There are many times when you will see letters after someone's signature, such as J.D., Ph.D., OBGYN. Depending on what kind of health practitioner you are looking for, it is important to know what those letters mean in order to determine the scope of practice the health professional offers.
Mental health is an important aspect of life. While mental health was once regarded with mistrust or disdain, it is more openly discussed and accepted with much less stigma. Despite the prevalence of discussions about mental health, counseling, and mental illness, choosing a therapist can still be a difficult or overwhelming task. Typically, the first step in seeking out professional counselors is identifying the state of your mental health issues. An evaluation of your mental health may lead to seeking out a mental health counselor or another form of health services in order to optimize your mental health. Now, all that is left is to decide where to go.
Deciding on a healthcare practitioner can be a daunting task. Your physical and mental health is extremely important and figuring out whom to trust can be intimidating. You want to make sure you not only feel comfortable and safe with this person, but that they specialize in whatever it is that you need, have all of the degree levels that states require, and have the board-approved licensing that states require. The internet today has everything, including endless options that can make finding the right therapist for you overwhelming at best and near-impossible at worst.
In the mental health conditions realm, there are various degrees of education, national clinical and state clinical requirements, and certifications that lead to different designations after someone's name, indicating what they can do and what kind of professional counseling they can offer. “LPC” is one of them. You may see those three letters, as well as other combinations, such as AMFT, LCSW, or LMHC, following the name of therapists that you are looking up or considering going to.
This article will delve into what LPC stands for, as well as touch on a few other abbreviations that exist in mental health designations. Learning about what each of these abbreviations mean, including the service providers’ state licensing requirements and what types of board-approved practical each designation indicates, will help you make an informed decision in choosing a mental health professional.
What Does LPC Stand For?
“LPC” stands for licensed professional counselor. Licensed professional counselors are licensed after passing a national counselor examination to work as mental health professionals and provide mental health services. The LPC license, as opposed to the qualification of licensed clinical social workers, allows them to render professional counseling services in private practice, hospitals, mental health clinics, and other counseling or a related mental health fields. While the specifics of how to obtain the LPC license vary slightly from state to state, and even the title varies from state to state, the general base requirements are usually the same:
What Does LPC Mean?
LPCs are licensed mental health professionals who can work in counseling programs, mental health clinics, or private practice. Even if they obtain a doctorate, they are not psychiatrists, in that they are not awarded a medical degree, are not medical doctors, and are not qualified to prescribe medication. Rather, they use therapy and the tools and skills developed in their postgraduate degrees to help their patients. They are trained to work with a variety of situations, including individuals, groups, families, and couples, and are typically skilled in human development and working with people of all ages. Licensed professional counselors can diagnose mental illness and treat a wide spectrum of emotional, mental, and behavioral issues and disorders in clinical mental health settings, including:
Licensed professional counselors LPC diagnose mental illness, and work in collaboration with the patient to come to a solution and determine the best way to reach the client's goals and preferred outcomes. Unfortunately they cannot prescribe medication, but can provide mental health services and even create a rehabilitation counseling strategy for substance abuse. At the root of mental health counseling, licensed professional counselors are trying to help their patients better their lives. They do this by setting goals and giving their patients the tools to reach their goals. Whether it is working through trauma or developing healthier thought patterns or improving communication with themselves or their spouses, LPCs are equipped to help others.
Is A Licensed Professional Counselor Right For Me?
If you need help in the clinical mental health realm, seeking the aid of licensed clinical professional counselors can be a really good idea. Mental health is important and seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional is a great way to begin talk therapy, and work through issues or habits that are negatively impacting your happiness and well-being. Reflect upon your life and your mental health. You know yourself better than anyone else, so you can decide if working with a mental health counselor is the best avenue for you. In family or couple situations, someone else may decide that therapy is best, but it is important, either way, to go into the situation with an open mind and remain open to the possibility of professional counseling programs enriching your life. Once you’ve determined that a licensed professional counselor is right for you, how do you decide what type of licensed mental health counselor you’d prefer to work with?
Many mental health professionals and professional counselors specialize in different areas of mental health, such as anxiety and depression or substance abuse disorders. When researching various licensed professional counselors in your area, you can look into whether or not that particular licensed professional counselor specializes in the area that you think you may need the most help in, including what national certified designations they boast, as well as how many hours of direct client contact they have. Most professional counselors’ websites will indicate if they are a general therapist, which still means they can help, or if they specialize in the treatment of certain disorders. Website information will also typically include a licensed clinical professional’s experience level, degree received (typically at least a master’s degree), and any commendations they have received.
While many LPCs do have specialties, this does not mean they won't see you as a patient if you don’t fall under their specialty. For your comfort, however, looking into an LPC that specializes in helping your disorder may be what is best for you. When it comes to choosing professional counselors, it is usually best to focus on your comfort level and willingness to trust first, as working with mental health counselors you do not feel safe with will not yield optimal results.
Licensed professional counselors can also take other certification exams in a related field that may be more in line with your needs. As an example, marriage and family therapists have their initial designation (a designation with the LPC board, for instance) and also have either LMFT or AMFT following their name. If you are having marriage or family problems, you can still go to a licensed professional counselor, but seeking one that is licensed in marriage and family therapy may provide services that more closely align with your needs.
Other counselors, such as sex therapists and pediatric therapists, have special certifications, as well. While the license itself and education behind it give everyone a general background in being able to help a myriad of disorders and mental illnesses, special certifications offer a more in-depth ability to help you heal, recover, and move forward, as counselor examinations in these fields require additional hours of direct client interaction and additional education hours.
The most important step in moving forward and healing is simply reaching out for help. If you come away from this learning anything, know that there are countless options out there to help improve your mental health, and plenty of professional counselors — counselors or licensed mental health professionals — who have the tools, experience, and ability to help you on your journey toward improved mental health.
In today's age, you do not even need to go to therapy in person. While for some it is more beneficial to have face-to-face conversations, that may not be the case for everyone, and your comfort and ability level should come first. If in-person therapy is not a viable option, online therapy is also something to consider. Sites like BetterHelp.com can help match you up with a licensed professional counselor that will suit your needs. You can go to BetterHelp to see if any licensed mental health professionals can help you today.
You can speak with a licensed clinical therapist online, and it is still an effective method of therapy. HuffPost summed up some of the research that has been done as to how effective online therapy is, including a 2014 study that showed that teens receiving remote therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder had just as much success as those with in-person therapy and that several studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is just as effective remotely as it is in a traditional setting.
Also, online therapy can help dilute the anxiety that talking to someone in person might instigate, or if you are unable to physically attend therapy for any other reason, it makes it much more accessible for the general population. Another great benefit is that online therapy tends to be more affordable than traditional therapy.
To help you make a more rounded decision, here are some reviews by recent BetterHelp users about working with their counselors:
“April has been so helpful! She's able to guide you towards solutions that are within your current ability while taking your circumstances into consideration. My first time trying any form of counseling, and a better experience than I could have imagined!” Read more on
“Jessica is a wonderfully compassionate therapist. I am trying out therapy for the first time, and I'll admit, I had some reservations before beginning. Jessica is a great listener and each week she gives me a worksheet to help me look deeper into relevant issues we discuss at each session. I would highly recommend!” Read more on
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
Is a LPC the same as a psychologist?
A licensed professional counselor LPC is a mental health services provider that possesses a masters in mental health counseling or clinical counseling degree. These licensed counselors have passed a national counselor examination and completed supervised counseling programs in a clinical counseling setting, private practice, or family counseling center to receive their credentials. In most states, this type of licensed clinical professional can perform the same mental health counseling job functions as those of a psychologist.
And while LPCs and psychologists are similar, they are somewhat different from a licensed clinical social worker. A licensed clinical social worker is not solely focused and educated to perform mental health counseling, and can be found in a range of counseling and non-counseling settings. You might find clinical social workers performing rehabilitation counseling for issues of substance abuse, family counseling, human services, and schools.
What type of counselors get paid the most?
According to salary reports from Indeed.com, the counseling jobs that that pay a counselor or those who practice therapy the most include a pediatric counselor, licensed clinical social worker, licensed marriage counselor or marriage therapist, family therapist, relationship couples therapist, and mental health counselor. Most marriage counselors and other types of counselors are highly educated and require additional training and practical skills gained through things like observed mental health counseling hours and shadowing at human services counseling programs. Counselors who work in clinical mental health, clinical practice, or private practice tend to have slightly higher salaries as well.
How do I become a counselor without a degree?
It will be difficult to find a mental health counseling or licensed counselor position without a degree. Most of these jobs require candidates to have graduated from counseling programs and earned at least a bachelors, usually a masters in psychology. Clinical social workers, family therapy providers, and psychologists need a degree. But if you aren’t pursuing a degree, you can look for jobs like peer support counselor or life skills counselor, or work as a group facilitator in rehabilitation counseling programs.