LPCC: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Licensure

Reviewed by: Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs) evaluate and treat clients who are dealing with emotional, behavioral, or addiction problems. Students can pursue this license by completing an accredited master’s or doctorate degree program and receiving on-the-job experience during their postgraduate studies. During this process, aspiring LPCC therapists can specialize their education and receive advanced training in specific areas, such as family therapy or child and adolescent therapy.

To become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, students should make sure that their counseling program meets state requirements for the LPCC license. Students looking for an LPCC-track program should consider regionally or CACREP-accredited programs, or an established agency with a curriculum that is sufficient enough to prepare individuals for a counseling career.

A master's degree or higher is required to become an LPCC. Students can choose between a specific counseling discipline or a generic counseling program that offers a broad understanding of the field.

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MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine

What Is An LPCC?

Many people trying to break into the field of counseling often ask, “What is an LPCC?” An LPCC’s meaning in the field of counseling can be determined by a few factors. Job titles for LPCCs are usually grouped together because they all fall under the umbrella term of “counselor” or “therapist.” Generally speaking, counselors and therapists — regardless of their state — work with people to overcome mental health, emotional, and substance abuse issues. LPCCs are no different in that regard and can either treat individuals on a one-on-one basis or several people at a time in a group setting.

LPCCs don’t have to specialize in the treatment of any one particular type of patient or issue, but some people may choose to do so. There are a vast number of conditions for which a person would seek out an LPCC, including drug addiction, adult or childhood abuse, psychological trauma, or a loss of control in their life that causes constant emotional or psychological unease. Part of what defines the role of an LPCC therapist is that they can tackle a wide range of issues related to emotional and mental health. They also don’t work with any specific age group, meaning they can treat young children, adults, and seniors. What an LPCC can treat, along with the wide age range of patients, is exactly what makes them so valuable in the field of counseling.

It is important to note that the role of a licensed professional clinical counselor only exists in the states of California, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Ohio. Counselors exist in all states; however, they may go by different job titles such as licensed professional counselor (LPC) or licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) depending on where they are.

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LPCC Counselor Licensure: What Is an LPCC License?

Those looking to become an LPCC are likely asking themselves , “What is an LPCC license?” The LPCC license is what designates someone as a licensed professional clinical counselor, meaning you can’t call yourself an LPCC without the license, which is granted to you by the state or country in which you provide services. Those who wish to obtain this licensure must meet some particular milestones—namely, graduating with a master’s or doctorate degree related to the counseling field, completing required field experiences during school and after graduation, as well as taking and passing a nationally-recognized examination.

Licensure is the state’s official permission to both identify and practice as a licensed professional clinical counselor. It should be noted that because LPCC licensure requirements vary from state to state, some states only require a single license while others have a two-tiered system.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) manages the exams required for state licensure, including the National Counselor Exam (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE). In addition to the clinical practice that is completed during the degree program and after graduation, earning an LPCC license designates the licensee as being a competent professional who is able to evaluate and treat individuals dealing with psychological issues. This license does not, however, establish the licensee as a psychologist or psychiatrist, as those designations require further education and training.

Having licensure as an LPCC indicates that the professional has gone through a rigorous educational, experiential, and examination process that makes them qualified to practice their counseling techniques with individuals and groups. There is a legal requirement to hold a license if the professional looks to practice therapy or counseling services. This distinguishes the professional as being more highly trained and qualified to provide mental health services, as compared to the generic “counseling” term, which doesn’t always require a license (depending on the state you live in) and could refer to a life coach giving advice on topics such as improving health and fitness.

According to Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC, “It’s important that you understand the laws that govern the counseling and psychotherapy-related licenses in your state, whether that is LPCC or something else. It’s also important that you check to see whether terms like “counselor” or “therapist” are legally protected titles in your state. This will help you avoid providing services under a title that you’re not legally allowed to claim.”

What States Allow You to Get an LPCC License?

Now that we’re up to speed on what an LPCC license is, we can delve deeper into where this license can be obtained. As previously mentioned, the title of LPCC only exists in certain states, even though counselors exist nationwide. Seven different states have the specific credential of a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor:

The terms LPCC and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor have the same meaning. However, there is a difference between an LPCC and a standard Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Both of these licenses permit the practice of counseling, but the LPCC will often have more of a specific focus on mental health; the LPC is broader and may include career counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and other areas not directly related to mental health. There are areas of opportunity to advance as an LPCC, meaning that a person could potentially open their own practice or serve as a mentor to LPCCs new to the field of counseling.

Education Requirements to Become an LPCC

There are different academic rules set by states when it comes to gaining licensure as an LPCC to practice counseling. These standards may not be equivalent to a student’s chosen program, so it is up to them to determine if the curriculum and state requirements are compatible. In nearly all cases, programs that have received regional accreditation or are designated by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) will have acceptable academic offerings.

Typical course topics for this license track may include human growth and development, group counseling, professional development and ethics, and theory and research methods.

For an example of a state that offers the LPCC, California requires 60 semester credit hours, or 90 quarter credit hours. Fifteen semester credit hours are needed in advanced clinical coursework, along with at least 280 supervised hours of direct service with patients. Any alternatives to these requirements must be documented and explained in the application process.

State Requirements for LPCC Licensure

States have their own specific guidelines for obtaining LPCC licensure; however, some of them are similar across the board, regardless of location. The first common requirement is that the master’s or doctorate degree should be from an accredited institution. Additionally, applicants must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE) and/or the National Counselor Examination (NCE), both offered by the NBCC. All states require at least one to obtain LPCC licensure, but some operate on the aforementioned “two-tiered system” when it comes to examinations, in which an applicant may be required to pass both exams at different points of licensure.

Postgraduate clinical supervision is typically needed for licensure. This number of required hours is based on specific requirements set by the state, which includes each state’s allowance of how much experience earned before graduation will count toward overall supervised experience requirements. Some states will allow licensees to earn hours toward licensure prior to graduating, while others will only allow hours earned post-graduation to be counted.

This license typically needs to be renewed every two years. States have different rules and deadlines in place for licensees to take action before their license expires, which includes obtaining regular continuing education credits. The amount of continuing education credits required also varies by state, but generally falls between 20 to 40 prior to each renewal.

Top LPCC Programs

Concordia University-Irvine

The Townsend Institute at Concordia University offers the Master of Arts in Counseling with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health. Students can expect to complete the LPCC program in a span of two to three years depending on how much time they dedicate to coursework. Accredited by CACREP, the curriculum at Concordia University-Irvine meets the requirements needed for licensure in many states across the country.

Sixty total credit hours are needed for the completion of the program. In the beginning, students will experience a four-day Kickoff Conference that provides an introduction to the format and what to expect over the coming years. In addition to the core curriculum and clinical practice needed, students will choose two electives to customize their education, with options including Foundations of Play Therapy, Foundations of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Foundations of Spiritual Formation and Direction.

Over the course of the program, students will be able to analyze their clients by establishing relationships whether on an individual basis or among the group. They determine the best treatment path based on theory and data researched within the program. Interventions explored include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychopharmacology — the latter being the study on the mental effects of drugs.

Requirements for admission include the submission of an application with fee (unless the applicant attended an introductory information night), official transcripts that show proof of a completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with at least a 3.0 GPA, and a two-page written essay where the applicant explains professional goals and personality traits that will help form successful relationships with patients. In addition to an updated resume, at least one professional reference is needed.

 

St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

St. Mary’s offers a Master of Arts in Counseling and Psychological Services (MACPS). This LPCC-track program helps students develop a skill set to analyze human behavior and helps people restore their psychological well-being. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, graduates are able to add educational requirements to the curriculum needed to become an LPCC in Minnesota.

A total of 48 credit hours are required to complete the program, which is estimated to take students around two years. Acceptance into the program takes place in August, January, and May each school year, and students can pursue the degree at the Minneapolis and Rochester campus sites. There is no specific online program available through this university, but there is a blend of on-campus and online course options.

The curriculum is divided into core courses that offer topics in counseling theory, research methods, and psychology. A total of 15 credit hours are divided up into specific assessment and counseling courses, with additional courses in Social Psychology, Psychophysiology, and Ethics and Professional Issues in Psychology. Two semesters of practicum sessions will give students at least 700 hours of clinical experience, and there is an additional seminar class that is taken along with the practicum.

There is an option to pursue a dual degree that combines the MACPS with a Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies. This adds 12 credit hours to the program and gives additional coursework in theory and evidence-based practices within diagnosing addictions and treatment planning. Students have the option to pursue a Doctorate of Psychology in Counseling Psychology and complete this advanced program in a quicker timeframe with an early entry designation.

Steps to Getting Licensure as an LPCC Therapist

Step 1: Review Requirements

Prospective students looking to obtain a master’s degree in counseling should review if the program curriculum they’re looking at offers the academic requirements set by the state in which they are receiving licensure. It is not the responsibility of the institution to match state licensure, but accreditation generally ensures that the program will meet these requirements. For example, most accredited universities in the state of California will offer programs that meet the state of California’s requirements to become an LPCC therapist. Do your due diligence and double-check before enrolling in an LPCC program.

Step 2: Postgraduate Experience

Postgraduate experience requirements will require graduates to obtain additional direct-service hours while working under supervision. In the state of North Dakota, for example, applicants must have completed 700 hours of clinical training during their program, and 3,000 hours of post-graduate work experience, which includes 100 hours of direct clinical supervision.

Step 3: Examination

National examination is mandatory and generally requires the NCMHCE and/or the NCE. Different states have different exam requirements to become an LPCC therapist or other counselor. These exams are managed through the NBCC, which also offers board certifications that professionals may consider to increase job opportunities.

Step 4: Additional Requirements

All licensing and exam fees must be paid in full, and prospective licensees must provide proof of education, work experience, and a passing score on the national exam to be awarded the LPCC designation . In some states, an additional jurisprudence examination may need to be completed, and/or the passing of a criminal background check.

Step 5: LPCC Licensure Renewal

Licenses typically expire in two years after being awarded to the applicant. In the state of North Dakota, there is a requirement of completing a total of 40 hours of continuing education, which includes 10 hours of clinical professional development. Other states will have their own requirements regarding the number of CEU hours a licensee is supposed to complete. LPCCs must also provide an updated statement of intent describing the counseling that is being practiced and explaining any impairments or criminal activity that have taken place if applicable.

Career Options After Getting an LPCC Degree

“What is an LPCC?” is the question that leads many individuals down the path to becoming educated in the field of counseling and entering the helping profession as a counselor.

Those with an LPCC degree will have several career options to choose from in a wide range of settings. Counseling is available at hospitals, school districts, and agencies that specialize in these services. LPCCs learn skills in evaluating individuals in one-on-one or group sessions, developing  treatment plans that promote healthier coping skills, working with medical officials capable of providing medical interventions, and applying theory they have learned in their education in a therapeutic setting.

There are job opportunities for LPCCs as school and career counselors, who help students of all ages with academic, social, and emotional needs. School counselors work in both public and private schools for grades K thru 12 and also at the collegiate level. Career counselors work with those who are working or almost at the age where they can enter the workforce. There are many different types of counselors in this field; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups them all under school and career counselors. Currently, it reports that counselors make a median annual income of $58,120 and that the job growth is expected to rise by 8% between 2019 and 2029 (faster than the average for all occupations). 

Another career for LPCCs is that of a psychologist, which generally requires at least a Doctorate degree and additional educational and experiential requirements, as well as additional licensing requirements with the state. Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social behaviors and will either work independently gathering research, or may work clinically with clients in a direct-care role. Some psychologists work as part of a healthcare team, such as in a medical facility or as part of a private practice. Although projected job growth isn’t as high as other LPCC careers (3% for 2019 to 2029), according to the BLS, the median annual salary is $82,180.

In addition to the careers already mentioned, an individual with an LPCC degree could also pursue a career as a mental health counselor, pediatric counselor, grief counselor, geriatric counselor, veteran counselor, substance abuse counselor, and behavioral counselor, among other roles. Although the median annual pay for most of these job titles won’t be as high as a psychologist’s, counselors do find value in the fact that they are helping people on a daily basis overcome their issues. Additionally, the field of counseling is estimated to keep growing as population numbers keep increasing year over year. It is a stable field with ample opportunity for growth for those who see the benefits of helping people overcome personal, emotional and behavioral problems.

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