How to Become a Counselor in Maine

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What is Counseling?


Counselors are highly trained and experienced professionals that analyze issues on a personal and group basis and provide strategies for overcoming them. Counselors learn to listen to, interact with, and observe patients to determine the type and extent of problem areas. Counselors can help patients cope with difficulties and develop solutions that contribute to happy, productive lives.

Counselors help people manage issues that interfere with their lives. As examples, counselors help with stress, chronic causes of sadness, and depression. Counselors work in a variety of specializations and settings including schools, hospitals, clinics, and in private practices.

Some counselors specialize in school students in social, academic, and vocational aspects. Counselors can help people with mental health issues. Marriage counseling and therapy is a widely used counseling service and rehabilitation counselors work with persons recovering from disabling injuries or health conditions. Drug abuse counseling and clinical mental health counseling help people overcome addictions, such as those dealing with the opioid epidemic. Students with bachelor’s degrees in counseling or degrees from graduate counseling programs are in demand in Maine.


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Counseling Education in Maine

Forestry and paper production were traditionally the strength of the Maine economy. Ninety percent of the land area of the northernmost east coast state is forest covered land. However, as the world became digitized, and commerce grew on Internet platforms and channels, the demand for forest products and paper fell. Maine’s economy has shifted with the digital age. While forestry is still a large employer, tourism has shown faster growth in recent years.

The growth of tourism has enlivened the real estate market and rental leasing as millions come to enjoy the scenic splendor of Maine’ forests, mountains, and coastal features. Professional services and healthcare are also among the leading economic sectors in the state’s economy.

As a part of the healthcare sector in the state, a wide range of schools and colleges provide academic preparation to become a counselor in Maine. Students can pursue a counseling degree in Maine on campus, online, or in a hybrid mix of distance and on-campus education. The state’s schools and colleges provide online counseling degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels that can lead to professional counseling careers.

Maine’s economy employs counseling graduates in various roles. Health services providers use counselors to help patients suffering from mental health issues. Education systems need school counselors at every level from elementary schools to universities. Like many other states, Maine families need substance abuse counselors to help family members overcome addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Vocational counseling is specialized school counseling, and vocational counselors help students select education and training to join the workforce in manufacturing, forest products, and wholesale trade jobs. Marriage and family counseling also provides support across a wide range of Maine communities.

The best counseling colleges in Maine have institutional accreditation from a US Department of Education-approved accreditation agency. Students can look for specific accreditation for the counseling program. For example, Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) program accreditation has wide recognition among employers and educators.


Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

An associate of arts degree in counseling is a two-year course of full-time study. Students must complete about 60 hours of coursework that includes general education and major/core courses. An associate is an entry-level degree for positions as a mental health or rehab technicians and substance abuse counseling assistants, though this degree will not help you work with patients one-on-one; for that, you will need at least a master’s degree. The associate level also prepares students for further education at the bachelor’s level.

Two Maine schools offer associate degrees in counseling. In one, students can take a liberal arts degree with a concentration in mental health and rehabilitation. This Associate of Arts degree helps student meet requirements for positions as a certified Mental Health & Rehabilitation Technicians. The online option may be a more convenient and affordable counseling education option.

Students seeking to build towards a bachelor’s degree might select an Associate of Science (AS) in Mental Health & Human Services. This two-year degree equips students with fundamental mental health theories and foundational knowledge. Students will study mental health service delivery and learn counseling techniques. An associate of science requires about sixty credits, divided between liberal arts and the core classes covering your degree. Associate of Science curriculum supports further education at the bachelor’s level.

Bachelor's Degree in Counseling (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in counseling or a closely related major field of study requires about 120 credit hours. Full-time students should be able to complete the degree in about four years. Students in Maine can complete a bachelor’s degree in counseling online, on-campus, or in a hybrid mix of distance and on-campus learning.

A bachelor’s degree might be a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a foundation for graduate education, or a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in a science-based field like psychology. Bachelor’s degrees in this field are limited entry-level degrees for counseling positions and careers. In Maine, and most states, a BA or BS can qualify graduates for roles as assistants or technicians, but not for fully licensed counseling positions.

A bachelor’s degree can qualify graduates for counselor roles in substance abuse counseling in Maine as Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC). Maine will also accept a bachelor’s degree to license or certify roles in supervision, counseling, prevention, and peer support.

Master's Degree in Counseling (MS or MC)

A master’s degree is the highest level of education required for nearly all types of counseling roles. The curricula vary from about thirty to forty credit hours. The distinct trend among states is to require 60 hours of study for licensure, as well as a certain number of hours working with patients under the supervision of an already licensed counselor. A master’s degree will qualify graduates for licensure in every state. After completing a bachelor’s degree, students can enroll in a master’s degree program. Programs will offer a path to licensure and professional practice or a pathway to further study, such as research or academic roles.

A master’s degree offers an opportunity for specialization and a depth of knowledge. The major fields of study in Maine include mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and rehabilitation counseling. Maine students can also pursue marriage and family counseling as distance or online learners.

In addition to class work, student must complete practical learning experiences like internships, and supervised practice in their field. Licensing requires a passing score on standard and state examinations.

PhD Degree in Counseling (PhD)

Doctoral level studies can open opportunities in advanced research, leadership roles in education, and graduate faculty positions. The typical course of study requires about four years and ends with internship, a capstone project, and/or doctoral dissertation. PhD programs accommodate fully employed candidates that must complete their doctoral studies on a part-time basis.

PhD candidates often already have licenses and practice experience. The PhD studies provide a framework for depth of study, research, and innovative approaches. These educational programs must include field work, practical experience, and a focus on one or more counseling areas. The major areas of doctoral study are marriage and family therapy, mental health counseling, rehabilitation counseling, school counseling, and substance abuse counseling.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is a leading accreditation organization for PhD studies. CACREP programs must have forty-eight credit hours of classwork, one hundred hours of practicum, and six hundred hours of internship. The doctoral level is a source of leadership and policy development professionals in the counseling field. Graduate school faculty teach undergraduates and master’s degree students. They also often work directly with and mentor future PhDs.

Become a Counselor in Maine


Maine licensing standards for counseling professionals require educational attainment, experience, and passing scores on state examinations. Maine sets specific requirements by counseling specialties, and all specialties require a master’s degree except substance abuse counseling. Students and graduates should know that Maine licenses by specialty and students should decide upon a specialty or practice area early on in their education.

The education required is a master’s degree, except for the substance abuse specialty. Maine has three licensing bodies.

  • The Professional & Financial Regulation Board of Counseling Professionals Licensure licenses professional counselors and marriage and family therapists
  • The Maine Department of Education approves school counselors
  • The Board of Alcohol & Drug Counselors controls substance abuse counselor licensure

Ranked by levels of independent authority, the state uses the below-listed certifications.

  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADCs) - with a bachelor’s degree, these professionals can operate counseling services to individuals and groups
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors (CADCs) must pass an examination and accrue experience
  • Alcohol and Drug Counseling Aides (ADCAs) require a minimum of high school education and work under the direction of a licensed professional

Maine uses the NCE multiple choice examination for licensed professional counselors; Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors must take and pass the NCMHE battery of tests and clinical simulations. Either before or after passing the required examinations, applicants can obtain a conditional license. They must prepare a supervision plan to gain supervised experience. The state requires between 1,000 to 2000 supervision hours for LPCs and 3,000 total hours for a LCPC, including 1,500 direct counseling hours.

The required education requirement continues throughout licensure with fifty-five continuing education hours during the first two years of professional training. Once completed, candidates can demonstrate the experience requirement and apply for a full license. In addition to experience and education, applicants must pass criminal background checks. Out of state license holders can practice in Maine after receiving an endorsement from the appropriate Maine licensing authority. The state does not have reciprocity agreements.

Careers for Counseling Graduates


  • Career Counselors
    These counselors offer support and assistance to patients of nearly every age and social background. They help patients realize life goals and ways to work toward them. Career counselors need a broad understanding of careers, training, and education. The working life of an individual is an important part of their individual progress. Counselors work with students, unemployed persons, and people seeking a more rewarding career.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselors

    These counselors provide strategies and techniques to help individuals reduce or eliminate patterns of substance abuse. Addictions interfere with the basic functions of living, and the counselor must address fundamental behavioral issues. Communication is a vital attribute for successful substance abuse counseling. Counselors must enlist support and work with the recovering addict, his or her family, and community sources of support and reinforcement.

    States license drug abuse counselors with high school education or higher levels including master’s degrees. States may grant weight to experience when licensing addiction counselors and accept lower levels of education, particularly when combined with relevant life experience.

  • Clinical Therapists

    These therapists are licensed professional counselors that specialize in analyzing and treating emotional issues and mental illness. The typical requirement is a master’s degree and specialization through clinical hours of experience. Counselors must meet national standards for certification, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) education programs.

    Clinical therapy involves assessing a patient’s problems and needs. The therapist must develop a treatment plan and conduct sessions to monitor treatment and improvement. Therapists must keep detailed records and be prepared to modify the plan when it encounters obstacles or failures.

  • Social Workers
    These specialists work with public or private organizations that provide treatment services to help people solve and manage problems that interfere with everyday activities. Clinical social workers have advanced training to diagnose and treat mental illness. Social workers can have focus or specialization on one or more population groups, such as vulnerable children or families in in need of specific kinds of assistance.
  • Marriage and Family Counselors

    These counselors help patients through issues in interpersonal relationships with partners and family members. Family therapists help patients understand their reactions, emotions, and specific behaviors. Therapy promotes ways of communicating and working through issues and toward solutions. Sates usually require advanced education and training for marriage and family counselors. Counselors must work with patients and make referrals for psychiatric, medical, or other social resources.

    Private practice is a typical setting for marriage counselors, however, governments and private businesses can engage counselors to provide resources for employees.

  • Mental Health Counselors
    These counselors are typically a licensed class of professional counselor. They provide mental health counseling services to the public through group counseling or private practice. The required level of education is typically a master’s degree and a sufficient level of clinical experience. States can empower licensed mental health counselors with powers needed to make interventions and refer patients to medical, social, and psychological experts.
  • School Counselors
    work with students, faculty, and families in institutions serving grades K-12. These highly trained professionals provide career advice, college counseling, and support faculty and administration. Guiding students through the challenges of education requires the ability to work with students at all levels of achievement and ability. School counselors must be perceptive and sensitive to social issues, economic disadvantage, and other relevant factors affecting students and their families.

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