becoming a mental health counselor in Ohio
becoming a mental health counselor in Ohio

How to Become a Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Ohio

Ohio has higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse and drug-related deaths than almost any other state. It needs compassionate mental health providers now more than ever, and you can be a part of the solution by becoming a clinical mental health counselor.

After reading this blog, you’ll understand the impact of clinical mental health counselors and the path to becoming one in Ohio. You will also learn how Walsh University’s online master’s in clinical mental health counseling will fully prepare you for state licensure.

What is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

A licensed clinical mental health counselor works with individuals, families and groups to diagnose, treat and prevent mental, behavioral and emotional problems and disorders. Their goal is to empower clients to achieve optimal mental health and wellness.

The most common work settings for all mental health counselors are outpatient care centers, individual and family services and residential facilities. When it comes to salary, the average for mental health counselors in Ohio is $52,080, making Ohio the 22nd highest-paying state.

Certain areas pay higher than average, including:

  • Cincinnati: $61,750
  • Dayton: $55,820
  • North Northeastern Ohio Nonmetropolitan Area: $54,320
  • Columbus: $53,520
  • Mansfield: $52,400

What’s the Demand for Clinical Mental Health Counselors in Ohio?

Clinical mental health counselor is one of the fastest-growing jobs in Ohio. According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), the employment of all mental health counselors will grow by 17.6% from 2018 to 2028. There will be approximately 1,130 job openings every year.

But the growth may not satisfy the demand. The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projects that Ohio will have a shortage of between 880 and 2,020 mental health counselors by 2030.

Top Factors Affecting Demand

There are a few reasons why clinical mental health counselors are highly sought-after in Ohio. According to ODJFS, approximately 85% of annual job openings stem from mental health counselors transferring occupations or exiting the labor force. The remaining 14% are due to the rising demand for mental health services.

Mental illness and substance abuse are pervasive in Ohio and more common than in many other states:

  • Adult Mental Illness: During 2017-2019, the average percentage of Ohio adults who reported serious thoughts of suicide or a serious mental illness in the past year was 6% and 6.2%, respectively. These rates are higher than both the regional and national averages.
  • Youth Mental Illness: Among Ohio youth aged 12 to 17, the annual average percentage with a major depressive episode in the past year nearly doubled to 14.6% between 2004-2007 and 2016-2019.
  • Drug Use: The annual average percentage of heroin use, opioid use disorder and illicit drug use disorder in the past year increased among Ohioans aged 12 and over between 2015-2017 and 2017-2019.
  • Drug-Related Deaths: Ohio has the fifth-highest number of deaths due to drug injury per 100,000 people. The figure almost tripled from 2010 to 2017.

Fortunately, data also show that more Ohioans are using mental health services. On average, the percentage of adults with any mental illness who received mental health services in the past year increased to 48.4% between 2008-2010 and 2017-2019. 

This growing need for additional mental health services means the state needs more clinical mental health counselors to ensure that all residents can access care.

What Are the Steps to Become a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Ohio?

Are you seeking a career change to make a more meaningful difference in your community? Joining the field of clinical mental health counseling will help you achieve precisely that.

The process of becoming a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Ohio is rigorous but rewarding. Mental health counselor is one of the top jobs in the country—U.S. News & World Report ranked it the #15 Best Social Service Job and #94 in 100 Best Job.

Here is what’s required for clinical mental health counselor licensure in Ohio:

1. Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

In Ohio, licensed clinical mental health counselors must hold a minimum of a master’s degree from a clinical mental health counseling program.

These programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The U.S. has over 360 CACREP-accredited clinical mental health counseling master’s programs, including 21 in Ohio.

The program also needs to include a supervised practicum and clinical internship in counseling, plus instruction in all of the following areas:

  • Human growth and development
  • Counseling theory
  • Counseling techniques
  • Group dynamics, processing and counseling
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Research and evaluation
  • Professional, legal and ethical responsibilities
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Lifestyle and career development

You can complete a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling in two to four years, depending on whether you wish to continue working during your studies.

2. Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Credential in Ohio

The next step towards becoming a clinical mental health counselor in Ohio is to obtain entry-level licensure.

The Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist (CSWMFT) Board licenses mental health counselors at two levels: first as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) and then as Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC). An LPC may upgrade to LPCC after completing additional supervised training experience described in the following section.

Here is the process for obtaining your LPC credential in Ohio:

Submit LPC Application

Complete the online LPC application during the final term of your master’s in clinical mental health counseling program. You’ll submit your transcript, a criminal background check and an evaluation from your internship supervisor.

The Ohio CSWMFT Board will review your application and determine whether you’re qualified to move on to the next step.

Pass the National Counselor Exam

When your LPC application is approved, you can take the National Counselor Exam (NCE). You’ll receive scheduling information via email directly from Pearson VUE, the exam administrator.

The NCE consists of 200 multiple-choice questions about the competencies needed to provide effective counseling services. A passing score will earn you the National Certified Counselor credential.

Find Employment

With an approved LPC application and a passing score on the NCE, you’ll receive your LPC credential from the Ohio CSWMFT Board. Now, you’re ready to find employment.

You can search for jobs using the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) online career center. Joining the Ohio Counseling Association will also help you build valuable professional connections.

3. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Credential in Ohio

As an LPC, you’re eligible to start the process of advancing to an LPCC. Obtaining this credential is the last step in becoming a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Ohio.

Here’s how the LPCC application process works:

Complete Supervised Training

LPCC candidates need to complete at least 24 months and 3,000 hours of post-LPC supervised training experience. At least half will be in clinical counseling services under the supervision of an LPCC with the supervising counselor designation (LPCC-S).

Submit LPCC Application

You can submit the online LPCC application before or after completing your supervised training. The application requires documentation of your training as well as a background check.

The Ohio CSWMFT Board will review your application and decide whether you're qualified for the next step in the process.

Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)

You can take the NCMHCE once the Ohio CSWMFT Board approves your LPCC application. Pearson VUE will send you an email about how to schedule your test.

The NCMHCE consists of 10 clinical simulations that assess broad knowledge, skills and abilities in clinical mental health counseling. After you pass the test, you’ll become a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and earn the LPCC credential in Ohio.

Find Employment

Many organizations prefer hiring clinical mental health counselors with the LPCC credential, so you may have more job opportunities after getting licensed. To find LPCC employment, use the ACA online career center and leverage the professional connections developed during your supervised training experiences.

What Traits Are Important for Clinical Mental Health Counselors in Ohio?

The steps above will prepare you for a meaningful career in clinical mental health counseling. To amplify your impact, consider attending a master’s program that emphasizes the qualities in this section. Developing a firm understanding of compassion, empathy, diversity and addictions counseling will enhance your client relationships and help you better support the people of Ohio.

Compassion & Empathy

With high rates of serious mental illness and substance abuse in Ohio, clinical mental health counselors often work with clients dealing with painful and stressful situations.

That’s why demonstrating both compassion and empathy is essential. Taking a non-judgmental stance–rooted in genuine understanding and the desire to help–will allow you to guide clients through some of the most difficult times of their lives.

Respect for Diversity

Another vital trait for clinical mental health counselors in Ohio is a respect for diversity. You’ll work with clients representing various cultures and backgrounds.

In Ohio, approximately 22% of residents are non-white, and an estimated 4.3% of adults identify as LGBTQ. More Ohioans live below the poverty line than the national average and, when it comes to religion, 27% are non-Christian, unaffiliated with religion or practice “nothing in particular.”

It’s crucial to be aware of and prepared to work with people from diverse backgrounds. This means showing knowledge of and sensitivity to cultural, socioeconomic and gender issues and how your own background influences your counseling relationships.

Addictions Counseling Competence

Given the prevalence of substance abuse in Ohio, clinical mental health counselors also benefit from additional training in addictions counseling. You can develop competency by completing a specialized post-graduate program.

CACREP-accredited addictions counseling programs cover the historical, theoretical and biological foundations of addiction. They also equip candidates with the knowledge and skills to screen, assess, test and treat clients with substance abuse disorders and other addictions.

To find an accredited addictions counseling program, visit the CACREP website.

Why Earn a Clinical Mental Health Counselor Degree at Walsh University?

If you are looking to begin a career focused on supporting others in need, Walsh University offers an online clinical mental health counseling program that will prepare you for exactly that.

The online Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development – Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program develops knowledgeable and compassionate professionals. You will cultivate the competencies and skills to elevate individuals and communities through a career in counseling.

The Walsh Online Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development program is fully aligned with our CACREP-accredited on-ground program, and will prepare you to obtain your clinical mental health counseling license in Ohio and several other approved states. In 2020, 100% of program graduates passed their National Counseling Exam on the first attempt and landed jobs within six months of graduation.

The online clinical mental health counseling program is inclusive, faith-based and rooted in compassion. Emphasizing human dignity and ethical foundations, the curriculum develops counselors with a strong self-awareness who are responsive to all people's needs and differences.

As a student, you will develop a professional disposition as you build essential knowledge for the counselor/client experience:

  • Core Knowledge and Competencies: Gain a deep understanding of the counseling profession and the professional roles of counselors.
  • Counseling in Practice: Apply advanced methods and techniques to address psychological challenges and promote optimal mental health.
  • Ethical, Legal and Professional Foundations: Prepare for the role of the counselor in initiating and supporting the change process in an ethically and legally sound manner.
  • Diverse Cultures and Communities: Develop the knowledge, competencies, attitudes and skills necessary to work effectively with diverse populations.

With coursework delivered online, you can complete the whole program in your community; no campus visits are required. You will also receive support resources from enrollment to graduation, including personalized field experience support and a dedicated student support advisor.

Academic Certificate in Addiction Counseling 

Walsh University also offers an online Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling. It’s designed for students seeking to fulfill the academic requirement towards the first level of certification in the field of addictions.

The program is entirely virtual and endorsed by the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board. Candidates build competence in evidence-based practice, assessment and treatment plans for addictions counseling. 

Start Your Career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with Walsh University

Now that you know how to become a clinical mental health counselor in Ohio, are you ready to start your journey? Walsh University can help.

Our online Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development – Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program will fully prepare you to transition to a career in counseling.

Download the online Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development – Clinical Mental Health Counseling program guide.