How to Get Your Counseling License: The LPC Process Explained

What do I need to do to be an LPC?

Becoming a counselor can be an exciting, dynamic, and fulfilling profession where you help people navigate many of life’s difficult challenges. But before you get there, you have to obtain the required qualifications. This may seem like a confusing process, and if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, it can be. But you’re not alone. 
Here’s what you need to know to get started on the track toward licensure. 

Getting Started

Before you get to that status of “Licensed Professional Counselor” (LPC), there are certain qualifications you have to meet. In the counseling field, this is often referred to as “licensure” or the “licensure process.” 
Processes like this are utilized in many fields as a way to produce practitioners who are qualified, ethical, and able to adequately perform their jobs. For counselors, working toward licensure acts as a way to learn the essential knowledge, skills, and ethical behaviors that encourage effective therapy. 

What is counseling licensure?

Counseling licensure is a state-sanctioned and regulated license required to offer licensed professional counseling services in settings such as private practice, counseling agencies, counseling centers, or hospitals. 

What are the requirements? 

1. Graduate degree
Future counselors must complete a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution. This education equips counselors with the psychological, theoretical, and technical knowledge needed to counsel well.

2. Supervised hours
Often incorporated into a master’s program, counselors must attain a state-determined number of hours counseling under an experienced and eligible supervisor. Beyond the master’s program, counselors must earn additional hours post-graduation. This provides continued direction and accountability for developing counselors.
For example, the state of Pennsylvania requires 3,000 hours of supervision. Half (1,500) of those hours must be completed under the supervision of an LPC. The additional 1,500 hours can be under an LPC as well as an LCSW, LSW, PhD, or PsyD who has the proper credentials to be eligible to supervise.
3. Examination
There are currently two national counseling examinations in the US: the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Which exam the counselor-in-training completes is decided by each state. Adequate completion of this exam deems a counselor an official LPC. Information and study materials for both exams are available through the National Board For Certified Counselors.
4. Continuing Education Units (CEUs)
Even after obtaining licensure, counselors must regularly accumulate a certain number of CEUs. This is generally every two or three years in order to keep counselors engaged in current theory and ethics and to prevent their license from expiring. 
5. Annual fees
Licenses often require an annual renewal fee, as well as membership fees for various associations, such as the American Counseling Association (ACA) or the Association of American Christian Counselors (AACC)

How long does licensure take? 

Everyone’s journey toward licensure is different, as it depends on various factors like state, work opportunities, and the accumulation of hours. However, graduates with a master’s in counseling can expect it to take a few years after graduation to obtain a license. 
In Pennsylvania, for example, a graduate has 2–6 years to complete their 3,000 hours. Generally, full-time counselors see about 20 clients per week. In this case, it takes a counselor about three years to complete their hours and earn a license. However, it ultimately comes down to how long it takes to accumulate the required hours. 
Licensure requirements change from state to state, and they often undergo subtle changes. You’ll need to check your state’s website for counseling licensure requirements to be completely up to date on these developments. With these requirements completed and maintained, you are set to see clients and perform the important work of a counselor. 

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