LPCC vs. MFT: Definitions and Key Differences

Although this article does not focus on Psychologists, understanding their perspective can be helpful. A traditional Psychologist would examine Diego’s inner world to find the root of his dysfunction. Whether looking to his childhood (as a Freudian would) or looking to his present (as a behaviorist would), the focus will be on Diego as an individual. Furthermore, traditional psychology would focus on pathology – rooting out what is wrong with Diego individually.

The professional clinical counseling field emerged from school and career counseling. While they focus today on mental health, LPCCs are likely to see Diego’s struggle as an individual, developmental issue. They will examine his psychological and social development and his current functioning, and treatment will focus on helping Diego improve overall development and wellness (including treatment of mental illness).

Clinical social workers place their focus on connecting people with the resources they need to function well. Those resources may be internal (such as personal skills and strengths, some of which Diego may not be utilizing to their potential) or external (such as community resources and support groups). Traditionally speaking, LCSWs are likely to see Diego’s struggle as a resource issue, and will work with Diego to gather the internal and external resources needed for him to control and ultimately overcome his anxiety.

Licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC) offer treatment and counseling to those with mental health and substance abuse issues. Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) professionals also provide counseling, but they focus on families and individuals whose problems are social and relationship based.

MFT vs. LPCC vs. LCSW: How to decide which path to becoming a therapist is right for you!

What is an MFT?

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) is a therapist who specializes in helping married couples and families navigate challenges that exist in their relationships. Marriage and family therapists most often work with couples or families who need assistance together, but this can sometimes involve conducting individual meetings or interviews with each member of a family or in a relationship. While providing guidance on subjects related to families and relationships, marriage and family therapists can also treat their patients for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety that result from challenges in family dynamics.

Here are some of the most common subjects that marriage and family therapists can offer advice on:

What is an LPCC?

A licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) is a clinical professional who treats patients with mental health conditions. While licensed professional therapists usually focus on treating individuals, they can also provide counseling in group settings, like in rehabilitation centers and inpatient mental health facilities. Their job typically involves meeting with patients and treating mental health conditions with a combination of therapeutic activities and sometimes medication. Licensed professional clinical counselors can treat several different types of patients who live with various mental health conditions. Here are some conditions that licensed professional clinical counselors often treat:


Here are some key differences between working as an LPCC and working as an MFT:

Job duties

One of the clearest differences between licensed professional clinical counselors and marriage and family therapists is the typical job duties each profession can have. For example, a licensed professional clinical counselors job largely involves treating mental health conditions in patients who experience specific challenges related to their mental health, such as disorders or trauma. This means that they can conduct psychological assessments to diagnose mental health conditions in their patients, develop treatment plans that include therapy and medication and meet with patients individually to set and work toward goals.

For a marriage and family therapist, their job can focus more on finding creative solutions for challenges that couples or families experience together. This can involve analyzing the behaviors and contexts surrounding the challenges that a couple or family brings to their attention, holding group therapy sessions to facilitate discussions between family members and addressing mental health conditions that result from challenges in family or marriage dynamics. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, marriage and family therapists also typically use short-term therapy models that contain treatment within a defined number of sessions, often 12 or fewer.


To become a licensed professional clinical counselor, candidates first typically need to earn a masters degree in counseling that can teach them about how to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. After graduation, aspiring licensed professional clinical counselors then need to complete at least two years of supervised experience as professional counselors. This can then qualify them for licensure through their states licensing agency, which they can earn by passing the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

For marriage and family therapists, candidates also need to earn a masters degree, but theyre often required to major specifically in marriage and family therapy to ensure they receive the specialized training and education they need to work in the field. Aspiring marriage and family therapists then have to take part in supervised experience through clinical rotations, which many candidates complete in one year. After fulfilling the education and training requirements, candidates can apply for licensure through their states licensing agency and with the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.


Job outlook

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


Whats better MFT or LPCC?

LMFTs are more likely to treat issues in marriage and family dynamics. LPCs treat mental health issues that may be rooted in a variety of causes, though some LPCs will work with clients who have mental health issues stemming from familial or spousal causes.

Why do MFTs make more than LPCC?

On average, LMFTs earn more than LPCs, and because they are more likely to work in private practice, they may have a higher potential for earnings. If compensation is important to you, consider the pay difference between the two when deciding your career path.

Is LPCC a masters degree?

A master’s degree or higher is required to become a licensed LPCC. Students can choose either a specific counseling discipline or a generic counseling program that offers a broad understanding of the field.

Can LPCC diagnose in California?

California state law does not explicitly state that Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCCs), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) and Licensed Educational Psychologists (LEPs) may diagnose and treat disabilities rooted in mental or behavioral health

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