ACA Licensure Portability Model: A Fact Sheet

“A counselor who is licensed at the independent practice level in their home state and who has no disciplinary record shall be eligible for licensure at the independent practice level in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and procedures of that state.”
—Approved by the ACA Governing Council, June 2016

Licensure portability—the ability to transfer a professional counseling license when a practitioner moves to a different state—is one of the foremost concerns of professional counselors. Counselor licensure titles and requirements, which can vary widely from state to state, can force even the most experienced of counselors to obtain additional supervision hours or meet other requirements before they can secure a new license after a move across state lines. In some cases, counselors with decades of experience are told that they cannot transfer their license to their new home state under any condition.

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The Road to a Licensure Portability Model

Counselor licensure requirements were set up individually by each state over a period of decades—beginning with Virginia in 1976 and ending with California in 2009—as the profession matured and pushed to establish itself. In the process, significant disparities arose among counselor licenses across the United States, creating many of the ongoing obstacles in licensure portability.

  • More than 45 titles are used by state counseling boards.
  • No two scopes of practice are the same.
  • The number of required graduate credits can range from an unstated amount to 42, 48, or 60 credits.
  • The number of required post-graduate supervision hours can range from 500 to 4,500 hours.

The ACA Licensure Portability Model

The American Counseling Association Governing Council approved the ACA Licensure Portability Model in June 2016.

The ACA Licensure Portability Model calls for counselors who are licensed in one state and have no disciplinary record to become eligible for license “in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence.” The model recognizes that a state may require these counselors to take a jurisprudence examination to verify that they are knowledgeable about mandated reporting and other pertinent laws in that particular state. The model focuses on the issuance of a state counseling license as the key to portability.
The ACA Licensure Portability Model takes into account the increasing standardization of training and post-graduation supervision requirements, is inclusive of all independently licensed professional counselors, and is respectful of the training that counselors undergo.

Why Licensure Portability Benefits the Public

The ACA Licensure Portability Model was designed with the intention of protecting the public. The model clearly stipulates that portability is contingent upon a violation-free practice.
Licensure portability for professional counselors can help the public by:
  • Encouraging counselors to consider relocating to the areas where more than 100 million Americans live with an officially recognized shortage of mental-health-care professionals. Rural areas, in particular, face a documented and dire shortage of counselors.
  • Standardizing professional counseling for the 7.6 million people who move to a different state each year.
  • Helping licensing boards to better meet the needs of underserved populations such as senior citizens, people of color, and the poor.

Frequently Asked Questions about the ACA Licensure Portability Model can be found here (PDF, 52 KB).

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