Illinois Counseling License Requirements

A Guide to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Illinois

Table of Contents

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) issues two types of counseling licenses: the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and the Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).

The LPC license allows you to provide professional counseling services to individuals, families, couples and groups. These services can include:

  • Assessments and diagnoses
  • Treatment plans and treatment interventions
  • Identification and remediation of emotional and behavioral disorders

The LCPC license allows you to engage in professional counseling, and to additionally provide clinical counseling services including:

  • Alleviation and prevention of psychopathologies and emotional disorders
  • Promotion of optimal mental health
  • Psychotherapy, including that to resolve emotional, attitudinal, and relationship conflicts
  • Behavior modification

One of the main differences between LPCs and LCPCs is that LPCs must always work under supervision, and LCPCs can work independently including in private practice.

*Related Topics



Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in Illinois

The general steps towards becoming an LPC and subsequently an LCPC are:

  • Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling that includes a practicum or internship; this is commonly achieved with a master’s or doctoral degree from a program that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Pass an exam for each licensure level from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
  • Gain supervised experience as an LPC to become an LCPC

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Application Requirements:

    1. Fulfill the education requirement. Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling.
    2. Submit an application for LPC licensure via examination to the IDFPR, including a $150 application fee. Once the IDFPR approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to test.
    3. Register with the NBCC for its National Counselor Examination (NCE). Once the IDFPR is notified that you passed the NCE exam it will issue your LPC license.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)

Application Requirements:

    1. Fulfill the education requirement, which is the same as the LPC license.
    2. Fulfill the supervised professional counseling experience requirement. This is completed as an LPC. One year of supervised experience means 1,680 hours over at least 48 weeks, including 960 hours of face-to-face client service. The amount you must complete depends on your level of education: 1.) If you have a master’s degree you need two years of post-master’s supervised experience. 2.) If you have a doctoral degree you need two years of supervised experience, one of which must be completed after earning your doctoral degree; internships can count towards your supervised experience
    3. Submit an application for LCPC licensure via examination to the IDFPR, including a $150 application fee. Once the IDFPR approves your application it will notify the NBCC that you’re cleared to test.
    4. Register with the NBCC for its National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Once the IDFPR is notified that you passed the NCE exam it will issue your LCPC license.

Required Education and Degrees

The most direct way of fulfilling the education requirement for an LPC or LCPC license is to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Counseling or Rehabilitative Counseling that’s accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). There are 20 schools in Illinois offering these programs. Note that the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) merged with the CACREP in 2017.

A doctoral degree in Psychology that’s approved by either of the following is also qualifying:

Alternative education pathway

You can also fulfill the education requirement for licensure with a master’s or doctoral degree from a program that’s not accredited by the CACREP or APA, however it will have to meet all of the following requirements:

It must be from a school that’s accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education. The degree must be labeled as offering the following, or be another similar degree program:

  • Counseling
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Psychology

The degree program must be at least two academic years in length and be comprised of at least 48 semester credits. It also must include courses in the following subjects that are at least three semester credits each:

  • Family dynamics
  • Substance abuse
  • Maladaptive behavior and psychopathology
  • Career and lifestyle development
  • Cultural and social foundations
  • Professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities relating to professional counseling and Illinois law
  • Evaluation and research
  • Appraisal of individuals
  • Group dynamics, processing, and counseling
  • Counseling techniques
  • Counseling theory
  • Human growth and development

If you’re lacking any of these courses you can complete further education to fill in any gaps.

The degree program must also include a practicum or internship that’s at least three semester credits.

If you fulfill the education requirement for licensure via this route, you’ll need to provide curriculum information to the IDFPR along with your official transcripts.

Substituting national certification for education

If you have earned either of the following national certifications by examination, then you can submit proof of these in place of a qualifying graduate degree; the IDFPR accepts the following as substitutions for education:

  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRC)
  • National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential sponsored by the NBCC

Renewing Your License

The LPC and LCPC licenses expire every two years on March 31st of odd-numbered years. The IDFPR mails out renewal reminders before this time. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 30 hours of continuing education for each renewal period. The renewal fee is $120.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in Illinois?

It takes at least six years to become an LPC and at least eight years to become an LCPC. This investment of time includes approximately four years for earning a bachelor’s degree and two additional years for earning a master’s degree. As an LPC it then takes another two years to earn qualifying experience and become an LCPC.

Reciprocity

If you’re licensed as an LPC or LCPC in another state then you can apply for the same license in Illinois if the education, exam –and in the case of the LCPC, experience– requirements are equivalent to Illinois’. Follow the step-by-step licensure procedure listed above for your selected license.

The IDFPR considers the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) as also being a qualifying exam for the LPC license.

Practicums and Internships

To be eligible for licensure as an LPC or LCPC you must complete an education program that includes a practicum or internship that’s at least three semester credits. If you complete a qualifying education program that’s accredited by the CACREP or APA then it’s understood to automatically fulfill this practicum/internship requirement.

Required Exams

Becoming licensed in Illinois requires passing an exam sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). You must pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to become an LPC, and you must pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) to become an LCPC.

Both exams are given on a computer at a third-party testing center. The NBCC contracts with the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) to administer its exams. The CCE manages the online ProCounselor portal you use to register for your exam. You can find more information about the exams through the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.

You can be exempt from the exam requirement if you hold one of the following national certifications earned by examination:

  • Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRC)
  • National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential sponsored by the NBCC

Salary Information

Illinois ranks in the top-five states nationally for offering the highest average annual salary for marriage and family therapists. That’s according to the US Department of Labor in 2020, who reports the following average salary information for a range of counseling professions, with numbers specifically for Illinois:

  • Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $56,650
  • Marriage and Family Therapists – $69,900
  • Rehabilitation Counselors – $42,130
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $47,320
  • Counselors, all others – $41,430
  • Occupational Therapists – $84,700
  • Therapists, all other – $55,950

Types of Counseling Careers

The US Department of Labor reports that 38,010 professionals are employed in Illinois in the counseling professions listed above. Of those:

  • 35% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
  • 31% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
  • 15% are Occupational Therapists
  • 10% are Rehabilitation Counselors
  • 4% are Counselors, all others
  • 3% are Marriage and Family Therapists
  • 1% are Therapists, all others

Resources

Illinois Counseling Association (ICA) – Having recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, the ICA has a long and well-established history of working towards its goal of enhancing the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors. The ICA maintains specialized divisions that focus on specific topics including adult development and aging, LGBT issues, social justice, mental health, career development, college counseling, multicultural issues, and more.

Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association (IMHCA) – With the ultimate goal of contributing to the greater good of society, the IMHCA strives to promote the professional well-being of mental health counselors throughout the state through support services, education, and advocacy. It sponsors an annual conference and advances strategic legislative proposals.

Illinois School Counselor Association (ISCA) – With its roots stretching back to 1958, the ISCA is proud to be a valued resource for its 900 members, who enjoy benefits like free conferences and continuing education, professional consultation and support, and access to privileged information and databases.

Illinois Association for Addiction Professionals – Hosting an annual luncheon among its events that are open to members from throughout the state, this association promotes professional certification as it works to fulfill its goals of unifying and empowering addiction professionals to achieve excellence.

Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) – Comprised of counselors, students, and related professionals, this organization strives to advance the work of counseling professionals, ensuring that equity and access for all students gets the important emphasis it deserves.

Career Opportunities

Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) – This state-level department plays a vital role in helping some of Illinois’ most vulnerable populations. Professional counselors are familiar with the IDHS, in particular two of its divisions: the Division of Mental Health and the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4) – Originally founded in 1972 to help recently released psychiatric hospital patients adapt into the local community, today C4 has expanded its mission to be an overall compassionate and innovative provider of mental health services for the entire North Side area.

Professional Counseling Offices – The team at this Springfield-based company is comprised of LCPCs, clinical social workers, and a clinical psychologist. They provide treatments to help clients address dozens of issues including grief and loss, chronic pain, anxiety, relationships, children mental health, abuse, elderly issues, and much more.

Positive Sobriety Institute – Staffed by substance abuse counselors and addiction medicine experts, this Chicago-based company runs continuing care programs, an intensive outpatient program, a partial hospitalization program, and a family involvement program. Treatments address drug addictions, alcohol addiction, dual diagnoses, and a range of other issues.

Aetna Better Health of Illinois – Known until recently as Illinicare Health, this healthcare network links providers from across the state to patients who need medical and psychological assistance. Its providers offer services for things like long term care, special needs children, and behavioral health.