How to Become a Licensed Professional Counselor

As you are deciding to become a counselor and beginning the process of choosing your path in counseling, you will find several viable options. In choosing your path in counseling, the following information provides you with an overview of steps to be taken based on your interests and your talents.

Follow your heart and your mind on what career path you take for counseling. There are many roads to take, depending on your interests and your strengths. Preparing well in advance, from the point at which you actually apply to counseling programs, will benefit you greatly. Develop the confidence and skills that will enhance your likelihood of acceptance into the school of your choice and set you on the right path for long-term success and happiness in your chosen career.

A great way to understand the day and the life of a professional counselor is to spend some time with them.

Finding the population(s) of individuals you would like to work with helps you narrow your focus and streamline the application process.

Though many counseling programs are similar in a lot of ways, they each have their own specialty in which they emphasize the practices of that specialization. The specialization of these programs will ultimately determine the type of licensing that you will receive and from which organization. Although LPCs are licensed through one board, other specializations may obtain licensing through other agencies that are there for those fields.

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In order to decide which type of counseling you’d like to pursue, it’s a good idea to gain experience in those areas and talk to some counselors who are working in different fields.

How to Become a Professional Counselor in Your State

Marriage and Family Counseling

Perhaps your goal is to focus on relationships and family dynamics. One viable option for you is to pursue a career in marriage and family counseling. These therapists have a specific licensing process, so read more about this area to gain some insights. Marriage and family therapists earned an average salary of $53,520 in 2015, which is a mid-range salary compared with some other social services jobs. Professionals who do similar work, such as mental health counselors ($45,080) and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors ($42,920), took home less that year.

Mental Health Counseling

Although a rewarding profession, those looking to become mental health counselors need to complete strict requirements, two years of supervised work experience and the completion of a 60 hour graduate program that is approved by your state board. Different states have different ways they run licensing so in some cases mental health counselors will be grouped with other types of professional counselors or licensed separately. If mental health counselors are licensed by themselves, exams such as the NCMHCE may be required. Those looking to boost their resume’s are allowed to take the NCMHCE even if the exam isn’t a requirement for them. Now is as good as any to get into counseling with professional mental health counselors bringing home around 42,000 each year with a predicted 36% growth in employment over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Addiction Counseling

Do you want to work with individuals whose lives have been affected by alcohol or drug abuse? Substance abuse counselors assist those who have impacted their lives in a significant way by using controlled substances. In some states, addiction counselors only require an undergraduate education, but one should expect to have to complete a CACREP-accredited graduate program with 60 credit hours of coursework. It is not uncommon for people who have had a history of recovery from alcohol or drug abuse to seek employment as addiction counselors. This type of counselor can make between $35,000 -45,000 annually.

School Counseling

Those looking to become school counselors will be licensed by the department of education and will experience situations like violence prevention, class scheduling, and college planning. Some even go on to become licensed as a school and mental health counselor. While looking for a graduate program it is important to find a program with at least 48 hours of course work in counseling or education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that school counseling will grow by 8% in the next ten years, they also report that school counselors on average take home around $53,380 per year.

College Counseling

In other cases, school counselors like to work with older students and may choose to work at the university level, helping students emotionally deal with being away from school for their first time and managing their own lives. This type of counseling provides its own rewards and challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggested a 34% increase in employment for those looking to practice counseling at the college/university level.

Spiritual Counseling

Religion provides an orientation to many counselors and their patients. Some faith-based programs meet CACREP accrediting standards and will prepare counselors for the same licensing of secular programs. A few states will license pastoral counselors separately. When looking to become a spiritual counselor it is important to find a CACREP-accredited program that has faith-based coursework within the program. In some states, spiritual counselors are licensed by a separate board.

Rehabilitation Counseling

Rehabilitation counseling is an excellent choice for those who want to help individuals going through physical or emotional rehabilitation. You might work in a treatment center for patients who have experienced TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for this type of counselor in 2011 was $37,070.

Ready to Take the Step? Choose Your Path in Counseling!

Are you leaning toward working with one population in particular? It’s a good idea to seek active volunteer opportunities or employment working with those individuals. If it’s the autism population, you could find a residential group home. The actual experience can be invaluable to your entire application process. For those of you who are in high school or just graduated from high school, it is never to early to start planning for your future. Get a head start on looking into undergraduate counseling and psychology programs that will get you ready to pursue a graduate education.