Review of AATBS NCMHCE Exam Preparation Materials

The National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE) is developed and administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) and is used by at least 21 states as their counselor license examination. Five hours and 10 case studies long, it is one of the final loops aspiring professional counselors jump through before they can legally diagnose and treat clients.

NBCC offers, for $35, half a practice exam; a mere taste of what is to come, and for many, a warning that they have a lot of preparing to do.

I’ve never been much for test-prep materials. It is my style to arrive at an exam blind, sweat through my shirt, and pass the test by the skin of my teeth. With the NCMHCE, I recommend a different approach.

The NCMHCE is similar to the “choose your adventure” books that were popular in the 1980s. The choices you make during your assessment of a client, will help (or hinder) your diagnosis. Your diagnosis will influence how you develop a treatment plan. Your treatment plan will direct the interventions you will use in therapy. Questions asked and assessments given to your mock-clients might influence the referral or termination process you choose. Provide the wrong assessments, and lose points. Neglect to provide the right assessments, and miss pertinent client information (as well as points). Test-takers can find themselves in a mess fast.

The worst thing you can do is take this exam blind. Thankfully, the Association for Advanced Training in the Behavioral Sciences (AATBS) offers study materials for the NCMHCE.

Books. Three NCMHCE books are available. They contain high quality content, are more practice oriented than theory-based (a plus). They are good, but are still only quasi-applicable for the exam. Read these books if (a) you have a lot of catching up to do academia-wise, or (b) a lot of free time on your hands.

Online Tests. The online test questions (called CasePro) are by far the most useful AATBS resource. Ten case scenarios are provided to subscribers, each reflecting the design and flow of the real exam. A nice surprise that I discovered was that the client vignettes are actually somewhat entertaining, if you like counseling. “A woman in her mid-30’s enters your office; her nine-year-old child following behind her, looking at the floor. With pressured speech she reports that the child is undermining her authority. You think you smell alcohol on the mother’s breath. What are your initial assessment concerns?” [i]

The AATBS scenarios are twice as difficult as the real exam, which is useful. Pass the AATBS practice questions, and you’ll thrive on the NCMHCE. Moreover, each practice vignette is explained, and a rationale is given for each potential answer or selection: get an answer wrong—check and see why. Get an answer right—check and see why.

CDs . AATBS offers two audio CDs, one on test anxiety, and another titled “Clinical Diagnosis and Psychometric Testing.” The later is particularly helpful. Memorize it.

These materials are not cheap. At $149 for CasePro, and several hundred dollars for the CDs and books, you’re going to want to have some assurance that you’re buying quality items. Consider yourself assured.

WARNING: This Review is From 2008. We received this comment in 2013:

"Hi, I read your review of AATBS's CasePro, and want to deeply disagree with your assessment. I took the test last week, Feb. 2013, and CasePro is not well formulated to the current exam: not in question style, in answer choices, or in pure form. I have serious concerns about CasePro that I've communicated to AATBS, and have suggested some changes to them to make them better products. It is possible that CasePro was more reflective of test content in the past, but I would urge you to reconsider your evaluation at present. Thanks, Yahvey Hoffman, MA, MS, MHC"

[i] This is a paraphrased example.