Understanding Professional Counselor Licensing Requirements

There are various steps that one is required to accomplish before he or she can become a licensed professional counselor. You may be educated, trained and endowed with all that it takes to be a professional counselor but the process to licensing is long and elaborate. To begin with, it’s important to understand the difference between national certification procedures and counselor licensing requirements set by the state you want to practice in.

National certification refers to the permission by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), whose main objective is to demonstrate to the general public and potential employers that you have met the national standards passed by the counseling profession. It should be noted that this is not a license to practice but a proof of your competence in the counseling field, based on your academic qualifications, training or experience.

State by State Counselor Licensing Requirements

Unlike national certification, state licensing permits a counselor to practice in a particular state. While some states issue just a single license, others may have a two tired licensure. Some of the common credentials include Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Others include Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor – Mental Health Service Provider. Various state licensure boards give detailed information regarding counselor licensing requirements.

While some of the state counseling licensing requirements may bear some similarities, others are completely different. Despite the dissimilarity in state by state counselor licensing requirements, all states require candidates for counseling licensure to have a Master’s degree and have attained a certain level of experience in counseling. You’ll also be required to have worked for a specified number of hours under supervision before you can receive full licensure in addition to attaining a passing score on National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) and NCMHCE or both.

Additional Counselor Licensing Requirements by State

After completing the licensing requirements, you’ll become credentialed as a licensed professional counselor (LPC), or a different designation based on the state, earning yourself a professional title and additional initials to your name. In some states there are various levels of licensing for counseling professionals. For instance some states may have specific counselor licensing requirements, say for a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and different requirements for a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and so on.

State by State Difference in Licensing Standards

While it’s a general requirement in all states that counselors go through a licensing process before being allowed to practice, it should be noted that states differ in their requirements even when it has to do with a similar level of licensing. This is mostly because various states have different policies and standards. While most have crafted their standards after CACREP, al be it loosely, the differing part is that CACREP uses several standards. It’s therefore important that you fully understand the counselor licensing requirements specified in a particular state since practicing without proper credentials can lead to withdrawal of license or attract criminal charges.