ERIC Identifier: ED347472
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Clawson, Thomas W. - Wildermuth, Victoria
ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
The Counselor and NBCC. ERIC Digest.
Counseling is a relatively young field. Significant advances that counseling
has made in becoming a profession can be clearly attributed to credentialing
activity (Bradley, 1991). The establishment of standards for practice within the
profession has been of major importance. Jointly, national counselor
certification and state credentialing (licensure, certification, registry) are
major reasons why counseling is achieving parity with related professions in the
behavioral sciences (Wittmer, 1992). The National Board for Certified Counselors
(NBCC) is the largest counselor certification agency in the United States,
representing over 17,000 National Certified Counselors (NCCs) and 1,500
counselors certified in the specialty areas of career counseling, gerontological
counseling, and school counseling. Prior to the inception of the broad-based
NBCC National Certified Counselor credential in 1982, only five states legally
regulated the practice of professional counseling. Since that time, the number
of states regulating the practice of counseling has grown steadily from five to
38. In addition to the 17,000 counselors certified by NBCC, roughly 50,000
counselors are state credentialed. These large populations of professionally
accountable, credentialed counselors possess enhanced visibility and
credibility, ensuring their right to equal participation in the mental health
care and human development fields (Wittmer, 1992).
Mental health professionals have
sought legal recognition in the form of certification and licensure since the
1940s when psychologists and social workers began what would be a 50-year
process to gain recognition in all states. The counseling profession made
dramatic strides in the mid-1970s when the American Counseling Association (ACA,
then the American Personnel and Guidance Association, APGA) documented the need
for counselor credentialing via needs assessments conducted within the
profession. Direct results included both the endorsement of formalized standards
of training prepared by the Association for Counselor Educators and Supervisors
(ACES), and the creation, in 1982, of the National Board for Certified
Counselors. NBCC was designed to certify a broad-based professional counseling
population based on documentation of requisite professional experience,
supervision, academic training and successful performance on a knowledge-based
written examination, NBCC's National Counselor Examination (NCE). The ACES
standards define appropriate content areas for NBCC's National Counselor
Examination and are used by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and
Related Educational Programs (CACREP) as the basis for graduate program
accreditation (Loesch & Vacc, 1991). The NCE is now commonly administered to
students graduating from CACREP programs, thus establishing NBCC certification
as the next professional step following program completion. The NCE is also used
as a component of 28 state-credentialing processes.
In the 1980s, NBCC, CACREP, and the independent specialty counselor
certification boards of the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
(CRCC) and the National Academy of Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselors
(NACCMHC) formed the core of counselor credentialing on the national level.
Simultaneously, state laws for the regulation of private practice counselors
flourished. As of this writing, 38 states have laws regulating the private
practice of counselors and all states regulate public school counselors. Through
provision of the NCE to state credentialing boards, NBCC supports what became a
major focus of the counselor credentialing movement in the 1980s: licensure of
counselors, state by state. NBCC has promoted unification of testing standards
via provision of the NCE to state boards.
THE NBCC EXAMINATIONS
NBCC has developed two examinations:
the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and the National Career Counselor
Examination (NCCE). The NCE will undergo its first comprehensive revision in
1994, based upon a major work behavior analysis completed by NBCC in 1992.
Presently, there are over 20 separate forms of the NCE and it has recently been
translated into Spanish.
The NCCE is the written examination component of the NBCC National Certified
Career Counselor (NCCC) credentialing process. Like the NCE, it undergoes
ongoing development. The NCCE will undergo content revision beginning in 1992 to
reflect the National Career Development Association's (NCDA) revised career
counselor competencies. Beginning in 1992, the NCCE will be used for the first
time for state-based specialty credentialing by the California Career Counselor
In addition to revising the National Counselor Examination, NBCC is
constructing a new "clinical counseling examination" to be normed before 1994.
This will be a companion examination to the revised NCE. NBCC's present
examinations are knowledge based, rather than competency based. The upcoming
revision of the NCE will result in a competency-based assessment tool. NBCC
currently relies upon assessment of certification candidates' experience and
supervision as competency checks for certification. (Loesch & Vacc, 1991;
Sampson & Loesch, 1991.)
NBCC'S ROLE AND PURPOSE
As state licensure becomes
commonplace, national credentialing becomes even more important to ensure a
unified definition of counseling and its practice. Why would one hold both
licensure and NBCC certification?
certification is broader than state licensure. Certification compares the
certificant with a national population; state licensure is restricted to
comparison with the population of a state.
licensure is subject to the politics of the state. Sunset commissions in states
may terminate the enabling legislation for credentialing.
certification provides referral sources across state lines. The NBCC database
identifies counselors in all states who accept referrals. A state license
provides opportunities for state networking; the national certification affords
opportunities for national networking.
state licenses do not provide for a license in a specialty. National
certification offers certificants the opportunity to add an advanced specialty
The NBCC has evolved over its 10-year history from the original concept of
providing a broad-based registry of trained counselors to its current
configuration as a widely recognized national credential based upon training,
experience and performance on a written examination. Further, NBCC is the
central point within the profession for establishing national certificates for
specialty training. Presently, the National Certified Career Counselor (NCCC),
the National Certified Gerontological Counselor (NCGC), and the National
Certified School Counselor (NCSC) are available to professional counselors who
hold the National Certified Counselor (NCC) general practice credential.
NBCC participates actively in the National Organization for Competency
Assurance (NOCA), the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), and
the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR). These
organizations disseminate current information on legislation and government
regulations and provide interprofessional oversight of credentialing programs.
In order for counseling to be seen as a
profession by the public, the legal system, and federal and state governments, a
complex set of requirements must be met. Establishment and perpetuation of
professional societies, research, publication, training standards, and
certification are all important factors in defining any profession.
Certification emerges as a key ingredient, not only to protect and inform the
public, but also to promote professional excellence. Certification denotes the
meeting of standards of training and experience and the continuance of standards
of ethics and education.
The future of NBCC certification is certain. Yearly, the number of certified
and licensed counselors rises by 10% or more. The public recognizes the terms
"counselor" and "counseling" as being part of the helping professions.
Counseling is gaining additional distinction as time passes. The allied mental
health professions are moving more toward providing equal opportunities for
individuals practicing in a variety of related helping professions. The
hierarchical attitudes of the past are fading, much to the advantage of the
counseling profession's constituencies.
Bradley, F. (Ed.). (1991). Credentialing in
counseling. Alexandria, VA: Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.
Glosoff, H. (1992). Accrediting and certifying professional counselors.
Guidepost, 34(12), 6-8.
Loesch, L., & Sampson, J. (1991). National Career Counselor Examination
technical manual. Alexandria, VA: National Board for Certified Counselors.
Loesch, L., & Vacc, N. (1991). National Counselor Examination technical
manual. Alexandria, VA: National Board for Certified Counselors.
The National Board for Certified Counselors. (1992). NBCC counselor
certification 1993, information and application packet (message from Joseph
Wittmer, p. 2). Greensboro, NC: Author.
Romano, G. (1992). The power and pain of professionalization. American
Counselor, 1, 17-23.