Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) Jobs & Career Guide 2023

What is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor or LMHC?

A licensed mental health counselor is a professional who is trained and licensed to provide counseling and therapy services to individuals, families, and groups to help them deal with mental and emotional issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, addiction, and other mental health concerns.

These professionals typically have a master’s degree in counseling psychologycounseling or a related field and have completed a certain number of supervised clinical hours.

Many mental health counselors conduct their therapy holistically, employing a “wellness” paradigm (rather than a “sickness” one) that emphasizes and promotes individuals’ strengths.

What does a Licensed Mental Health Counselor do?

LMHCs play an important role in helping individuals, families, and communities improve their mental health and well-being.x

Some common responsibilities of LMHCs include:

  1. Conducting assessments: LMHCs are trained to conduct comprehensive assessments of clients’ mental health and well-being, including identifying any mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or other issues that may be impacting their overall functioning.
  2. Developing treatment plans: Based on their assessments, LMHCs develop personalized treatment plans to help clients address their mental health concerns. These plans may include individual or group therapy, medication management, and other interventions.
  3. Providing therapy: LMHCs provide therapy to clients using evidence-based approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or other modalities. They help clients work through their emotional and mental health issues and provide them with coping skills to manage symptoms and improve their overall functioning.
  4. Monitoring progress: LMHCs monitor clients’ progress throughout the course of treatment and make adjustments to treatment plans as needed. They may also conduct regular assessments to track changes in clients’ mental health and well-being.
  5. Advocating for clients: LMHCs may advocate for their clients to receive appropriate mental health care and services, as well as to access community resources and support.
  6. Maintaining confidentiality: LMHCs are required to maintain strict confidentiality with their clients, except in certain situations where disclosure is legally required, such as in cases of child abuse or if a client is a danger to themselves or others.
“Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs) have the privilege of walking with clients on their journeys of personal growth, healing, and transformation. It is a profound honor to witness the human spirit’s resilience and watch people overcome significant adversity. At the same time, it can be challenging work, requiring therapists to stay current on research, be aware of their own biases and triggers, and balance the emotional demands of the job with self-care and boundaries. LMHCs must continually work to build trusting relationships with clients, understand the cultural contexts of clients’ lives, and help clients build their capacity for resilience and change.”
Dr. Ryan Howes, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor

Here is a typical daily schedule for an LMHC:

8:00 am – 9:00 am: Review client charts and prepare for the day’s appointments, including reviewing treatment plans and notes from previous sessions.

9:00 am – 12:00 pm: See clients for individual or group therapy sessions, conducting assessments, and updating treatment plans as needed.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Take a lunch break and engage in self-care activities, such as mindfulness meditation or exercise.

1:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Continue seeing clients for therapy sessions or conducting group sessions, as well as charting notes and updating client records.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Attend team meetings or supervision sessions with colleagues or supervisors to discuss challenging cases and receive feedback and support.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Complete administrative tasks, such as responding to client emails and phone calls, submitting insurance claims, and updating billing records.

Where Do LMHCs work?

There are many opportunities for LMHCs to work in a variety of settings and make a meaningful impact on the mental health and well-being of their clients. Here are some common employers of LMHCs:

  1. Mental health clinics: Many LMHCs work in mental health clinics, which provide a range of mental health services to clients, including therapy, medication management, and crisis intervention.
  2. Hospitals: Some LMHCs work in hospitals, providing therapy and support to patients with mental health conditions who are receiving medical treatment.
  3. Private practices: LMHCs may also choose to start their private practices, where they can see clients and provide therapy services independently.
  4. Schools and universities: LMHCs may work in schools and universities, providing counseling services to students, staff, and faculty.
  5. Government agencies: LMHCs may be employed by government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense to provide mental health services to veterans or military personnel.
  6. Nonprofit organizations: LMHCs may work for nonprofit organizations that provide mental health services to underserved populations, such as low-income individuals or those without insurance.

How to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor

The process to become an LMHC can take several years and involves significant education, training, and clinical experience

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming an LMHC is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology or a related field, such as social work.

Earn a Master’s Degree

The next step is to earn a Master’s Degree in counseling psychologycounseling or a related field from an accredited program. A master’s degree program typically takes 2-3 years to complete and involves coursework in psychology, counseling theories, human development, and counseling techniques.

Complete clinical experience

After earning a master’s degree, prospective LMHCs must complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed mental health counselor or other licensed mental health professional.

Clinical experience is a critical component and involves providing direct counseling services to clients.

Clinical experience requirements vary by state but typically involve completing a certain number of hours (usually around 3,000) of supervised counseling or psychotherapy with clients. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that prospective LMHCs gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to provide safe and effective counseling services.

Pass the NCMHCE or NCE exam

Once the required clinical hours are completed, prospective LMHCs must pass a state-recognized licensure exam.

The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) and the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) are two exams that are commonly required for individuals who wish to become licensed mental health counselors in the United States.

The NCMHCE is a clinical examination that assesses an individual’s knowledge and skills in the areas of assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and case management for clients with mental health disorders. The exam consists of 10 clinical simulations that assess the candidate’s ability to apply counseling theory and practice to real-world clinical situations. The NCMHCE is typically required for LMHC licensure in many states.

The NCE, on the other hand, is a more general exam that assesses an individual’s knowledge of counseling theory, ethical and legal issues in counseling, and general counseling practices. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and covers a broad range of topics related to counseling practice. The NCE is required for LMHC licensure in some states.

Both exams are administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) and are computer-based tests that can be taken at testing centers across the United States. The cost of the exams varies by state and may range from several hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.

Apply for licensure

After passing the exam, individuals must apply for licensure in the state where they wish to practice. Requirements for licensure can vary by state but typically involve completing an application, providing documentation of education and clinical experience, and paying a fee.

Ongoing education

Once licensed, LMHCs are required to complete ongoing education and training to maintain their license and stay current on developments in the field.

How Much Do Licensed Mental Health Counselors Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual income for a mental health counselor is $47,660.

Income varies considerably by location so here are the 5 states with the highest average annual salary:

  1. New Jersey – $70,450
  2. District of Columbia – $67,900
  3. Hawaii – $67,160
  4. California – $65,020
  5. Alaska – $64,040

It is important to note that these figures are from the BLS and group substance abuse as well as behavioral disorder professionals with counselors which may skew the figures slightly. Additionally those entering the profession can expect to earn significantly less whilst they build their experience and credentials.

Here are some ways to improve you earning potential:

  • Specialization: such as trauma, addiction, or marriage and family therapy. LMHCs can develop a niche in the market and become a sought-after expert in that area, which can lead to higher pay rates.
  • Obtaining additional certifications: LMHCs can increase their earning potential by obtaining additional certifications, such as board certification in specialties such as addictions or counseling psychology. These certifications can demonstrate advanced training and knowledge in specific areas and can increase the value of an LMHC’s services.
  • Starting a private practice: LMHCs who start their private practice can set their rates and have more control over their earning potential. While starting a private practice requires additional business skills and may involve more administrative responsibilities, it can provide a greater opportunity for increased earning potential.

Get more insights with our LMHC salary guide.

What is the difference between an LMHC and an LPC?

An LMHC and an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) are both licensed mental health professionals who provide counseling services to individuals, families, and groups. However, there are some differences between the two:

  1. Scope of Practice: In general, LMHCs tend to focus more on the treatment of mental health disorders, while LPCs may have a broader scope of practice that includes issues such as career counseling, personal growth, and life transitions.
  2. Education and Training: Education and training requirements for LMHCs and LPCs can vary by state. In some states, the requirements for both professions may be similar or identical, while in other states, there may be different education and training requirements.
  3. Licensing Exam: LMHCs and LPCs typically take different licensing exams. For example, LMHCs may be required to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), while LPCs may be required to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
  4. Scope of Practice: In some states, there may be differences in the scope of practice between LMHCs and LPCs. For example, in some states, LMHCs may be authorized to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, while LPCs may not have this authorization.

Learn more about becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor

Latest LMHC Job Listings

PositionCompanyLocationPosted
Behavioral Health Provider for Primary CareHarbor Health Services Inc Hyannis, Massachusetts US06/04/2024
Harbor Health Services is seekinga talentedBehavioral HealthProvider for Primary Care(LICSW, LMHC or LFMT)to join our Behavioral Health team! TheBehavioral Health Provider for Primary Careprovides direct psychotherapy services to Behavioral Health patients and assists the Behavioral Health Director in clinical functions of the department; developing and implementing policies … More
Behavioral Health Provider | Psychologist, LICSW or LMHC | Reliant Medical GroupUnitedHealth Group Worcester, Massachusetts US06/04/2024
As a part of Optum, the largest network of medical groups in the nation, Reliant Medical Group, located in Central Massachusetts, is seeking a (Full-time or Part-time) Psychologist, LICSW or LMHC to join our Integrated Behavioral Health Division as an Integrated Behavioral Health Provider. At Optum, we are transforming healthcare nationally while providing Physician-led care locally. Discover a place where you can help shape the future of health care and do your life’s best work.(sm)The … More
Clinician / Behavior Analyst (BCBA) / BCBA Candidate / LMHCGuidewire Inc Springfield, Massachusetts US06/03/2024
** NO BILLABLE HOURS! **Guidewire Inc. is a Non-Profit Human Service Agency that provides residential, and day supports to adults with developmental disabilities throughout Hampden & Berkshire counties. We are seeking a highly motivated, personable, and communicative team member to join our multi-disciplinary Clinical team. The ideal candidate will possess a willingness to learn, a desire to help others, and a desire to make a difference in the … More
Behavioral Health RNHines & Associates Inc Dubuque, Iowa US06/03/2024
Description:About usHines is a nationwide, independent leader in personalized managed health care, focused on comprehensive services to ensure our patients have the best care. Hines & Associates, Inc.’s reputation as an industry leader is founded on over three decades of innovative and professional health care excellence.What we offerCompetitive salary and benefits, including medical, dental, vision, long-term care, short-term disability, … More
Licensed Mental Health CounselorComplete Care Centers, LLC Jacksonville, Florida US06/03/2024
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with Complete Care you will be working with our trauma injury patients to help them overcome and manage different mental and emotional challenges. Their duties include meeting with patients to listen to their problems, diagnosing their mental or emotional disorder and building treatment plans and coping strategies for the patient to follow.Licensed Mental Health Counselor Responsibilities: Perform initial evaluations of … More
Social Worker / Mental Health Clinician – Early InterventionThom Child And Family Services Worcester, Massachusetts US06/01/2024
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services located in Worcester, MA is seeking a Social Worker or a Mental Health Clinician … More
Mental Health Counselor -Bilingual-SpanishThom Child And Family Services Waltham, Massachusetts US06/01/2024
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services is seeking a Mental Health Counselor Bilingual to join their team. As an Early Intervention Mental … More
Social Worker / Mental Health Clinician – Early InterventionThom Child And Family Services Norwood, Massachusetts US06/01/2024
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services located in Norwood, MA is seeking a Social Worker or a Mental Health Clinician – LCSW, LICSW, LMHC to join their team. As … More
Position
Harbor Health Services is seekinga talentedBehavioral HealthProvider for Primary Care(LICSW, LMHC or LFMT)to join our Behavioral Health team! TheBehavioral Health Provider for Primary Careprovides direct psychotherapy services to Behavioral Health patients and assists the Behavioral Health Director in clinical functions of the department; developing and implementing policies … More
Company
Harbor Health Services Inc
Location
Hyannis, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/04/2024
Position
As a part of Optum, the largest network of medical groups in the nation, Reliant Medical Group, located in Central Massachusetts, is seeking a (Full-time or Part-time) Psychologist, LICSW or LMHC to join our Integrated Behavioral Health Division as an Integrated Behavioral Health Provider. At Optum, we are transforming healthcare nationally while providing Physician-led care locally. Discover a place where you can help shape the future of health care and do your life’s best work.(sm)The … More
Company
UnitedHealth Group
Location
Worcester, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/04/2024
Position
** NO BILLABLE HOURS! **Guidewire Inc. is a Non-Profit Human Service Agency that provides residential, and day supports to adults with developmental disabilities throughout Hampden & Berkshire counties. We are seeking a highly motivated, personable, and communicative team member to join our multi-disciplinary Clinical team. The ideal candidate will possess a willingness to learn, a desire to help others, and a desire to make a difference in the … More
Company
Guidewire Inc
Location
Springfield, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/03/2024
Position
Description:About usHines is a nationwide, independent leader in personalized managed health care, focused on comprehensive services to ensure our patients have the best care. Hines & Associates, Inc.’s reputation as an industry leader is founded on over three decades of innovative and professional health care excellence.What we offerCompetitive salary and benefits, including medical, dental, vision, long-term care, short-term disability, … More
Company
Hines & Associates Inc
Location
Dubuque, Iowa US
Posted
06/03/2024
Position
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with Complete Care you will be working with our trauma injury patients to help them overcome and manage different mental and emotional challenges. Their duties include meeting with patients to listen to their problems, diagnosing their mental or emotional disorder and building treatment plans and coping strategies for the patient to follow.Licensed Mental Health Counselor Responsibilities: Perform initial evaluations of … More
Company
Complete Care Centers, LLC
Location
Jacksonville, Florida US
Posted
06/03/2024
Position
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services located in Worcester, MA is seeking a Social Worker or a Mental Health Clinician … More
Company
Thom Child And Family Services
Location
Worcester, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/01/2024
Position
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services is seeking a Mental Health Counselor Bilingual to join their team. As an Early Intervention Mental … More
Company
Thom Child And Family Services
Location
Waltham, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/01/2024
Position
*Sign-on-Bonus available $3,000*Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity working with the pediatric population (children birth to 3 years)? Are you passionate about making a difference in the lives of families? Thom Child & Family Services located in Norwood, MA is seeking a Social Worker or a Mental Health Clinician – LCSW, LICSW, LMHC to join their team. As … More
Company
Thom Child And Family Services
Location
Norwood, Massachusetts US
Posted
06/01/2024