The NCMHCE is an exam that graduating therapists must take to practice. Even with a fresh Master's degree the failure rate is over 30%. Now it's getting harder. Read about this absurdity and the cottage industry its created.
— Every year, thousands of counselors with fresh Master’s degrees take the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Exam (NCMHCE) so they can get a job in their chosen field. Every year nearly one third of them fail in spite of their extensive, and expensive, education.
Now the exam is being made even harder.
The National Board for Certified Counselors, the organization producing the exam, surveyed counselors to get a current picture of the profession. Based on those findings, they determined the licensing exam didn't adequately reflect the amount of therapists working in the areas of administration, supervision, and consultation.
Late last year they began testing questions on the NCMHCE in these areas. Therapists recently taking the exam are reporting a significant amount of difficult questions pertaining to supervision and consultation specifically.
Part of the struggle for graduates is that therapists don't begin offering clinical supervision until they have several years of experience under their belt.
“It seems odd to me that an entry level licensing exam would include questions on advanced subject matter”, says Jonathan Maletz, a licensed therapist who teaches counselors how to pass the NCMHCE by offering online workshops at ClinicalExamWorkshop.com.
“They’ve created a Catch 22. You can’t be a supervisor without a license, but to get a license you have to pass an exam that includes significant material on supervision, which you’re not allowed to do”, Maletz explains.
According to recent test takers, some of the beta questions were quite unclear on the exam. Since test takers are not informed during the test which questions are beta, this is turning a difficult test into a nightmare for some.
Looking ahead, it appears that there is no easing in sight for the NCMHCE. The American Psychiatric Association has released the newest revision the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which has been called the 'Counseling Bible'. With these new revisions will come new changes to the exam and new trials for therapists trying to finish their license path.
"The real problem with such a high failure rate is the limbo it places graduates in since not passing means waiting for a new window to test. The people failing are smart. They just don't realize what they're really facing with this thing," says Mac Sacry, a test evaluator.
"What should graduates do if they don’t want to risk being part of the 30 percent that fail this exam? Get in the Board's head... Spend an afternoon with me," Maletz smiles. With his workshop attendees having a NCMHCE pass rate of 94%, he’s not the only one smiling.
“These are Master’s level graduates. They’re smart, dedicated, people. They just need help understanding the exam’s veiled theoretical framework.”
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