During your journey to become a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), you likely experienced many exams that tested your knowledge and skills. With those and your coursework behind you, it is time to prepare for one more exam—the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).
Unlike previous exams you have taken throughout your degree program, the format of the NCMHCE exam is unique and comprehensive. To help ensure you perform to the best of your ability, you will want to study before the exam. Not sure where to begin? Here is a guide to get you started toward your LMHC license.
Jumpstart Your Career, Explore No GRE Online Mental Health Counseling Programs:
MPCAC-Accredited Online MA at NYU. GRE Not Req.
Aspiring mental health counselors are prepared to pursue licensure with NYU Steinhardt’s MPCAC-accredited online counseling master’s. Students can earn their degree in as few as 21 mos. GRE not req.
Prepare to become a mental health counselor
Accredited by the MPCAC
As few as 21 months to complete
GRE not required
Earn Northwestern’s CACREP-Approved Degree
Earn a CACREP-accredited master’s in counseling online from top-10 ranked1 Northwestern University.
Earn your MA in Counseling from Northwestern in as few as 18 months
Accelerated full-time, traditional, or part-time tracks available
What is LMHC Certification and Licensure?
LMHC licensing requirements are state-specific and allow a mental health professional to treat an array of issues in a clinical setting, one-on-one with a client. Every state has specific requirements. Though it’s important to note not all states use the same terminology. The following are considered equivalent to the LMHC license:
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC)
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC)
LMHC State Licensing Requirements
Since each state has a counselor licensure board that administers application processes and procedures per state law, including the requirements to sit for the examination, you will need to search the state board directory on the National Board for Certified Counselors website for your state’s LMHC licensing requirements.
How Do You Become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?
What is the Difference Between the NCE and NCMHCE?
The significant difference between the two exams is the NCE is a 200-question, multiple-choice exam that assesses your knowledge, skills and abilities to provide effective counseling services. Alternatively, the NCMHCE is a set of 10 clinical simulations that sample a broad area of competencies.
Common Questions About the NCMHCE Exam
As with any exam, you will have some uncertainty. Here are some common questions about the NCMHCE exam.
How Many Times Can You Take 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 a Passing Score for the NCMHCE?
According to the National Board for Certified Counselors, the passing score is “the total raw score for IG and DM on the entire examination that determines whether you pass or fail the examination. Applicants must achieve total raw passing scores in both IG and DM to successfully complete the NCMHCE.”
How Much Does the NCMHCE Cost?
The non-refundable fee for the NCMHCE exam is $275.
How Long is the NCMHCE?
The exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Can You Take the NCMHCE Before You Graduate?
Although you can get an early start on the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) application process, you cannot take the NCMHCE exam before you graduate.
How Do You Study for the NCMHCE?
Because the exam is comprehensive, you will want to study. Several sites offer practice exams and other study materials. See our list below for additional information.
7 Tips to Prepare for the NCMHCE
Establish that the NCMHCE is required for licensure in your state by visiting the National Board for Certified Counselors’ (NBCC) state board directory . If that is in fact required for LMHC licensure, here are a number of tips:
Research available NCMHCE study materials. Ask colleagues about their recommendations.
Ask your licensed colleagues for study tips or test advice.
Become very familiar with the DSM-5.
Plan study time and stick to your study schedule.
Complete a practice simulation to determine your test readiness.
Manage your stress. Take short breaks, get plenty of rest, eat regularly and get some exercise.
Do not give up if you fail the exam the first time. The test allows for test-takers to fail before they pass the exam. A failed test won’t be held against you.
NCMHCE Study Guide and Digital Resources
CounselorExams.com includes study programs for the NCMHCE and NCE exams. You can sample an NCMHCE scenario for free before you commit to the program.
CounselingExam.com offers a membership that allows unlimited access to NCMHCE practice exams. You can try one free before signing up. Audio and video instructions and case studies are available.
Exam prep from Dr. Howard Rosenthal has a variety of materials including an encyclopedia of counseling and a human services dictionary that provides definitions that can help you tackle difficult NCMHCE exam questions.
Study.com offers a study guide and practice for the NCMHCE with 135 lessons.
Clinical Exam Workshop provides a free practice exam closely modeled on the NCMHCE. There is also a three-session video course.
NCMHCE Secrets Study Guide: NCMHCE Exam Review for the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination by NCMHCE Exam Secrets Test Prep Team. This guide contains easy-to-read summaries that highlight the critical areas of the NCMHCE exam.
NCMHCE Practice Questions: NCMHCE Practice Tests and Exam Review for the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination by NCMHCE Exam Secrets Test Prep Team. The guide is filled with exam practice questions and explains answers to help you understand why you missed them.
The Simplified NCMHCE Study Guide: A summarized format to understanding DSM-5 Disorders, Theoretical Orientations, and Assessments by Maria Shkreli. This guide is simple and to the point and can help those studying for both the NCMHCE and NCE exams.