The Differences Between an LMFT and LPCC

A LMFT counselor speaks with a couple

PLNU’s Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling (MACC) prepares students to become either a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) or a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). Although the course requirements are the same for students seeking either path, you’ll gain the knowledge and practicum experience to qualify for your licensure exams and pursue a calling that best serves your purpose and helps your clients attain theirs as well.

As you consider where to focus your education, here are some points about the LPCC and LMFT options to help you determine which path best aligns with your calling in counseling.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC):

Licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC) focus primarily on the needs of patients as individuals with the purpose of improving mental health, though they may also work with families and in group settings. Through a broader scope of intervention, LPCCs diagnose and treat individual patients living with:

  • Mental and emotional illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Disability
  • Personal trauma
  • Psychological and social developmental disorders

What is the difference between an LPC and an LPCC?

A licensed professional counselor (LPC) master’s degree is a broad degree that grants the professional the ability to support counseling — whether through career, rehabilitation, or another counseling sphere — that doesn’t directly involve diagnosis or treatment of mental illness. 

On the other hand, only seven states recognize Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC):

  1. California
  2. Colorado
  3. Kentucky 
  4. Minnesota
  5. New Mexico 
  6. North Dakota 
  7. Ohio 

The “clinical” element of an LPCC broadens the scope of practice to be able to diagnose and treat patients with mental illness. At the core of the practice, LPCCs focus more on mental health instead of counseling. While they do not specialize in a specific patient or mental health issue, they have the licensure to treat a wide variety of clients seeking mental health support. 

Advance your career and purpose.
Start a graduate degree at PLNU.

How Do I  Become an LPCC?

Becoming an LPCC requires a few additional steps outside of earning your bachelor’s degree. If you want to pursue a career as a therapist, and more specifically an LPCC, these are the typical steps to follow to achieve your goals.

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree — it doesn’t necessarily have to be in psychology.
  2. Earn a master’s degree.
  3. Gain clinical experience. 
  4. Take your licensure/certification. 

LPCC Career Opportunities

Mental health impacts our entire well-being. As education about the importance of fostering positive mental health continues to gain momentume, we’ve seen a shift toward people seeking more mental health support than ever before. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports psychologists are receiving nearly double the number of referral requests (from 37% to 62%).

The need for mental health support is predicted to continue to grow as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts LPCC employment to jump up 25% in the next decade — a rate higher than other occupations. 

As an LPCC, you have a variety of career opportunities available to choose from:

  • Private Practice Counselor 
  • School or College Counselor  
  • Crisis Intervention Counselor 
  • Military Counselor 
  • Rehabilitation Counselor 
  • Grief Counselor 
  • Mental health Counselor 

Consider the different types of organizations you can choose to work as an LPCC:

  • Private practice 
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Department of Veteran Affairs 
  • Hospitals 
  • Prisons 

Watch our video below to see what earning your LPCC could look like. 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT):

Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT) focus more specifically on the relational and interpersonal dynamics within families, marriages, and couples. With a more specialized field, LMFTs focus on a wide range of topics such as: 

  • Premarital counseling 
  • Relationship counseling 
  • Separation counseling 
  • Childhood counseling  
  • Divorce counseling

They also work with more specific conditions like depression, anxiety, and other psychological needs within relationships and families.

LMFTs are more specifically trained to support family dynamics and how mental health impacts the different family relationships. 

How to Become an LMFT 

Similar to LPCCs, LMFTs must complete the following steps to become licensed and certified practicing therapists. 

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree — it doesn’t necessarily have to be in psychology.
  2. Earn a master’s degree.
  3. Gain clinical experience. 
  4. Take your licensure/certification. 

Where Can I Work as an LMFT?

Like an LPCC, an LMFT has a wide range of settings to practice, such as: 

  • Hospitals 
  • Schools 
  • Private practice 
  • Government agencies
  • Outpatient centers 
  • Rehabilitation centers 
  • Nonprofit organizations 

Is There Job Growth for LMFTs? 

Yes! Similar to LPCCs, LMFT career opportunities are also projected to significantly grow in the next decade to support the growing need for mental health services in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow by 16% by 2030. According to a report from the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the San Diego region ‘...needs to more than double the behavioral health workforce by 2027.’ This is increasing the demand for universities in San Diego to offer programs that prepare students for the mental health field

LPCC and LMFT Career Opportunities

Through hospitals, health centers, clinics, and private practice, as well as roles within social work, education, ministry, and government service, the need for mental health professionals in the United States will continue to rise at a rate of over 20% through the year 2030, with a mean average salary of $46,050 for LPCC and $53,860 for LMFT professionals (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).

Could a career as an LPCC or LMFT be right for you?

More Resources

Whether you see yourself helping an individual improve their mental health, or helping a young couple prepare for a long and fulfilling marriage, your pursuit of a career in counseling and therapy — no matter your path — will improve the lives of the clients and people you interact with.

Next Steps to Learn More

Request Info

Apply now