What Does LPC Stand For, And How Can They Help?

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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A licensed professional counselor (LPC) is a mental health services provider with a master's degree in mental health counseling or clinical psychology. These licensed providers have passed a national counselor examination and completed supervised counseling programs in a clinical counseling setting, non-public practice, or family counseling center to receive their credentials.

In many states, LPCs can perform the same functions as a psychologist. If you are currently searching for a counselor or are interested in pursuing a career in mental health, learning more about the requirements for an LPC certification may be beneficial. 

Gain insight from a licensed LPC or another type of provider

A brief introduction: Mental health career abbreviations

Mental health can be as essential as physical health. While mental health was once regarded with mistrust or disdain, it may be more openly discussed and accepted in modern times. Despite the prevalence of discussions about mental health, choosing a therapist may feel complicated or overwhelming for some individuals. Often, the first step in seeking a professional counselor is identifying what you seek support with. Once you understand your needs, you may choose between the types of counselors available. 

In the mental health realm, various degrees of education, national clinical and state licensure requirements, and certifications lead to different designations. The acronym after someone's name may indicate the type of counseling they offer. "LPC" is one of them. Other acronyms include the following: 

  • LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor 
  • MD: Medical Doctor
  • Ph.D.: Doctor of Philosophy 
  • PsyD: Doctor of Psychology
  • MSW: Master of Social Work 
  • LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor 
  • LCMHC: Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • MFCC: Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor
  • CADC: Certified Alcohol And Drug Counselor
  • CAC: Certified Addiction Counselor 

Learning about what each of these abbreviations means, including the service providers' state licensing requirements and approved practices each designation indicates, may help you make an informed decision in choosing a mental health professional.

What does LPC stand for?

"LPC" stands for licensed professional counselor. Professional counselors are licensed to provide mental health services after passing a national counselor examination. The LPC license allows them to render clinical professional counseling services in non-public practice, hospitals, mental health clinics, and other counseling or related mental health fields. While the specifics of obtaining the LPC license may vary from state to state, the general base requirements may be the same. 

There are many similarities between licensed professional counselors and clinical social workers. They do a lot of the same work for around the same salary. One of the key differences between the two professions is that a counselor’s main focus is on counseling theory and to provide counseling, while this is only one aspect of social work.

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LPC degree requirements 

Licensed professional counselors require a master's or a doctoral degree. Their bachelor’s degree may be in psychology or a major to prepare them for working as counselors or licensed mental health professionals engaging in direct client contact. 

If a counselor obtains a doctorate, it may be a Ph.D. or PsyD degree. Specific counseling fields, such as rehabilitation counselors, require specific certifications after the general education requirements. If licensed counselors decide to go into a field that requires extra certifications, they may complete the license requirements set forth by states, including additional service and education hours.

Supervision requirements

After obtaining their degree, an aspiring counselors work must be supervised. Like residency or student teaching, this process involves supervised clinical hours for the practical application of skills that mental health counselors acquire in school. 

Often, counselors-in-training log at least 3,000 hours of direct client contact and supervised clinical hours in clinical practice after graduating. These hours can occur at many different locations and allow the postgraduates to get hands-on clinical experience and work with the population they will serve once they are licensed providers. Licensed professional counselors or medical doctors often monitor the supervised clinical hours. Once working in a supervised position, they can treat clients with guidance from professional counselors and individuals who have already passed the National Counselor Examination (NCE).

Proper standing

After the exams are passed, LPCs must stay in good standing with their certifiers. As with many professions involving certifications, licensed counselors have ethical standards to adhere to as outlined by the American Counseling Association. LPCs must also complete ongoing education yearly to stay updated on modern psychology in conformity with LPC licensure. The profession is controlled on the state and federal levels, which defines the practice and what they can and cannot do in their line of work.

What can LPCs do for my mental health?

LPCs are licensed mental health professionals who can take many career paths, working in counseling programs, residential facilities, mental health clinics, or personal practice. Even if they obtain a doctoral degree, they are not psychiatrists. They are not awarded a medical degree, are not medical doctors, and are not qualified to prescribe medication. 

Counselors use therapy and the tools and skills developed in their postgraduate degrees to help their patients. They are trained to work with various clients, including individuals, groups, families, and couples, and are often skilled in human development and working with people of all ages. 

LPCs may be able to diagnose mental illness and treat a broad spectrum of emotional, mental, and behavioral concerns and disorders, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse disorders**
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Marriage concerns 
  • Stress
  • Chronic concerns 
  • The impact of abuse* 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral disorders

Licensed professional counselors diagnose mental illness and work in collaboration with a client to come to a solution and determine the most effective method to reach the client's goals and preferred outcomes. They cannot prescribe medication but can provide mental health services. 

At the root of mental health counseling, licensed professional counselors may care about their clients and want to help others better their lives. They may do this by setting goals and giving their patients the tools to reach their goals. Whether working through trauma, developing healthier thought patterns, or improving communication with themselves or their spouses, LPCs are often equipped to help others.

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Gain insight from a licensed LPC or another type of provider

Is a licensed professional counselor right for me?

An LPC can be a suitable choice if you seek mental health support. In therapy sessions, you can work through concerns negatively impacting your well-being and mental health. You can decide if working with a mental health counselor is the best avenue for you. Before meeting with a provider, ask them about their training, counseling theory, and therapy modalities used. You can also consider the following tips. 

Check Their Website 

When an independent practice, many professional counselors' websites may indicate if they are general therapists or specialize in treating certain mental health conditions. Website information may also include a licensed clinical professional's experience level, degree received, and any commendations they have received.

Understand their specialty 

Mental health professionals can specialize in different areas of mental health, such as anxiety and depression or substance use disorders. When researching various licensed professional counselors in your area, investigate whether they specialize in your symptoms or diagnosed mental illness. 

While many LPCs have specialties, this does not mean they will not take you as a client if you do not fall under their specialty. However, looking into an LPC specializing in your condition may be the most effective. When you are choosing a professional counselor, focus on your comfort level. Working with mental health counselors you do not feel safe with could keep you from opening up and receiving therapy benefits. 

Look for further certifications  

LPCs can also take other certification exams in a related field, depending on their career goals. For example, marriage and family therapists have their initial designation and an LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist) or AMFT (associate marriage and family therapist) following their name. If you are having marriage or family problems, you can meet with an LPC that is also an AMFT or LMFT. 

Other counselors, such as sex and pediatric therapists, also have unique certifications. While licensing and continuing education give counselors a general background in treating various mental health disorders, special certifications may offer a more in-depth ability to treat specific issues or follow specialized career paths.

Counseling options 

Professional counselors and licensed mental health professionals have the tools, experience, and ability to treat various mental health concerns. In modern psychology, many counselors opt to provide services online, where they may offer more availability and flexibility to their clients. Additionally, counselors can reduce costs by working remotely instead of renting an office or commuting for appointments. 

A growing body of evidence reveals that online therapy can be an effective option for mental health treatment. A study published in the peer-reviewed research Journal of Clinical Psychology examined information from over 100 different online counseling trials. The study found that overall attitudes between counselors and participants were as positive as in-person counseling. Other studies have shown online therapy to be a unique form of counseling, eliminating barriers associated with face-to-face counseling, such as stigma, cost, and time constraints, while being equally effective at treating mental health conditions and symptoms. 

If in-person therapy is not viable, online therapy could be effective. Through a website like BetterHelp, you can find LPCs and other mental health professionals offering various specialties and techniques. 


LPCs offer compassionate, professional care to clients around the world. If you're interested in learning more about this profession and how it might benefit you, consider reaching out to a licensed provider for further guidance and information.
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