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Illinois Counselor Licensure Guide

Illinois has two levels of licensing, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC). You’ll earn LPC status through education and examination. In order to become an LCPC, you’ll need to work under supervision and complete an additional exam.

The information below is designed to be a guide to counseling licensure in Illinois. If at any time you have a question or would like to make sure you are on the correct path, use the contact form located Here to connect with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Or give them a call at: 1-800-560-6420.

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Education

You’ll need education at the master’s or doctoral level – either in counseling or a related field. Illinois doesn’t require counselors to graduate from programs that have a particular accreditation, but the process is a little easier if you do. If you graduate from a program that is CACREP- or CORE-accredited, you are considered to have met the curricular requirements (http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/068/068013750A00450R.html). Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here. You are also considered to have met the standards if you graduate from a doctoral level psychology program accredited by American Psychological Association or the Council for the National Registry of Health Service Providers.

Capella University, offers three online CACREP- accredited master's programs: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, and School Counseling. Click here to contact Capella University and request information about their programs.

If you’re enrolled in another graduate program, you’ll need to demonstrate that it meets the following requirements. The institution in which the program is housed must be accredited by some entity recognized by the Department of Education. The program must be its own recognizable entity within the institution; it must have a matriculated group of students and sufficient full-time instructors. Students must be required to complete one year in residency (at least twenty-four semester hours taken either full- or part-time).

There must be a course in each of the following content areas:

  • Counseling theory
  • Counseling techniques
  • Human growth and development
  • Research and evaluation
  • Individual appraisal
  • Group dynamics, processing, and counseling
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Professional, ethical, and legal responsibilities (must include Illinois law)
  • Lifestyle and career development
  • Maladaptive behavior and psychiatric illness
  • Family dynamics
  • Substance abuse

There must also be a practicum or internship. Individual study or correspondence courses may not be used to meet core requirements.

If you do have academic deficiencies, you can meet them by enrolling in further graduate level courses.

Examination for LPC Licensing

Before you can be licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor, you’ll need to take and pass a national examination. The Illinois licensing board uses the National Board for Certified Counselors’ National Counselor Examination.

Your first step is to apply to the State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for approval to take the professional counselor online exam.

Here is a link to all the professional counselor application forms you will need: http://www.idfpr.com/PROFS/Info/ProfCounselor.asp

You’ll receive your exam registration form from the Illinois board once you’ve been approved (Check out: http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/Reg/IL.pdf).

You’ll also need to get approval from Continental Testing Service. This step requires a fee (currently $98.50). You may contact CTS at (708) 354-9911.

Once you have your CTS registration, you can submit your registration, along with a $195 fee, to the NBCC (http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/Reg/IL.pdf). It will take them about four weeks to process it. Then you can schedule an exam through AMP at your choice of testing centers.

There are centers in the following Illinois cities: Buffalo Grove, Carbondale, Chicago, Franklin Park, Glen Ellyn, Libertyville, Matteson, Naperville, Rockford, Springfield, and Urban. It’s also an option to take the exam in another state. Make sure you take the exam within the six month window. Otherwise, you’ll have to register – and pay fees – again.

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination

The Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination, administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, is also accepted by the Illinois board. This exam is especially for rehabilitation counselors, but is also an option for students in related majors (See: http://www.crccertification.com/pages/eligibility_requirements/69.php).

Applying for Licensed Professional Counselor Status

You apply for licensing using a four page document that you can download from the state board; if you haven’t already taken the exam, you fill it out beforehand – it’s the same form you use to get your testing approval (See: http://www.idfpr.com/renewals/apply/forms/pc.pdf).

You must demonstrate that you’ve had the required education. You do this by sending an education certification to your school, and then forwarding it to the board, with an official seal, in the same envelope as your application. If your program wasn’t accredited by one of the approved accrediting agencies, you’ll also send a Professional Counselor Academic Criteria form and official transcripts.

In lieu of educational records, you may demonstrate that you hold a National Certified Counselors credential or a Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. If you already took the exam, but don’t hold certification, you will have the proof sent to you, and you will enclose it with the application.

The accompanying fee should be made out to Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

If you’ve ever held a license, you’ll send verification as well.

All materials should be sent to this address:

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
ATTN: Division of Professional Regulation
P.O. Box 7007, HSS-4
Springfield, Illinois 62791

You can call the Illinois board at 217-782-855 for assistance.

If the board has questions about your qualifications, you may be asked to submit further materials or appear in an interview.

Supervised Practice

In order to achieve the higher licensing, you’ll need to work under supervision for two years, or the equivalent. A year of experience must include no less than 960 hours of face to face direct counseling with clients. The experience must be completed in no less than 48 weeks.

If you hold a master’s degree, you need to have completed your degree requirements before you begin accumulating the required experience. (This is not necessarily the same date as graduation.) If you have a doctoral degree, you may count up to a year of experience that you did as an intern while meeting educational requirements.

Once you have attained Licensed Professional Counselor status, you may count volunteer work toward your experience requirement.

If you do your supervised experience in Illinois, your supervisor must be a licensed clinical counselor, psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker. If you did your practice elsewhere, the experience can still count toward the Illinois requirement if the supervisor held a master’s or doctoral degree, practiced professional counseling, clinical social work, clinical psychology, or psychiatry, and held any license that was required.

Your supervisor must meet with you to review your counseling and case management for at least one hour each week. You must be evaluated as at least satisfactory. Both individual and group supervision may be counted toward the requirement.

Administrative supervision is not the same as clinical supervision. In some cases, you may not find a supervisor who meets the Illinois requirement at your own workplace. It is acceptable for you to hire a supervisor.

Examination for LCPC License

When it comes time to take the exam for licensure as an LCPC, you’ll go through a very similar process as you did for the LPC exam. The exam you’ll take is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, but it is also administered by the NBCC (See: http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/Reg/IL.pdf).

The Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination or the Examination of Clinical Counselor Practice may also be accepted.

Applying for LCPC Status

You may fill out an application on paper or online. You’ll need to send the following supporting documentation:

  • Proof of certification (or passing exam scores, if you took the exam before September 5, 1998)
  • Transcripts, with school seal
  • Verification of employment/ experience

You may also need to send the following:

  • Academic criteria document (if your school wasn’t accredited by one of the approved agencies)
  • License verification (if you’ve ever held a license elsewhere)
  • Certification of education, completed by school official, with school seal

Here is a link to all the professional counselor application forms you will need: http://www.idfpr.com/PROFS/Info/ProfCounselor.asp

Out of State Applicants

If you already hold a license in another state, you may have a simplified process. You will need to show that you have a graduate degree in counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or psychology, and that it meets board standards.

You will also need to submit verification of your license(s). The verification must show the period of licensure and whether or not there have been any disciplinary issues. It will also show what exam is used in that state.

Generally you need two years of supervised experience. In some cases, you may get credit for four years of independent practice (Check: http://www.idfpr.com/renewals/apply/forms/lcpc.pdf).

Other Professionals who can be Licensed as Counselors

Illinois’ codes allow professionals in some closely related professions to be licensed as counselors. Vocational counselors, for example, may be licensed as professional counselors.

If you’re actively licensed as a clinical psychologist or clinical social worker in the state, you can get licensure as a clinical professional counselor. You won’t need to take the exam, but you’ll fill out an application and include your license number as well as the applicable fee.

If you have a degree in another closely related field, you may be eligible for licensing as a professional counselor (as long as you meet all the board’s stated requirements). The American Art Therapy Association reports that Illinois art therapists may be licensed as counselors. Columbia College reports that dance movement therapists may be eligible as well (Columbia College).

License Maintenance

You must renew your license every other year. It expires on March 31st of odd numbered years. Renewal requires completion of 30 continuing education hours. (An exception is the first renewal.)

Additional Information

If you are still in High School, hold a High School Diploma/GED, or hold a bachelor's degree, check out suggested steps to take along the path to becoming a counselor in Illinois.

You can contact the Illinois board by visiting the following page: https://www.idfpr.com/PROFS/EMAIL/prfgrp06.asp or by calling 217-782-855.

Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association

Illinois Counseling Association

Illinois School Counselor Association

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*Most states require completion of a CACREP accredited master's in counseling program or a program
that covers very specific curriculum in order to be licensed as a counselor. It is recommend that you follow up
with your state licensing board to review specific educational requirements and determine whether a
program meets your state's counselor licensure requirements.