program. COAMFTE-approved programs include a minimum of 500 clinical contact hours over at least 12 months of practice.
Therapy licensing requirements
After completing the education requirements, you can qualify for an MFTC license, which is valid for 4 years while you accrue supervised experience hours and take the required exams.
If you’ve completed the appropriate education requirements and want to work immediately, you can apply for an MFP license that authorizes you to work under supervision in a residential childcare facility.
For marriage and family therapists, only MFT licensure has an experience requirement. MFT candidates with master’s degrees must complete 2,000 hours of supervised practice over the course of at least 24 months. This must include at least 1,500 hours of face-to-face client contact, 1,000 of which should occur with couples and families. Postdoctoral candidates must complete 1,500 hours of face-to-face client contact over no less than 12 months, with 1,000 hours also being with couples and families.
MFT candidates must pass the Colorado Jurisprudence Exam and the Marriage and Family Therapy National exam administered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).
MFTs are subject to Colorado’s requirements for professional development as a condition of licensure every 2 years. To renew your license, you must complete 40 professional development hours, which could be coursework or other approved activities such as volunteering or mentoring.
Colorado doesn’t offer license reciprocity for marriage and family therapists, but you might be able to transfer your credentials through Colorado’s Licensure by Endorsement process. The State Board of Marriage and Family Therapist Examiners will determine whether you’ve met the equivalent of Colorado’s requirements for education, experience, and examination.
All out-of-state MFT licensure candidates must take and pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.
Counseling Licensure in Colorado
Counseling licensure in Colorado is administered by 2 different DORA state boards. The State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners administers 4 titles:
- The entry-level Certified Addiction Counselor Level I (CAC I)
- The Certified Addiction Counselor Level II (CAC II) licensure for independent practice
- The Certified Addiction Counselor III (CAC III) for supervisors
- The Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) for professional counselors in independent practice
The State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners administers 3 licensure titles:
- Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor (LPP)
- Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (LPCC)
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Addiction counselor licensures have the following education requirements:
- CAC I: a high school diploma or equivalent and completion of the CAC I required classes offered by the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health (OBH)
- CAC II: a high school diploma or equivalent and completion of CAC I and CAC II required OBH training classes
- CAC III: a clinical bachelor’s degree in behavioral health science and completion of CAC II and CAC III OBH training classes
- LAC: a clinical master’s degree and completion of CAC III educational requirements
For all other professional counselor licensures (LPP, LPCC, and LPC), the minimum education requirement is a master’s degree from a program approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or an equivalent program. CACREP-approved programs include a practicum of at least 40 clock hours of direct client service and an internship of 600 hours working with clients.
Counseling licensing requirements
Counseling licensure candidates must be at least 21 years old, with the exception of CAC I applicants, who can be as young as 18.
If you’ve completed the professional counseling education requirements and want to work immediately, you can qualify for an LPP license that lets you work under supervision in a residential childcare facility.
To pursue full a counselor’s license after meeting the education requirements, you can qualify for an LPCC, which is valid for 4 years while you earn your supervised experience and take the necessary licensing exams.
For addiction counselor certifications and licensures, the following levels of experience are required:
- CAC I: 1,000 hours of clinically supervised work experience in no less than 6 months
- CAC II: 2,000 hours of clinically supervised work experience beyond CAC I, for a total of 3,000 hours in no less than 12 months
- CAC III: 2,000 hours of clinically supervised work experience beyond CAC II, for a total of 5,000 hours in no less than 12 months
- LAC: Hold or meet clinically supervised experience requirements for CAC III
Candidates for full LPC licensing in Colorado must complete the following requirements depending on the level of their degree:
- Master’s degree: 2,000 hours of supervised psychotherapy experience over the course of at least 2 years, with a minimum of 100 hours of direct supervision
- Doctoral degree: 1,000 hours of supervised psychotherapy experience over at least 1 year, with a minimum of 50 hours of direct supervision
Your supervisor can be a licensed counselor, clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, or psychologist.
For addiction counselor licensing, all candidates must pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam. In addition, a national exam from The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) is required for some titles. These include:
- CAC II: National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) Exam
- CAC III: National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II (NCAC II) Exam
- LAC: Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) Exam for master’s-level candidates only
For professional counselor licensing, LPC candidates must pass the Jurisprudence Exam as well as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.
All exams used to meet DORA State Board license requirements must be taken and passed within 5 years of the date of your application.
Some licensed counselors are subject to license renewal every 2 years. This requirement applies to:
- Certified Addiction Counselors Levels II and III
- Licensed Addiction Counselors
- Licensed Professional Counselors
License renewal for these professionals requires the completion of 40 professional development hours, which can be a mix of activities such as coursework, mentoring, supervision, and volunteering.
Colorado doesn’t offer license reciprocity for professional or addiction counselors, but you might be able to transfer out-of-state credentials through the Licensure by Endorsement process. Endorsement applications are reviewed by their respective boards. To qualify, you must show proof of meeting the equivalent to Colorado’s education, experience, and exam requirements for the license you’re pursuing.
All out-of-state candidates for counselor licensure must take and pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.
Social Work Licensure in Colorado
Colorado’s DORA State Board of Regulatory Agencies oversees and administers all licenses for professional social workers in the state. Depending on your experience, you can qualify to either be as a licensed social worker (LSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).
LSW and LCSW: what’s the difference?
Each state has its own specific rules and regulations regarding social workers. Some states license up to 5 different levels of social workers, but in Colorado, there are only 2.
The LSW is intended for those who hold at least a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. While this level of education is necessary to become licensed, there isn’t a postgrad experience requirement. LSWs must work under the supervision of an LCSW.
The LCSW is for those with at least an MSW who have completed supervised clinical experience. LCSWs are authorized to practice without supervision and can run their own private practices.
To qualify for either social work license in Colorado, you must earn a either a master’s or doctoral degree from a program that’s accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
In addition to meeting standards related to curriculum and program design, accredited MSW programs include a minimum of 900 hours of field experience.
Social work licensing requirements
Those with an approved MSW can qualify to be a Provisional Social Worker (SWP) without completing additional experience or exams. However, SWPs are only allowed to work in a residential child care facility under supervision.
Candidates for LSW licensure also don’t need to meet an experience requirement. The LSW is primarily intended for applicants who are working to complete the post-degree experience that’s necessary to become an LCSW.
In Colorado, LCSWs are the only level of social workers that must meet experience requirements. To qualify for an LCSW license, you must complete at least 3,360 hours of postgrad supervised experience over a minimum of 24 months. Your experience must include 96 hours of direct supervision.
To qualify for either license in Colorado, you must pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam related to the level of license you want. LSW candidates can choose from the ASWB Master’s, Advanced Generalist, or Clinical-level exam. If you’re applying for LCSW licensure, you’ll have to pass either the Advanced Generalist or Clinical exam.
All social work candidates must pass Colorado’s Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam to demonstrate knowledge of the laws and regulations specific to the state.
All Colorado social work licenses expire on August 31 of odd-numbered years. During the 2-year period between renewals, all social workers must develop an official Continuing Professional Practice Rubric to establish learning goals, execute a Learning Plan, and complete 40 professional development hours.
Colorado doesn’t offer license reciprocity for social workers, but you can earn credit for previous credentials through the Licensure by Endorsement process. The State Board of Social Work Examiners determines if you’ve met the equivalent of Colorado’s requirements for education, experience, and examination.
All social worker Licensure by Endorsement candidates must take and pass Colorado’s Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam.