Highlights of Senate Bill 788

Introduced by Senators Wyland and Steinberg on February 27, 2009
Approved by the Governor and Filed with the Secretary of State on October 11, 2009
Went into effect January 1, 2010

The requirements for licensure as a Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) are comparable to those of Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) in California and to those of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) in 49 states. The scope of practice is founded on the premise that Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors must first meet the requirements for the general practice of professional counseling and then they may develop a specialty that is narrowly focused, requiring advanced knowledge in a particular area. It is not intended that the State would regulate counseling specialties.

Scope of Practice:

  • 4999.20. (a)
  • (1) “Professional clinical counseling” means the application of counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental, and emotional issues, including personal growth, adjustment to disability, crisis intervention, and psychosocial and environmental problems. “Professional clinical counseling includes conducting assessments for the purpose of establishing counseling goals and objectives to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior and make well-informed, rational decisions.
  • (2) “Professional clinical counseling” is focused exclusively on the application of counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques for the purposes of improving mental health, and is not intended to capture other, non-clinical (i.e. non-mental health) forms of counseling for the purposes of licensure.
  • (3) “Professional clinical counseling” does not include the assessment or treatment of couples or families unless the clinical counselor has completed the following:
(A) One of the following:
      • (i) 6 semester units or 9 quarter units specifically focused on the theory and application of marriage and family therapy.
      • (ii) A named specialization or emphasis area on the qualifying degree in marriage and family therapy, marital and family therapy, marriage, family and child counseling, or couples and family therapy.
    • (B) No less than 500 hours of documented supervised experience working directly with couples, families or children.
    • (C) A minimum of 6 hours of continuing education specific to marriage and family therapy, completed in each license renewal cycle.
  • (4) “Professional clinical counseling” does not include the provision of clinical social work services.
    • (b) “Counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques” means the application of cognitive, affective, verbal or nonverbal, systemic or holistic counseling strategies that include principles of development, wellness, and maladjustment that reflect a pluralistic society. These interventions and techniques are specifically implemented in the context of a professional clinical counseling relationship and use a variety of counseling theories and approaches.
    • (c) “Assessment” means selecting, administering, scoring, and to measure an individual’s attitudes, abilities, aptitudes, achievements, interests, personal characteristics, disabilities, and mental, emotional, and behavioral concerns and development and the use of methods and techniques for understanding human behavior in relation to coping with, adapting to, or ameliorating changing life situations, as part of the counseling process. “Assessment” shall not include the use of projective techniques in the assessment of personality, individually administered intelligence tests, neuropsychological testing, or utilization of a battery of three or more tests to determine the presence of psychosis, dementia, amnesia, cognitive impairment, or criminal behavior.
    • (d) Professional clinical counselors shall refer clients to other licensed health care professionals when they identify issues beyond their own scope of education, training, and experience.


  • (a) Nothing in this article shall prevent qualified persons from doing work of a psychosocial nature consistent with the standards and ethics of their respective professions. However, they shall not hold themselves out to the public by any title or description of services incorporating the words “licensed professional clinical counselor”, and shall not state that they are licensed to practice professional clinical counseling, unless they are otherwise licensed to provide counseling services.
  • (b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to constrict, limit, or withdraw provisions of the Medical Practice Act, the Social Work Licensing Law, the Nursing Practice Act, the Psychology Licensing Law, or Marriage and Family Therapy licensing laws.
  • (c) This chapter shall not apply to any priest, rabbi, or minister of the gospel of any religious denomination who performs counseling services as part of his or her pastoral or professional duties, or to any person who is admitted to practice law in the state, or who is licensed to practice medicine, who provides counseling services as part of his or her professional practice.
  • (d)This chapter shall not apply to an employee of a governmental entity or of a school, college, or university, or of an institution both nonprofit and charitable, if his or her practice is performed solely under the supervision of the entity, school, or organization by which he or she is employed, and if he or she performs those functions as part of the position for which he or she is employed.
  • (e) All persons registered as professional counselor interns or licensed under this chapter shall not be exempt from this chapter or the jurisdiction of the board.

Educational Requirements

  • (a) This section shall apply to applicants for examination eligibility or registration who begin graduate study before August 1, 2012 and complete that study on or before December 31, 2018. Those applicants may alternatively qualify under paragraph (2) of Section 4999.33
  • (b) To qualify for a license, applicants shall possess a master’s or doctoral degree, that is counseling or psychotherapy in content and that meets the requirements of this section, obtained from an accredited or approved institution as defined in Section 4999.12. For purposes of this subdivision, a degree is “counseling or psychotherapy in content” if it contains the supervised practicum or field study experience described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (c), and, except as provided in subdivision (d), the coursework in the core content areas listed in subparagraphs (A) through (I), inclusive, of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c).
  • (c) The degree described in subdivision (b) shall contain not less than 48 graduate semester units or 72 graduate quarter units of instruction, which shall include all of the following:
    • (1) The equivalent of at least three semester units or four and one-half quarter units of graduate study in each of the following core content areas:
(A) Counseling and psychotherapeutic theories and techniques, including the counseling process in a multicultural society, an orientation to wellness and prevention, counseling theories to assist in selection of appropriate counseling interventions, models of counseling consistent with current professional research and practice, development of a personal model of counseling, and multidisciplinary responses to crises, emergencies and disasters.
      • (B) Human growth & development across the lifespan, including normal and abnormal behavior, an understanding of developmental crises, disability, psychopathology, and situational and environmental factors that affect both normal and abnormal behavior.
      • (C) Career development theories and techniques, including career development decision-making models, interrelationships among and between work, family and other life roles and factors including the role of multicultural issues in career development.
      • (D) Group counseling theories and techniques, including principles of group dynamics, group process components, group developmental stage theories, therapeutic factors of group work, group leadership styles and approaches, pertinent research and literature, group counseling methods, and evaluation of effectiveness.
      • (E) Assessment, appraisal, and testing of individuals, including basic concepts of standardized and non-standardized testing and other assessment techniques, norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessment, statistic concepts, social and cultural factors related to assessment and evaluation of individuals and groups, and ethical strategies for selecting, administering and interpreting assessment instruments and techniques in counseling.
      • (F) Mulitcultural counseling theories and techniques, including counselors’ roles in developing cultural self-awareness, identity development, promoting cultural social justice, individual and community strategies for working with and advocating for diverse populations, and counselors’ roles in eliminating biases, prejudices, processes of intentional and unintentional oppression and discrimination.
      • (G) Principles of the diagnostic process, including differential diagnosis, and the use of current diagnostic tools, such as the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, impact of co-occurring substance use disorders on medical and psychological disorders, established diagnostic criteria for mental and/or emotional disorders and the treatment modalities and placement criteria within the continuum of care.
      • (H) Research and evaluation, including studies that provide an understanding of research methods, statistical analysis, the use of research to inform evidence-based practice, the importance of research in advancing the profession of counseling, research methods, and statistical methods used in conducting research, needs assessment and program evaluation.
      • (I) Professional orientation, ethics and law in counseling, including professional ethical standards and legal considerations, licensing law and licensing process, regulatory laws that delineate the profession’s scope of practice, counselor/client privilege, confidentiality, the client dangerous to self or others, treatment of minors with or without parental consent, relationship between practitioner’s sense of self and human values, functions and relationships with other human service providers, strategies for collaboration, and advocacy processes needed to address institutional and social barriers that impede access, equity and success for clients.
    • (2) In addition to the course requirements described in paragraph (1) of this subdivision, a minimum of 12 semester units or 18 quarter units of advanced coursework to develop knowledge of specific treatment issues, special populations, application of counseling constructs, assessment and treatment planning, clinical interventions, therapeutic relationships, psychopathology or other clinical topics.
    • (3) Not less than six semester or nine quarter units of supervised practicum or field study experience, or the equivalent, in a clinical setting that provides experience, including the following:
      • (A) Applied psychotherapeutic techniques.
      • (B) Assessment.
      • (C) Diagnosis.
      • (D) Prognosis.
      • (E) Treatment.
      • (F) Issues of development, adjustment, and maladjustment.
      • (G) Health and wellness promotion.
      • (H) Other recognized counseling interventions.
      • (I) A minimum of 150 hours of face-to-face supervised clinical experience counseling individuals, families or groups.
  • (d)(1) An applicant whose degree is deficient in no more than two of the required areas of study listed in subparagraphs (A) to (I), inclusive, of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) may satisfy the requirements by successfully completing postmaster’s or postdoctoral degree coursework at an accredited or approved institution, as defined in Section 4999.12.(2) Coursework taken to meet deficiencies in the required areas of study listed in subparagraphs (A) to (I), inclusive, of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) shall be the equivalent of three semester or four and one half quarter units of study.
  • (3) The board shall make the final determination as to whether a degree meets all requirements, including, but not limited to, course requirements, regardless of accreditation.
  • (e) In addition to, or as part of the degree, applicants shall complete the following coursework or training prior to registration as an intern:
  • (1) A minimum of 15 contact hours of instruction in alcoholism and other chemical substance dependency as specified by regulation.
  • (2) A minimum of 10 contact hours of instruction in human sexuality as specified in Section 25, and any regulations promulgated thereunder.
  • (3) A two-semester unit or three quarter unit survey course in psychopharmacology.
  • (4) A minimum of 15 contact hours of instruction in spousal or partner abuse assessment, detection, and intervention strategies, including knowledge of community resources, cultural factors, and same gender abuse dynamics.
  • (5) A minimum of seven contact hours of instruction in child abuse assessment and reporting as specified in Section 28 and any regulations adopted thereunder.
  • (6) A minimum of 18 contact hours of instruction in California law and professional ethics for professional clinical counselors. When coursework in a master’s or doctoral degree program is acquired to satisfy this requirement, it shall be considered as part of the 48 semester unit or 72 quarter unit requirement in subdivision (c) of Section 4999.32.
  • (7) A minimum of 10 contact hours of instruction in aging and long-term care, which may include, but is not limited to, the biological, social, and psychological aspects of aging.
  • (8) A minimum of 15 contact hours in crisis/trauma counseling. including multidisciplinary responses to crises, emergencies or disasters, brief, intermediate and long-term approaches
  • (f) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2019, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2019, deletes or extends that date.
  • Refer to 4999.33 to see the increased requirements for those who begin graduate study on or after August 1, 2012.
  • Supervision: Completion of a minimum of 3,000 post-degree hours of supervised clinical mental health experience related to the practice of professional counseling, performed over a period of not less than two years (104 weeks) under the supervision of an approved supervisor. (Refer to 4999.42, 4999.44, 4999.45, 4999.46, 4999.47, 4999.48 for details.)
  • Examination

    Successful passage of a licensure examination adopted by the licensure board. The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) has been adopted as the exam for the LPCC license. . A California Law and Ethics Exam will be required. (Refer to 4999.52)
  • Grandparenting
  • 4999.54. (a) Not withstanding Section 4999.50, the board may issue a license to any person who submits an application for a license between January 1, 2011 and December 2011, provided that all documentation is submitted within 12 months of the board’s evaluation of the application, and provided that he or she meets one of the following sets of criteria:
  • (1) He or she meets all of the following requirements:
    • (A) Has a master’s or doctoral degree from a school, college, or university as specified in Section 4999.32, that is counseling or psychotherapy in content. If the person’s degree does not include all the graduate coursework in all nine core content areas, as required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 4999.32, a person shall provide documentation that he or she has completed the required coursework prior to licensure, pursuant to this chapter. A qualifying degree must include the supervised practicum or field study as required in paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) of Section 4999.32.
      • (i) A counselor educator, whose degree contains at least seven of the nine required subject areas, will be given credit for coursework not contained in the degree, if documentation is provided that the counselor educator has taught the equivalent of the required core content area in a graduate program in counseling or a related area.
      • (ii) Degrees issued prior to 1996 shall include a minimum of 30 semester units or 45 quarter units, and at least six of the nine required core content areas specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 4999.32 and three semester units or four and one-half quarter units of supervised practicum or field study experience. The total number of units shall be no less than 48 semester units or 72 quarter units.
      • (iii) Degrees issued in 1996 and after shall include a minimum of 48 semester units or 72 quarter units, and at least seven of the nine core content areas specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 4999.32.
    • (B) Has completed all of the coursework or training specified in subdivision (e) of Section 4999.32
    • (C) Has at least two years, full time or the equivalent, post-degree counseling experience, that includes at least 1,700 hours of supervised experience in a clinical setting supervised by a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional clinical counselor or the equivalent, a licensed psychologist, a licensed physician and surgeon specializing in psychiatry, or a master’s level counselor or therapist who is certified by a national certifying or registering organization, including, but not limited to the National Board for Certified Counselors or the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.
    • (D) Has a passing score on the following examinations:
      • (i) The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) or the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Examination (CRCE)
      • (ii) The National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).
      • (iii) A California jurisprudence and ethics examination, when developed by the board.
  • (2) Is currently licensed as a marriage and family therapist in the State of California, meets the coursework requirements described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), and passes the exam described in subdivision (d).
  • (3) Is currently licensed as a clinical social worker in the State of California, meets the coursework requirements described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), and passes the exam described in subdivision (d)
  • (b) (1) The Board and the Office of Professional Examination Services shall jointly develop an examination on the differences, if any differences exist, between the following:
  • (A) The practice of professional clinical counseling and the practice of marriage and family therapy.
  • (B) The practice of professional clinical counseling and the practice of clinical social work.
  • (2) If the Board , in consultation with the Office of Professional Examination Services, determines that an exam is necessary pursuant to this section, the applicant shall pass the examination as a condition of licensure.
  • (e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to expand or constrict the scope of practice as defined in Section 4999.20.

Counselors licensed in other states

  • (a) This section applies to persons who apply for examination eligibility between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2013, inclusive.
  • (b) The board may issue a license to a person who, at the time of application, has held for at least two years, a valid license as a professional clinical counselor, or other counseling license which allows the applicant to independently provide clinical mental health services, in another jurisdiction of the United States, if the education and supervised experience requirements are substantially the equivalent of this chapter as described in Section 4999.32, the person complies with subdivision (b) of Section 4999.40, if applicable, the person successfully completes the examinations required by the board pursuant to paragraph (3) of subdivision (A) of Section 4999.50, and the person pays the required fees.
  • Refer to 4999.58 for further detail and to 4999.60 and 4999.62 to see the requirements for those who apply after January 1, 2014.


  • 4999.86. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

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