Counselor is a title that is used widely but often incorrectly. It takes more than just a desire to help others to become a professional counselor. I caution you on this note because some people will claim to be a counselor who are lacking any formal training.
A true counselor must have at least a Master’s Degree specializing in either clinical mental health or school counseling from an accredited university. In order to achieve accreditation, a university must adhere to certain standards set by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Not every school that has a counseling program has achieved CACREP standards. Please note that there is also a difference between having a degree and being licensed. Not every counselor will chose to obtain licensure.
Upon graduating from an accredited university, a counselor must then work in a clinical setting for at least two years before licensure can be obtained. During this time, the counselor will work directly with clients under close supervision from a licensed supervisor in order to learn how the counseling relationship works.
When the contact and supervision hours have been achieved, the counselor must then take and pass 3 separate exams testing his or her clinical knowledge, skill and code of ethics. It is only upon completion of these steps, along with the successful clearance of a background check, that a counselor can call him- or herself a ‘Licensed Professional Counselor’. This license is regulated by the state with yearly update requirements.
As with selecting any other service, it is advisable to research a potential counselor and/or agency prior to utilizing their services. All licenses can be verified through the state in which they are administered.
Jonathan Morgan, LPC-MHSP
Bachelor of Science, Sociology 2003 – University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Master of Education, Community Counseling 2008 – University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Licensed Professional Counselor, Mental Health Service Provider (TN) – License # 2627