California Counselor License Exam

To get licensed in California, Professional Counselors are required to take an exam covering such subjects as assessment and diagnosis, counseling and psychotherapy, and administration, supervision and consultation. Whether you live in  Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, or another city or county, the resources below will help you get started on the path to receive your Professional Counselor’s license.

Need of a License: A license is needed to work as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in California. Licenses are granted by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

To qualify to become a licensed professional counselor in California the following must be met:
  • Obtain a graduate degree in counseling from an accredited school meeting credit limits.
  • Meet supervised clinical experience requirements of 3,000 hours of post-graduate professional counseling, and 104 weeks (two years) of supervision, including at least one hour of individual supervision per week, or two hours of group supervision per week in 52 of those 104 weeks. A maximum of 40 work hours per week is credited. The 3,000 hours is subdivided as follows:
    • 1750 hours direct counseling experience
    • Individual psychotherapy (no minimum or maximum hour requirement).
    • 500 hours group therapy maximum
    • 250 hours Telephone counseling maximum
    • 1250 hours maximum non-counseling, e.g., psychometric testing administration and evaluation (Maximum 250 hours) and workshops, trainings and conferences, (Maximum 250 hours).
    • 150 hours must be obtained in an inpatient setting or community mental health clinic.
  • An applicant must earn a passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE).
  • An applicant must pass the California Law and Ethics Examination.
How to Apply for Licensure

An application for licensure and other documentation can be obtained online. All documents must be sent to:

Board of Behavioral Sciences
1625 N Market Blvd., Suite S-200
Sacramento, CA 95834

1- (916) 574-7830
Fax: (916) 574-8626

The National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE)

Test content of the NCMHCE

The NCMHCE consists of ten hypothetical clinical mental health counseling cases.  The cases are clinical simulations that use a multiple select/correct format where there are multiple options as possible correct answers.  The questions are centered on the ten cases and explore the nuances of the particular case.  The NCMHCE assesses an applicant’s ability to engage in clinical problem solving, including the identification, analysis, diagnosis and treatment of clinical issues.

Each of the ten cases is divided into five to eight sections and classified either as information gathering or decision making activities. The sections on Information gathering evaluate a candidate’s ability to gather clinical data that is needed in the decision making process.  The sections on decision making evaluate a candidate’s ability to solve clinical problems using data.
The ten cases cover three content areas:
Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Integration of client assessment and observational date
  • Identification of precipitating problems/symptoms
  • Identification of level of individual or relationship functioning
  • Identification of pertinent familial issues
Counseling and Psychotherapy
  • Imparting information to the client about ethical standards and practice
  • Clarification of roles of the counselor and client
  • Apply individual counseling in accordance with the treatment plan
  • Evaluation of referral information
Administration, Consultation and Supervision
  • Maintenance of client records
  • Determine if counseling services being delivered are meeting client needs
  • Communicate orally with others to maintain professional communication
  • Assistance clients to connect with needed social services
Each of the ten cases in the NCMHCE is scored a +/- 3 which is based upon appropriate client/patient care. A passing score is above the minimum required for both the information gathering and decision making sections.

 How to Apply to Take the Exam

You can find the registration information and the NCMHCE application online, or write:

The National Board of Certified Counselors
3 Terrace Way
Greensboro, North Carolina 27403-3660
 
(336) 547-0607
 
The exam is administered by Pearson VUE.

Content of the California Law and Ethics Examination:

The content of the exam is not described. Applicants will receive further information, including the location of the exam sites, when their completed application is submitted and approved.

License Renewal and Continuing Education Requirements

To renew a license, regulations require 36 clock hours of continuing education in acceptable courses and programs offered by approved Continuing Education providers. This includes a one-time only seven hour course in HIV/AIDS which must be completed in the first two year licensure renewal period.

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For more information on licensing and exam prep, go to Tests.com's NCE Guide.

And take Tests.com's free NCE Practice Test.

For counseling exam preparation products and services, such as study guides, practice tests, flashcards and courses, go to Tests.com's 
NCE listings.

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