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Licensed Professional Counselor Requirements in PA

Master’s level counselors and therapists in multiple specialties are credentialed as Licensed Professional Counselors, or LPCs, by the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors.

Professional licensure requires, in addition to education, good character, passing scores on a certification examination, and satisfactory supervised work experience.

The information below serves as a comprehensive guide to counseling licensure in PA. If you have any questions about LPC requirements in Pennsylvania along the way or just want to make sure you are not straying from the path, contact the Pennsylvania Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors by calling (717) 783-1389 or emailing ST-SOCIALWORK@pa.gov

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LPC Education Requirements In PA

To become an LPC, you will need a qualifying master's degree in professional counseling or another closely related field (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/049/chapter49/chap49toc.html). Your degree should be granted by a regionally accredited school and include at least 60 semester hours of coursework. Learn more about selecting a Master's in Counseling program here.

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.

Walden University offers one of the only CACREP-accredited online M.S. in Mental Health Counseling degrees in the country. Click here to contact the University for information about the program.

It is also acceptable to have a master's that is between 48 and 60 semester hours in length if you take additional graduate courses to complete the 60 semester hour minimum.

The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors considers the following to be closely related degrees:

  • Psychology
  • Art therapy
  • Social work
  • Drama therapy
  • Dance/ movement therapy
  • Counseling education
  • Human services
  • Child development and family studies

Other degrees in applied behavioral science may be considered qualifying if they include a practicum and internship and at least five of the eight competency standards listed below.

Your 60 hours of coursework should include at least two semester hours in each of the following content areas:

  • Human growth and development
  • Social and cultural foundations
  • Helping relationships
  • Group work
  • Career and lifestyle development
  • Appraisal
  • Research and program evaluation
  • Professional orientation

Additionally, you will need to do 100 clock hours of practicum and 600 clock hours of internship.

There are numerous CACREP-accredited programs in mental health counseling in Pennsylvania. You can also find multiple creative arts therapy programs within the state. There are three accredited art therapy programs (http://www.arttherapy.org/aata-educational-programs.html) and one dance/ movement program. Drexel University is one of only six schools in the nation with a dance/ movement program that is approved by the American Dance Therapy Association (http://www.adta.org/Default.aspx?pageId=378248).

Examination Requirements

Pennsylvania accepts a number of examinations for licensing purposes (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/049/chapter49/s49.11.html):

  • National Counselor Examination (NCE) or Examination for Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC) -- administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors
  • Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRC) -- administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
  • Art Therapy Credentials Board Certification Examination (ATCB) -- administered by the Art Therapy Credentials Board (http://www.atcb.org/examination/)
  • Board Certification Examination -- administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (http://www.cbmt.org/examination)
  • Practice Examination of Psychological Knowledge -- administered by the Northamerican Association of Master’s in Psychology (http://www.enamp.org/p2.htm)
  • Advanced Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Counselor Examination (AAODA) -- administered by the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium/Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Inc. (http://internationalcredentialing.org/aadcPR)

The board notes that whatever examination you take, you'll need to apply directly to the testing agency to take the test. You will make arrangements to have your testing results sent to the Pennsylvania board.

Most of the above are specialty examinations, designed for professionals with training in a particular branch of counseling or in a related helping profession. The NCE is a general professional counseling exam that is used in many states for licensing purposes. It is also a viable option for dance/ movement therapists.

You will find an NCE registration form in your Pennsylvania license application packet. If you opt for the NCE, you will take a computerized test; sessions are scheduled Monday through Saturday, two weeks out of each month. As a candidate for Pennsylvania licensure, you will send a registration form to the NBCC along with an official transcript showing that you have a master's in counseling or a related field. You will also need to include a $185 fee (http://www.nbcc.org/Assets/StateForms/Reg/PA-NCE.pdf).

In Pennsylvania, the NCE is given in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wyoming.

Supervised Practice

If your highest degree is a master's, you will be eligible for licensure when you have accrued three years, or 3,600 clinical hours, of experience.

You may only count hours that you accrued after completing at least 48 semester hours of graduate coursework.

If you have a doctoral degree, you will only need to work under supervision for 2,400 hours, or two years, to become eligible for licensing. You may count some hours that you completed prior to conferral of your doctorate. However, you must complete at least one year (or 1,200 hours) after receiving your degree.

As noted in the LPC application instructions, you may not count practicum or internship as part of your supervised experience.

At least half of your experience requirement must be met through the following direct client services:

  • Counseling
  • Assessment
  • Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Consultation
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Other therapeutic services

Your supervisor will be someone who has training and experience in the area(s) where you will be completing your supervised practice. S/he will make observations, discuss your strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations for your continued professional growth. S/he will also make recommendations for licensing purposes.

You should meet with your delegated supervisor at least two hours for every 40 hours of supervised experience that you do.

You won't necessarily accrue all your experience in the same setting, but in order to count it, it will need to meet the following requirement:

  • You must work 30 - 40 hours a week in the same setting for at least a three month period (or 15 or more hours a week in the same setting for at least a six month period).
  • You may credit between 600 and 1,800 hours a year and meet your obligation over a period of two to six years.

The Application Process

You will find application materials on the board website (Click Here for the website.). You may also request to have them mailed to you.

Your application file will include several supplemental documents:

  • You will include a curricula vitae with your application.
  • You will have your certifying agency send exam results to the Pennsylvania board.
  • You will solicit two recommendations on official forms. These you will submit with your application.
  • You will also need verification of your supervised experience. Your supervisor(s) will need to fill out the forms, but they will return them to you in sealed envelopes.
  • You will include a $45.00 fee made out to "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania"

Application materials may be mailed to:

State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649

Out of State Applicants

As a practicing counselor, you will need to get license verification from each jurisdiction where you have held a license.

There are multiple paths you may take to show eligibility for Pennsylvania licensure (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/049/chapter49/chap49toc.html). If you have been engaged in active practice elsewhere, you may be eligible for license by endorsement (without examination). Your educational requirements will need to meet the standards set by Pennsylvania. You will need a letter attesting that you have a license in good standing. You will also need to show that you have completed 3,000 hours of supervised practice that conformed to the standards set by your jurisdiction. (The Pennsylvania board notes, on the application, that you can get this from the board of your own municipality.)

You may choose this eligibility path if you have been practicing professional counseling for at least five out of the preceding seven years.

License Maintenance

You will need to renew your Pennsylvania license biannually, on odd-numbered years. During each renewal cycle, you must complete 30 clock hours of continuing education. At least three hours must pertain to ethics.

You will need to provide a signed statement that you have met your obligation. If selected for audit, you will be asked to furnish additional documentation.

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 Pennsylvania.

You may contact the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors by calling (717) 783-1389 or emailing ST-SOCIALWORK@pa.gov.

You may request a written copy of the rules and regulations from the Pennsylvania board. Make sure to provide you mailing address.

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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.