What is a Licensed Professional Counsellor?

Introduction

Licensed professional counsellor (LPC) is a licensure for mental health professionals in some countries.

In the US, licensed professional counsellors (or in some states, “licensed clinical mental health counsellors” or “licensed clinical professional counsellors” or “licensed mental health counsellors”) provide mental health and substance abuse care to millions of Americans.

LPCs are doctoral and master’s-level mental health service providers, trained to work with individuals, families, and groups in treating mental, behavioural, and emotional problems and disorders. LPCs make up a large percentage of the workforce employed in community mental health centres, agencies, universities, hospitals and organisations, and are employed within and covered by managed care organisations and health plans. LPCs also work with active duty military personnel and their families, as well as veterans.

Licenses are awarded for professional counsellors (LPC) and professional counsellor supervisors (LPC-S); Interns are identified with the corresponding suffix “I” (LPC-I), and Licensed Professional Counsellor Associates, with the suffix “-A”; this also applies to licensed therapists, as in the case of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) who are designated as: LMFTA. Texas prohibits the use of “I” after the term LPC, and requires that LPC Interns spell out the word Intern each time.

In the US, the exact title varies by state, but the other most frequently used title is licensed mental health counsellor (LMHC). Several US states, including Illinois, Maine, and Tennessee, have implemented a two-tier system whereby both the LPC and LCPC (or equivalent) are used. In those states, higher tier professionals are granted the privilege to practice independently. However, in most states, LPC’s or LMHC’s may practice independently. Licensed Professional Counsellors are one of the six types of licensed mental health professionals who provide psychotherapy in the US.

In addition to their education, LPCs must obtain supervised clinical experience and must pass a state licensing exam. Different states require one of several different licensing examinations. Examples are the National Counsellor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) as well as the National Certified Mental Health Counsellor Examination (NCMHCE). LPCs are regulated by federal and state laws, which either protect the title of LPC or LMHC or actually define the scope of practice of a professional counsellor and stipulate certain client protections. If an LPC is also a member of a professional association or has received additional certifications, they must adhere to the codes of ethics of the professional association or certification body with which they have aligned.

Requirements for Professional Counsellors

United States

LPC (or variation, e.g. LCPC, LMHC, etc.) licensure is recognised in 50 states in the US, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The requirements vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Most states require some combination of a master’s degree, counselling experience and supervision, as well as passing a national examination, such as the National Counsellor Examination (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselling Examination (NCMHCE).

A summary of requirements from the state of Texas LPC board serves as an example; requirements vary from state to state. For example, practicum/internship requirements (during the master’s degree) vary significantly between states (i.e. 300 in Texas and 1000 in Vermont). Course requirements and credit amount also vary, making reciprocity between states difficult for many licensed counsellors.

  • A master’s degree or doctoral degree in counselling or a related field.
  • Academic course work in each of the following areas: normal human growth and development; abnormal human behaviour; appraisal or assessment techniques; counselling theories; counselling methods or techniques (individual and group); research; lifestyle and career development; social, cultural and family issues; and professional orientation.
  • As part of the graduate programme, a supervised practicum experience that is primarily counselling in nature. The practicum should be at least 300 clock-hours with at least 100 clock-hours of direct client contact. Academic credit for the practicum must appear on the applicant’s transcript.
  • After completion of the graduate degree and before application, an applicant must take and pass the National Counsellor Exam and the Texas Jurisprudence Exam. After receiving a temporary LPC license from the board, the applicant may begin the supervised post-graduate counselling experience (internship). 3000 clock-hours with at least 1,500 being direct client contact of internship under the supervision of a board-approved supervisor is required. The 3000 clock-hours may not be completed in a time period of less than 18 months.”

Exemptions (US)

Some states, such as Oregon, have broad exemptions that allow the practice of professional counselling without a license.

In Alabama, nothing in the chapter regulating professional counselling applies to the activities, services, titles, and descriptions of persons employed, as professionals or as volunteers, in the practice of counselling for IRS recognised 501(c)(3) public and private non-profit organisations or charities. [Alabama Code 34-8A-3-a-6].

Canada

In the Canadian province of Quebec, the Ordre des conseillers et conseilleres d’orientation et psychoeducateurs et psychoeducatrices du Quebec (OCCOPPQ) grants counsellor licensure. The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, CCPA offers a distinct certification, Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), separate from the regular professional membership.

The Canadian Professional Counsellors Association (CPCA) is a national competency-based association that provides the designation of Registered Professional Counsellor (RPC) to its members. Unlike degree-based associations, a specific degree level does not automatically qualify applicants for membership. Instead, the CPCA requires core competencies in education and experience prior to taking a qualifying exam and undergoing psychological testing as part of the membership application process. Counsellors must then embark on a two-year candidacy under the supervision of an approved Clinical Supervisor prior to becoming a full member. The CPCA membership roles are a mixture of Diploma, Bachelor, Master, and PhD level degree holders, and its primary purpose is the protection of the public and the promotion of competency in the mental health profession in Canada.

As well; the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF) promotes, certifies and monitors the competency of addiction specific counsellors in Canada using current and effective practices, which are internationally recognized. The certifications CACCF issues and its professional conduct review process provide public protection for counsellors, employers, regulatory agencies, clients and their families.

China

The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources grants counsellor licensure.

Malaysia

In Malaysia, Lembaga Kaunselor Malaysia grants counsellor licensure.

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