The credentials and credentialing processes described in this entry are recognitions that a practitioner voluntarily seeks. They provide indications of advanced training and skill as well as evidence that the practitioner has passed certain examinations. All of the credentials described are obtained after a degree has been completed and, in many instances, after a license to practice has been obtained. Credentialing informs the public that counselors not only adhere to a code of ethics and have met minimum requirements of education and experience but have completed advanced training, submitted their professional work for peer review, and/or successfully passed postdegree and postlicensing examinations. The counseling profession demonstrates to the public that the profession is dedicated to setting and meeting higher, self-imposed standards through these credentialing efforts.
Master’s Level Credentials
National Certified Counselor
The National Certified Counselor (NCC) is the principal credential of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Established in 1982, the NBCC is an independent nonprofit credentialing body for counselors. The NBCC was developed by the American Counseling Association (ACA) and designed to be a separate, independent credentialing body for counselors. The NBCC recognizes counselors who have voluntarily sought to meet standards set by counseling professionals, not state legislators. Candidates seeking the NCC credential (an NCC credential may be sought at both the master’s and doctoral levels) must meet requirements in education, work experience, and supervised experience. They must also pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE).
In addition to the NCC credential, there are three additional specialty credentials offered by the NBCC: the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC), the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), and the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC). Each of these subspecialties is outlined below.
National Certified School Counselor
The National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential recognizes those school counselors who have voluntarily submitted an application and passed a national examination. The NCSC credential has multiple benefits for a school counselor, the public, and community agencies. This credential promotes counselors’ professional identity, holds professionals to a high standard of accountability, encourages professional growth, and heightens the professionals’ national visibility.
To receive an NCSC credential, a counselor must
- Hold the NCC credential
- Do additional coursework in school counseling
Master Addictions Counselor
In a collaborative effort, the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) specialty credential was created by the ACA, the International Association of Addiction and Offenders Counselors (IAAOC), and the NBCC. This specialty credential aims not only to encourage professional development but to recognize those who have taken the initiative to meet all national professional standards in addictions counseling. A MAC credential benefits the individual counselor by increasing visibility and professional identity in the community and simultaneously benefits clients by raising counselor standards for training, skills, and accountability.
To receive a MAC credential, a counselor must
- Hold the NCC credential
- Complete additional coursework in the area of addictions
- Have supervised experience as an addictions counselor
- Pass the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC)
Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor
In 1993, the National Academy of Clinical Mental Health Counselors (NACMH) worked with NBCC to form the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) specialty credential. This credential was created to set standards for competency among professional clinical mental health counselors.
To receive a CCMHC credential, a counselor must
- Hold the NCC credential
- Meet additional educational requirements in counseling, including a supervised practicum
- Have additional supervised work experience
- Pass the Examination of Clinical Counseling Practice (ECCP)
- Submit an audio or videotape of a counseling session for approval
Certified Family Therapist
Initiated by the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC), the National Credentialing Academy (NCA) began offering the Certified Family Therapist (CFT) credential in 1994. The CFT credential identifies professionals who have met NCA national standards related to training, experience, and ethics in family therapy. The CFT promotes professional accountability and encourages ongoing professional growth and development of marriage and family counselors. To receive a CFT credential, a counselor must meet one of five distinct combinations of criteria. The combination varies depending on
- The candidate’s graduate degree
- The candidate’s supervised experiences as a marriage and family therapist (e.g., as evidenced by state licensure requirements)
- The requirements the candidate has met in an accredited graduate program
- The candidate’s clinical membership in the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT)
In addition, two references or endorsements are required.
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) was chartered in 1973 as a nonprofit organization designed to establish standards for the profession of rehabilitation counseling and improve the quality of care to persons with disabilities. Those professionals credentialed as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) have demonstrated good moral character and a minimum level of competency based on nationwide standards of professionalism set by the CRCC. The CRC credential recognizes those counselors who have the training and experience to provide vocation, person, or socialization counseling to persons with disabilities. To be eligible for the CRC credential, the professional must meet one of six sets of criteria that include
- A master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or rehabilitation counseling
- Specific coursework in rehabilitation counseling
- Supervised internship or acceptable employment experience
Doctoral Level Credentials
American Board of Professional Psychology
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) was formed in 1947 with the support of the American Psychological Association (APA). Since that time, the ABPP has become a separate entity and is a unifying governing body for separately incorporated specialty boards. The ABPP identifies a specialty as “a defined area in the practice of psychology that connotes specialty competency acquired through an organized sequence of formal education, training, and experience.” Counseling psychology, of course, fits this definition. Presently, there are 13 specialties recognized by ABPP.
The specialty of counseling psychology is represented within the ABPP by the American Board of Counseling Psychology (ABCoP) and the American Academy of Counseling Psychology (AACoP). The AACoP has three primary functions. First, it advocates for the profession of counseling psychology within legislative and other governmental bodies, such as state licensing boards. Second, it has an education role both in terms of educating the public and providing continuing education for board certified counseling psychologists. Third, it is primarily responsible for marketing, recruiting, and mentoring qualified counseling psychologists into and through the application and examination process.
The ABCoP is primarily responsible for developing and implementing the examination process that leads to board certification in counseling psychology. The ABCoP accepts applications for board certification from counseling psychologists who provide a variety of professional services, including psychotherapy in private, educational, medical, or governmental settings; career and vocational interventions; teaching or supervision of core counseling psychology courses; consultation; and academic administration or counseling.
The examination process has three stages. First, counseling psychologists must submit their credentials to ABCoP in order to prove that they have the appropriate educational background, training, and work experience to qualify as practicing counseling psychologists. Candidates may meet the education requirement in the following ways:
- Holding a doctoral degree in professional psychology accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)
- Completing a program listed in the publication Doctoral Psychology Programs Meeting Designated Criteria
- Completing a designated program of the National Register of Health Services Providers or in the Canadian Register of Health Service Providers
- Holding a current Certificate of Professional Qualifications in Psychology (CPQ)
- Holding a degree in psychology and completing postdoctoral study to receive a license to practice psychology in a recognized jurisdiction in the United States or Canada.
Additional requirements include the following:
- A current license to practice psychology in the jurisdiction in which the psychologist lives (an exception for this requirement is granted to active duty military psychologists)
- Completion of a predoctoral internship
- Completion of 1 year of postdoctoral supervision
- At least 2 years of postlicense experience
Once the counseling psychologist’s credentials have been verified, he or she is advanced to the Practice Sample stage of the process. This stage requires a professional self study (PSS) and a case study (CS). The PSS is a personal narrative of one’s theoretical, philosophical, and/or personal approach to the practice of counseling psychology. It is expected that this narrative will include mentions of professional articles, books, or mentors that have influenced the applicant’s work and ideas as well as descriptions of experiences in training, background, and practice that have informed the applicant’s approach to counseling psychology practice. The requirements for the CS are determined by the competency area in which the applicant is submitting his or her professional expertise and vary depending upon whether the case to be used for the sample involves an individual client, the supervision of another psychologist or trainee, a career or vocational intervention, or a demonstration of the role of a counseling psychologist in an administrative setting. Any situation in which a clinical intervention is submitted as a case requires a videotape to accompany the CS.
The PSS and CS are reviewed by two board certified counseling psychologists; once these studies have been accepted, the applicant is invited to attend the oral examination, at which a number of applicants will be examined on the same day. The oral examination is a day-long process that includes five areas of competency. Each section of the examination typically includes two examiners. The areas covered by the oral examination are assessment, intervention, consultation and supervision, ethics, and professional issues.
The ABCoP also provides a Senior Option for psychologists who have been licensed and practicing for more than 15 years. In general, the Senior Option allows the applicant to substitute his or her published works or professionally developed, implemented, and documented programs for the CS.
Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology
The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) is a professional organization of psychology licensing boards in the United States and Canada. The purpose of the Certificate of Professional Qualification in Psychology (CPQ) is to address the problem of license mobility across states and Canadian provinces. Because state and provincial licenses are not widely recognized outside the jurisdictions in which they were issued, the ASPPB sought to find a way to facilitate the normal and expected movement of psychology professionals from one licensing jurisdiction to another. The CPQ was established in 1998 with two primary strategies to meet this goal. First, licensed psychologists who meet established criteria are issued a certificate (CPQ). Second, a credentials bank has been created in which individuals may store the documents demonstrating their eligibility for licensure, and it may be used by licensing boards to determine the requirements an individual must meet for licensing in their jurisdiction. To receive a CPQ, applicants must
- Meet educational requirements in psychology
- Have a current license to practice psychology
- Have a history of supervised experience
- Pass the examination for professional practice in psychology (EPPP)
- Pass an oral examination or interview related to competence to practice
- Have at least 5 years of postlicense experience
- Have no history of disciplinary actions
Psychologists who do not meet the requirements of the CPQ may store their license-related materials in the credentials bank and then ask the ASPPB to forward these materials to any jurisdiction. The CPQ, of course, is not a license to practice and does not automatically guarantee that a licensing board will accept the credentials presented, but the ASPPB does advocate with boards to accept the CPQ as evidence that basic requirements for licensure have been met. ASPPB member boards may have additional requirements, and any applicable fees must be paid in that jurisdiction.
Certificate of Proficiency (Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders)
The American Psychological Association Practice Organization’s College of Professional Psychology developed Certificates of Proficiency in order to recognize licensed psychologists whose scope of practice includes the treatment of alcohol and other psychoactive substance use disorders. This certification is designed to demonstrate that a professional has the specialized training in chemical abuse disorders that is frequently required by health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations, and some legislative jurisdictions. The Certificate of Proficiency has been accepted as evidence that the psychologist is qualified to offer these specialized services. The certificate provides national, uniform documentation that a psychologist
- Has a current license to practice psychology
- Has at least 1 year’s experience treating chemical abuse disorders (within the last 3 years)
- Is an active health service provider
- Has passed the college of professional psychology’s examination in alcohol and other psychoactive substance use disorders
National Register of Health Service Providers
The National Register of Health Service Providers is a membership credentialing service that has, for more than 30 years, provided a list (register) of qualified psychologists both to the public and to health services providers. A Health Service Provider in Psychology is defined by the register “as a psychologist, certified/licensed at the independent practice level in his/her state, who is duly trained and experienced in the delivery of direct, preventative, assessment and therapeutic intervention services to individuals whose growth, adjustment, or functioning is actually impaired or is demonstrably at high risk of impairment.”
The register verifies the credentials submitted from prospective members for healthcare providers. To be listed in the register, applicants must comply as follows:
- Have a doctoral degree in psychology that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) or have completed a program designated as meeting criteria established by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) or have completed a doctoral program in psychology designated by the National Register of Health Services Providers
- Have completed a minimum 1-year predoctoral internship (1,500 hours)
- Have completed a minimum of 1 year of postdoctoral supervision (1,500 hours)
- Hold a current license to practice psychology
- Provide an official transcript from the doctoral degree-granting institution
- Demonstrate that they have been subject to no disciplinary actions
In addition to its credentialing function, the register provides a number of services to its members, including licensure mobility, continuing education, and publication of The Register Report, and it acts as an advocate for psychologists’ practice concerns with legislative bodies. The register also recognizes psychologists’ achievements through awards and other forms of recognition. The National Register is one of the most widely recognized credentialing bodies in the United States and Canada, and its credential is accepted by most healthcare organizations in identifying healthcare providers qualified to practice psychology.
- American Psychological Association Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure. (2001). Final report and recommendations of the Commission on Education and Training Leading to Licensure. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Kaslow, N. J., Rubin, N. J., Bebeau, M. J., Leigh, I. W., Lichtenberg, J. W., Nelson, P. D., et al. (2007). Guiding principles and recommendations for the assessment of competency. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 38(5), 441—451.
- Koocher, G. P. (1979). Credentialing in psychology: Close encounters with competence? American Psychologist, 34, 696-702.
- National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology: https://www.nationalregister.org/
- Nelson, P. D. (2007). Striving for competence in the assessment of competence: Psychology’s professional education and credentialing journey of public accountability, Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(1), 3-12.
- Rehm, L. P., & Lipkins, R. H. (2006). The examination for professional practice in psychology. In T. J. Vaughn (Ed.), Psychology licensure and certification (pp. 39-54). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.