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What is a Licensed Counselor?

There are many people who offer help and counseling services, but they are not all licensed counselors. Someone can open an office and offer marital counseling, for instance, based on their experiences but lacking formal counselor training. Although these people may give good advice, they do not have a background in psychology and the understanding of mental and emotional disease and the therapies to treat them. In addition, insurance companies may not pay for treatment from someone who is not a LPC.

Whether you are interested in finding a counselor that suits you, you are studying for a degree or you are looking to further your career, it is important to understand the logistics. Let’s learn more about Licensed Counselors…

What is a LPC?

In some states a Licensed Professional Counselor is also known as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor or a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. In any case, they have master’s or doctoral degrees, according to, and are trained to work with individuals, families and groups to treat emotional or mental health disorders, or addictions. They also work with people who have behavioral disorders. They work in community mental health centers or for agencies, both private and governmental. They may work in institutions and rehabilitation centers, for managed care facilities, in hospitals and even have their own private practices. Many work for the Veteran’s Administration treating PTSD and other disorders. In America, there are more than 120,000 licensed counselors providing treatment to the estimated 45.1 million people with diagnosable mental illness, half of which also have addictions.

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What Do Licensed Counselors Do?

These professionals are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders, emotional issues and addictions. Unlike non-licensed counselors, they use well-accepted methods of therapy like Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, Interpersonal and Psychodynamic therapies and are able to assess the results of the treatment. They also engage in research. They may work in a corporate setting, providing treatment for employees and intervention for addictions.

What are Their Qualifications?

To begin with, a licensed counselor must have a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. That degree must be from an accredited school, preferably one with regional accreditation. They may earn certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors or the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. This certification is not a license to practice, but demonstrates proficiency. Licensure requisites vary somewhat by state. All states require that candidates pass an examination and that they amass a number of supervised practice hours. Typically, that number is 3,000. There are some differences, though. In Colorado, for instance, candidates must graduate from a master’s degree program that contains at least 48 semester credit-hours. The program must contain certain coursework areas as well, and include at least 700 hours of supervised fieldwork or internship. In California, a recent change in licensure requirements bumped the number of credit hours a master’s program must contain to 60. In addition, candidates for California licensure must have specific coursework which, if they are lacking it, they must earn through post-graduate work. In New York, every candidate for licensure must have coursework in child abuse. They must also have completed a full year of internship but in New York that constitutes 600 hours. Specific requirements for each state can be found by researching the state counselor licensing department.

Although there are people who claim to be counselors based on a familiarity with mental illness or with a genuine desire to help people, only licensed professionals are trained to treat mental and emotional disorders. Like other comparable professionals such as clinical social workers, an LPC has a minimum of a master’s degree and many hours of experience in treatment. Because of that difference, insurance companies will only pay for mental or emotional health counseling services from a licensed counselor.

Related Resources:

The 10 Best Masters in Counseling Online Programs
Top 30 Public Universities for Master’s Degrees in Counseling
Top 30 Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree Programs