Do you know which three exams you will need to pass in order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor / Mental Health Service Provider (LPC/MHSP) in Tennessee? Each state has their own set of requirements for counseling licensure outlined in their board rules and, in Tennessee, you will be required to pass the following three exams to earn the LPC/ MHSP credential:
1) NCE - National Counselor Examination
2) NCMHCE - National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination
3) Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
All three exams must be passed during your licensure period in order to earn the LPC/MHSP credential, which is the credential that allows you to have full scope of practice (assessment, diagnosis and treatment) and the ability to practice independently. It can be easy to stay focused on gaining your clinical hours and forget that you need to pass these three exams as well!
Many people start with the NCE exam which is a 200 item, multiple-choice format, examination. Since this covers the concepts of counseling theory, human development, social and cultural foundations, ethics, etc... it is often easier for people to take soon after they have graduated. It has a more "academic" feel to it and is based on much of what you would have learned in your graduate program coursework. Depending on your program, you may have even taken this as your exit exam.
The NCMHCE is a different format, focused on application of information as you are walked through 10 clinical simulations. You are tested in two specific areas: 1) information gathering and 2) decision making. As you progress through the clinical case simulations, you will be asked about things like problem solving, assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning.
Where the NCE has a more academic feel, the NCMHCE is focused more on clinical application. Some people feel more comfortable taking this after they have gained some field experience. Regardless of how much experience you have, I highly suggest giving yourself ample time to study for this exam and take repeated practice tests (available through online test prep companies). If you do not pass this exam the first time, you will need to wait 90 days to take the exam again and will be required to re-register.
Finally, the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam is a laws, rules and ethics exam that is required after you have taken the NCE and NCMHCE. I have learned that, even if you have not passed the NCMHCE yet, you can still register for the Jurisprudence Exam since it is only offered about four times per year in varied cities within the state of TN.
In recent years, the East Tennessee area exams have been offered around April (Knoxville) and October (Chattanooga). Other testing locations include Nashville and Memphis at other times during the year. This exam does have a registration deadline for each offering, so make sure to look at those dates when planning your examination timeline.
Planning is Key
Make sure to plan for these exams as you begin your licensure journey. Keep in mind the needed time to study, register and take each exam. Again, it can be very easy for people to focus on gaining clinical hours forget there are three exams to take (and pass!) as well. The best thing to do is to talk with your supervisor openly about your plans and goals for licensure, working together to create a rough timeline of how to meet your requirements within the 2-4 year window.
Where to find exam information
You can click HERE for a list of the 2018 testing dates for the NCE and NCMHCE. You will also see directions on how to register for those exams toward the bottom of that page.
For the current TN Jurisprudence Exam registration form click HERE. Keep in mind that the last offering for this exam in East Tennessee in 2018 is coming up on October 20, 2018 in Chattanooga. The registration deadline for that exam offering is September 9th!
Do you have questions about any of the exams? Feel welcome to contact me and I'll help point you in the right direction.