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Do You Need a License or Certification in California to Be a Lifestyle Counselor?

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There is often confusion, even within the industry, between counselors and coaches, particularly between lifestyle coaches and trained counselors who advise patients on any number of problems related to lifestyle and lifestyle-created illnesses. In California, anyone calling herself a counselor legally needs a license.

Requirements for a License

California was the last state to make counseling licensure a legal mandate. To qualify, you must have 60 semester units of counseling-related courses at the master's level, or a doctorate from an accredited school. You also must have 3,000 hours of experience in counseling, supervised by a licensed practitioner. You must then pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination and the California Law and Ethics Exam.

Lifestyle Coaches

Counselors are trained to do everything a lifestyle coach does, though the opposite is not the case. Coaches can become certified but are not required by the state to have a license. The American Counseling Association tries to crack down on coaches who give counseling for which they are not qualified.


Nate Lee was senior editor of Chicago's "NewCity" newspaper and creative director in a global advertising agency. A playwright and published poet, Lee writes about the arts, culture and business innovation. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Tulane University.

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