Two Competing Licensure Portability Plans

A curious thing happened late this summer – two competing plans for licensure portability emerged.  This is a long post, but make sure you also get to the 2nd plan below from AASCB.

AMHCA-ACES-NBCC Portability Standards for Counselors
(link to actual plan document)

This first one is bad.  It is a joint plan by AMHCA, ACES, and NBCC which calls for:

EITHER

• A degree from a clinically focused counselor preparation program accredited by CACREP;
OR
• Certification as a National Certified Counselor;
OR
• Fulfillment of standards adopted by a state counseling licensure board;

AND

• Possession of a counselor license for independent practice for at least two years.

The problem here is that NBCC has indicated that the NCC certification will require a CACREP degree for new applicants after 2022.  So while this plan gives a grandfathering period for all of us non-CACREP counselors to go grab and hold an NCC certification for life,  it very much fits with the CACREP-Only stance.  There does appear to be an exception there for state boards which don’t take their obvious suggestion that CACREP should be involved and instead set their own standards.

This plan also represents a financial bonanza for NBCC.  Non-CACREP counselors – if they ever want to be able to move out-of-state – are going to flock to grab the NCC credential right now while they still can.

Think about the money involved…  Some non-CACREP counselors may need to take another exam.  We are not sure what the original application cost is.  A 2014 newsletter said that annual maintenance fees were $80 per year.  Then of course NBCC sponsors and approves many of the CEU courses necessary for maintaining NCC status, but we won’t count that money…

Let’s do a little bit of back-of-the-envelope calculating although certainly the figures will be off.  Let’s assume:

  • This plan succeeds exactly as written (we’ll see)
  • 56,000 ACA members (although not all counselors are ACA members)
  • 70% are non-CACREP
  • 50% of the non-CACREP folks decide to maintain NCC status in case they ever need to move anywhere in their lifetimes.
  • We magically assume that all of these folks will work another 20 years so they all keep their NCCs for 20 years.

56,000 ACA members X .7 non-CACREP X .5 elect NCC status X $80 X 20 years = $31,360,000

This number is bogus of course, but however you calculate this, NBCC will make a fortune.

On a per person basis (assuming fees never rise) that is:

1 person X $80 X 20 years = $1600

This essentially amounts to extra money these folks would not have had to pay at all, except that NBCC participated in the CACREP-only enterprise of making their non-CACREP degrees second-rate, and then charged this membership fee so that at least these non-CACREP counselors could move around the country.

If they can get a job.  And take insurance and government programs.  And work around TRICARE, the VA, maybe Medicare, etc.  Good luck.

But – if they can make a living – perhaps in time they will appreciate their NCC membership as NBCC continues to offer more and more services that make NBCC nearly indistinguishable from ACA, minus some of the democracy and elected positions.

AASCB (American Association of State Counseling Boards)
(link to actual plan document)

The American Association of State Counseling Boards is what it sounds like – the place where all the state boards in charge of professional counselor licensing get together to hash out high-level issues, such as licensure portability.

Many of the state boards are resistant to the CACREP-Only cry.  Many states have lots of counseling psychology masters programs and/or few CACREP programs.  Others are worried about having enough counselors to serve their population, basic fairness in the profession, or other concerns.

On the other hand, CACREP and NBCC and ACA are all over their annual convention with money, presentations, and officers present.  CACREP and NBCC regularly sponsor events and underwrite costs.  This does not imply undue influence, but does illustrate some of the CACREP-Only pressures this organization is under.

The AASCB has tried to come up with a core set of requirements for years for counselors to be able to port their licenses from state-to-state.  They have finally hit upon an elegantly simple plan:

A fully-licensed counselor, who is licensed at the highest level of licensure available in his or her state, and who is in good standing with his or her licensure board, with no disciplinary record, and who has been in active practice for a minimum of five years post-receipt of licensure, and who has taken and passed the NCE or the NCMHCE, shall be eligible for licensure in a state to which he or she is establishing residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and statutes of said state. An applicant who meets these criteria will be accepted for licensure without further review of education, supervision and experiential hours.

Furthermore “AASCB is open to research supporting a shorter time period if the research indicates no difference in disciplinary issues with those licensees who have less experience.”

This plan has several benefits, not least of which is that the plan does not mention CACREP by name and is much more inclusive.  Also:

1. It leaves more power to the states to determine what their needs are.

2. It does not tie state governments to the dictates of one outside body (CACREP) with whom they may or may not agree in the future.

3. It places more value and respect with counselor experience than with only the accreditation of the degree obtained.

4. It does not require multiple millions of dollars to be funneled into NBCC by non-CACREP counselors holding onto NCC status in order to have license portability.

In our humble opinion, it suggests that AASCB may not be entirely sold on CACREP and only CACREP as in the best interests of the profession and the public at large.

Please look for every opportunity to support the AASCB plan, including writing letters of support to their Board.