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Understanding National Certification and State Licensure

What is national certification?

National counselor certification from NBCC demonstrates to the public and employers that the counselor has met the national standards set by the counseling profession. It is not a license to practice. In some states, holding a national certification can assist the counselor in obtaining a state license. National certification travels with the counselor no matter the state or country of residence. The flagship national certification offered by NBCC is the NCC (National Certified Counselor), and it is the largest national counselor certification in the world.

What is a state license?

A state license in counseling is literally permission from a particular state to practice counseling or to call oneself a licensed counselor. Some states have a single license and some have a two-tiered system. The names of state licenses vary from state to state. Some examples are LPC, LCPC, LPCC, LMHC, LPCMH, LCMHC, LPC-MH.

Credential National Certified Counselor (NCC) – Issued by NBCC. NBCC also offers three specialty certifications for NCCs in addictions, clinical mental health and school counseling. Differs from state to state. Most common titles are: Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Issued by each state regulatory board.
Purpose To promote and represent the counseling profession through a national certification program where the standards are set by members of the counseling profession. Compliance with continuing education requirements and the NBCC Code of Ethics assists NCCs to stay current with best practices. To protect the public by defining practitioners who can legally use the title of a licensed counselor and/or who can provide counseling services in a particular state. These standards are set by state legislatures.
Examinations The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) NCE and/or NCMHCE: State counselor licensure boards contract with NBCC to use one or both of these examinations.
  • Master’s degree in counseling or with a major study in counseling from a regionally accredited institution
  • 3,000 hours of counseling experience and 100 hours of supervision both over a two year post-master’s time period
  • Post-master’s experience and supervision requirements are waived for graduate students who have completed CACREP accredited tracks.
  • Passing score on NCE
Varies from state to state. All require some combination of
  • Master’s degree
  • Counseling experience and supervision
  • Passing score on NCE and/or NCMHCE. Some require mental health laws exam of that state.