How to Become a Counselor in Arkansas

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What is Counseling?


In light of the Opioid crisis, Arkansas has found itself in the crosshairs of problems that used to primarily plague urban areas. Thus, the state has had to increase its efforts with regards to employing workers who can help state residents overcome the devastation wrought by prescription opioid medications. On top of this, Arkansas residents also have a desire to overcome the psychological difficulties that are blocking them from achieving what they want in their lives.

This means that Arkansas residents who wish to help others with their personal problems can find plenty of openings for entry into the mental healthcare industry, the easiest paths being through substance abuse counseling or work as a technician with a high school or associate degree. From there, Arkansas licenses counselors who hold a qualifying bachelor’s degree from an accredited Arkansas college or university. Those professionals who do not earn a general counseling degree and do not move past a bachelor’s work with substance abuse disorders almost exclusively, but most will find that the issues that plague addicts and alcoholics are similar to any counseling client.

Once they've decided to move past work with an undergraduate degree, Arkansas counseling professionals can become independent counselors with a master’s degree. If they've worked with an undergraduate degree in substance abuse counseling, they will find that experience invaluable. Even if they move on to a different population, their work with addiction will resonate throughout their career.


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Counseling Education in Arkansas


Aspiring Arkansas counselors should look for counseling degree programs that are fully accredited by agencies acknowledged by the CHEA. These programs should also be acknowledged by the state licensing board. When a counseling program is aligned with the state's licensing criteria, they are best suited to help their students achieve utmost success in the state's mental health industry.

This page is all about counseling degree programs in Arkansas. This is one of the most prestigious and respected careers in the state and the need is quite dire. We hope that this page will help aspiring counselors achieve their dreams, while also helping scores of Arkansans.

A counselor is a mental health professional who typically works with clients on a one-on-one basis in psychotherapy. The general aim of every counselor is to help people work through whatever problems they may be facing by delving into issues related to trauma, family, or relationships.

Given the deeply personal nature of the profession, each counselor necessarily brings their own unique approach to therapy. While two counselors might work with the same therapeutic modalities and theories, they will each have a different impact on their patients due to the interpersonal relationship dynamics of each individual.

Counselors can also create practices that focus on specific problems, age groups, or other dynamics. For instance, some may choose to work with patients who suffer with addictions including gambling, alcohol, shopping, drugs, and sex. Others may focus on age groups such as early childhood, adolescents, or the elderly. Some even work in environments such as long-term care facilities or schools, including colleges and universities. Counselors can also broaden their practice to include families or couples and they may conduct group therapy sessions with multiple clients at once.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

An associate degree in counseling or psychology is not likely to help the holder work in a one-on-one fashion with clients. The state of Arkansas wants its counseling professionals to have advanced degrees and to satisfy their criteria for mental health professionals. However, an associate degree from a local community college or university in counseling or psychology can help students embark on a path that results in a counseling career.

An associate degree will be helpful in attaining licensure as a Certified Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Technician (CADAT). In fact, Arkansas residents can even achieve this licensure without any degree past their high school diploma or a GED. However, those who start their career with a two-year degree and this licensure will find that they have an easier time landing employment and then moving onto bigger and better things as their career develops. An associate counseling degree will also form a foundation for later academic work and credentials.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

An undergraduate degree in Arkansas is not quite enough to work as an independent counselor in private practice or even one who conducts one-on-one therapy sessions. However, Arkansas does confer licenses for those with bachelor’s degrees. The license at this level is the Licensed Associate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LAADAC), which allows professionals to work with those who suffer from substance abuse disorder.

Since these professionals are at a low level of certification, they must be closely supervised. The good news is that, under this licensure, counseling professionals can log a lot of hours that can be applied to their next licensure level once they complete their master’s degree. Further, a bachelor’s degree prepares students with the academic background necessary to proceed into graduate school. When it comes to being a counseling professional, a bachelor’s degree is the optimal first step.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

With a graduate degree in counseling, a mental health professional can earn the license they need to start achieving their professional goals. Once they finish their master’s counseling degree and other requirements, such as an examination and supervised hours, a counselor can open up their own practice. This level can also help them work as a supervisor in a rehabilitation clinic or other mental health facility.

In Arkansas, as elsewhere, graduate students might choose a degree from a psychology department, but they can also opt for a master of social work. When they complete the training and licensure requirements, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) can perform many of the same duties as a counselor with an MA in clinical psychology. The benefit of earning an MSW is that degree also opens up employment opportunities with state or non-profit social agencies. Thus, an LCSW may work part-time in their private practice and then part-time for an organization. This can be a boon to a career in that these professionals may avoid burnout or simple boredom.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

At the PhD or doctoral level, counselors will find that they are able to not only charge more for their services but that they have other options available as well. While many counselors will first earn their master’s counseling degree and practice at that level for a few years, many students also choose to work through their master’s all the way through their PhD without taking a break for full-time work.

Doctoral degrees can help professionals find work as professors at a college or university. Their degree also lends their writings an extra level of credibility. Thus, if they choose to write articles or books, they may be more likely to find a publisher and readers will find assurance in their academic credentials. They can also call themselves psychologists rather than counselors, which is an esteemed title in the counseling community.

Become a Counselor in Arkansas


To become a counselor in Arkansas, professional counselors need a combination of experience, academic degrees, and knowledge. It's also important to know that they really want to enter this career field. After all, counseling is a highly demanding field that requires a lot from individuals on a deep, personal level. Thus, the first step towards becoming a counselor in Arkansas should involve a personal commitment that has likely been proven in some way.

Many aspiring counselors choose to pursue the field after they have completed therapy themselves. This is common across the field, but many who have used therapy and other means to recover from substance abuse disorder decide to turn around and help those who still suffer. Depending on their relative level of education, they go on to pursue a degree that leads to licensure.

Licensure in Arkansas can start with as little as a high school diploma or a GED, though it is recommended to start with an associate degree. The state will license mental health workers with the Certified Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Technician (CADAT) credentials. This level is a terrific entry toward becoming a full counselor. In fact, young people may be well served by starting at this level because it will allow them to learn so much about drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, which are a large part of the mental healthcare sector. They can even use this credential to decide if this is, in fact, the career path for them. If not, they can use their associate degree credits to apply for a bachelor’s degree and pursue some other field.

An Arkansas counseling career starts gaining traction for those who earn the state's Licensed Associate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LAADAC) credential. This licensure lets professionals work as supervised counselors and thus gain valuable experience they will need later. Further, this experience will help solidify a person's resolve regarding this career choice.

Once they've determined to make counseling their life's work, they can move past the LAADAC level and earn a Licensed Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor (LADAC) credential or become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or a licensed mental health counselor. These credentials require a master’s degree or PhD, passage of an examination, and that professionals satisfy other requirements from the state of Arkansas.

Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Career Counselor:
    While this career doesn't necessarily require state licensure, career counselors should first consider completing a master’s degree. In this position, counselors work with college students to help them choose a career path. Some career counselors also work with non-students who may be unemployed and seeking a new profession. While these counselors do have a deep impact on their clients, they aren't burdened with the deep pain and trauma that their mental healthcare colleagues must endure.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor:
    This mental health counseling career can start with as little as a high school diploma. Professionals in this field help those suffering from substance abuse disorder get their lives back on track. Depending on their licensure and experience level they might also work with families who are impacted by the disorder.
  • Counselor (Private Practice):
    These professionals are the sort of counseling professionals who are portrayed in films and television shows. They are shown as working in quiet, dimly lit offices with sofas for their clients to stretch out on and conduct psychotherapy. However, each counselor’s particular psychological approach will vary according to their academic background and professional preference. This field can be very rigorous in that they are frequently laden with deep and disturbing problems.
  • Family Therapist:
    These mental health professionals are engaged in a practice that seeks to help troubled families overcome their difficulties. They may work as part of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center or in private practice. They often meet with families as entire groups with the goal of helping the family unit heal from trauma or to simply reset a dysfunctional set of coping tools that are causing strife.
  • Group Counselor:
    Counselors who work with groups tend to form support groups that focus on a similar issue. Some are formed to deal with spousal or coupling issues, matters of sexuality or gender and some groups are comprised of people struggling with substance abuse disorder. These groups are varied and cover a range of issues across the human experience.
  • Psychologist:
    This title goes to those counselors who have completed their doctoral degrees. While their licensure is essentially the same as those who work with a master’s counseling degree, psychologists often receive higher pay and status in the community. Given their doctoral degrees, these counseling professionals often decide to pursue work as college professors or instructors.
  • Social Worker:
    This term refers to workers who focus on helping those in need. The requirements to achieve this title are few, but those who wish to get ahead will have a bachelor’s degree in social work or some affiliated field. For those social workers who desire to become counselors, they can pursue a master of social work and then become licensed clinical social workers. Once they've completed the Arkansas licensing requirements, they can work in private counseling practice or for an agency of their choosing.
  • Psychiatrist:
    This specialty area is the domain of medical doctors who complete a residency in psychiatry. These mental health professionals can write prescriptions for psychiatric drugs and they often work in conjunction with counselors or psychologists who focus on the talk therapy aspect of healing.

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