LCMHC: Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

One of the most important things someone can do with their career is to dedicate it to helping others. There are many ways to have a long and satisfying career that involves caring for others. One of those is to become a licensed clinical mental health counselor, or LCMHC. This position allows individuals to care for those suffering from emotional or mental challenges and help them develop the tools necessary to overcome their struggles and lead happier lives.

If you are reading this article, you may be wondering how to become an LCMHC. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as getting hired for a job, as it requires a specialized educational background and obtaining a license. Thankfully, this career path is well within the grasp of most interested people.

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What Is the Meaning of LCMHC?

The LCMHC meaning can often throw people off, particularly within the world of mental health. LCMHC is short for a licensed clinical mental health counselor. This specific certification is obtained when someone has the appropriate credentials, supervised training, and educational background.

The job of an LCHMC is to meet with people in a clinical setting and provide therapy and care. An LCHMC will listen to someone's problems and help them develop the coping skills and strategies necessary to overcome those problems.

There are also other career paths related to an LCHMC. For example, there is an LCMHCS, which stands for licensed clinical mental health counselor supervisor. This license allows someone to not only give patient care but supervise other individuals seeking to earn their LCMHC. Someone who is enrolled in a program to become an LCHMC but has not yet completed the necessary clinical practice can become an LCHMCA, or licensed clinical mental health counselor associate.

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How to Become a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)

Becoming an LCHMC is more arduous than many other careers. This makes sense, given the extreme importance of this role and the impact it can have on the life of others. As such, there are specific requirements to become an LCMHC, as well as licensure and clinical requirements. 

It is important to note that the specific educational requirements vary from state to state. These factors may differ in specifics, but most states have overlapping requirements that are relatively similar. They involve educational needs, earning a license, and completing some form of continuing education.

Education Requirements for Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LCMHC) 

Anyone who wants to become an LCMHC must complete the appropriate degree program, preferably a traditional or online masters in clinical mental health counseling degree  . These academic requirements involve a master's or doctorate-level degree in counseling, social work, or a related field, like psychology. If you know that you want to get an LCMHC, you should contact the licensing board of the state where you want to practice. This will ensure you are getting a master's or doctorate degree that will enable you to practice and earn an LCMHC certification.

Fortunately, most states have programs that will allow you to earn your LCHMC certification. In most cases, these programs will not only give you the educational background necessary to earn your LCMHC but give you the advice necessary to pass your test and earn your certification.

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Licensure Requirements 

A few more steps are necessary before you get your license. First, you have to complete the required amount of supervised practice hours. The number varies from state to state and may also change based on your experience and educational level. From there, you'll have to complete an exam a national licensure organization offers. 

Clinical Practice

Once you have completed these steps and earned your license, you are ready to practice independently and in a clinical environment. In addition, most states have a continuing education requirement of a certain amount of hours. This requirement ensures that you stay connected to ongoing research and helps confirm that your practice is closely aligned with modern standards.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor?

A key question related to how to become an LCMHC is obvious: How long does it take to become an LCMHC? 

The answer to this depends. Consider the steps above: You have to earn an advanced degree, complete a certain number of supervised hours, and pass a rigorous national exam. From the time you start your career in college to the time you pass your final licensure exam can take years. It can take six to eight years to earn this certification, including your undergraduate degree. If you don't include this degree, it can take two to four years.

Like most advanced educational degrees, various programs can enable you to earn an LCMHC in a more flexible manner. This flexibility may involve taking online classes, attending school on nights and weekends, or taking less than a full-time course schedule. Approaching school in such a manner is necessary for people who want to earn an LCMHC but don't have time to attend school full-time. Doing so will extend the time it takes to earn your LCMHC, but it will enable you to continue working while you do so.

Learn More: How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor

Different Types of LCMHCs

Like many specialties within the counseling world, there are different types of LCMHCs. The specialty you select ultimately depends on your interests, strengths, and the type of person you want to work with the most.


Psychotherapy is another word for talk therapy. In psychotherapy, an LCMHC will talk with a patient to discuss their issues, challenges, and potential solutions. This won't be a matter of telling a patient what to do or how to feel. Instead, it will be a review of symptoms and suggestions about better ways to process emotions and feelings, enabling an individual to live a happier and healthier life. Psychotherapy can be very helpful for dealing with various mood disorders, like depression and anxiety.


LCMHCs who work on behavior will not focus so much on how someone feels. Instead, they will connect these feelings by discussing how they impact behavior. For example, depending on the situation, an LCMHC may work with an individual to help them identify why they feel a certain way, how those feelings impact or create negative behaviors, and alternative strategies to help an individual behave more positively.


Some LCMHCs work in group therapy settings, meaning they work with multiple individuals at the same time. When group therapy works best, an LCMHC will facilitate discussion, make connections between individuals' behavior, and assist those individuals in helping each other. Group therapy is commonplace in various settings, such as residential treatment programs and rehabs.


Unfortunately, over 70% of all Americans have experienced some major traumatic event at some point in their life. Individuals may sometimes need specialized assistance to overcome their trauma, manage its aftermath, and deal with long-term physical or emotional consequences. LCMHCs specializing in trauma can help individuals work through these symptoms and address the repercussions of their trauma, including potentially managing any post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that pop up in the aftermath of a traumatic event.

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Salary and Career Info

Like any other profession, you need to know what a licensed clinical mental health counselor’s salary is before you enter this field. Fortunately, there’s good news, as there is a strong salary for this position.

Average Salary for LCMHCs

According to Payscale, the average salary for an LCMHC is around $50,000. The pay range is between $39,000 and $64,000. Extremely strong job growth is expected in the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is expected to grow 23% by 2030, a much faster rate of growth than most careers have. This job growth is attributable to many reasons, including rising rates of mental illness and an ongoing and projected shortage of mental health practitioners. With more and more people needing help and fewer people willing to fill the gap, there is major pressure to increase the number of mental health practitioners.

Career Options

Most individuals who become LCMHCs will become therapists, working in a professional or public environment to provide therapy to struggling individuals. However, there are many specific therapy modes that these individuals can work in. These include:

  • Therapy in private practice
  • School counselor
  • Working in a hospital or health care setting
  • Working in a government facility, such as a prison or forensic hospital
  • Providing mental health care for a nonprofit or community agency
  • Assisting private businesses in the development of mental health or wellness plans

Intangibles and Skills LCMHCs Should Have 

Becoming an LCMHC is no easy task. It involves a longer period of education than most jobs and demands that individuals have (or be willing to learn) certain skills. Thankfully, many of these abilities are either intuitive or can be taught in school. Examples include:

  • Communication: A good LCMHC is excellent at communicating. This means many things, including being a good listener, knowing when to speak, and understanding how to read the non-verbal communication of a client. Sometimes, what the client doesn’t say is more important than what they say, so an LCMHC must be able to listen and understand what a client is trying to communicate. 
  • Trustworthiness: A good LCMHC has the utmost respect for a patient’s confidentiality. They never repeat anything spoken about in a meeting unless they are compelled to do so by law or ethics. This includes other patients, co-workers, or family members. Confidentiality is particularly important for LCMHCs who work in a closed environment, such as a college.
  • Empathetic: A good therapist is not cold or distant. Instead, they can imagine themselves in the client’s perspective, giving them insight into the pain and stress their client may be feeling. Being appropriately empathetic ensures a response that is built on kindness and patience.
  • Problem-solving orientation: A good LCMHC understands that their goal is to help clients solve problems in their lives. Their job is not to give advice or be a friend. Instead, it’s to help a person take a step back and better grasp their own emotional state. In a sense, the best therapist is like a teacher: They help clients learn things so that they are in a better position to live their lives happily and healthily.
  • Patience: Being an LCMHC can be an extremely frustrating experience. In many situations, you may care deeply about your patients, only to watch them commit the same mistakes repeatedly. An LCMHC cannot afford to get frustrated with their patients and “snap” at them. Instead, they must address situations in a calm, non-judgmental manner, allowing them to maintain a professional orientation while still giving needed advice.

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) vs Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC)

Similarities Between LCMHC and LMHC

  • Educational Requirements: Both LCMHCs and LMHCs typically hold a master’s degree in counseling or a related field.
  • Training: They undergo extensive training, including supervised clinical experience.
  • Scope of Practice: Both are qualified to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, conduct therapy sessions, and develop treatment plans.
  • Ethical Standards: Both must adhere to rigorous ethical guidelines set by their respective licensing boards.
  • Continuing Education: Both are required to engage in ongoing professional development and continuing education to maintain their licensure.

Differences Between LCMHC and LMHC

  • State-Specific Titles: The primary difference is the title, which varies by state. Some states use LCMHC (Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor) while others use LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor).
  • Licensing Requirements: Specific licensing requirements, including exams and supervised hours, can vary from state to state.
  • Regulatory Bodies: Different states may have different regulatory bodies overseeing the licensure and practice of LCMHCs and LMHCs.
  • Renewal Processes: The processes for license renewal, including required continuing education credits, can differ.

Despite these differences, both LCMHCs and LMHCs are dedicated professionals committed to providing high-quality mental health care. Understanding your state’s specific requirements and regulations can help you navigate the path to becoming a licensed counselor.


Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) vs Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP): What’s the Difference?

When comparing Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LCMHC) and Licensed Mental Health Practitioners (LMHP), it’s important to clarify the specific focus and scope of practice for each designation, bearing in mind that the exact definitions and requirements can vary by state.

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

LCMHC (Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor) refers to professionals who have met the specific educational, training, and clinical experience requirements to provide a wide range of mental health services. These services include assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

LCMHCs are required to have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field from an accredited institution, complete postgraduate supervised clinical experience, and pass a state-recognized licensure examination. Their training specifically emphasizes therapeutic techniques, client-counselor relationships, and ethical practice within the scope of mental health counseling.

Licensed Mental Health Practitioner

LMHP (Licensed Mental Health Practitioner), on the other hand, is a broader term that can encompass a variety of professionals who are licensed to provide mental health services, including LCMHCs. This category might include psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, and psychiatric nurses, among others.

The requirements to become an LMHP vary depending on the specific profession but generally include a graduate degree in a mental health field, a period of supervised clinical experience, and passing a licensure exam. LMHP is a term that reflects a professional’s legal status to practice within the mental health field, without specifying the particular approach or specialty.

The key difference between LCMHC and LMHP lies in the specificity of the titles: LCMHC is a specific licensure that outlines the holder’s qualifications to provide mental health counseling, while LMHP is a broader category indicating licensure to offer mental health services, which could include counseling but also other forms of mental health care. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for individuals seeking mental health services, as it helps them identify the type of professional best suited to meet their needs.




New Leaf Behavioral Health, Therapist Credentials

Pennsylvania Department of State, Professional Counselor: Pennsylvania Licensure Requirements 

Northeastern University Graduate Programs, “How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?”

The National Council, “How to Manage Trauma” 

Payscale, Salary for Certification: Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

American Addiction Centers, “We’re Facing a Shortage of Mental Health Professionals”, 15 Career Options for Licensed Professional Counselors 

Grand Canyon University, “What Are the Qualities of a Good Mental Health Counselor?” 

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