The National Board for Certified Counsellors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) is an international certifying organisation for professional counsellors in the United States. It is an independent, not-for-profit credentialing organisation based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The purpose of the organisation is to establish and monitor a national certification system for professional counsellors, to identify certified counsellors, and to maintain a register of them.
NBCC has more than 66,000 certified counsellors across the US and in more than 40 countries. Its examinations for professional counsellors are used by all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to license counsellors.
In December 1979, the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA) Board of Directors approved a plan to create a generic counsellor certification registry. In February 1982, the APGA President chose the members of the first NBCC Board, and the board’s first meeting was in April 1982. In July 1982, NBCC was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity separate from APGA. The separation ensured an unbiased certification process and an assumption of liability on the part of NBCC.
The NBCC established and now monitors a national certification system, to identify for professionals and the public those counsellors who have voluntarily sought and obtained certification. Unlike other professional mental health entities such as the American Counselling Association (ACA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Association for Counsellor Education and Supervision (ACES), NBCC does not have members. Instead, NBCC sets its own policies and procedures for national certification in professional counselling, administers the National Counsellor Examination to applicants, and keeps a register of counsellors who achieve certification.
Since 2001, NBCC has worked to pass legislation adding licensed professional counsellors (LPC) and marriage and family therapists (MFT) to Medicare. Medicare is the largest health care programme in the United States and currently recognises psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses for outpatient mental health services, but does not reimburse LPCs or MFTs for behavioural health services. As a result, a client who sees an LPC or MFT has to immediately cease therapy at the age of 65, when the government mandates that they must leave their health insurance to enrol in Medicare. NBCC believes that this Medicare exclusion of LPCs and MFTs should be removed, because they can play an important role in a functioning mental health system by maximising the capacity of the behavioural health workforce.
The certification programme recognises counsellors who have met predetermined standards in their training, experience, and performance on the National Counsellor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE).
National Certified Counsellor (NCC)
NBCC’s flagship certification is the National Certified Counsellor (NCC). The NCC is a generic certification for professional counsellors and does not designate a particular specialty area. Holding an NCC indicates that a counsellor is nationally board certified. There are currently over 63,000 NCCs in the US and many other countries.
The current requirements to become an NCC include:
- A graduate degree in counselling (or one with a major in counselling) from a regionally accredited college or university.
- At least 48 semester hours of graduate-level coursework, including at least one course in each of nine specified areas, as well as at least six semester hours of supervised field experience.
- At least 3,000 hours of post-master’s counselling experience in an applied setting over a minimum of 24 months, 100 of which must be supervised by a qualified supervisor.
- A passing score on the associated National Counsellor Exam (NCE).
After 01 January 2022, NCC applicants will be required to have a degree from a counsellor education programme accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counselling and Related Educational Programmes (CACREP), which includes a minimum of 60 semester hours of coursework.
The NCC is the board certification for counsellors. It is not required for supervised or independent practice; it identifies counsellors who have voluntarily sought and met established professional standards, and who continue to fulfil requirements governing continuing education credits and certification renewal. Certification is not a substitute for state-mandated licensure. However, many states use the NCE examination as part of their licensing requirements.
In addition to the NCC, NBCC administers three specialty certifications that each have the NCC credential as a prerequisite, along with other requirements.
- Certified Clinical Mental Health Counsellor (CCMHC).
- Master Addictions Counsellor (MAC).
- National Certified School Counsellor (NCSC).
Affiliates and Divisions
Since its establishment in 1982, NBCC has expanded to include:
- The Centre for Credentialing & Education (CCE):
- Created in 1995, CCE provides practitioners and organisations with assessments, business support services, and credentialing in a variety of fields, including counselling supervision, coaching, distance counselling, and human services.
- CCE manages the Mental Health Facilitator (MHF) programme, which educates community members and leaders in providing basic mental health care and resources to their neighbours, especially in locations where mental health care is difficult to access.
- NBCC International (NBCC-I):
- Created in 2003, NBCC-I’s purpose is to promote the counselling profession worldwide.
- With a focus on cultural sensitivity and understanding, as well as public awareness of the meaning of quality in professional counselling, NBCC-I offers programmes and institutes all over the world. NBCC-I also manages the international portion of the MHF programme.
- The NBCC Foundation (NBCCF):
- Created in 2005, NBCCF uses scholarships, fellowships, and capacity-building grants to encourage counsellors and counsellors-in-training to pursue careers as professional counsellors serving high-priority populations.
- Increasing access to mental health care in rural, military, and minority communities is a major focus for NBCCF.
- The European Board for Certified Counsellors (EBCC):
- Created in 2010, EBCC is the hub for NBCC-I’s work in Europe.
- EBCC provides support for European countries that are developing their own professional counselling efforts.
- The Professional Counsellor (TPC):
- Published by NBCC since 2011, TPC is a peer-reviewed, open-access, academic journal.
- It is published online in a continuous format, and covers a wide range of topics including: mental and behavioural health counselling; school counselling; career counselling; couple, marriage, and family counselling; counselling supervision; theory development; professional counselling ethics; international counselling and multicultural issues; programme applications; and integrative reviews from counselling and related fields.