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Top 10 Mental Health Therapist Certifications

This article provides an overview of the top certifications for mental health therapists, including requirements and benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 18 min read

Certifications are important for mental health therapists in the job market because they demonstrate a level of expertise and knowledge that employers look for. They provide evidence that the therapist has gone through rigorous training and is capable of providing quality care. Certifications also help to give credibility to mental health therapists, as it shows that they have met certain standards and received a professional endorsement. Additionally, certifications can open up opportunities for additional career growth and advancement, as employers may be more likely to hire someone with specialized certifications or experience in a specific area of mental health therapy.

The purpose of this article is to review top certifications for Mental Health Therapists and explain how they can help advance a mental health therapist's career.

What are Mental Health Therapist Certifications?

Mental health therapist certification is a voluntary credential that recognizes a mental health professional’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in providing therapy services. It is awarded by a professional organization or academic institution, such as the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the American Psychological Association (APA). Certification requires applicants to meet specific criteria and demonstrate their commitment to providing quality care.

Mental health therapist certification can help individuals establish themselves as reliable professionals in their field. Having this credential demonstrates to potential employers and clients that they are knowledgeable about the latest therapies and techniques used in mental health treatment. It also shows that they have met certain educational requirements and have met stringent standards of practice. By having this certification, therapists can often receive higher pay rates than those without it because of their increased level of expertise.

In addition, having mental health therapist certification can open up opportunities for further education and training. Most certifying bodies offer continuing education courses to help certified therapists stay abreast of new developments in the field and maintain their credentials. This additional training helps them keep up with changing trends in mental health treatment and stay current on best practices.

Finally, having a mental health therapist certification may give clients more confidence in the quality of care they receive from an individual therapist. Knowing that the therapist has met certain standards through certification may make them feel more comfortable discussing personal issues with them or trusting them with sensitive information.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research the specific requirements and qualifications needed to become a mental health therapist in your state or country. Certification can vary, so it is important to be aware of any additional training or experience that may be required before you pursue certification.

Related: What does a Mental Health Therapist do?

Top 10 Mental Health Therapist Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Mental Health Therapists today.

1. Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is a type of mental health professional who has earned a master’s degree in counseling and has met the requirements for licensure set by their state. LPCs provide individual, family, and group counseling services to individuals with mental health issues. They also provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders.

In order to become an LPC, one must complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution. The length of time it takes to complete this degree varies depending on the program and the amount of coursework required. Once the degree is completed, applicants must take and pass a national licensing exam in order to become licensed as an LPC.

The cost of becoming an LPC varies depending on the educational program chosen and other associated costs such as books, fees, and licensing exams. Generally speaking, the cost can range anywhere from $20,000-$50,000 or more depending on these factors.

Once all requirements have been met and the license obtained, LPCs are able to practice independently or within a larger healthcare setting such as a hospital or clinic.

2. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) is a mental health professional who specializes in providing therapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. LMFTs are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat psychological issues related to relationships. They often work with couples or families to help them improve their communication and problem-solving skills.

In order to become an LMFT, one must first complete a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from an accredited university program. This typically takes two to three years of full-time study. After completing the degree program, applicants must then pass the national MFT exam administered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). The exam covers topics such as clinical assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, ethical practice standards, research methods, and more.

Once the exam has been passed successfully, applicants must then apply for licensure in their state of residence. Each state has its own requirements for licensure which may include additional coursework or supervised experience hours. Depending on the state’s requirements, it can take up to two years or more before becoming fully licensed as an LMFT.

The cost of becoming an LMFT varies depending on the individual’s circumstances such as where they live and what type of program they choose. Generally speaking, tuition for a master’s degree program can range from $10k-$50k depending on the school’s location and reputation. Additionally there are fees associated with taking the MFT exam which range from $150-$400 depending on where you take it. Finally there are also licensing fees which vary from state to state but typically range from $100-$300 per year.

3. Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)

Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) is a professional certification that recognizes the specialized knowledge and skills of mental health counselors. It is awarded by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and requires a minimum of 60 graduate-level semester hours in counseling, including at least three semester hours in ethics, as well as supervised clinical experience.

It typically takes two to three years to complete the requirements for CCMHC certification. To become certified, applicants must first pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). This exam is offered twice a year and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions. After passing the exam, applicants must submit official transcripts from their graduate program, documentation of supervised clinical experience, and a completed application form.

The cost for taking the NCMHCE exam is $275 USD. The fee for submitting an application to become certified is $195 USD. In addition, there may be additional fees associated with obtaining official transcripts or other required documents.

Once certified, mental health counselors must renew their certification every five years by completing continuing education activities and paying a renewal fee of $95 USD.

4. National Certified Counselor (NCC)

National Certified Counselor (NCC) is a professional credential that recognizes the highest standards of counseling practice. It is offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), and it is designed to demonstrate an individual’s commitment to ethical, competent, and effective counseling practices.

To obtain the NCC credential, applicants must meet certain educational and experience requirements. Specifically, they must hold at least a master’s degree in counseling or a related field from an accredited college or university, complete at least 3,000 hours of post-master’s supervised clinical experience in mental health counseling within five years prior to application, and pass the NBCC National Counselor Examination (NCE).

The process of obtaining the NCC credential typically takes about six months to one year from start to finish. The first step is to submit an application to NBCC along with all required documentation. Once your application has been approved, you will be eligible to take the NCE exam. After passing the exam, you will receive your official NCC credentials in the mail.

The cost of obtaining the NCC credential varies depending on which state you live in and whether or not you are a member of NBCC. Generally speaking, it costs approximately $200-$300 for non-members and $100-$150 for members.

5. Board Certified Clinical Psychologist (BCCP)

Board Certified Clinical Psychologist (BCCP) is a professional certification that indicates an individual has met the highest standards of professional practice in clinical psychology. The BCCP is awarded by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and is recognized as a mark of excellence in the field.

To become board certified, individuals must have completed a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from an accredited program, have at least two years of post-doctoral supervised experience, and pass a comprehensive written examination. The exam covers topics such as assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, psychotherapy, research methodology and ethics.

The process to become board certified typically takes several years to complete. After completing all requirements for certification, candidates must submit an application to ABPP with all necessary documentation and fees. Depending on the specialty area chosen for certification, fees can range from $500 to $1,000. Once approved by ABPP, individuals can use the BCCP credential after their name to indicate they are board certified in their specialty area.

6. Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CCBT)

Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CCBT) is a professional designation that is awarded to mental health professionals who have completed specialized training and passed an examination in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on helping people identify, understand, and change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all interconnected and can be changed through understanding how they interact with one another.

It typically takes 2-3 years to become certified as a CCBT. In order to become certified, individuals must complete a minimum of 30 hours of supervised clinical experience in CBT, attend at least 10 hours of continuing education related to CBT each year for the duration of their certification period, and pass an exam administered by the American Board of Professional Psychology or the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The cost for becoming certified as a CCBT varies depending on where you live and what organization you are getting your certification from. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500-$2,000 to become certified. This includes fees associated with taking the exam as well as any additional training or continuing education courses required by the certifying body.

In addition to passing the exam and completing any necessary training or continuing education courses, individuals must also meet certain ethical requirements in order to maintain their certification status. These include adhering to professional standards of practice as outlined by their certifying body and engaging in ongoing professional development activities related to CBT.

7. Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a mental health professional who has been trained and certified to provide mental health services to individuals, families, and groups. The LCSW is a licensed professional who has completed an accredited master's degree program in social work and passed the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) clinical exam.

The length of time it takes to become an LCSW can vary depending on the individual’s educational background, experience, and the state they are seeking licensure in. Generally, it takes two years of full-time graduate study to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW). After completing the MSW program, candidates must pass the ASWB clinical exam before they can be licensed as an LCSW.

In order to become an LCSW, applicants must complete all requirements for licensure set forth by their state board of social work. This includes completing a minimum number of supervised practice hours in a clinical setting, submitting all required paperwork and fees, and passing the ASWB clinical exam.

The cost of becoming an LCSW varies from state to state. In most states, there are application fees for both initial licensure and renewal that range from $50-$200. Additionally, there may be fees associated with taking the ASWB clinical exam which range from $260-$300 depending on the jurisdiction.

8. Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)

Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) is a professional certification program offered by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABECSW). It is designed to recognize the highest level of achievement and expertise among social workers who specialize in clinical practice. The DCSW designation is intended to demonstrate a commitment to excellence, professional development, and ethical practice.

The program requires candidates to have at least five years of post-master's degree experience and pass an examination that tests knowledge, skills, and abilities related to clinical social work practice. Candidates must also provide evidence of continuing education activities as well as references from colleagues or supervisors attesting to their expertise.

It typically takes between two and three years for an individual to complete the requirements for the DCSW credential. This includes completing the required number of hours of supervised clinical experience, passing the exam, submitting all necessary paperwork, and paying all applicable fees.

In order to become a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW), individuals must first submit an application package with all required documents and fees. The fee for applying for the DCSW credential is $400 USD. After submitting their application package, individuals will be notified if they are eligible to take the exam. Once they have passed the exam, they will receive their official certificate from ABECSW recognizing them as a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW).

9. Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S)

Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) is a specialized credential for mental health professionals who are trained to provide play therapy services and supervise other therapists in the practice of play therapy. The RPT-S credential is awarded by the Association for Play Therapy (APT), which is the leading international professional organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and developing the field of play therapy.

To become an RPT-S, one must first obtain a master’s degree or higher in counseling or psychology from an accredited institution and complete at least 200 hours of supervised experience in play therapy. In addition, applicants must have completed a minimum of 450 hours of direct client contact providing play therapy services over a period of at least two years. After completing these requirements, individuals may apply to take the APT's Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor Exam.

The cost to take the exam varies depending on whether you are an APT member or non-member. For members, the cost is $150 while for nonmembers it is $250. After passing the exam, applicants will receive their RPT-S certification and be eligible to use the credential after their name when practicing as a registered play therapist-supervisor.

10. Certified Group Psychotherapist (CGP)

Certified Group Psychotherapist (CGP) is a professional designation that recognizes the advanced training and expertise of mental health professionals who specialize in group psychotherapy. The CGP credential is granted by the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), a professional organization dedicated to promoting excellence in group psychotherapy practice, research, education, and advocacy.

To become certified as a CGP, an individual must have completed at least two years of post-graduate study or training in group psychotherapy. This includes coursework in group theory and process, group dynamics, assessment of individuals within groups, and ethical considerations related to working with groups. In addition, applicants must have completed at least 500 hours of supervised experience leading groups.

The cost for certification varies depending on the applicant’s educational background and experience level. Generally speaking, it costs around $500 to apply for certification and an additional $100 for each year of post-graduate study or training in group psychotherapy.

Once all requirements are met and the application is submitted, the AGPA will review the materials and decide whether or not to grant certification. If approved, applicants will receive their CGP credential within four to six weeks after submitting their application.

Do You Really Need a Mental Health Therapist Certificate?

It depends on the situation. A mental health therapist certificate is not necessary for everyone, but it can be beneficial in certain situations. For example, if you are planning to work as a mental health therapist, then having a certificate can give you an edge over other applicants. It can also provide evidence of your knowledge and skills in the field of mental health therapy.

Having a certificate may also be helpful if you are looking to switch career paths or pursue further education in the field of mental health therapy. The certificate will demonstrate your commitment to the profession and show potential employers that you have the necessary qualifications for the job. Additionally, some states require therapists to hold a license or certification before they can practice professionally, so having a certificate could help you meet those requirements.

Overall, whether or not you need a mental health therapist certificate depends on what type of career path you plan to take and what your individual goals are. If certification is necessary for your desired role or educational pursuits, then obtaining one could be beneficial in helping you reach those goals.

Related: Mental Health Therapist Resume Examples

FAQs About Mental Health Therapist Certifications

1. What is a mental health therapist certification?

Answer: A mental health therapist certification is an official recognition of a professional's qualifications and expertise to practice therapeutic techniques in the field of mental health. This certification typically involves completing an educational program, passing an examination, and receiving a license or certificate from a governing agency.

2. How long does it take to become a certified mental health therapist?

Answer: The amount of time it takes to become a certified mental health therapist depends on the type of program or school you attend, as well as any additional certifications or specializations you may want to pursue. Generally speaking, most people can complete the requirements for basic certification within two years or less.

3. Are there any prerequisites for becoming a certified mental health therapist?

Answer: Yes, most certifying bodies require that potential candidates have at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field prior to applying for licensure and/or certification as a mental health therapist. Additionally, some certifying bodies may require courses in psychology, counseling theory, and/or clinical practice before granting licensure/certification.

4. What are the benefits of becoming certified as a mental health therapist?

Answer: Becoming certified as a mental health therapist provides several advantages including improved job opportunities, increased earning potential, recognition amongst peers and employers within the field of mental health therapy, and credibility with clients looking for qualified professionals to provide therapeutic services.

5. Are there continuing education requirements for maintaining my certification as a mental health therapist?

Answer: Yes, many certifying bodies require that professionals maintain their credentials through ongoing education activities such as attending seminars, workshops and conferences; participating in research projects; writing articles; taking additional courses; or obtaining specialized certifications in order to stay current with developments in the field of mental health therapy.