Find answers to commonly asked questions about the counseling profession.

What is a counselor?

A counselor can be defined as a professional trained to provide guidance on personal, social and psychological problems to individuals, groups and families.  Counselors work collaboratively with clients to identify goals and solutions to their problems; help clients make changes in thinking, feeling, behaving and relating to others; improve communication and assertiveness skills; enhance self-esteem and coping skills.  According to the American Counseling Association (ACA), “Counselors work with clients on strategies to overcome obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing. Professional counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. Counselors work with clients on strategies to overcome obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing”.  Click here to see an animated video, “What is counseling?”, that was developed by 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling project.  This video provides a good overview of counseling.

  • School/Guidance Counselors
  • Career Counselors
  • Marriage & Family Counselors
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Substance Abuse Counselors


What’s the difference between a psychologist and a counselor?

Both psychologists and counselors can provide pscyhotherapeutic services but require different level of education in order to practice independently.  A psychologist for example, would need a doctoral degree (with exception of school psychologist who need a masters degree) and psychologist license while a counselor requires a masters degree and a counseling license (except school counselors who only need certification, and certified alcohol and drug counselors) to practice.  Psychologists can provide counseling/psychotherapy, psychological testing, forensic evaluations, participate in research, teaching in a college/university setting, and provide consultation.  Counselors on the other hand, provide counseling/psychotherapy, perform appraisals and assessments (for career counseling), participate in research, and provide consultation as well.  Counselors tend to use the wellness model approach which focuses on the whole person including their strengths and weaknesses.  In addition, although counselors can perform similar duties and roles as psychologist, counselors generally have a lower earning potential than psychologists.

What’s the difference between a social worker and a counselor?

Both are masters level professionals that provide counseling/psychotherapy but while social work practice focuses on social work principles, counselors focus on psychological principles.

What issues does a counselor address?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger management
  • Adjustment issues related to transitions to a new school, job, or relocation
  • Stress management
  • Addiction and abuse of alcohol and other drugs
  • Career development or occupational issues
  • Academic issues
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Grief
  • Eating disorders
  • Gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death
  • Trauma

How do I become a counselor?

Since the goal of ours is to provide guidance to individuals in New Jersey who are pursuing a career as a professional counselor, our focus on answering this question will be on the mental health counseling specialty and how to obtain a license to practice in New Jersey. However, by going to the site below, you can learn general information about the types of mental health therapists (including counselors) and learn how to become a counselor.

Useful Site(s):  Learn How To Become A Counselor

So to become a licensed professional counselor in New Jersey, in a nutshell, you will need to take the following steps:

STEP 1.  Earn a masters degree (or a doctoral degree) from a CACREP-accredited program (60 credits) in counseling.

STEP 2. Obtain the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential by passing the national certification examination (NCE) taken either through your school (sometimes a requisite for graduation) or the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC).

STEP 3.  Obtain the provisional license (Licensed Associate Counselor a.k.a. LAC) to practice counseling in New Jersey through the State Board of Marriage and Family Examiners.

STEP 4. Accrue 4500 hours of supervised experience in a professional counseling setting, 1500 hours of which can be obtained prior to the granting of the master’s degree. Keep in mind, the maximum amount of supervised hours you can accrue per year is 1500. Therefore it would take 2-3 years of post-graduate supervised experience to qualify for the LPC.

STEP 5.  Obtain the LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) through the State Board of Marriage and Family Examiners.

For in-depth information about how to become a counselor, please refer to the “Knowledge Center” in the menu above for more information and to find useful links.

How do I get clinical supervision?

In most cases, if not all, once you begin working as a counselor, clinical supervision will be provided by your employer.  However, in the event that your employer does not provide clinical supervision, you will have to look for a qualified clinical supervisor.  According to the State Board of Marriage and Family Examiners, a qualified clinical supervisor has obtained the Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) certificate OR has taken a three-credit graduate-level course in clinical supervision pursuant to N.J.A.C 13:34-13.1(a)2″.  A clinical supervisor can be a professional counselor, clinical social worker, psychologist or a psychiatrist as long as he or she meets the aforementioned requirements. Your clinical supervisor will need to complete the Proposed Plan of Supervision form and forward it directly to the state board.