NBCC | National Board for Certified Counselors & Affiliates (2023)

About the NCMHCE

The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is designed to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities determined to be important for providing effective counseling services. The NCMHCE is a requirement for counselor licensure in many states. It is one of two examination options for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification and also fulfills the examination requirement for the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) specialty certification.

NCMHCE Content Outline

Options for Examination Delivery

You can take the examination as part of either the National Certified Counselor (NCC) or Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) application, which will be covered in this handbook. The benefit of taking the examination via this method is that it allows you to get a head start on earning your professional credentials.

You can take the examination on its own, as part of the state licensure process. For more information on this process, review the state licensure candidate handbook.

Prepare for the NCMHCE

Study guides are available to help you prepare for the NCMHCE.

Download a Special Request Form

Forms are available for download if special accomomodations are needed for the NCMHCE.

Special Examination Accommodation Request Form for NBCC/CCE Certification and Credentialing Candidates Special Examination Accommodation Request Form for State Licensure Candidates

Content and Development

The development of the NCMHCE in the early 1990s marked the expansion of counseling national certification into the evaluation of counselors’ ability to apply core knowledge to clinical practice.

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) initially developed the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC). After several years of administration of the credential, it was determined that the credential could be strengthened and expanded by adding a national, standardized examination. NBCC agreed to acquire the credential in the early 1990s and develop an examination to anchor the certification and align the application process with the profession’s foundational national certification, the National Certified Counselor (NCC).

NBCC developed the NCMHCE with a focus on drawing from the common core knowledge of professional counselors. A committee of subject matter experts (SMEs) led by psychometric experts framed the NCMHCE to ensure that it reflected the central clinical requirements of counselors through real-world simulated cases.

The NCMHCE measures an individual’s ability to apply and evaluate knowledge in core counselor skills and competencies and to practice competently as a professional counselor. Specifically, it assesses an entry-level clinical mental health counselor’s ability to apply knowledge of theoretical and skill-based tenets to clinical case studies. The case studies are designed to capture a candidate’s ability to identify, analyze, diagnose, and develop plans for treatment of clinical concerns.

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Candidates for the NCMHCE must have a graduate-level degree or higher from a counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or administered by an institutionally accredited college or university. The counseling degree program must contain courses in eight requirement areas.

The Eight CACREP Curriculum Educational Standards:

  1. Human Growth and Development
  2. Social and Cultural Foundations in Counseling
  3. Helping Relationships in Counseling
  4. Group Counseling and Group Work
  5. Career Counseling and Lifestyle Development
  6. Assessment in Counseling
  7. Research and Program Evaluation
  8. Professional Orientation to Counseling

Six Defined Work Behaviors (Domains)

The table below reflects the item distribution among these six defined work behaviors (domains), which are further described below. A thorough delineation of each domain and subdomain is available in the NCMHCE Content Outline and NCMHCE Handbook.

Table 1.The weight for each domain

Domain Percent of Items
1 Professional Practice and Ethics 10-20
2 Intake, Assessment, and Diagnosis 20-30
3 Areas of Clinical Focus 0*
4 Treatment Planning 10-20
5 Counseling Skills and Interventions 25-35
6 Core Counseling Attributes 10-20

The domain “Areas of Clinical Focus” represents the diagnoses and main presenting problems that were identified in the job analysis as being the most prevalent in clinical work. This domain is evaluated through a variety of diagnoses and case scenarios appearing on each examination form and not at the item level. Please check the sample case studies tab for more information about the weight of each domain.

  • Professional Practice and Ethics assesses counselors’ knowledge, skills, and abilities as they pertain to maintaining proper administrative and clinical protocols. This includes topics such as informed consent, client records, use of social media, and confidentiality.
  • Intake, Assessment, and Diagnosis consists of items designed to assess a counselor’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to conduct client intake, assessment, and diagnosis. Items in this domain may reflect content such as performance of Mental Status Exams (MSEs), assessment for substance use, and evaluation of an individual’s level of mental health functioning.
  • Areas of Clinical Focus is one of the largest domains on the exam, accounting for more than 25% of the scored items. This section allows for the assessment of a counselor’s knowledge and skills related to a broad range of potential client concerns. For example, items may be related to bullying, obsessive thoughts/behaviors, sleeping habits, adoption issues, divorce, etc.
  • Treatment Planning is the domain of the exam that is built to assess a counselor’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as they relate to effectively treating clients. This domain houses items that may cover everything from a counselor’s ability to identify barriers to client goal attainment, discussing termination, follow-up after discharge, revisions of the treatment plan, or collaboration with other providers.
  • Counseling Skills and Interventions is the largest domain on the NCE exam, accounting for over 25% of the scored items. This domain encompasses items written to assess counselors’ knowledge, skills, and abilities to conduct effective counseling. This is a broad and comprehensive domain that covers topics such as establishment of a therapeutic alliance, providing crisis intervention, use of self-disclosure, exploring the influence of family, and identifying group themes.
  • Core Counseling Attributes is the smallest domain of the NCE, and it assesses the behavior, traits, and dispositions of effective counselors. This domain is measured with items that address topics such as genuineness, empathetic responding, positive regard, and respect for and acceptance of diversity.

The NCMHCE includes 11 case studies. Of the total number of multiple-choice questions, 100 will be scored, and one of the case studies will be unscored. The unscored narrative and questions are used to generate statistics for future examinations. Each case study will comprise one narrative and 9–15 multiple-choice questions.

The NCMHCE Standard Setting Cohort

As counseling evolves and changes, we are also changing the way we assess the clinical skills of counselors. The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is transitioning to a new format and content outline. The new format for the NCMHCE will emphasize the long-term, ongoing therapeutic process of the counseling relationship. Standard setting is a vital component in the examination development process. We are providing the opportunity for individuals registering for the NCMHCE to be a part of the standard-setting cohort, allowing them to make a positive impact on the future of counseling!

Participation in this cohort is completely voluntary. Standard-setting cohort participants will receive a $50 registration fee discount. If you are interested in this option, be sure to select the standard-setting cohort after logging in.

Begin Registration

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a standard-setting cohort?

A standard-setting cohort is a group of individuals that are taking a new form of an examination. Their scores are used to test the examination questions.

How do I register for the NCMHCE standard setting cohort?

When you are registering for the NCMHCE, you can opt-in to the standard setting cohort by selecting "Please choose your exam delivery method."

Is it required that I participate in the standard-setting cohort?

No. Participation in the standard-setting cohort is completely voluntary.

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How is the examination for the standard-setting cohort different than the regular NCMHCE?

The format of the examinations is the same. The intention of the standard-setting cohort is to test examination items in a real-world setting. The items were developed and vetted by subject matter experts using the same process as other items.

Why should I choose to be a part of the standard-setting cohort?

Not only will you receive a $50 discount on the examination registration fee, you will be helping the counseling community by strengthening the NCMHCE.

When will I receive my scores?

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You will receive your scores in the mail 45 days after the testing window closes.

If I choose to be a part of the standard-setting cohort, can I use my examination score for state licensure and national certification?

Yes! If you receive a passing score on the NCMHCE as a participant in the standard setting cohort, you can use your score in an application for national certification AND/OR in an application for state licensure (where applicable). For state licensure candidates, your state Board will receive your official score report on or around the 15th of the next month.

Can I be a part of the standard-setting cohort on my second attempt at taking the NCMHCE?

No. In order to accurately gather item data, participants of the standard-setting cohort must be on their first attempt of taking the NCMHCE.

What delivery format can I use when participating in the standard-setting cohort?

The standard-setting cohort tests through Examity, one of our online testing partners. You can conveniently test from any secure location with internet access.

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(Video) National Certified Counselor (NCC)


What is the difference between NBCC and NCC? ›

The NCC is issued by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Individuals must pass the National Counseling Exam (NCE) to receive the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification.

Would it be advantageous for you to pursue becoming a national certified counselor through the NBCC? ›

Obtaining Certification through NBCC:

Enhances your professional reputation and credibility, and provides you with a sense of personal accomplishment. Offers both you and your clients the protection of an enforceable Code of Ethics.

Is the NCE exam difficult? ›

NOTE: In recent years the fail rate for the first time administration of this exam is close to 60%. Yes, this is a hard test. If you end up needing another option, SC allows you to take the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE) instead.

What is the role of NBCC in counselor credentialing? ›

The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) is the premier credentialing body for counselors, ensuring that counselors who become nationally certified have achieved the highest standard of practice through education, examination, supervision, experience, and ethical guidelines.

Is doing NCC worth it? ›

There are some security agencies both private and government who prefer recruiting NCC certificate holders thereby giving them an edge over other candidates with a handsome pay. For the candidates who aspire to join the defence forces, NCC "C" certificate is a golden opportunity for them to go to SSB directly.

Which NCC certificate is more valuable? ›

'C' Certificate

He/she must have attended minimum 75% of total training parade. He must be in the third year of training and have attended minimum 2 national pieces of training. The 'C' certificate is the most important certificate of NCC training.

What are the best counselling qualifications? ›

You could do a diploma, degree or postgraduate course in counselling or psychotherapy. You might be able to study counselling alongside another subject like psychology, sociology or criminology. You should look for a course that includes practical skills training and supervised work placements.

What accreditation should a Counsellor have? ›

BACP accreditation schemes aim to recognise the achievement of high standards of knowledge, experience and development in counselling and psychotherapy. They help clients, employers, practitioners and students to make an informed decision when choosing a therapist, service or training course.

How many questions are on the NBCC exam? ›


The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is a 200-question, multiple-choice, non-sectioned examination.

What percent of people pass NCE first time? ›

Scores take eight weeks to get back. While the pass rate for first-time takers is 84.8%, the test can become very overwhelming without proper preparation and knowledge of how the test is administered. Additionally, you are only allowed to test a total of three times in a two-year period before your application closes.

How much does it cost to pass the NCE? ›

What is a passing score on NCE exam? There are 200 questions on the NCE exam. The cutoff score to be considered as passing is in the high 90s.

What percentage of people fail the NCE? ›

You may fail the NCMHCE. In fact, statistically, failing is likely (40-45 percent of people do).

What happens after you pass the NCE? ›

After you pass the NCE and graduate, you have three years to complete and submit documentation of 3,000 hours of counseling work experience and 100 hours of direct counseling supervision completed over a minimum of 24 months. This will be the final step in completing your certification.

Which of the following counseling credentials is offered by NBCC? ›

NBCC Specialty Certifications

NCCs may demonstrate areas of practice through one of the specialty certifications: the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) and the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC).

What are the three competencies required of a professional counselor? ›

They have grouped these foundation skills around three headings: attending and listening, reflective skills, and probing skills.

What is the disadvantage of NCC? ›

The advantage of NCC is that it allows adolescents to develop their personality and character through discipline, teamwork, and adventure activities. The disadvantage of NCC is that it requires a lot of dedication and commitment from the cadets which may be difficult for some.

Is NCC difficult? ›

Being a first year cadet,the training was quite tough for me but with the support of my seniors and other cadets I made it to the 2nd year.

How many years does it take to complete NCC? ›

While the Senior Wing/Division training is for three years and has 300 periods the Junior Wing/Division training is for two years and encompasses 240 periods of training. The training year is from 01 Apr to 31 March.

What are 3 types in NCC? ›

Units. These 17 directorates are divided in total of 837 units divided in three service groups Army, Naval and Air.

Is it easy to get NCC certificate? ›

How do I get my NCC C level certificate? To get the 'C' certificate the candidate must have got a 'B' certificate. He/she must have attended minimum 75% of total training parade. He must be in the third year of training and have attended minimum 2 national pieces of training.

How much is NCC a certificate? ›

The examination fee is $325 for Core exams and $210 for Subspecialty exams, which includes a nonrefundable $50.00 application submission cost. The examination fee must be paid when submitting the application.

What type of counseling makes the most money? ›

Five of the hottest and highest-paying counseling jobs today
  • School Counselor. ...
  • Career Counselor. ...
  • Mental Health, Marriage, and Family Counselor. ...
  • Rehabilitation Counselor. ...
  • Gerontological Counselor.

Which counseling degree pays the most? ›

Highest paid counseling jobs
  1. Pediatric counselor. National average salary: $63,934 per year. ...
  2. Licensed clinical social worker. National average salary: $64,671 per year. ...
  3. Direct support professional. ...
  4. Therapist. ...
  5. Physician assistant. ...
  6. Mental health counselor. ...
  7. Registered nurse. ...
  8. Physical therapist.
5 days ago

Can I be a counsellor without a degree? ›

Training as a counsellor involves a combination of theoretical study and practical experience, but you don't need a degree to become a counsellor.

How long does it take to become an accredited counsellor? ›

Training requirements

You must have completed and graduated from a BACP accredited course, or professional counselling or psychotherapy training that: included at least 450 hours of tutor contact hours, over two years (part-time) or one year (full-time)

Do counsellors have to be registered? ›

All practising members of BACP must join the Register or be working towards registration. To become a registered member, a therapist must either have passed a BACP-accredited training course or our own Certificate of Proficiency.

Can registered counsellors diagnose? ›

Registered Counsellors can act as a consultant at the primary curative/preventative level across the full scope of psychology. Registered Counsellors do not diagnose or treat pathology but in such a case will refer a client to the appropriate registered health care professional.

How many times can you fail the NCE? ›

We hold applications open for a two-year time period from the original exam date for which you applied or 3 unsuccessful attempts to pass the NCE, whichever comes first. Note: "not taking" the NCE does not count as one of your three attempts to pass. Only failing scores count as one of the three attempts.

How many times can you fail the Ncmhce? ›

You can take the NCMHCE exam up to three times in two years. However, there is a 90-day waiting period between attempts.

What is the highest score on the NCE exam? ›

The maximum possible score on the NCE is 160, and NBCC determines the minimum passing score, which varies between versions, using a modified Angoff procedure.

How many months should you study for the NCE? ›

If you have been out of school for a few years, I would establish a two-month study program. Each week I would study a different content area being aware that some weeks more hours will be necessary because you may not be as familiar with the material and/or there may be many more questions on the exam from that area.

What should I study for NCE? ›

These eight content areas are:
  • Human Growth and Development.
  • Social and Cultural Diversity.
  • Counseling and Helpful Relationships.
  • Group Counseling and Group Work.
  • Career Counseling.
  • Assessment and Teaching.
  • Research and Program Evaluation.
  • Professional Counseling Orientation and Ethical Practice.

Do you get NCE results immediately? ›

You'll receive your test scores around eight weeks after taking the exam. You can access them via the same account you used to register. If you passed and need to submit these results to your state licensing board, you will need to fill out an additional form requesting score verification.

Is NCE exam multiple-choice? ›

The National Counselor Examination (NCE) is a 200-item multiple-choice examination designed to assess knowledge, skills and abilities determined to be important for providing effective counseling services. The NCE is a requirement for counselor licensure in many states.

Is a 96 passing for the NCE? ›

A passing score is usually between 98-105 and fluctuates with each test administration.

How many hours should you study for the NCE? ›

"Raysha, how long do I have access to the courses?" 90 days. If you are studying for the NCE longer than 90 days, you are doing it wrong--trust me. If you are diligently preparing for the exam, you are devoting roughly 10 hours a week to dedicated study time.

How long does it take to get NCE? ›

The full meaning of NCE is Nigeria Certificate in Education. This is a qualification to be achieved/awarded after a three-year course at a college of education in Nigeria. To be admitted into a college of education, candidates must have completed senior secondary school and possess WAEC, NECO, GCE, or NABTEB.

How many sections are on the NCE exam? ›

The eight content areas of the NCE are:

Intake, Assessment, and Diagnosis – 12% Areas of Clinical Focus – 29% Treatment Planning – 9% Counseling Skills and Interventions – 30%

Can you take breaks during the NCE? ›

Break Limitations

You are not permitted to get up or leave your testing computer for any reason except for one 15-minute, prescheduled break. This break will be provided after you complete the first 100 questions of the examination. After the break, you will not be permitted to return to the first 100 questions.

What are the benefits of taking the NCE? ›

At NCE, you will get an education and training you can trust. You will also earn industry certifications that demonstrate your knowledge and skills and can help get you hired. All of NCE's programs prepare students to test for nationally-recognized certifications upon graduation.

What happens if I fail the NCE three times? ›

If this was your third failed attempt, your application will close. To reapply, you will need to contact our office directly at certification@nbcc.org. I passed the NCE, and my account shows that all of my documents have been approved. What is my status?

What is the benefits of taking NCC in college? ›

NCC Cadets have reservation in many Government jobs, especially in the State and Central Police and in paramilitary forces. NCC cadets have a lot of academic incentives too. NCC 'C' Certificate cadet taken part in Republic day parade at New Delhi, they are exempted from CEE and be awarded 100 marks in lieu.

What is the purpose of the NCC? ›

The goal of the NCC is to enable the achievement of nationally consistent, minimum necessary standards of relevant safety (including structural safety and safety from fire), health, amenity and sustainability objectives efficiently.

Is NCC Education recognized? ›

This provides the opportunity for local students to obtain an Internationally Recognized and Quality Assured diploma, at an affordable price in Sri Lanka. NCC was established in 1966, as the National Computing Center of UK under the guidance of the British government and started providing IT education in 1976.


1. Pursuing National Board Certification without a Rostered Classroom (Coaches, ESL, Counselors, etc.).
2. NBCC Professional Resources
(National Board for Certified Counselors)
3. NBCC Single Program Continuing Education Provider
(National Board for Certified Counselors)
4. The National Board Certification Process
5. Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC)
(National Board for Certified Counselors)
6. NBCC Participating Universities
(National Board for Certified Counselors)
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