Counseling Essays

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While counselors may come from different educational backgrounds, such as sociology, psychology, and social work, there is a national-level accreditation exam for counselors: the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). While not required in all states, the exam is a requirement for licensing as a counselor in many states and is an absolute requirement for those seeking National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification. The exam’s format is 200 multiple choice questions, 160 of which are used for the examination and 40 of which are undergoing field testing for use in future examinations. Another common test for counselors is the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). The NCMHCE is a requirement for those seeking the Certified Mental Health Counselor (CMHC) national certification as well as for licensure in many states. The exam’s format is 10 clinical simulations. While not all counselors will be required to take these exams for certification in their states, an overview of the material covered on the exams provides insight into the topics generally covered in a counselor’s course of study.

The topics covered on the NCE include both counseling content areas and work behaviors and include the following subgroups: human growth and development; social and cultural diversity; helping relationships; group work; career development; assessment; research and program evaluation; professional orientation and ethical practice; fundamental counseling issues; the counseling process; diagnostic and assessment services; professional practice; and professional development, supervision, and consultation. These are topics that will be covered in every graduate training for counselors. In addition, many of them will be covered in undergraduate programs that may lead to graduate work in counseling, such as psychology or sociology courses.

The topics covered on the NCMHCE include: theories of counseling psychotherapy and personality; counseling and psychotherapy skills; abnormal psychotherapy and psychopathology; human growth and development; group counseling and psychotherapy; career development; professional orientation to counseling; research; testing and appraisal; and social and cultural foundations. As one might expect, there is significant overlap between the material covered on the NCE and the NCMHCE. However, the NCMHCE, as a practical exam, places a much greater emphasis on psychotherapy than the NCE does. A generic term, psychotherapy refers to a collaborative treatment approach where the counselor and the patient work together to identify the root causes of the patient’s problems, formulate a plan to change the underlying patterns that are contributing to those problems, and then implement that plan. Another way that the tests differ is that the NCMHCE focuses on abnormal psychology and psychopathology. Being able to identify and treat dysfunction are critical skills for counselors.

For many counselors, the most challenging aspect of counseling coursework is the focus on testing and assessment. Psychological testing can be a critical component for diagnosis, but understanding testing approaches and assessment tools requires an understanding of statistics and the scientific method. Counselors need to understand: univariate and multivariate research designs; data analysis; and qualitative and quantitative designs. Aspiring counselors may find it helpful to take statistics coursework in addition to their other core courses.