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Starting a practice

Multi-state credentialing: How to acquire a secondary license

An abstract illustration of overlapping lines

Each state has specific licensing requirements for practicing providers. Here's where to start if you're looking to expand your practice across state lines.

How to get a secondary license

These steps can help you navigate the process of obtaining and maintaining a license in multiple states:

1. Research state requirements

Research the specific licensing requirements for each state you wish to practice in. Each state has its own licensing board with unique regulations regarding education, supervised experience, examinations, and other criteria. You can find these boards by searching for "[State] counseling board" or "[State] psychology board" online.

2. Confirm education and training

As with your primary practice state, your secondary license will typically require graduation from an accredited master's or doctoral program in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field. Some states may require specific coursework or training hours in certain areas.

3. Accumulate supervised experience

Many states require therapists to accrue a certain number of supervised clinical hours post-graduation. This typically involves working under the supervision of a licensed therapist or counselor.

4. Pass licensure examinations

You'll be required to pass the licensure examinations mandated by each state you wish to practice in. These exams often include a national exam, such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), as well as state-specific exams.

5. Apply for licensure

After meeting the education, experience, and examination requirements, you can apply for licensure in each state. This usually involves submitting an application, transcripts, exam scores, proof of supervised experience, and any other required documentation.

6. Background checks and references

Some states may require background checks or letters of reference as part of the licensure application process.

7. Maintain licensure requirements

Once licensed in multiple states, you must fulfill each state's requirements for license renewal, which often includes continuing education credits and adherence to ethical standards.

8. Stay informed

Regulations and requirements for licensure can change over time, so it's critical to stay informed about any updates or changes in the licensing process for each state you're are licensed in.

States with the most straightforward licensing process

While the ease and speed of obtaining licensure can vary based on individual circumstances, there are some states known for having relatively straightforward licensing processes for therapists.

These states often have fewer requirements or faster processing times. However, it's important to note that the definition of "easiest" and "quickest" can vary depending on factors such as educational background, clinical experience, and exam performance.

Here are a few states that are commonly considered to have relatively efficient licensing processes for therapists:

1. Arizona

Arizona is known for having a streamlined licensing process for therapists. The state offers licensure by endorsement for individuals who hold a license in good standing from another state with comparable requirements.

2. Colorado

Colorado's licensing process for therapists is known to be relatively straightforward. The state requires completion of the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) and submission of required documentation.

3. Illinois

Illinois has a straightforward licensing process for therapists, with clear requirements and relatively efficient processing times. The state offers licensure by endorsement for individuals who hold licenses in other states with comparable requirements.

4. New Hampshire

New Hampshire is often cited as having a relatively efficient licensing process for therapists. The state requires completion of the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) and submission of required documentation.

5. Oregon

Oregon's licensing process for therapists is known to be relatively efficient, with clear requirements and straightforward procedures. The state offers licensure by endorsement for individuals who hold licenses in other states with comparable requirements.

While these states are commonly cited for their relatively efficient licensing processes, you should thoroughly research the specific requirements and procedures for licensure in any state you wish to practice in.

Individual experiences with the licensing process can vary, so it's advisable to consult with licensing boards and professionals familiar with the process in each state.

Cost to get a secondary license

Overall, the total cost of obtaining a second license as a therapist can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.

Costs can vary widely depending on several factors, including the state you're seeking licensure in, your educational background, the type of license you're pursuing, and any additional requirements such as exams or background checks. It's essential to research the specific requirements and fees for licensure in the state(s) you're interested in and budget accordingly.

Here are some common expenses you might encounter:

Application fees

Most states require an application fee when you apply for licensure. These fees can range from around $100 to $300 or more, depending on the state.

Exam fees

If the state requires you to take a licensing exam, such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), you'll need to pay exam fees. These fees can vary but typically range from $200 to $500.

Transcript fees

Some states require official transcripts from your educational institution(s) as part of the application process. There may be fees associated with obtaining these transcripts, typically ranging from $5 to $15 per transcript.

Supervision costs

If your second license requires supervised experience, you may need to pay for supervision sessions. The cost of supervision can vary widely depending on factors such as the supervisor's rates and the number of hours required.

Travel expenses

If you need to travel to another state for exams, interviews, or other requirements, you'll need to budget for transportation, lodging, and meals.

Fees associated with unique state requirements

Depending on the state and your individual circumstances, you may encounter additional costs such as background checks, fingerprinting fees, or coursework requirements.

Other things to consider when practicing in a second state

Consider these additional factors to help you navigate the transition smoothly and ensure that you're well-prepared to practice as a therapist in your new location.

Reciprocity and endorsement

Some states have agreements or processes in place that allow for easier licensure transfer if you're already licensed in another state. This is often referred to as reciprocity or endorsement. Research whether the state you're interested in offers such programs and what the requirements are.

Timeline

Consider the timeline for obtaining licensure in the new state. Licensing processes can vary in duration, with some states processing applications more quickly than others. Be sure to plan ahead and understand the expected timeline for each step of the process.

Continuing education requirements

Many states require licensed therapists to complete continuing education (CE) credits to maintain their license. If you're obtaining licensure in a new state, familiarize yourself with the CE requirements and ensure that you'll be able to fulfill them once licensed.

Scope of practice

Be aware that licensure requirements and scopes of practice can vary from state to state. Make sure you understand the scope of practice allowed by the new state's licensing board and how it may differ from your current state.

Professional liability insurance

If you plan to practice independently or in a private setting, consider obtaining professional liability insurance. This can protect you in the event of malpractice claims or other legal issues.

Network and resources

Building a professional network in your new state can be invaluable. Consider joining local professional organizations, attending conferences or workshops, and connecting with colleagues in your area of practice.

Taxes

Depending on where you're licensed and where you practice, you may need to consider tax implications. Consult with a tax advisor or accountant to understand any tax obligations associated

Grow your practice with a secondary license

Multi-state licensure and credentialing can be an effective way to expand your work as a therapist, but you’ll need to put in some work to market your practice to new clients in a new state.

This can include things like:

  • Updating your Psychology Today profile
  • Joining other therapist directories
  • Tweaking your website
  • Sending an email blast
  • Joining local groups and networking

Above all else: Be patient. It’s exciting to get credentialed in a new state, but as you probably remember from when you first started your practice, growing your caseload doesn’t happen overnight. As you take steps to market your practice, you may need to be patient. Focus on doing your best to support the clients you already see and building credibility in your professional network, and your practice will grow organically — in due time.

Build your practice with Headway

Once licensed, Headway providers get access to our fast-track credentialing in every state across the country, allowing you to start seeing clients sooner.

If you're a Headway provider, you can reach out to your practice consultant to create a specialized strategy for your practice.

And if you're not a Headway provider, join today!

In addition to our enhanced rates and fast credentialing process, Headway now includes the EHR features and support you need to operate your practice. From client documentation and scheduling, to free CEUs and dedicated support, Headway provides the foundation you need to grow an insurance practice.

Join Headway and get the support you need to serve your clients, stay compliant, and focus on what matters most.

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