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If you have an interest in mental health and wellness, you may like working as a clinical counselor. As of 2013, clinical counselors earned a median salary of $72,713.  Explore a day in the life of a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) and the field's educational requirements to learn more about this career path.

What Do Clinical Counselors Do?

Clinical counselors provide mental health counseling on the individual, couple, or small group level. Whether the patient is dealing with a death or trauma, or interpersonal issues such as a divorce, the job of a clinical mental health counselor is to support the patient and help them cope with these challenges. Clinical counseling combines the traditional talk therapy model with a results-oriented approach, so that a patient can change their outlook, combat a bad habit, or find personal growth.

Clinical counselors also assist with the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, although they are unable to prescribe medication. Essential skills for a successful career in clinical counseling services include: communication, listening, empathy, and compassion. These skills are crucial for a licensed professional counselor in forging a strong therapist-client relationship.

How to Become a Clinical Counselor

Clinical counselor education requirements vary by state. Many states require a Master's of Science with a clinical counseling program concentration; some positions in the clinical counseling field require PhD training. Any master's program that is accredited by the APA, as Alliant's are, will help you start your professional counseling career.

The common steps to becoming a mental health counselor include:

  1. Acquire a bachelor's degree
  2. Receive a masters degree in mental health counseling
  3. Pass the licensing examinations
  4. Fulfill supervised clinical experience
  5. Apply for licensure
  6. Maintain your clinical mental health counselor license

A masters in clinical mental health counseling program will help you thoroughly explore evidence-based counseling theories and their practical implementations. You will be a licensed clinical professional counselor adept in handling diverse patient groups, and delivering counseling services that focus on prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation. 

The topics covered will differ across different programs, but in general, the following subjects are included:

  • Professional identity, values and dispositions to understand the role and function of counselors in multiple settings and professional organizations. 
  • Counseling skills and helping relationships to use intentional counseling skills while maintaining empathic, nonjudgmental, and professional dispositions.
  • Lifespan development and career development to apply theory and research in the needs of others at all development levels.
  • Multicultural counseling to understand issues and trends in a multicultural and diverse society as it pertains to one's own experience, the counseling profession and the served client.
  • Principles of diagnostic process to identify the etiology, prevention and treatment of mental disorders, co-occurring disorders and differential diagnoses.
  • Counseling research methods and program evaluation to advance counseling practice.

Apply for a Clinical Counseling Degree

If your state does not require licensing, you can obtain your Master's degree and complete any related practice hours needed to get your degree. Once you have completed your online or on-campus program, you may then begin your career in clinical mental health counseling.

How to be a Clinical Professional Counselor with Licensure

Obtaining a master's degree is not the final requirement to become a licensed mental health counselor. Once you graduate from your MA clinical mental health counseling, you will need to pursue licensure in the specific state where you intend to practice. Each state sets its own criteria for certified counselor licensure, and you may be required to fulfill additional supervised field experience hours beyond the internships completed during your degree program.

The requirements to be a licensed counselor are typically outlined in the application, but generally, you can expect the following:

  • Furnish relevant personal details about yourself and indicate your citizenship status as either a citizen, qualified alien, or nonimmigrant.
  • Provide an account of whether you have previously been involved in a professional complaint or disciplinary action.
  • Submit a record of your past employment experiences.
  • Submit supporting documentation to verify your supervised experience and the number of hours completed for your clinical experience. 

Career Paths You Can Expect With a Clinical Counseling Degree

Clinical counselors work in a variety of settings, including mental health centers, health maintenance organizations, schools and universities, businesses, and research centers. Some counselors work one on one with patients, while others serve as teachers and mental health researchers.

If you're ready to help support your fellow man, make a lasting impact in your community, and take the next steps in your clinical counseling education online or on-campus, please contact the Alliant admissions department today.


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