|As with all professionals, competence depends on training, experience, and personal qualities and talents. Professional designation alone (including LPC) does not distinguish the best counselor. A competent counselor has the combination of training and experience, as well as the personal qualities of a good helper.
Below are some professional designations you might encounter.
- LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor. Must have at least a master's level education, and experience in the mental health field. (See What's an LPC)
- PhD: Doctor of Philosophy; EdD: Doctor of Education; PsyD Doctor of Psychology (in the counseling field these designations usually mean the professional is a Psychologist).
- LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This is the licensed and clinical form of the MSW (Master's in Social Work).
- MD: Psychiatrist, trained as a doctor with a specialty in mental health. Can prescribe medication.
Click here to see the difference
Letters after a name don't make an effective counselor.
The professionals listed above are not always trained and experienced as counselors. Though they may have a license, they may have only minimal schooling, training and experience specific to counseling. The license they hold may have been obtained through experience in the areas of administration, research, school, or government, but this type of work may not be directly related to counseling. So possession of a license does not insure high quality in a counselor.
As important as training and experience are, there are other essential factors that contribute to competence in a counselor. Personal gifts and talents are needed for excellence as a helper. Some examples include: the desire for professional growth, the ability to listen, compassion, being emotionally in touch, etc. In addition to these personal qualities a counselor must have expertise with the problem presented in counseling. Skills that can be used to help with depression or anxiety do not equip a counselor to help with, say for instance, addiction issues. Issue specific experience and training is necessary in order for a counselor to be a competent helper.
How to identify an excellent professional:
If not by professional designation, how does one assess the quality of a counselor?
- Don't assume competence. Inquire about training, experience in the field and method of practice. (And don't accept vague or confusing answers.)
- Ask for an informational brochure or a website. This might answer some important questions about the counselor’s point of view, or expertise.
- In the initial phone calls and beginning stages of the counseling, evaluate your experience. Does the counselor listen; do he/she seem interested, competent, compassionate, genuine, etc?
So . . . . . . The letters after a professional's name don't tell the whole story. LPC's as well as other professionals may be competent to counsel, but only if they possess the necessary talents, training and experience.
The Good News! There are many competent, well-trained, and caring professionals. Seek and you will find!