How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor

A Licensed Professional Counselor is a mental health professional who educates and provides mental health services for individuals, couples, and families. Licensed professional counselors are among the six types of licensed mental health professions within the United States. Licensed professional counselors (or LPCs) are not psychologists. Licensed professional counselors are recognized as mental health professionals or as Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC).

masters degree in counseling

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Many states within the U.S. utilize a two tier system allowing higher tier professionals the ability to practice independently. Licensed professional counselors focus on a client’s individual growth and development to provide psychotherapy to clients. Licensed professional counselors adhere to a strict code of ethics to treat a wide range of mental health issues and disorders.

Basic Description

Many fields of specialization train licensed professional counselors to assist clients with a wide range of issues including: anxiety, depression, mental disorders, relationship issues, substance abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, job stress, career changes, identity issues, aging issues, bereavement, suicidal thoughts, self esteem issues, adolescent issues, and even educational or college issues. A licensed professional counselor is required to possess a masters degree in counseling or related field, after obtaining clinical experience and successfully passing licensing exams. Licensed professional counselors assist clients in examining external environments and societal influences while monitoring inner, emotional, and behavior health using a holistic approach to treating a diverse group of individuals. Licensed professional counselors often treat substance abusers, school children, a variety of clients with behavioral or mental disorders, assist the injured or disabled, or help families in crisis.

Preparation

Becoming a licensed professional counselor requires a combination of personality traits and a solid educational background. Preparation for a career as a licensed professional counselor begins before educational training. An individual must possess innate characteristics of compassion, insight, and respect. Future licensed professional counselors must be able to listen objectively while conforming to strict confidentiality and ethical codes of conduct. High school students who wish to become licensed professional counselors must prepare by taking appropriate courses in biology, sociology, psychology, statistics and speech communication. Volunteering in peer counseling and teen awareness programs also allow high school students the opportunity to improve skills to reach career goals and perhaps even increase their chances of acceptance into an accredited college or university.

Related Degrees

A two year associates degree provides an educational foundation to provide for a career in mental health and to advance to higher degree programs. A two year associates degree program in Counseling provides students with interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. First year associates degree programs in counseling allow students to fulfill core courses in psychology, statistics, biology, sociology, and English. Students then advance, during their second year, to more specialized courses in counseling therapy, group therapy, marriage and family therapy, crisis intervention, and professional ethics. An associates degree in counseling allows graduates to become client advocates, case managers, or to practice counseling under the supervision of a mentor. An associates degree also allows individuals the opportunity to further studies and advance to higher degrees.

Attaining a bachelors degree in counseling prepares students for a future as a licensed professional counselor as well as other mental health career opportunities. Students who wish to become a licensed professional counselor usually choose to specialize in counseling, psychology, or social services. A four year bachelors program allows students to advance educational pursuits or work as a mental health professional under the guidance of a supervisor. Most traditional or online colleges and universities offer a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree program encompassing a liberal arts background, or a Bachelor of Science degree program encompasses a science based educational background. Most bachelor degree courses consist of core classes like psychology, statistics, sociology, English, with additional concentrations in the practical and theoretical aspects of counseling, human behavior and development, abnormal human behavior, and communications. Most bachelor degree programs also include psychological testing, interview techniques, and research design. Students fulfill specialized courses in marriage and family systems, child and adolescent psychology, human sexuality, substance abuse, social and cultural diversity, and theories of psychotherapy. Students who complete a bachelors degree program may find employment as social workers or as mental health assistants. Others may continue on to a masters degree program to complete educational requirements to become a licensed professional counselor.

Masters degree programs focus upon further specializing educational training. Graduate degree programs provide individuals with the educational requirements to satisfy the professional goal of becoming a licensed professional counselor. Students enrolled in graduate degree programs generally most fulfill prerequisite requirements before gaining entry into a masters degree counseling program. A masters degree program in counseling provides an educational background to help students reach educational and professional goals. Most masters degree programs involve highly specialized courses in human growth and development, social and cultural diversity, relationships, child and adolescent psychology, counseling theory, and professional identity, group therapy, marriage and family systems, human sexuality, principles and techniques of counseling, and theories of psychotherapy. In addition to course requirements, students in master degree programs also must complete a 2,000 hour supervised clinical internship and certification. Students must pass exams offered through the National Board of Certified Counselors and or other state licensing agencies and boards to practice as licensed professional counselors.

Doctoral degree programs allow licensed professional counselors to gain expertise within a specialized field of counseling. A doctoral degree program allows individuals increased versatility in relation to employment options. There are three doctoral degree programs licensed professional counselors can achieve: Doctor of Philosophy in psychology or counseling (PhD), Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), or Doctor of Education (EdD). Doctoral candidates focus upon counseling psychology, clinical psychology, or counselor educational programs. Candidates conduct extensive individual or supervised research and interpret specialized theories, as well as complete a doctoral dissertation. Students study courses in personality and advanced counseling theories, seminars in counselor education and consultation procedures, ethics, and statistics. Students who successfully complete doctoral degree programs often work as teachers, researchers, and supervisors within the field of counseling.

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