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People seeking mental health services may quickly become overwhelmed by the numerous professionals offering treatments. Someone interested in finding a therapist may wonder if they should seek the help of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors or others.
Because of the variety of mental health professionals, learning the differences between these professions and understanding which option is best can be confusing and time-consuming. Though all professionals may be capable of appropriate treatment, someone experiencing psychological distress should consider receiving therapy from a licensed professional counselor (LPC).
A licensed professional counselor is one type of mental health professional endorsed by the state as competent enough to offer counseling services in many treatment settings. All LPCs have completed their state’s required level of education, amassed the needed experience and passed at least one exam to display their knowledge and skill.
There are different state licenses for professional counselors. Every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have their own version of LPCs that may be known by different names, like:
Additionally, some states may utilize a title for a counselor who is on the path to becoming an LPC, but they have not yet fulfilled the requirements in total. These people may have titles like:
For a person to call themselves a counselor, they should possess a license by the state’s board of counseling. An LPC carries the meaning of a trained, ethical and trustworthy individual.
No matter the exact title, an LPC is interested in limiting the distress and improving the overall well-being of their client by identifying an individual’s possible mental health issues and treating their problems with evidence-based therapies. LPCs offer a wide range of services and techniques to help people feel and function better.
LPCs who have the experience and supervision can help with any number of mental health disorders, including:
Not only can LPCs help manage these mental health conditions, but they can also assist with substance use disorders. If someone is currently using drugs or they are in recovery, LPCs can aid in their treatment process.
Counseling from an LPC may consist of:
LPCs draw from many clinical and theoretical orientations based on their training and experience. LPCs may employ:
Not all treatments are appropriate for every situation, so it’s important to find an LPC skilled in therapies that can help each individual meet their desired goals.
The journey of becoming an LPC is not easy, and it takes time to complete the licensed professional counselor requirements. To begin, every person wishing to pursue their LPC needs to complete a combination of education, experience and examination requirements that their particular state demands.
A person wondering how to become a licensed professional counselor must begin with educational requirements. Initially, that person must obtain a four-year degree in psychology or a related field.
After completing their undergraduate work, the individual must complete a 60-credit master’s degree program. The program names may vary, with options like:
The graduate program should have accreditation by a counseling organization or educational body to ensure the staff, the courses and the overall experience meet the expectations for a quality counseling program.
All counseling programs offer a combination of coursework and field placements to have the student observe and participate in counseling sessions. As an intern, a clinical supervisor will train the individual as they earn course credits for the experience.
When a person graduates from a master’s program and begins to work, they will start acquiring experience in the field. This counseling experience is the second step toward becoming an LPC.
States vary, but all require a specific number of post-master’s hours worked and regular, face-to-face supervision with an established LPC. Pennsylvania, for example, requires at least 3,000 hours of counseling work and two hours of supervision each week. Virginia requires 3,400 hours of counseling, 2,000 direct client hours and 200 hours of supervision.
Along with education and experience requirements, a person must also pass at least one examination to become an LPC. The written or oral exams are usually completed between educational and experiential requirements.
Some standardized exams needed to become an LPC include:
These exams test a person’s knowledge of clinical theory and skills while a jurisprudence exam tests their knowledge of the state’s rules, procedures and laws for counselors.
Of course, anyone thinking about becoming an LPC should be considering the licensed professional counselor salary.
LPC salaries fall into a wide range based on many factors, like:
The national average salary for an LPC is about $65,000 per year, but some make as low as $18,000 and as much as $112,000. Someone working in a small, underfunded community mental health center could make on the low end of this range, while someone in a thriving private practice can surpass six figures.
There are many opportunities for LPCs in the workforce. In either direct care roles or administrative positions, LPCs can work in: