Serving as a mental health counselor in New York allows you to work with and assist patients suffering from mental illnesses. These may include depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. While the work can be stressful, many mental health counselors find satisfaction in making a difference in the lives of their patients. Becoming a part of the profession in this state first requires you to learn what it takes to become a mental health counselor in New York.
Earn your undergraduate degree. Become a student at a public or private higher educational institution. Spend approximately four years attending the institution and taking classes in general education and your specific major field to receive your bachelor’s degree. Know that your undergraduate degree doesn’t need to be in psychology or counseling. Graduate schools accept students as long as they have completed a minimum of nine hours in psychology or counseling courses beyond the basic introduction courses in these subjects.
Apply to graduate school. Find a school that offers a master’s degree in mental health counseling, and apply for admission. Submit an application along with a fee and supporting documents to be considered. Some universities require a resume, personal statement, transcripts or an essay to be submitted along with the application, so it’s important to check with a graduate admissions counselor in advance. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as well since scores are required by most colleges for admission.
Complete graduate coursework. Spend the first year of graduate school learning counseling fundamentals, theories and ethics in a classroom. Use the second and third year to complete your practicum hours working in an actual counseling practice under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor. Know that the state of New York requires mental health counselors to complete 60 hours of graduate credit in this field to receive a master’s degree and get licensed.
Participate in a supervised experience. After graduating with your master’s degree in mental health counseling, find a private practice or mental health clinic that is willing to serve as the location for your supervised experience. This is a requirement of the state of New York before you are officially licensed as a mental health counselor. During the supervised experience, you are able to counsel actual patients under the guidance and supervision of a currently licensed mental health counselor in New York. Understand that a minimum of 3,000 hours are required and no hours from your practicum can count towards this total.
Apply for a license. Obtain an application for a mental health counselor license from the website of the state of New York. Complete all sections of the license application and submit any supporting documents required. This includes transcripts showing proof of completion of your master’s degree as well as records documenting you’ve completed the minimum requirements of 3,000 hours in a supervised environment.
Take the licensing exam. Register to take the mental health counselor licensing exam given by the National Board of Certified Counselors. Pass the exam and have your scores submitted to the New York state licensing board to receive your license and begin working officially as a mental health counselor in New York.