Whether you currently live in Washington state or are looking to start a new life among the evergreens, a career in psychology, therapy, counseling, or social work might interest you. But where do you start? To practice in any of these fields, you’ll need to complete a series of steps that lead to earning a license.
Continue reading to learn exactly what it takes to work at these professional levels, helping individuals address a variety of problems that affect their daily lives.
Psychology Licensure in Washington
From education to renewal, the Washington State Department of Health manages the requirements for earning your license in psychology.
As with most states, you must have a doctoral degree from a regionally accredited college or university to gain psychology licensure in Washington. While this level of degree is necessary, you do have options in terms of the exact degree type you earn. The 2 most common are the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degrees, though others—such as the Doctor of Education (EdD)—are available but rare.
Although it’s not required, it’s highly recommended that your psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Without APA accreditation, you’ll need to meet requirements that include:
- At least 40 semester hours, or 60 quarter hours, in graduate courses specified by the board
- A 1-year, or 750-hour, residency
- An APA-approved internship with at least 1,500 hours of supervised experience completed within 2 years
- A copy of your program-endorsed dissertation
- Official transcripts including proof of a 300-hour practicum with at least 100 hours of supervision
- 3 professional references
- Verification of a total of 3,300 hours of supervision
The practicum and internship are required regardless of APA accreditation. Your internship itself should be accredited by the APA or be a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. Between the practicum and internship, many students also choose to complete a pre-internship made up of 1,500 hours of supervised work.
Psychology licensing requirements
Once you hold your degree, you’ll be eligible to begin the next steps in the process.
Post-doctoral supervised hours
Post-doc practice hours are only required if you haven’t completed 3,000 hours during your doctorate program. Paired with the 1,500 hours of internship, you can apply up to 1,500 of post-doc supervised hours to meet this requirement.
In total, you should expect to complete 3,300 hours of supervised experience. You have 2 options for completing the hour requirements:
- Practicum (300 hours), pre-internship (1,500 hours), and internship (1,500 hours)
- Practicum (300 hours), internship (1,500 hours), and post-doc (1,500 hours)
With the pre-internship giving you the chance to complete all necessary hours while in school, it’s a popular option for those looking to gain their psychology license sooner.
You’ll need to apply for licensure before you’re eligible to take the required exams. This initial application ensures that you’ve earned the appropriate degree and completed the required number of supervised practice hours. Once that has been verified, you’ll receive notification of your eligibility to take the first of the 2 required exams.
The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is offered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and is required for all psychologists in the country. Made up of 225 multiple-choice questions, the exam must be passed with a score of at least 500 out of 800.
Once you’ve passed the EPPP, you’ll be eligible to take the Washington State Jurisprudence Exam. The exam is focused on your understanding of the laws and regulations related to the practice of psychology in Washington specifically. It’s an open book, 25-question exam that covers the following 9 topics:
- Psychology law
- Uniform Disciplinary Act
- Healthcare Information Act
- Abuse of children
- Mental Illness Act
- Abuse of vulnerable adults
- Psychologists rules
- Whistleblower complaints
- Administrative procedures and requirements
You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 90% or higher.
Rounding out your education and training are courses specific to HIV/AIDS. The training must total 7 hours and can be completed all at once or in several shorter classes.
Renewal and continuing education requirements
Psychologists in Washington must renew their license every year on or before their birthday. Continuing education (CE) credits aren’t required for every period of renewal, but 60 hours of CE must be completed every 3 years. At least 4 of these hours must be in ethics and 6 in suicide intervention.
If you hold a psychology license in another state, you have 2 options for gaining your license in Washington:
- Temporary permit
The temporary permit is intended for professionals who are looking to practice for a short time period, specifically no more than 90 days, within a calendar year. However, if you’re looking to practice in the state permanently, you’ll want to apply by endorsement.
No matter which option applies to you, your current out-of-state license must meet the credentialing standards of Washington to gain licensure by reciprocity.
Looking to branch into an even more specialized area of psychology? In some cases, specializations can give you the opportunity to work with a more focused population and possibly up your earning potential. For example, you could work within the criminal justice system as a forensic psychologist, with large companies as an organizational psychologist, or with coaches and athletes as a sports psychologist.
Therapy & Counseling Licensure in Washington
There are 3 therapy and counseling licensing types monitored by the Washington State Department of Health.
- Certified counselor
- Marriage and family therapist
- Mental health counselor
This level of counseling tends to be general. Certified counselors can address a wide range of emotional issues within various populations. But before you can practice at this level, you’ll need to be properly trained and licensed.
While many counseling-related fields require advanced degrees, certified counselors in Washington are only required to hold a bachelor’s. You’ll also need to have completed 36 credit hours of continuing education, with 6 being in law and professional ethics related to counseling.
Along with submitting your transcripts, you’ll also need to complete the required exam. It’ll cover risk assessments, ethics, patient assessment scale, client referral, and Washington state law. There isn’t a designated grade for passing the exam, only a pass or fail distinction is given.
Prior to applying for licensure, you’ll need to complete 4 hours of HIV/AIDS training and a routine background check.
Once you’ve completed all these requirements, your application will be processed and reviewed. If you’re eligible to become a certified counselor, you’ll need to renew your license every year. For every 2 years, you must complete an additional 36 hours of CEs, with 6 hours in ethics and 3 hours in suicide assessment. Every 6 years, you’ll need to complete hours in the areas of screening and referral.
If earning a bachelor’s degree is out of reach, then becoming a certified advisor could be a good option. The highest degree required for this role in Washington is an associate’s degree. Aside from the differing education requirement, certified advisors must meet the same requirements as certified counselors to become licensed.
Marriage and family therapist (MFT)
If you’re looking to have a more specialized therapy career, an MFT distinction is perfect for professionals who want to work with couples and families.
To become a licensed marriage and family therapist in Washington, you must have either a master’s or a doctoral degree in MFT. A behavioral science master’s or doctorate is also accepted if the coursework is equivalent.
The requirements go a step further by specifying that 45 semester credits (60 quarter credits) of coursework must be completed in the following areas:
- Martial and family systems
- Marital and family therapy
- Individual development
- Human sexuality
- Professional ethics and laws
- Elective (1 course)
- Supervised clinical practice (up to 9 semester credits)
When you’re looking for MFT programs, consider completing your degree through a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). While not required, the COAMFTE accreditation gives you the chance to be credited with a portion of the required supervised hours that are explained in more detail below.
MFT licensing requirements
After completing your master’s or doctoral degree, your education must continue, specifically for 36 hours. You must verify on your application that you’ve met these CE hours, 6 of which must be in professional law and ethics. A 4-hour HIV/AIDS training is also required.
In addition, you must complete a minimum of 2 years of full-time MFT supervised work. You’ll need to make sure this experience includes:
- A minimum of 3,000 hours
- 1,000 hours direct client contact
- 500 hours diagnosing and treating families and couples
- 200 hours with an approved supervisor, 100 of which are 1-on-1
Selecting a COAMFTE-accredited program will give you the chance to be credited with 500 hours of direct client contact and an additional 100 hours with a supervisor.
Once you’ve completed these requirements, you can sit for the MFT exam offered the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). Scores are sent directly to the Washington licensing board.
With all of these steps complete, you’ll be eligible to earn your license as a marriage and family therapist. This license will need to be renewed once a year. And every 2 years, you’ll need to complete 36 hours of CEs, with 6 in law and ethics. Every 6 years, you’ll also need to complete 6 hours in suicide assessment, treatment, and management.
Licensed marital and family therapy associate (LMFTA)
The LMFTA is designed for candidates who are actively working towards an LMFT. To gain this distinction, you’ll need to complete the same education requirements and the 4-hour HIV/AIDS training. LMFTAs can only renew their license up to 6 times.
Licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
Mental health counselors guide clients through uncertain and trying times in their lives. Most often these professionals address depression, PTSD, anxiety, and a slew of other mental health concerns.
If you’re hoping to earn your license in mental health counseling, you’ll need to start by completing a master’s or doctoral degree in mental health counseling or a closely related field such as psychology, social work, rehabilitation, or social sciences.
Your program must address counseling theory and philosophy. It’ll also need to include either a counseling practicum or internship. Furthermore, 7 of your courses must relate to some of the following topics. Keep in mind that 5 of those 7 courses will need to touch on any of the first 8 topics listed:
- Counseling individuals
- Counseling groups
- Counseling couples and families
- Developmental psych
- Psychopathology/abnormal psych
- Research and evaluation
- Career development counseling
- Multicultural concerns
- Substance/chemical abuse
- Physiological psych
- Organizational psych
- Mental health consultation
- Developmentally disabled people
- Abusive relationships
- Chronically mentally ill
You should be ready to complete 36 months of full-time supervised counseling, or 3,000 hours, once you graduate. At least 100 of these hours should be under direct supervision with a licensed mental health counselor, and 1,200 must be performed directly with individuals, couples, families, or groups.
When you’ve completed all of these hours, you’ll be eligible to take the required exam. While there are 2 acceptable exam options offered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), you’ll only need to take and pass 1.
- National Counselor Exam (NCE)–This exam is a more generalized test designed to assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities at providing counseling services.
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)–Focused on clinical simulations, this exam assesses your ability to identify, analyze, diagnose, and treat mental health issues at the clinical level.
All applicants are then required to undergo 4 hours of HIV/AIDS training. Following successful completion of these requirements, you’ll be eligible to earn your mental health counselor license. From that point on, it’ll be your responsibility to renew your license every year. The continuing education requirements are the same as for marriage and family therapists.
Licensed mental health counselor associate (LMCHA)
The LMHCA distinction is offered for those on track to earning their LMHC. If you’re interested in earning this license, you’ll need to make sure you meet the educational requirements and complete the 4-hour HIV/AIDS training. While renewal of this license if possible each year without CEs, it can only be renewed 6 times.
Social Work Licensure in Washington
The Washington State Department of Health also oversees all licenses related to social work, of which there are 4:
- Licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW)
- Licensed advanced social worker (LASW)
- Licensed independent clinical social worker associate (LICSWA)
- Licensed social worker associate advanced (LSWAA)
LICSW, LASW, LICSWA, and LSWAA: what’s the difference?
The top-tier license in Washington is the LICSW. This license gives you the opportunity to practice independent of a supervisor and is required for opening a private practice.
The LASW, while also a respectable license, doesn’t allow you to practice independently. You must practice under the supervision of an LICSW. As an LASW, you’ll most commonly be addressing case management, consultation, advocacy, counseling, and community organization.
Both also have associate-level licenses, which act as stepping stones towards earning the higher-level counterpart.
The licensed social worker associate advanced can be earned prior to an LASW, while the licensed independent clinical social worker associate is earned before the LICSW.
Social work licensing requirements
Following the completion of your degree, LSWAAs and LICSWAs maintain the same requirements. Candidates need to complete 4 hours of AIDS education and declare that they’re on track towards earning their full license.
Licensing requirements for LASWs and LICSWs, on the other hand, begin to vary drastically. While both must complete 4 hours of HIV/AIDS training and 36 CE credits after graduating, the 2 licenses have different postgraduate supervised experiences and require different exams.
As an aspiring LASW, you’ll need to complete 3,200 hours of postgraduate supervised experience. Within those hours, you’ll need to meet additional hour requirements:
- 800 hours in direct client contact
- 90 hours supervised by an LASW or LICSW, of these:
- 50 hours must be under direct supervision of an LASW or LICSW, 1-on-1 or in a group setting
- 40 hours can be 1-on-1 with an equally qualified licensed mental healthcare practitioner
The American Association of Social Work Boards (AASWB) offers the Advanced Generalist exam for those applying to become LASWs. To be eligible for this exam, you must have at least a master’s in social work and 2 years of postgraduate work. Rather than receiving a specific passing score, you’ll receive a pass or fail distinction.
LICSWs require a higher number of postgraduate supervised hours, specifically 4,000 over the course of 3 years. These hours are also broken down by specific requirements:
- 1,000 hours in direct client contact supervised by an LICSW
- 130 hours supervised by an LICSW or equally licensed mental health practitioner, of these:
- 70 hours must be with an LICSW either 1-on-1 or in a group setting
- 60 hours may be 1-on-1 with an equally qualified mental health practitioner
As the highest-level test offered by the ASWB, the Clinical exam is required to become an LICSW. To be a candidate for this exam, you must complete the educational and postgraduate hour requirements. The department is informed if you’ve passed the exam.
The 2 license types show similarities again in their renewal requirements. LASWs and LICSWs must be renewed every year, with 36 CE credits earned every 2 years. Of these hours, 6 must be in law and ethics and every 6 years, 6 hours must be in suicide assessment, treatment, and management.