What is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor?

Individuals who want careers where they can help people suffering from mental illness, substance abuse and stress-related disorders often choose to become licensed clinical professional counselors. Licensed clinical professional counselors have many duties while on the job, but their ultimate goal is always to provide effective treatment to their clients. Becoming a licensed professional counselor requires extensive education and training. Almost 45 million people in the U.S. suffer from mental illness in any given year, increasing the need for more licensed clinical professional counselors.

What is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor?

Licensed clinical professional counselors are trained professionals who work with patients suffering from mental health issues: emotional or behavioral problems or conditions resulting from drugs or alcohol. Because of the scope of their work, they’re also known as licensed mental health counselors or just licensed professional counselors. Their duties may include:

  • Interviewing clients or patients
  • Documenting medical history
  • Observing abnormal mental or physical behaviors
  • Providing evaluations based on behavior traits
  • Creating and implementing an effective treatment plan

Licensed clinical professional counselors typically work in community mental health centers and organizations. They make up a large percentage of the workforce in mental health facilities. They work with not just the client but also the client’s family members. They also work with active duty military personnel.

Education to Become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Although an individual may be able to get by with a bachelor’s degree, most states require their professional counselors have a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling from an accredited college or university. This can be completed in two to four years if the student already possesses a bachelor’s degree program. The student must complete coursework, lab classes and a clinical internship. The American Counseling Association indicates that aspiring licensed clinical professional counselors must also complete at least 3,000 hours of post-master’s degree supervised clinical work within two years of earning the degree.


In order to work as a licensed clinical professional counselor, an individual must obtain national certification and licensure. Although each state varies in their licensing requirements, they do all require that licensed clinical professional counselors be licensed. Once the student has earned the master’s degree, he or she must pass the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. This exam is offered through the Center for Credentialing and Education.

After passing the CPCE, the candidate can apply for licensure in the state in which he or she intends to work. According to the American Association of State Counseling Boards, candidates interested in obtaining licensure must provide proof of the following:

  • Official college transcript
  • Documented supervised clinical practice
  • Current resume showing experience
  • Letters of recommendation

Counselors must complete continuing education credits to maintain certification and licensure.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors should see an employment growth of 23 percent during the decade of 2016-2026. This growth should result in about 60,300 new jobs for these professionals by 2026. Average annual wages of $46,560 were earned by substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors as of May 2017.

Related Resource: 10 Best Deals on Online Master’s in School Counseling Degree Programs

Every year we hear more and more about people suffering from mental illness or substance, many of these instances resulting in crimes and death. Working as a licensed clinical professional counselor is an ideal way for candidates to work in a career where they can make a difference.