What's an LPC anyway?
I was really hoping that my 10/15 post would be ready to actually put up on 10/15. But, this year that was not the case!
I had already taken my board examination (National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam) and submitted all of my residency paperwork. And I was waiting…
Checking almost every day…
It wasn’t until Monday the 19th that I got notified by the Board that I am now officially a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia!
Which in all reality might not mean much to anybody that is not in this field, other than that I’m a therapist. But that’s why I’d like to make this post about providing some information on what it really means when someone is a Licensed Professional Counselor aka LPC, in our commonwealth.
First, it is important to note that the requirements are different from state to state, as is the actual name of the license. But each state does have a version of the “Board of Counseling.” For state- specific information about licensure, regulations, laws, and process, that’s where I would suggest going first.
Virginia’s Board link: https://www.dhp.virginia.gov/counseling/
Next, I would also like to highlight that these rules, processes and regulations change from time to time. For example while I was a resident, Virginia introduced a version of licensure to residents, as well as some new residency requirements. I thought that was a great idea because it gave people an option to look up the Resident, and gave the board and additional measure of tracking. Typically these changes have placed greater demands on folks in the field such as requiring specific ongoing education, which was the most recent.
So while my process morphed a little bit while I was in residency, these were/ are the steps, prescribed by law and regulation, that I followed.
1. Completing what is typically a Master’s degree with 60 graduate hours in 13 specific areas of study. The program must be CACREP or CORE accredited or specifically prepare an individual to practice counseling. This is about a 2 year process, although many people follow a 3 year plan.
School was amazing for me. I went to Old Dominion University studying a Master's in Education Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and had a very positive experience. There might have been two classes that I didn’t really enjoy, a couple that I didn’t look forward to, and a handful that I really loved. Even with that though, I can say that all of my professors were top tier, demanding, and knowledgeable. ODU’s counseling program is CACREP accredited. I think my total student loan debt started around $28,000 (and that was just for the classes, phew).
2. Apply to license as a resident, send in the information with a $65 fee.
For me this was an initial application and I think I paid more than the current $65 fee, but it was long enough ago that it doesn’t even matter to me now.
3. Do supervised residency. Find a supervisor that meets the requirements outlined by law. Virginia keeps a registry of all Supervisors, thanks Virginia! Residency in Virginia is at least 3,400 hours which include 2,000 face to face counseling hours and 200 hours of supervision. This must be completed in no less than 21 months and no more than 48 months.
Paying for supervision can be an expensive part of the process, not all jobs offer supervision! During my residency I had three supervisors, one was through a job and was free. The other two charged me an hourly fee from $50-75, meeting once a week. A rough estimate of what I paid for just under three years of supervision is about $7,000. There are a lot of forms to stay on top of during this process. My advice to anyone in residency is get signatures on time, every time. Of course, the noted hours above are also just the minimum, I well exceeded this myself: my residency ended up being 5,350+ hours, with 2,100+ face to face and 275+ hours of supervision when everything was approved. Some factors will impact how long a residency lasts. My residency hours started off a bit slow, but then really picked up in the last year due to COVID and program changes at my job. I started residency in January 2018 and ended in October 2020, about 33 months!
4. Take and pass the NCMHCE within 6 years of getting your resident license.
The passing rate for this exam is 55-60%. This exam was not as dreadful as I expected, but I had a lot of preparation for it, starting at ODU, then with my supervisors, my personal interest in diagnosis, as well as my clinical experience. I still purchased an exam prep membership, I still took days off work before the exam to study, and my heart was still pounding for probably the first hour I was there. But, I passed on the first go! When I got the print out with the result I gave an apparently unexpected victory yell in the lobby of the test center… scaring one of the proctors (whoops). Taking the exam cost $275. I think my exam prep was $150.
5. Apply! Go online, submit your paperwork, fill out some forms, do the NPDB search, submit your $175 fee. :)
All said and done I dedicated over 5 years from the beginning of my Master’s level education to the end of my residency. The approximate cost of all that adds up to 35-40k. Stress, very long hours, tears, doubt, and struggle were all a part of my journey. One of my supervisors passed away during my residency which was both unexpected and difficult on multiple levels.
And I got through it. When I read the email from the Board, it was like a gut punch. Immediate tears of joy and relief came to me.
Part of why I wanted to share this, in addition to just providing information, is to give an idea of my dedication. From start to finish it was always about getting to work with my clients. Having the privilege of helping people means the world to me. I decided to become an LPC because it was one way that I knew I would get to work to make the world a better, happier, and healthier place every day. That is what makes it -all- worth it.
I promise you, my clients, this same dedication.
<3 Emily Bura, LPC!