Become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in 5 Steps

Licensed professional clinical counselors help clients with family situations, substance abuse or stress while developing and implementing therapeutic treatment plans for their well being. They may also refer clients to supportive services. Clinical counselors need a master's degree in counseling and a license to practice. Continue reading for a guide to entering this career field. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor?

Licensed professional clinical counselors use various forms of psychological therapy to treat mental illnesses, emotional disorders, relationship problems and troubles coping with life. Through clinical interviews they diagnose a client's condition and create a treatment plan. In many cases, clients may not have a mental illness or emotional disorder, but are having a hard time adjusting to major life changes. Clinical counselors may suggest different coping mechanisms and help clients adapt to their new life. Counselors must be able to identify situations where it would be unethical to work with a client. This could be based on a number of reasons, including a lack of skills or having a biased opinion about a client.

Education Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Counseling, clinical counseling
Key Skills Analyze patients, create treatment plans, meet with patients regularly for treatment
Licensure/Certification Professional licensure required
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 20% for mental health counselors*
Average Salary (2015) $45,080*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Career Duties and Educational Requirements

Licensed professional clinical counselors interview clients for medical history and other pertinent information. They observe and determine abnormal physical or mental behavior then administer tests to determine behavior traits. They plan and implement therapeutic treatments, such as behavior modification and stress management, to help clients control problems. Licensed professional clinical counselors must have a graduate degree in professional counseling before they are eligible to take a state licensing exam required for practice.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

You'll need an undergraduate degree to apply to a graduate program, so you may consider earning a bachelor's degree related to counseling, such as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or a Bachelor of Science in Social Work. These programs develop your understanding of how human development, psychological and social issues are related to mental health disorders.

Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree Program in Professional Counseling

The American Counseling Association identifies two types of counseling training programs. The first type is competency based, which emphasizes course content, theoretical lecture and examinations to determine understanding of materials. The second is experienced based, which emphasizes experience training through group work, skill development and self-evaluation. Either type of program you choose should be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Ensure that your program prepares you to become a licensed professional clinical counselor in your state.

Some example names of programs you might enroll in are a Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling with a specialization in licensed professional clinical counselor/marriage and family therapy or an MA in Psychology with a concentration in professional clinical counseling. Some programs prepare you for licensure as both a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) and a marriage and family therapist (MFT). In addition to coursework, programs also typically include field work and clinical work. Classes you may take include:

  • Psychological assessment
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Community mental health
  • Counseling for children and families
  • Cultural diversity in counseling
  • Sexual disorder counseling
  • Substance abuse counseling

Step 4: Receive Certification and Licensing Credentials

Once you have completed your master's program, you can receive national certification as a professional counselor by passing the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE) developed by the Center for Credentialing and Education. The CPCE assesses your knowledge of counseling information and is a critical component of over 240 university programs. The CPCE is also affiliated with the National Board of Certified Counselors.

You can obtain a license after earning a master's degree and passing the CPCE. The American Association of State Counseling Boards reports that obtaining your license requires a college transcript and documentation of supervised clinical experience. You may also need letters of recommendation and any other state requirements, such as a resume, certifications and other licensing credentials.

Step 5: Get a Job

Licensed professional clinical counselors can find employment in a variety of work environments, including mental health organizations, hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities and outpatient care centers. You could also go into private practice.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mental health counseling field is expected to experience a 20% increase in employment equating to 26,400 new jobs in the 2014-2024 decade. Job growth is partly due to the rising number of people whose insurance covers mental health treatments, and to a growing veteran population who will need mental care. As of 2015, the average annual salary for mental health counselors was $45,080.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few careers that are related to licensed professional clinical counseling include those of social workers, school counselors and psychologists. Like clinical counselors, social workers help people cope with life problems, and clinical social workers may even diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. Some social work positions are available with only a bachelor's degree, though clinical positions typically require a master's degree. In addition to helping students make career decisions, school counselors also teach students how to develop academic and social skills to improve their school life. These counselors typically need a master's degree. Psychologists study the cognitive, emotional, social and behavioral characteristics and processes of individuals. Some psychologists only hold a master's degree, though most positions require a doctoral degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »