Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), Division of Professions and Occupations is where you’ll find the State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners. Referred to henceforth as the State Board, this is the agency you’ll go through as you work to become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
The first step in becoming an LPC is to become a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (LPCC), a status that allows you to practice under supervision. Being an LPCC also makes you eligible to take an exam and accrue the supervised experience you need to become a fully-licensed LPC.
The State Board also issues the Licensed Professional Counselor Provisional (LPP) credential for counselors who intend to work only in residential child care facilities under supervision.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Colorado
Becoming fully licensed as an LPC is a process that involves these basic steps:
- Earning a graduate degree in Counseling from a program that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
- Gaining supervised experience as an LPCC
- Passing the NCE exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate (LPCC)
- Fulfill the education requirement with a qualifying master’s or doctoral degree in professional counseling.
- Create an online account with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Apply for the LPCC license through this account, which includes uploading official transcripts from your school and this form that verifies CACREP accreditation. Once the State Board approves your application it will issue your LPCC license.
- Work towards becoming an LPC. As an LPCC you can complete the supervised experience and exam requirements to become an LPC. From the time your LPCC license is issued you have four years to become an LPC before your LPCC license permanently expires, barring a discretionary extension by the State Board.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the education requirement, which is the same as the LPCC education requirement.
Step Two – Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. This is completed as an LPCC, and is 2,000 hours of post-master’s counseling experience over at least two years, including 100 hours of supervision, 70 of which must be face-to-face individual supervision. Once you’ve completed this have your supervisor fill out a Post-Degree Experience and Supervision Form and upload this when you apply for LPC licensure.
- Pass the Colorado Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam. This is based on the laws and rules surrounding the State Board, LPC licensure, and LPC practice. You can take this online by following these instructions.
Step Four – Register with the NBCC for its National Counselor Examination (NCE). Once you pass this arrange to have your scores sent to the State Board, and upload a copy with your application for LPC licensure.
- Fill out an application for LPC licensure through your online DORA account, and include a $70 application fee. Once the State Board approves your application it will issue your LPC license.
Learn more about the (LPC) Licensed Professional Counselor License
Renewing Your LPC License
Your LPC license expires every two years, and it can be renewed through your online DORA account. To be eligible to renew it you must complete continuing professional competency education. This must include the following elements:
- A self-assessment
- The development and implementation of a learning plan based on the self-assessment
- Documentation of activities and skills that demonstrate you have a minimal ability to safely practice as an LPC
You can find more information about continuing professional competency education through this Program Manual.
Licensed Professional Counselor Provisional (LPP)
This license is for professionals who want to work in residential child care facilities. You can apply for this license through your through your online DORA account once you’ve fulfilled the education requirement for becoming an LPCC or LPC. As an LPP you must always work under the supervision of a licensed professional. When you apply you’ll need to include this form that details who your supervisor is and the name of your residential child care facility employer.
Your LPP license will expire if you cease working for your residential child care facility or if your supervisor changes. You can re-apply for a new LPP license, based on a new supervisor and/or new employer, at any time.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement to become an LPCC, LPC, or LPP, you must earn a master’s or doctoral degree in professional counseling from a program that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Currently there are eight schools in Colorado offering 15 programs that are accredited by the CACREP. Of those programs:
- 14 are MA programs
- One is a PhD program
- Four offer the option for online study, including the PhD program
If you’ve earned a graduate degree from a non-CACREP-accredited program you need to have it evaluated by the Center for Credentialing & Education to determine if it’s substantially equivalent enough to a CACREP-accredited program to fulfill the education requirement.
Your education program must include a practicum or internship. Programs that are CACREP-accredited are understood to automatically include this.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Colorado?
You can expect to invest at least eight years into becoming fully licensed as an LPC. Fulfilling the education requirement takes at least six years – four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two years to earn a master’s degree. And from that point you need to gain an additional two years of supervised practice experience to qualify for full LPC licensure.
You can apply for an LPC license via reciprocity if you’ve passed a licensure examination that evaluated you for specialized knowledge and skills in psychotherapy, you meet Colorado’s education requirement, and you meet one of the following:
- You have two years of post-master’s experience in the practice of professional counseling or psychotherapy
- You have one year of post-doctoral experience in the practice of professional counseling or psychotherapy
- You’ve been actively practicing in professional counseling or psychotherapy for at least two years
Apply using the step-by-step process outlined above, and arrange to have your out-of-state Board of Counseling send official verification of your license to the Colorado State Board.
Practicums and Internships
As part of fulfilling the education requirement for licensure as an LPCC, LPC, or LPP, your graduate degree program must include a practicum or internship that covers the principles and practice of professional counseling. If your program is CACREP-accredited then it automatically includes a qualifying practicum or internship.
The exam requirement for becoming a licensed LPC in Colorado is the National Counselor Examination (NCE), sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). This is a multiple-choice computer-based test that you can take at testing sites throughout the state and nation. You can find additional information through the NCE handbook.
The NBCC has partnered with the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE). The CCE manages the online ProCounselor portal you use to register for the NCE.
Colorado offers counselors some of the highest average salaries of all states in the nation. Rehabilitation counselors in Colorado earn the third-highest average salary in the country, while marriage and family therapists earn the fourth-highest. That’s according to the US Department of Labor in 2020, who reports the following average annual salaries for these different types of counseling careers, specifically for Colorado:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $54,560
- Marriage and Family Therapists – $70,800
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $52,390
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $51,790
- Occupational Therapists – $90,990
- Therapists, all other – $58,840
Types of Counseling Careers
In Colorado the US Department of Labor reports there are a total of 19,540 counselors working in the professional fields listed above. By percentage that means:
- 43% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 28% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 17% are Occupational Therapists
- 7% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 4% are Marriage and Family Therapists
- 1% are Therapists, all others
Colorado Counseling Association (CCA) – A proud local community representative of its 1,350 members, the CCA has a 20-year history of taking active measures through leadership and legislative advocacy to advance the cause of counseling throughout the state. Its national parent organization is 60,000 members strong.
Colorado School Counselor Association (CSCA) – Serving more than 1,500 school counselors throughout the state, this organization’s primary mission is to promote excellence in school counseling. It provides legislative updates, a database of vacant job opportunities, and sponsors continuing education events like conferences.
Colorado Association of Addiction Professionals (CAAP) – Promoting excellence in this profession through education, legislative advocacy, and opportunities for professional collaboration, the CAAP also sponsors committees devoted to specific topics including outreach, advocacy, the sponsoring of conferences and events, and social media.
Colorado Department of Human Services – There’s perhaps no other state-level agency more familiar to counselors and more involved with the issues counselors see their clients dealing with on a daily basis. This department addresses issues like domestic violence, child welfare, behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse, among many others.
Denver Health – With roots stretching back to 1860, this healthcare provider is proud of its team numbering more than 7,000 who serve 207 public schools and who are responsible for delivering 33% of all babies born in Denver. Behavioral and mental health are important components of this organization, and it offers inpatient and outpatient services for adults, adolescents, and children.
Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS) – Comprised of a team of professional counselors, doctors, and social workers, this organization works in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine to improve the productivity and quality of life of individuals and families affected by substance abuse.
Denver Recovery Center – With a team of medical professionals, LPCs, and LPCCs, this organization helps its clients overcome challenges related to substance abuse and addiction. It offers multiple programs for treatment, including a dual diagnosis program to help identify underlying mental health issues.
Denver Division of Community and Behavioral Health – Under the umbrella of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, this local government division helps communities throughout Denver with issues related to mental health and addiction. It provides education, sponsors programs, and links those in need with treatment options.