The Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is also sometimes called the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Practical Counselor or Licensed Mental Health Counselor. For the remainder of the article we will refer to the position as Licensed Professional Counselor or LPC. The Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is a mental health professional who assists clients with improving their mental and emotional health, while correcting negative behaviors and developing positive behaviors in their place. An LPC can work in many different health organizations and with different categories of clients. For example, some LPC’s focus on working with families and children, while other LPC’s might focus on working with those who suffer from substance abuse addictions. Still other LPC’s might work with clients who have learning disabilities teaching them coping strategies and skill sets to overcome their disability. An LPC might work in private practice or within a community health organization, hospital or substance abuse clinic.
Educational Requirements for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)
Most states require that a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) have completed a master’s degree from an accredited program. In order to get into a Master of Counseling degree program, the applicant will need to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling, Social Work, Psychology or a closely related degree. Most programs offer baseline knowledge in human and childhood development, clinical assessments, human behavior as well as a detailed understanding of statistics as this is critical to understanding the field. Many Masters of Counseling programs will offer specialized degree concentrations to further focus on certain client cohorts.
Some examples of degree concentrations include Gerontology counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy counseling, School counseling and addictions counseling. If possible you will want to consider what kind of client base you will want to work with before choosing a Master’s program that is right for you. Some people will prefer to work with a wide variety of clients and foregone specialization in order to help a broader base of people, while others will want to maximize their impact on their clientele by honing specific skill sets tailored to the clientele they wish to work with. Most Master’s programs will require the aforementioned baseline knowledge as part of the program and will spend a significant portion of the second year of the program gaining clinical experience under the supervision of a Licensed Professional Counselor in a clinical setting.
Steps to become a Licensed Practical Counselor (LPC)
To become an LPC one will need to get the correct education, clinical experience and then apply for an pass state counseling board required exams. The following steps outline the framework for obtaining licensure in most states:
- Apply for a Bachelor’s of Counseling degree or a closely related degree such as Sociology, Social Work or Psychology.
- Apply for a Master’s of Counseling program with a Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredited program. It’s important to note that a Bachelor’s of Counseling is generally preferred and applicants who have gained clinical experience or experience in the field professionally are given preference.
- You will then need to complete approximately 3000 hours of clinical experience working under the supervision of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with 2000 of the hours being direct client contact and around 150 of the hours being under direct supervision of an LPC.
- Once you have the clinical experience hours completed the next step is to apply for, pay the fee and pass the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCEƒself) exam.
- You will then need to pay the fee and apply with your state Mental Health Counselor certification board to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
- In order to maintain your licensure, you will be required to complete approximately 40 hours of continuing education credits for each renewal period.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Job Duties
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) are able to work in a variety of organizations including opening one’s own private practice. Specializations in the field can include: school, family and marriage, substance abuse and mental health. All specializations will require certain skills that encompass all clients such as:
- Each specialization will have it’s own expected duties that will vary slightly based on the clientele. However, most LPC’s will be required to conduct individual or group therapy sessions to assess their clients needs based on mental and emotional health and stability along with any mental health conditions they may need assistance with.
- Once the client is assessed the LPC will be expected to develop a therapy plan that is tailored to their client.
- You will also be required to know when a professional referral is in order to refer a client to a psychologist, psychiatrist or other professional as required by the client’s needs.
- You will need to be able to assess your client’s needs keeping in mind that you may need to collaborate with other health professionals or even the court system in court mandated therapy sessions.
- You will need to take accurate clinical notes that keep in mind both the need for client confidentiality as well as the potential need for collaboration with other professionals while safeguarding the client’s legally guaranteed privacy.
- You will need to have strong communication skills and the ability to quickly develop rapport with your patients to ensure that honesty and open communication are occurring.
- It’s critical that you understand your legal obligations as well as professional ethics and are able to maintain both during potentially emotionally stressful situations.
While there are many ways in which the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) have similar job duties and responsibilities, there are also key differences. The LPC always provides counseling and therapeutic services, while the LCSW may also provide therapy, some LCSW’s work in research or administration of federal or state level benefits and may instead refer clients to LPC’s and other professionals for direct therapy.