LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) establishes the individual as an expert in mental health and psychotherapy in the United States. They have received the proper education and clinical training in order to establish a private practice or work at an organization that requires counseling services.

It is important for students to review programs for state regulation compatibility and online opportunity if the flexibility is needed to further their education.

Obtaining a Master's degree is required when applying to get the LCPC, and it must meet standards set by the specific state. This can alternate when looking to practice at a specific state, so students must determine if the education they are pursuing is right for them. There is an option to receive sponsorship when moving practice toward a different state, and rules and regulations also vary depending on the state.

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The LCPC license is a confirmation that the counseling professional has gone through the rigorous requirements that have been set by the state they practice in. This includes the completion of working with clients and having direct supervision both within the program and after receiving their degree. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) is behind the testing required for state licensure.

Holding this licensure gives counselors the ability to work with individuals or groups that are struggling with behavioral issues or addiction problems. They have the skills needed to work with their client to develop a treatment plan or collaborate with medical professionals if advanced solutions are necessary. This opens up career opportunity either through private practice or working in an educational institution, health care facility, or in the government.

What Does It Take To Get This Licensure?

There are seven different states that have the specific credential of a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor:

Education Requirements For This Licensure

States will have different academic criteria to license professional counselors. Applicants must review these standards to determine if they have the proper education to receive a license as this is not up to the institution they pursue the program at. Some universities do provide help in this process and academic advisors will customize the education if needed for a particular state.

Another way to easily satisfy most requirements across the country is pursuing a program that is regionally accredited or designated by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This ensures that the program has gone through a rigorous review process and offers clinical practicum and internship opportunities within the education that is needed prior to gaining a Master's or doctorate degree.

For an example of a state that offers the LCPC, Maine accepts a Master's or doctoral degree that has a minimum of 48 semester hours or equivalent. Coursework should consist of skills in establishing relationships and working with groups, human growth and development, research methods and evaluation techniques, and understanding the legal and ethical standards of counseling. There should be a practical experience and an internship that offers at least 600 clock hours of clinical sessions.

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There is no difference between the LCPC and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and it is based on state designation.

However, this is different than a standard Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) licensure. While both licenses create an opportunity for the applicant to practice counseling in the state, the LCPC is a higher standard that opens the door for more advanced positions.

State Counseling Licensure Requirements

State requirements are similar to gain the LCPC and LPC licensure. Applicants need to meet the educational standards set with a Master's degree or higher. In addition, they will typically need to complete the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE), not the National Counselor Examination as it does not satisfy competence in clinical mental health.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience after earning the degree is needed for the majority of states, and this specific amount depends on the state selected to receive licensure. In addition, this number can change individually based on what the applicant accomplished when pursuing their degree.


Renewal to keep practicing professionally in states are generally set for every two years. Deadlines for renewal will differ when going from state to state, as does the continuing education requirement. There is potential for professionals to receive a waiver of some requirements, such as national examination, if they have received a license in a different state.

Top Degree Programs For This Licensure

Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern offers a Master of Arts in Counseling that prepares students for board certification and many state licensures. The program is geared toward professionals that are both experienced or new in the counseling field. Those without experience in the field can pursue the Bridge to Counseling program, which provides foundational courses in clinical interviewing and the latest topics within counseling.

There are three different formats for the Bridge to Counseling program: accelerated, part-time, and traditional – this is also available in the standard program. Outside of California licensure, the accelerated format is available and can be completed in a seven-quarter span. California rules require two quarters worth of academics before entering practicum sessions, which does not work in the accelerated format.

In addition to either of these programs, students have the ability to add an emphasis in Child and Adolescent. This requires two courses that focus on the evaluation and treatment procedures when working with youth, and the growth and development stages that children go through. These courses do not add to the credit hour total, and students have the option of picking just one of these courses to take.

Holding a Bachelor’s degree is required in the admissions process, but submitting GRE scores is not mandatory. There are two in-person residencies that are required for students to complete – one that helps prepare students for the program and for the capstone project to demonstrate what the student has accomplished when pursuing the degree. This program is accredited by the CACREP, which helps in the licensure process as it has been reviewed through set criteria from an established nonprofit agency.

Bellevue University

The Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling has a curriculum worth 60 total credit hours and is geared toward students that are looking to become licensed in their state and complete the national exam to become a professional mental health counselor. While the academics and hours of experience will fulfill many state requirements, students should review what their state’s requirements are and determine if this program will meet those needs.

100 hours of practicum sessions and 600 clinical internship hours will count toward the experience earned when pursuing the program, and 40 percent of these hours require direct contact with the clients they are working with. Foundational courses in this program include Qualitative Research Methods and Program Evaluation, Human Development Throughout the Lifespan, and Theories of Psychopathology. An elective option partially customizes the program to specialties such as child disorders, Orthodox Jewish treatment procedures, and human sexuality.

The program is accredited by CACREP, meaning that state licensure should be applicable in many areas. Admission is at the same costs for students that pursue the program either online or on-campus at Bellevue, Nebraska. Online courses are through the Cyber-Active Online Classroom and allows students to follow courses and complete assignments on their own time, digitally interact with other students, and utilize resources in an online library.

Submission requirements include applicants sending in their transcripts, current resume, two letters of professional recommendation, and a statement of interest in 1,000 words. The undergraduate degree should have been completed with a least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and the statement of interest should document what the career goals are and how the program will help achieve those.

Capella University

The Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling will help students become certified as a mental health counselor in the state they reside in. This online-based university aids in the process of becoming a licensed professional in all 50 states. Based on surveys from recent graduates, 92 percent of alumni believe that this program helped them achieve their career goals.

Coursework is completed online and requires 10 core courses and 7 specialization electives. Students will be able to apply theory into their work and have a full understanding of ethics and legal regulations within the counseling practice and the organization they work for. This program is accredited by CACREP and includes two internships and a practicum.

One course example that students will take is Counseling and Advocacy with Diverse Populations, which provides an understanding of how certain treatments may not be compatible or appropriate for specific beliefs and cultures. Another course, Applied Research and Program Evaluation in Mental Health Counseling, utilizes what has been learned from prerequisites to process various research methods and develop a treatment program.

There are two in-person residencies that are required within the program, offering the ability for students to gain counseling skills and interact with other class members. Specifically, students will become more comfortable in communicating with clients, dealing with crisis management, and how to work on administrative tasks in the treatment process. These are seven-day stays, which do include time allotment for travel.

Steps To Licensure

  1. Each state has a Department of Health agency that lists requirements for various counseling licensures and prospective students should review these needs. It is not the responsibility of universities to ensure that the curriculum meets all educational requirements, but there may be an opportunity to customize the program to meet certain standards.
  2. Students have completed a Master’s degree in the field of counseling and are eligible to receive a temporary license where needed. It is highly recommended that these programs are accredited as they will typically meet various state requirements in terms of academic credit and practicum experience.
  3. Postgraduate experience requirements have additional hours that are needed for supervision and direct contact with clients. Depending on the state, these hours may be reduced based on the work completed in the program or additionally receiving a doctoral degree. For example, the state of Maryland requires at least 3,000 hours of total clinical experience, and 2,000 hours of that work must be completed after graduation.
  4. National examination is required, which can either be the National Counselor Examination or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination. This must be passed before receiving a licensure, and retakes are possible but limited. In some states, a jurisprudence exam is needed, which reviews competence in legal theory.
  5. All fees must be paid in full and proof of academic education, work experience, and passing the national exam is needed with the appropriate forms filled out before receiving the state licensure.
  6. Licenses will typically expire in two years after being received by the applicant. They must complete additional requirements before getting an extension, including the completion of a certain amount of hours in continuous education.

Career Options

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat patients that are dealing with behavioral and emotional disorders. They may identify specific problems with the client and further research what has impacted their abilities, such as further discussions to determine background or historical events or giving tests to analyze information. Psychologists are often specialized toward a specific group of people or a certain type of psychology.

Counseling psychologists deal less with applying theory and communicate more with clients to talk them through their issues. This may lead to further conversations with partners or family members that may be impacted by the clients’ actions or behaviors. Counseling psychologists never provide medical treatment for their clients, and the vast majority of states do not allow prescriptions from clinical psychologists.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for psychologists is expected to increase by 14 percent between 2018-28. The website cites that psychological needs will rise to help with stabilize war veterans and studies showing the impact mental health has on youth education that was generally ignored in the past, limiting their abilities to learn.

List of Programs

Our Lady of the Lake University 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

University of Denver 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Capella University 🗹 Online Masters

Capella University 🗹 Online Doctorate

University of West Alabama 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors πŸ—— Masters

University of Southern California 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Campbellsville University 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

NYU Steinhardt 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Methodist University 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors

University of West Alabama 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

NYU Steinhardt 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

East Central University 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors

University of West Alabama 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Our Lady of the Lake University 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Antioch University 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

St. Joseph's University 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors πŸ—— Masters

Sacred Heart University 🗹 Online πŸ—— Masters

Concordia University 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors

University of West Alabama 🗹 Online πŸ—– Bachelors

Counseling Career Guide

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