For individuals who have a drive to help clients who are overcoming obstacles related to substance abuse, stress, mental illness, or more, becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor is one of the most ideal career paths. Licensed counselors are given the responsibility of interviewing clients for their medical history, observing abnormal physical or mental behaviors, administering evaluations to determine behavior traits, and developing effective treatment plans to control clients' problems. If you are interested in providing supportive services for mental health issues, the following is a step-by-step guide to getting on the right track to a rewarding career as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.
1. Achieve a Bachelor's Degree in a Relevant Field
For incoming undergraduate students aiming for a professional career helping others manage their problems through counseling, the first step is to achieve a bachelor's degree in a relevant field that will provide the foundational knowledge needed for graduate work. In most cases, aspiring counselors choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology, but some may also consider pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). Most of all, it is important that you select a program that will increase understanding on human development, psychological disorders, and social issues related to mental health.
2. Earn a Master's Degree in Counseling
After earning a bachelor's degree, it is essential that students interested in becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor earn an advanced master's degree from a program that has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. While many graduate students choose to pursue a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling, others who are considering working in academic settings also have the option of achieving a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counseling. Regardless of degree type, a master's degree typically requires between 50 and 60 credits of graduate studies.
3. Receive National Counseling Certification
Once graduates have completed an accredited master's program, the third step is to receive national certification as a professional counselor by taking the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), which is granted by the Center for Credentialing and Education. Affiliated with the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC), the examination has been designed to assess individuals' knowledge on counseling theories and application techniques to ensure competency in the field for practice.
4. Obtain State Licensing to Practice
Immediately following the completion of a master's degree in counseling and a passing score on the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination (CPCE), counselors have the credentials needed to receive licensure for practice as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in their state of residence. The American Association of State Counseling Boards indicates that obtaining a counseling license typically requires an official college transcript, documentation of supervised clinical practice, letters of recommendation, and a current up-to-date resume of experience.
As employment for mental health counselors is projected to grow much faster than average due to the rising demand for counseling services for the treatment of more prevalent psychological problems, it is an excellent time for aspiring counselors to get started on the step-by-step path towards gaining professional licensure for practice. With the firm understanding and practice of counseling intervention techniques to implement therapeutic treatment plans, you will be able to achieve licensure as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor to begin making a difference in the lives of others.