Counselor, Therapist, Psychotherapist are broad terms that are used within my field interchangeably, this is not helpful. If we want YOU to come to us we must be able to specify how we help you. I am going to explain how Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) help you figure stuff out because this is what I have done for almost two decades and counting.
All Licensed Professional Counselors are trained as generalist first, they must illustrate and perform the basic duties that allow them to see a wide scope of presenting mental health issues. LPC’s can work with a wide range of ages and concerns, and focus on getting you to function better daily. We are like a general physician of the mental health world.
When I tell people I am an LPC they say “so what kind of counseling do you do?” I tell them that I help people exercise their mental health. This is the same way that a Physical Therapist does for those who need physical functionality. An LPC can work on your immediate discontent and set a plan for long term growth. We also assess and measure progress providing positive motivation at each stage. There is a plan.
In extreme cases, you may be forever changed by an incident; let’s use the death of a loved as an example. An LPC can work with you defining a new normal, one that will lead to overall improved coping; while acknowledging that things may not be the same. Counselors can provide you with parameters to know what is a typical duration or intensity to your pain, my clients experience a sense of relief by my sharing of what is experienced by others I’ve seen with similar circumstances. In this way, you are able to gain the wisdom of lessons learned by others, in a condensed and protected setting.
Licensed Professional Counselors have extensive training. All LPC’s must complete a Bachelor degree and then a Master’s program of at least 60 hours (most Master’s programs are 35-40 hr). After a new counselor receives their degree, they must practice under a more experienced counselor for an additional 3 years. Think of this as their Residency or Apprenticeship.
There is another public misunderstanding that seems to invade the world of mental health that is that “people can just talk with friends or family members to sort things out”. It is always good to talk with other loved ones and those who support you and sometimes this is sufficient but many of us have exercise equipment at home and still find gym memberships and trainers valuable tools in reaching our goals. It is unlikely that your friends or family have had specific training in these areas as an LPC must have before being licensed:
- Assessment of mental health symptoms
- Training in standardized testing
- Training in mental health diagnosis
- Knowledge of reactions to psychological pain
- Ability to listen critically for important areas of concern that others may miss
- Ability to think above the emotion that may be blocking your solution
- Ability to create comfort and a non-judgmental stance
- A minimum of 3000 hours of previous client sessions at minimum
- Understanding and application of psychology theories
- Training in legal and ethical decision-making
- Multicultural training
- Unbiased perspective
- Continued education required to ensure current knowledge
Keep in mind that licensure is required to practice but does not guarantee a counselor’s effectiveness. It shows a standard skill to meet the basic requirements for the profession for the state where we practice. Just like you need a drivers license to drive a car, but this does not tell me how good of a driver you are. This is why the most important thing to do is speak with a counselor to assure you are a good fit and are confident about their ability to help. If you do not find these two things keep shopping there are many counselors who are waiting to help you.