A week before the official start of summer, Nevada became the 49th state to establish licensure of professional counselors. California, where legislation is pending to establish counselor licensure (see “ACA in Action” on p. 3), is the only state yet to recognize the profession.

The Nevada Legislature approved legislation (AB 424) to establish licensure of clinical professional counselors June 3, and Gov. Jim Gibbons formally signed the legislation into law June 14. Enactment of the legislation finally arrived after several unsuccessful attempts by counselors in the state over the previous decade and a swift, if somewhat bumpy, ride through this year’s session of the Nevada Legislature. The American Counseling Association worked closely with the American Mental Health Counselors Association and the National Board for Certified Counselors in support of the Nevada licensure effort.

“This is the most exciting news for the profession of counseling in Nevada — a giant leap forward,” said ACA Immediate Past President Marie Wakefield, who has lived in Nevada for more than 30 years and been active in counseling for more than 20 years. Wakefield testified in support of the licensure bill in the Nevada Senate on behalf of the three national organizations at the beginning of the bill’s journey through the legislative process. “Nevada’s high suicide rate and the well-documented need for early access to services for our youth show the necessity of a stronger mental health care system,” she said after the legislative victory. “Now all mental health professionals in our state will have the opportunity to come together to expand resources that the citizens of Nevada deserve.”

“The passage of the licensure bill in Nevada is a great victory for the profession of counseling and for the citizens of the state,” said ACA Executive Director Richard Yep. “To realize victory, many things had to come together, such as the dedication of a cohesive group of Nevada counselors, ACA Immediate Past President Marie Wakefield’s leadership, the key role of Sen. Joe Heck and the support of national organizations such as ACA, NBCC and AMHCA.

“ACA identified the Nevada licensure effort as one of our highest public policy priorities this year, and we backed up that objective with financial and staff support. We saw the Nevada bill as key to our members in the state, as well as for the profession at a national level.”

Requirements to become a licensed clinical professional counselor under the legislation will include:

  • A master’s degree in mental health counseling or community counseling from a program approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs or “an acceptable degree as determined by the Board which includes the completion of a practicum and internship in mental health counseling”
  • Two years/3,000 hours of post-master’s degree supervised experience
  • Successful completion of a national counselor examination administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Examinations include the National Counselor Examination (this examination may be used during the first two years of the law’s enactment with evidence satisfactory to the board of at least three years of work experience in mental health counseling) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination

The legislation defines the practice of “clinical professional counseling” to include treatment, assessment and counseling or equivalent activities to a person or group of persons to achieve mental, emotional, physical and social development and adjustment. The definition also includes “counseling interventions to prevent, diagnose and treat mental, emotional or behavioral disorders and associated distresses which interfere with mental health.”

Unfortunately, the law will specifically exclude from counselors’ scope of practice “the use of psychological, neuropsychological or clinical tests designed to identify or classify abnormal or pathological human behavior,” as well as the use of individually administered intelligence tests, academic achievement tests or neuropsychological tests. Compromises on this and other provisions of the bill were needed to keep the legislation moving forward. Licensing will be conducted by a joint board overseeing both professional counselors and marriage and family therapists.

ACA congratulates Louise Sutherland, Erik Schoen and the many other Nevada counselors involved in the licensure effort, as well as the bill’s authors, Sen. Joe Heck (R-Henderson), Sen. Maggie Carlton (D-Clark) and Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie (D-Reno), on this important legislation. ACA also commends our coalition partners, AMHCA and NBCC, for their investment of time and money in this effort. Last but not least, our thanks go out to all the ACA members in Nevada who responded to our alerts and contacted their legislators in support of AB 424.