How to Become a Counselor in Kentucky

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What is Counseling?


Everyone has struggles. Some people can face adversity and find ways to get through them and come out the other side relatively unscathed, with some lessons learned. However, some people go through issues and, for reasons unknown, they cannot navigate to the other side on their own. These people sometimes need an outside source to help them find their way. Many still view asking for help when you are struggling mentally as a form of weakness. However, it’s really the opposite. Those who know they are struggling and seek out those who can help them overcome their struggles are strong. Providing them the help they need is where counseling professionals come in.

Counselors provide help and guidance to people who need to develop tools and healthy coping mechanisms to help them navigate life. Career, abuse, and addictions are areas where counselors prove assistance in sorting through feelings and discovering solutions. Counselors can have their own private practices, work in tandem with facilities, or be employed by state governments or court systems. They also work with adults, children, and families. There is no stereotypical kind of counselors; they work in a variety of places including corporations, schools, and more. A person who is trained to listen and provide guidance is considered a counselor, regardless of where they are employed or by whom.


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Counseling Education in Kentucky


In the state of Kentucky, there are around 3,000 people employed as counselors who make, on average, $43,000 per year. Most work as drug and alcohol counselors; there are others who work as mental health counselors as well. Residents of the state can get assistance with alcohol or drug abuse, therapy after a trauma, and even help quitting smoking and other bad habits. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for counselors is expected to increase faster than average, which means there is a need for additional counselors throughout the country. If a career helping people find solutions for their problems sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, there is information below that can get you started on your career path.

In the state of Kentucky, to work as a licensed counselor you must attain a bachelor’s degree. However, there are other degrees that a counselor can attain both before and after attaining a basic degree, and each will provide a skillset and knowledge that will be useful for potential counselors. The types of degrees as listed below.

Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

There isn’t actually a two-year degree in counseling in the state of Kentucky, however a person can get a two-year degree in psychology or sociology. This degree can help a student determine if counseling is the right career path and, if so, provided the school is accredited, the courses taken will apply to a bachelor’s degree. Students with associate degrees in a behavioral health sciences may be able to work as assistants in mental health facilities.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Associates

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in counseling in the state of Kentucky can get a person started on the road to becoming a counselor but, in most cases, they will not be allowed to work as one-on-one counselors or run their own practice. There are some exceptions, but they vary by facility. A four-year degree in counseling or a related behavioral health field covers many mental health areas.

Some courses included in the curriculum include:

  • Psychology I & II
  • Sociology I & II
  • Child Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • And other courses required to complete a bachelor’s degree

The degree takes four to six years to complete and, usually, at least one internship is required to complete the program.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Bachelors

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

For those who want to work as licensed counselors in Kentucky, a graduate degree is a requirement. These programs cover most aspects of behavioral and mental health, and they may require at least one internship or hours of work experience in a related field. Either a comprehensive exam or a capstone project is required for successful completion of the program. Upon graduation, a person is eligible to apply for some levels of licensure, either as a temporary or full counselor. It’s important to note that the state of Kentucky has different certification and licensing requirements for addiction counseling and mental health counseling.

Counseling Admissions and Career Options for Masters

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

A doctorate in counseling is ideal for those who want to be viewed as subject matter experts, teach at the university level, or run their own practice. Most counseling doctorate programs are combined with psychology or sociology, and there is an option to include clinical care at this level. The program can take up to seven years to complete and a dissertation must be written and successfully defended for the PhD to be granted. Hours if not years’ worth of work experience is also required.

Become a Counselor in Kentucky


There are several different levels of certification that a person who wants to become a counselor can pursue. In the state of Kentucky, counselors are divided into two groups, drug and alcohol counselors and mental health counselors. Each have their own licensing requirements. Below is a brief overview of the requirements for each group.

Temporary Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (Temp CADC) Requirements:

  • Must hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Is still obtaining the required work experience, supervision, and training needed for CADC or LCADC
  • This is a temporary credential that is valid for two years. An extension can be granted via certification renewal

Certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher required
  • Could currently be a Temporary CADC
  • Prepared to take the Alcohol and Drug Counselor written exam
  • Have already met the required work experience, supervision, and training

Licensure as a Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor Associate (LCADCA) Requirements:

  • Must have either a master’s degree (60 hr/30 hr advanced placement) or doctorate in a behavioral science with clinical application
  • In the process of obtaining the required work experience and supervision for LCADC
  • Have met classroom-training requirements
  • Prepared to take the AADC licensure exam
  • The option to apply for a LCADC after meeting both the work experience and supervision requirements

Licensure as a Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)

  • Must hold either a master’s degree (60 hr or 30 hr advanced placement) or doctorate in a behavioral science with clinical application
  • Prepared to take the AADC licensure exam or have already taken it
  • Have met the required work experience, supervision, and training

For those seeking to become mental health counselors, the following requirements must be met:

  • EDUCATION
    • You must hold a master’s, education specialist, certificate of advanced study (CAS), or doctoral degree in counseling from one of the following options:
    • A CACREP-accredited degree program: The program must have held CACREP accreditation the month you graduated OR
    • A counseling program administered by an institutionally accredited educational institution:

      • The program must include at least 48 semester hours or 72 quarter hours of graduate-level coursework
      • AND at least six semester or 10 quarter hours of graduate degree–related supervised field experience in counseling

    Graduate-level coursework must cover the following nine content areas:

    • Human Growth and Development Theories in Counseling
    • Social and Cultural Foundations in Counseling
    • Helping Relationships in Counseling
    • Group Counseling Theories and Processes
    • Career Counseling and Lifestyle Development
    • Assessment in Counseling
    • Research and Program Evaluation
    • Professional Orientation to Counseling
    • Counseling Field Experience
  • SUPERVISION
    You must document 100 hours of postgraduate counseling supervision over a 24-month period.
  • PROFESSIONAL ENDORSEMENT
    An endorsement from a professional colleague who holds a graduate degree in a mental health field must be attained. The endorsement provider cannot be the person verifying supervision or related to the applicant.
  • WORK EXPERIENCE
    Documented proof of having completed at least 3,000 hours of postgraduate counseling work experience over a 24-month period.
  • ETHICS

    Applicants must adhere to NBCC’s ethical policies, including:

    • the NBCC Code of Ethics
    • the Certification Eligibility Policy
    • the Ethics Case Procedures
    • the Policy Regarding the Provision of Distance Professional Services
    • Policies are available at: nbcc.org/ethics/certification
  • EXAMINATION REQUIREMENTS
    You must obtain a passing score on the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examinations (NCMHCE).

Careers for Counseling Graduates


A person can work as a counselor in many different areas and with many types of people. Below are some examples of the type of work a counselor might do.

  • Career Counselor
    Career counselors assist individuals with choosing the career that is right for them. They work with students who are about to graduate from college, high school students who are trying to pick college majors, people who are considering switching careers, and military personnel that are about to reenter civilian life.
  • Counselor (Private Practice)
    Counselors in private practice counsel patients who need assistance. Substance abuse, addiction, and mental health counseling are examples of areas of expertise. Counselors often specialize in certain groups of people, such as adults, children, or families.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors work with residents of facilities who are seeking treatment. They can work in rehabilitation centers, half-way houses, or as part of the staff of a medical facility.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors work with individuals who seek to overcome an addiction to a number of substances or behaviors. Counselors can work with individuals on a one-on-one basis, in a group setting, or both.
  • Community Health Worker
    Community health workers are on the front lines of communities, usually lower income or minority communities. They spend time in neighborhoods getting to know the people and finding out what their needs are and then they take that information to local authorities and organizations in order to create services and solutions to help those in need. For example, a community health worker could be the one to organize a blood pressure screening if the community he or she works in has a large population of overweight or generally unhealthy people.
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
    Marriage and family counselors work with families, married couples, and individuals. When families come to counseling, it is imperative that each member receives individual specialized counseling, and then the married couple may receive counseling, and then the family as a whole may be counseled together. A marriage and family counselor is trained to offer assistance to the individuals and the group. These counselors are often in private practice but may also be attached to social service organizations.

Other areas in which a person can work as a counselor include:

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