As many of you already know, Deaf counselors are few and far between. The reason for this, in part, may be due to the fact that the national licensure exam for counselors is largely English-centric. Below, we are reprinting a letter from a Deaf lawyer, who is working to rectify the situation, and hopefully, enable more Deaf counselors to obtain their licenses. Kudos to Jonathan Whitby for his mission!
DEAF COUNSELORS AND THE LPC CREDENTIAL
Some Deaf people who obtain master’s degrees in counseling subsequently struggle to obtain the Licensed Professional Counselor (“LPC”) credential. (I say “some” Deaf people, but anecdotal evidence leads me to believe that “many” or even “most” would be more accurate.) Without that credential, their marketability as counselors is severely limited.
Although licensing requirements and procedures vary somewhat among states, many require that applicants pass the National Counselor Examination (“NCE”), which is administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (“NBCC”). The NCE, like many standardized examinations, is more about test-taking abilities and English language fluency than about the subject matter it purports to test. It is not unusual for Deaf individuals with a high level of counseling knowledge and skill to fail the NCE repeatedly, become discouraged, and give up.
Deaf counselors seeking the LPC credential might have a fighting chance if the NCE were available in American Sign Language (“ASL”), i.e. through an interpreter. However, I am personally aware of multiple cases where the Deaf individual has asked NBCC to provide an interpreter for the NCE, and that request has been denied. I am presently unaware of any instance where NBCC allowed the examination to be interpreted. (It appears that NBCC’s policy is to provide interpreters for the directions prior to the examination, but not for the examination itself.) This is puzzling and frustrating, especially given that the Association of Social Work Boards (“ASWB”) is known to provide ASL interpreters for its examination, which is used by most states to license social workers.
If you are a Deaf person with a master’s degree in counseling and have struggled to pass the NCE, I am interested in hearing from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan R. Whitby