Part of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR), the state’s Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Addiction Counselors and Psycho-Educational Specialists –henceforth the “State Board”– issues the credentials you’ll need to engage in professional counseling throughout the state. As you go through the process of becoming licensed, you’ll find the information and forms you need to make an application through the State Board.
The full credential that allows you to engage in professional counseling is the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Before you can qualify to become an LPC you’ll need to gain supervised counseling experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPC Associate).
While the LLR and State Board serve as your starting point for making an application, the State Board has contracted with the national organization, the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), to process all LPC Associate and LPC licensure applications.
Steps Towards Counseling Licensure in South Carolina
Becoming fully licensed as an LPC is a process that involves these basic steps:
- Earn a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a closely related field that includes a practicum
- Pass an exam that’s sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
- Become an LPC Associate and accrue hours of supervised counseling work experience
- Apply for a full LPC license
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Associate
- Fulfill the education requirement by earning a qualifying graduate degree in Counseling or a closely related field that includes a practicum. Have your school send your official transcripts directly to the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE).
- The purpose of being an LPC Associate is to accrue hours of supervised experience and qualify for the full LPC license. You’ll need to find a supervisor who will supervise you as you fulfill the LPC’s supervised experience requirement. You can find a list of approved supervisors here. Fill out a Plan and Arrangements for Clinical Supervision form with your supervisor and include this with your LPC Associate application.
- Submit an application for LPC Associate licensure to the CCE. This includes sections to verify you’ve fulfilled your education requirement, including a qualifying practicum. The application fee is $170.
- Fulfill the exam requirement. Once the CCE approves your application it will send you registration material that you can use to register for an NBCC exam. Passing either one of the following will fulfill the exam requirement: 1.) National Counselor Examination (NCE) 2.) National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
- Once the South Carolina State Board has been notified by the CCE that you’ve successfully completed the LPC Associate application process, you can pay the State Board a $150 licensing fee and receive your LPC Associate license.
- With an LPC Associate license you can start accruing hours to fulfill the LPC’s supervised counseling experience requirement. Keep track of your hours on an LPC Associate Supervision
Log, and submit this to the CCE when you make an application for full LPC licensure.
- Apply for an extension for your LPC Associate license, if necessary. Your license is valid for two years, which should be enough time for you to qualify for full LPC licensure. However if you need more time you can apply for a two-year extension by submitting the following to the CCE:
- LPC Associate Extension request form
- $150 fee
- An updated Plan and Arrangements for Clinical Supervision form
- A brief letter explaining why you need an extension
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Fulfill the supervised experience requirement. As an LPC Associate you must accrue 1,500 hours of supervised post-master’s clinical experience over not less than two years. This must be hours of direct counseling experience with individuals, couples, families, or groups, and include at least 120 hours of immediate supervision from your supervisor. Once you’ve fulfilled this requirement complete an LPC Confirmation of Clinical Supervision form with your supervisor and include this with your application for LPC licensure.
- Submit an application to transfer your LPC Associate license to a full LPC license to the CCE. The CCE will provide you with a pro-rated fee you must pay and then it will notify the South Carolina State Board that your application has been approved. Then the State Board will issue your LPC license.
Becoming an approved LPC Supervisor (LPC/S)
Once you’ve been engaged in active clinical experience five years, and your license is current and in good standing, you can apply to become a State Board-approved LPC Supervisor (LPC/S). Active clinical experience is considered to start once you become licensed as an LPC Associate.
You can initiate this process once you’ve been licensed as an LPC for one year. At this point you can begin a two-year period of supervision to become an LPC/S. During this two-year period you will be supervised as you provide supervision to at least two LPC Associates. To begin this process submit a Plan of Supervision for Candidate of LPC Supervisor Licensure to the State Board. Once this is approved and you start accruing experience, keep track of it on an LPC Supervisor Candidate Log of Hours and a Supervision Log. You need to accrue at least 36 hours of supervision from your supervisor. Include these two logs with your application to become an LPC/S.
You’ll also need to complete a three semester credit course that’s supervision-oriented. You can do this as part of the degree program you use to fulfill the education requirement or with a supplemental course you take later. Include your official transcripts with your application.
Once you’re qualified you can submit an LPC/S application to the State Board, along with a $100 fee.
Renewing Your LPC License
The LPC and LPC/S licenses expire every two years. You can renew online with the South Carolina LLR. To be eligible for renewal you must complete 40 hours of continuing education. The LPC renewal fee is $150.
If you’re an LPC/S you need to complete 10 hours of supervisor-oriented continuing education during each licensure period, and your renewal fee is $100.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Counselor in South Carolina?
You can expect to invest eight years into becoming fully licensed as an LPC. It takes at least six years to fulfill the education requirement: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and two additional years to earn a master’s degree in Counseling. This qualifies you for the LPC Associate license, and with that you can gain two years of supervised experience to qualify for the LPC.
You can qualify for licensure via endorsement if the requirements in your state were the same or more stringent than South Carolina’s. Fill out the application and submit the necessary materials for your licensure level as detailed in the step-by-step process above, however use this application if you’re applying for the LPC license. Have your state’s Board of Counseling send the CCE a Verification of Licensure for Endorsement form. To qualify, your out-of-state license must be currently active and unrestricted.
Practicums and Internships
The degree program you use to fulfill the education requirement for licensure must include a practicum. Before you can begin fulfilling the supervised experience requirement as an LPC Associate you must have completed 100 hours of a counseling practicum that counts for academic credit and covers areas like assessment and treatment.
You’ll need to complete a 600-hour internship that deals with serious counseling issues and problems if you want to gain supervised work experience in these areas as an LPC Associate. If you don’t do this then your scope of practice as an LPC Associate will be more limited.
Include a Practicum/Internship Verification form with your application for LPC Associate licensure.
If your education program didn’t include a qualifying practicum you can make up for this by completing a post-master’s practicum at a properly-accredited college or university.
To become licensed as an LPC Associate and subsequently as an LPC you must pass either one of the following exams, which are sponsored by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC):
- National Counselor Examination (NCE)
- National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE)
Once the CCE has approved your application for the LPC Associate license it will send you information on registering for your chosen exam.
Both exams are taken on a computer at a local testing center. The NCE is a 200-question multiple-choice test, and is more basic than the NCMHCE. The NCMHCE presents you with 10 clinical simulations and evaluates your responses to questions about these. You have at least three hours to complete either exam. You can find out more information through the NCE and NCMHCE handbooks.
Required Education and Degrees
To fulfill the education requirement for the LPC Associate and LPC licenses you must earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Counseling or a related field. It must be at least 48 semester credits and include a course that’s at least three credits devoted to each of the following topics:
- Human growth and development
- Cultural and social foundations
- The helping relationship; counseling techniques and theories
- Group counseling, dynamics, and processing
- Career and lifestyle development
- Appraisal of individuals
- Evaluation and research
- Professional orientation
- Diagnostics of psychopathology
Your education program must also include a qualifying practicum.
It also must be accredited by a regional body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada.
The US Department of Labor reported the following average annual counseling career salaries, specifically for South Carolina:
- Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors – $54,280
- Rehabilitation Counselors – $36,870
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor – $41,620
- Occupational Therapists – $75,700
Types of Counseling Careers
In South Carolina the US Department of Labor reports a total of 7,810 professionals working in the careers detailed below. Of those:
- 66% are Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
- 22% are Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
- 10% are Rehabilitation Counselors
- 3% are Marriage and Family Therapists
South Carolina Counseling Association (SCCA) – Offering continuing education opportunities and networking events like an annual conference, this state-level representative of the American Counseling Association (ACA) is committed to providing highly relevant services for its members.
South Carolina Association of Licensed Professional Counselors (SCALPC) – Striving to advance the profession of those who are practicing in this field, the SCALPC is proud to serve as the state chapter of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA).
South Carolina Clinical Mental Health Counselor Association (SCCMHCA) – Also a local branch of the AMHCA, this organization focuses on the career and professional promotion of clinical mental health counselors. It strives to be the leader in advocacy, education, collaboration, and leadership for professionals in this field.
Palmetto State School Counselor Association (PSSCA) – This organization is plugged-in with all things related to school counseling. It hosts annual conferences and workshops, honors professionals in this field with awards, and provides a range of resources and position statements. It also regularly recruits for internal leadership positions.
South Carolina Department of Mental Health (DMH) – This state-level agency hosts a range of programs that are tailored to meet the individual mental health needs of residents requiring all kinds of treatments. These include community mental health services, outpatient programs, clinics, a drug and addiction treatment center, and psychiatric hospitals.
Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center – Established nearly 100 years ago in 1928, this organization offers school-based services, vocational-based services, clinical-based services, and more. It’s also partners with organizations involved in the criminal justice and social services systems.
Travelers Rest Counseling Associates – In addition to advertising a welcome mat for LPC Associates who need to gain supervision, this counseling organization focuses on services like family therapy, couples counseling, and parent education.
Three Rivers Behavioral Health – This West Columbia-based organization provides a range of services to its clients, focusing on military and first responders, adolescents and teens, and adults. Adults can choose from programs that include inpatient and outpatient options, plus those that focus on substance abuse and chemical dependency issues.
Affinity Health Center – With four locations throughout the state, this healthcare provider offers a wide range of medical services. These include mental health counseling and case management. A team of 71 full-time staff want to maximize clients’ comfort in this organization whose roots stretch back to 1994.