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NBCC-NCC approach - NBCC - National Certified Counselor Updated: 2024

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Exam Code: NBCC-NCC NBCC - National Certified Counselor approach January 2024 by team

NBCC-NCC NBCC - National Certified Counselor

Test Detail:
The NBCC-NCC (National Certified Counselor) exam is a certification exam offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The exam is designed to assess the knowledge and skills of individuals seeking to become nationally certified counselors. The following description provides an overview of the NBCC-NCC exam.

Course Outline:
To prepare for the NBCC-NCC exam, candidates can undergo training courses that cover the core areas of counseling practice. These courses provide comprehensive knowledge and practical skills required to effectively counsel individuals, couples, and families. The coursework typically covers topics such as counseling theories, ethics, assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and professional practice.

Exam Objectives:
The NBCC-NCC exam aims to evaluate the candidate's understanding and proficiency in various areas of counseling practice. The exam objectives include the following:

1. Counseling Theories and Approaches:
- Understanding of major counseling theories and their applications
- Knowledge of evidence-based practices in counseling
- Familiarity with multicultural and diversity issues in counseling

2. Ethical and Legal Standards:
- Understanding of ethical principles and standards in counseling
- Knowledge of legal and professional responsibilities of counselors
- Proficiency in ethical decision-making and resolving ethical dilemmas

3. Assessment and Diagnosis:
- Ability to conduct assessments and gather relevant client information
- Knowledge of psychometric principles and assessment tools
- Understanding of diagnostic criteria and classification systems

4. Treatment Planning and Intervention:
- Proficiency in developing effective treatment plans
- Knowledge of counseling techniques and interventions
- Understanding of evidence-based approaches to counseling

5. Professional Practice and Ethics:
- Knowledge of professional roles and responsibilities of counselors
- Understanding of professional organizations and credentialing bodies
- Familiarity with legal and ethical issues in counseling practice

Exam Syllabus:
The NBCC-NCC exam syllabus covers a broad range of topics related to counseling practice. The syllabus includes the following areas of study:

- Counseling theories and approaches
- Counseling techniques and interventions
- Ethics and professional standards in counseling
- Assessment and diagnosis in counseling
- Treatment planning and intervention strategies
- Multicultural counseling and diversity issues
- Legal and ethical considerations in counseling

The NBCC-NCC exam format typically consists of multiple-choice questions that assess the candidate's knowledge and application of counseling principles, ethical standards, assessment methods, and intervention strategies. Candidates are expected to demonstrate their competence in providing counseling services and adhering to professional standards.
NBCC - National Certified Counselor
Counselor Certified approach

Other Counselor exams

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NBCC-NCC NBCC - National Certified Counselor

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NBCC - National Certified Counselor
Question: 325
Existential therapy is not problem or crisis-focused, but involves the
establishment of a deep relationship between the __________and the
A. Husband, wife
B. Client, clinician
C. Child, parent
D. Audience, actor
Answer: B
Because existential therapy is not problem focused and involves the establishment
of a deep relationship between client and clinician, it is almost never time limited
or rushed. Typically, no clear stages or transitions can be identified in the
treatment. Within this treatment, people use the information they have shared
about themselves to find meaning in their lives.
Question: 326
Self-actualization is an important concept for which type of therapy?
A. Existential
B. Psychodynamic
C. Behavioral
D. Cognitive
Answer: A
For existential therapists, self-actualization is an important concept, as it is for
person-centered therapists. Abraham Maslow describes the nature of self-
actualization as that of fulfilling potential, reaching for the highest within, and
growing from within.
Question: 327
How many levels of cognitions can be categorized in cognitive therapy?
A. Two
B. Three
C. Five
D. Four
Answer: D
Cognitions can be categorized according to four levels; automatic thoughts,
intermediate beliefs, core beliefs, and schemas. In cognitive therapy, treatment
typically begins with automatic thoughts and then proceeds to identification,
evaluation, and modification of intermediate and core beliefs and finally, of
Question: 328
328. What are the three basic elements to look for when assessing a psychology
A. Ease in understanding the questions, length of test, time given
B. Reliability, validity, standardization
C. Common element, standardization, biserial correlation
D. None of the above
Answer: B
Reliability is a measure of test consistency, validity is a measure of test
usefulness, and standardization provides a mean (average) and a standard
deviation (spread) relative to a certain group.
Question: 329
What does an item characteristic" curve plot?
A. The responses to each of the options to an item
B. The item"s difficulty against its discrimination
C. The probability of answering an item correctly against estimates of ability
D. An individual"s responses against the entire group"s responses
Answer: C
An item characteristic curve plots the probability of answering an item correctly
against estimates of ability.
Question: 330
In teacher-made tests, an item analysis is important because:
A. It reveals correctable features in the test teaching
B. It informs the teacher as to whether the test should be counted or not
C. It produces useful technical research data
D. It supplies students with valuable additional scores
Answer: A
Revealing correctable features in the test teaching is an important feature of item
analysis for the instructor and his/her future testing.
Question: 331
What does a self-report personality test mean?
A. It shows a multiple range of personality traits
B. It shows one specific personality trait
C. Clients do the test on their own time
D. None of the above
Answer: B
Self-report personality tests such as the androgyny scale or the locus of control
scale test one specific personality trait. These tests are generally used for research.
Question: 332
If you went to a Phrenologist to have your personality tested, how would the
expert perform the test?
A. A paper and pencil test
B. A projective test (pictures)
C. An unstructured oral Q & A test
D. By the bumps on your head
Answer: D
Phrenology is the study of the bumps on your head. It was widely used in the
1800"s but is still used today - primarily by pseudo-psychologists. In the 1800"s, a
much respected person would carefully measure your skull and examine the
bumps on your head. Then you would be given a psychological profile of your
unique qualities and characteristics. Phrenologists used a phrenology chart to
determine which personality traits were associated with bumps on different areas
of the skull.
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Counselor Certified approach - BingNews Search results Counselor Certified approach - BingNews An Exploratory Look At Whether Generative AI Can Pass An Official Mental Health Counseling Licensing Exam That Professionals Take

In today’s column, I will be closely looking at whether generative AI could potentially pass an official mental health counseling licensing exam. This is part of my ongoing in-depth series about generative AI or large language models (LLMs) that are or can be anticipated to be used for mental health guidance or advisement.

Before I dive into today’s particular topic, I’d like to provide a quick background for you so that you’ll have a suitable context about the arising use of generative AI for mental health advisement purposes. I’ve mentioned this in prior columns and believe the contextual establishment is essential overall. If you are already familiar with the overarching background on this topic, you are welcome to skip down below to the next section of this discussion.

The use of generative AI for mental health treatment is a burgeoning area of tremendously significant societal ramifications. We are witnessing the adoption of generative AI for providing mental health advice on a widescale basis, yet little is known about whether this is beneficial to humankind or perhaps contrastingly destructively adverse for humanity.

Some would affirmatively assert that we are democratizing mental health treatment via the impending rush of low-cost always-available AI-based mental health apps. Others sharply decry that we are subjecting ourselves to a global wanton experiment in which we are the guinea pigs. Will these generative AI mental health apps steer people in ways that harm their mental health? Will people delude themselves into believing they are getting sound mental health advice, ergo foregoing treatment by human mental therapists, and become egregiously dependent on AI that at times has no demonstrative mental health improvement outcomes?

Hard questions are aplenty and not being given their due airing.

Furthermore, be forewarned that it is shockingly all too easy nowadays to craft a generative AI mental health app, and just about anyone anywhere can do so, including while sitting at home in their pajamas and not knowing any bona fide substance about what constitutes suitable mental health therapy. Via the use of what are referred to as establishing prompts, it is easy-peasy to make a generative AI app that purportedly gives mental health advice. No coding is required, and no software development skills are needed.

We sadly are faced with a free-for-all that bodes for bad tidings, mark my words.

I’ve been hammering away at this topic and hope to raise awareness about where we are and where things are going when it comes to the advent of generative AI mental health advisement uses. If you’d like to get up-to-speed on my prior coverage of generative AI across a wide swath of the mental health sphere, you might consider for example these cogent analyses:

  • (1) Use of generative AI to perform mental health advisement, see the link here.
  • (2) Role-playing with generative AI and the mental health ramifications, see the link here.
  • (3) Generative AI is both a cure and a curse when it comes to the loneliness epidemic, see the link here.
  • (4) Mental health therapies struggle with the Dodo verdict for which generative AI might help, see the link here.
  • (5) Mental health apps are predicted to embrace multi-modal, e-wearables, and a slew of new AI advances, see the link here.
  • (6) AI for mental health got its start via ELIZA and PARRY, here’s how it compares to generative AI, see the link here.
  • (7) The latest online trend entails using generative AI as a rage-room catalyst, see the link here.
  • (8) Watching out for when generative AI is a mental manipulator of humans, see the link here.
  • (9) FTC aiming to crack down on outlandish claims regarding what AI can and cannot do, see the link here.
  • (10) Important AI lessons learned from the mental health eating-disorders chatbot Tessa that went awry and had to be shut down, see the link here.
  • (11) Generative AI that is devised to express humility might be a misguided approach including when used for mental health advisement, see the link here.
  • (12) Creatively judging those AI-powered mental health chatbots via the use of AI levels of autonomy, see the link here.
  • (13) Considering whether generative AI should be bold and brazen or meek and mild when proffering AI mental health advisement to humans, see the link here.
  • (14) Theory of Mind (ToM) is an important tool for mental health therapists and the question arises whether generative AI can do the same, see the link here.
  • And so on.

Here’s how I will approach today’s discussion.

First, I will introduce you to a pioneering research study that sought to assess whether generative AI could potentially pass an exam taken by medical school students as part of their pursuit of achieving their medical degree. The exam is known as the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). This study received a great deal of headlines since it showcased that generative AI seems to do well on the arduous medical exams taken by budding doctors. Next, I will share with you some salient details about an exam for mental health professionals known as the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE).

I’m guessing you might be wondering whether generative AI might be able to do well on that type of exam. Great question, thanks. I opted to use a popular generative AI app called ChatGPT to try out a half-dozen questions from the NCMHCE. Please note that this was merely an official sample set and not by any means the full exam.

Would you be surprised to know that the generative AI was able to successfully answer many of the sampled sample questions? I provide some important caveats and limitations about this mini experiment of sorts, and I want to emphasize this was principally done on an ad hoc basis and merely intended to be illustrative.

Here’s the deal.

Please do not jump the shark on this matter. Hold your horses. My mainstay aims here are simply to inspire others to do a deep dive on this and perform a fully comprehensive rigorous research study of an akin nature, perhaps modeled somewhat on the same approach taken by the study on the USMLE or similar such professional licensing domains.

Anyway, I believe you will find this interesting, engaging, and possibly whet your appetite to find out more on these topics. My discussion is yet another angle to considering where we are and where things are going pertaining to generative AI and the field of mental health therapy.

Please buckle up and prepare yourself for quite a ride.

Generative AI And Medical School Standardized Licensing Exam

Let’s talk about tests.

We generally assume that to practice medicine a test of some kind should be required to attest to the proficiency of the person that will be serving as a medical professional. I’d like to start by discussing perhaps one of the most famous such medical proficiency tests known as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This is the test typically expected of those attaining a medical degree in the United States.

The USMLE was devised to aid in standardizing upon one major medical examination test that would be acceptable across every state and ensure that MDs were meeting the same set of standards. The test is composed of three separate stages and is taken during medical school and also upon graduation from medical school.

Here’s some additional detail as noted on the USMLE website:

  • “In the United States and its territories, the individual medical licensing authorities (‘state medical boards’) of the various jurisdictions grant a license to practice medicine. Each medical licensing authority sets its own rules and regulations and requires passing an examination that demonstrates qualification for licensure. Results of the USMLE are reported to these authorities for use in granting the initial license to practice medicine. The USMLE provides them with a common evaluation system for applicants for initial medical licensure.”
  • “USMLE was created in response to the need for one path to medical licensure for allopathic physicians in the United States. Before USMLE, multiple examinations (the NBME Parts examination and the Federation Licensing Examination [FLEX]) offered paths to medical licensure. It was desirable to create one examination system accepted in every state, to ensure that all licensed MDs had passed the same assessment standards – no matter in which school or which country they had trained.”
  • “The United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the U.S. The USMLE assesses a physician's ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills, that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care.”

Humans take the USMLE to showcase their proficiency in medicine. When you encounter a medical doctor, you are likely to assume they probably took the test and passed it. On an intuitive basis we realize that having to pass such an arduous test is impressive and helps to provide us comfort that the person knows their stuff when it comes to the medical field.

Shift gears.

Can generative AI potentially also be proficient enough to pass the USMLE?

That’s an interesting and some would say important question worthy of considering.

First, some quick background about generative AI.

Realize that generative AI is not sentient and only consists of mathematical and computational pattern matching. The way that generative AI works is that a great deal of data is initially fed into a pattern-matching algorithm that tries to identify patterns in the words that humans use. Most of the modern-day generative AI apps were data trained by scanning data such as text essays and narratives that were found on the Internet. Doing this was a means of getting the pattern-matching to statistically figure out which words we use and when we tend to use those words. Generative AI is built upon the use of a large language model (LLM), which entails a large-scale data structure to hold the pattern-matching facets and the use of a vast amount of data to undertake the setup data training.

There are numerous generative AI apps available nowadays, including GPT-4, Bard, Gemini, Claude, ChatGPT, etc. The one that is seemingly the most popular would be ChatGPT by AI maker OpenAI. In November 2022, OpenAI’s ChatGPT was made available to the public at large and the response was astounding in terms of how people rushed to make use of the newly released AI app. There are an estimated one hundred million active weekly users at this time.

Using generative AI is relatively simple.

You log into a generative AI app and enter questions or comments as prompts. The generative AI app takes your prompting and uses the already devised pattern matching based on the original data training to try and respond to your prompts. You can interact or carry on a dialogue that appears to be nearly fluent. The nature of the prompts that you use can be a make-or-break when it comes to getting something worthwhile out of using generative AI and I’ve discussed at length the use of state-of-the-art prompt engineering techniques to best leverage generative AI, see the link here.

Shortly after ChatGPT was made publicly available, many AI researchers began to test the AI app by administering various well-known standardized tests to see how the AI app would do. In February 2023, a research study was posted that indicated ChatGPT had performed surprisingly well on the USMLE. The study was entitled “Performance of ChatGPT on USMLE: Potential for AI-Assisted Medical Education Using Large Language Models” by Tiffany H. Kung, Morgan Cheatham, ChatGPT, Arielle Medenilla, Czarina Sillos, Lorie De Leon, Camille Elepaño, Maria Madriaga, Rimel Aggabao, Giezel Diaz-Candido, James Maningo, Victor Tseng, PLOS Digital Health, and posted on February 9, 2023.

Here is what the research paper stated overall (excerpts):

  • “We evaluated the performance of a large language model called ChatGPT on the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), which consists of three exams: Step 1, Step 2CK, and Step 3. ChatGPT performed at or near the passing threshold for all three exams without any specialized training or reinforcement. Additionally, ChatGPT demonstrated a high level of concordance and insight in its explanations.”
  • “USMLE questions are textually and conceptually dense; text vignettes contain multimodal clinical data (i.e., history, physical examination, laboratory values, and study results) often used to generate ambiguous scenarios with closely-related differential diagnoses.”

Consider mindfully those above-noted remarks from the AI research effort.

ChatGPT was able to score either at or near the passing threshold for the three staged USMLE. Thus, an arduous medical proficiency exam that we expect human medical doctors to pass was nearly passed by a generative AI app. Some would decry this result as misleading in the sense that the generative AI was doing this without actual “knowledge” akin to what humans seem to possess. The concern is that generative AI is nothing more than a so-called stochastic parrot that mimics human wording and fails to “understand” or “comprehend” what is going on.

Nonetheless, the aspect that generative AI could accomplish such a feat is unto itself impressive, even if done via smoke and mirrors as some suggest. The result is additionally surprising because the researchers used ChatGPT out of the box, as it were, namely the generic version of ChatGPT. Another approach would be to add additional data training on the medical field to ChatGPT, but that’s not what they did in this experiment. A generic data-trained generative AI was able to do well on a highly specialized medical domain exam. For more about how generic generative AI can be fine-tuned to specific domains, see my coverage at the link here.

Let’s consider a few other detailed aspects about the notable research result and then I’ll move to my next topic of discussion.

The research paper noted these salient details (excerpted):

  • “The data analyzed in this study were obtained from USMLE sample question sets which are publicly available.”
  • “376 publicly-available test questions were obtained from the June 2022 sample exam release on the official USMLE website. Random spot checking was performed to ensure that none of the answers, explanations, or related content were indexed on Google prior to January 1, 2022, representing the last date accessible to the ChatGPT training dataset. All sample test questions were screened, and questions containing visual assets such as clinical images, medical photography, and graphs were removed. After filtering, 305 USMLE items (Step 1: 93, Step 2CK: 99, Step 3: 113) were advanced to encoding.”
  • “In this present study, ChatGPT performed at >50% accuracy across all examinations, exceeding 60% in most analyses. The USMLE pass threshold, while varying by year, is approximately 60%.”
  • “Therefore, ChatGPT is now comfortably within the passing range. Being the first experiment to reach this benchmark, we believe this is a surprising and impressive result. Moreover, we provided no prompting or training to the AI, minimized grounding bias by expunging the AI session before inputting each question variant, and avoided chain-of-thought biasing by requesting forced justification only as the final input.”

I’d like to bring your attention to a few points made in those excerpts.

Notice that the experiment consisted of identifying a sample of publicly available questions associated with the exam. The idea is to usually feed samples of questions and not necessarily an entire test per se. It is important to consider how a sample was chosen and whether the sample is suitably representative of what the full test might contain. Fair is fair.

Another fairness consideration is that there is always a chance that the generative AI might have been initially data-trained on the very same questions. If those questions were found when the startup data training took place, you could say it is absurd to feed the same questions into the generative AI. The answers will likely already be known simply due to having seen the questions and their answers beforehand.

If you select questions that arose after the cutoff date of the generative AI app’s data training, you are somewhat comfortable that the content wasn’t encountered already. But even that is readily questioned since the questions might have appeared in other guises. Some exams modify old questions and reuse them in later versions of the exam. There is a chance that a new question is close enough to an older question that perhaps this gives the generative AI a leg up on answering the new question.

My point is that you need to carefully consider how these experiments are conducted. Overall, make sure to look at what sample was chosen and how appropriate it is. What are the odds that the generative AI has previously encountered the same or similar questions? As much as feasible, the goal is to set a fair and square playing field to see whether the generative AI can genuinely answer questions that have not previously been used as part of the data training effort.

You now have a semblance of what takes place when trying to assess generative AI about being able to pass exams such as the pervasive USMLE in the medical domain.

Let’s continue our exploration.

Generative AI And Mental Health Therapy Exam Taking

The research study that explored the use of generative AI such as ChatGPT on the USMLE can serve as a role model for similar kinds of studies. The conception is to identify publicly available sample questions, administer the questions to the generative AI, and see how well or poorly the generative AI scores on answering the questions. As much as possible, try to keep the playing field level and fair.

I decided to try this quickly for the field of mental health therapy or mental health counseling.

There is a well-known exam known as the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Sample questions are publicly posted online. I selected some of the sample questions and fed them into ChatGPT. I opted to use ChatGPT due to its immense popularity and it has generally been the default choice of similar research studies.

I might note that a more advanced generative AI such as GPT-4 by OpenAI or others would likely do a better job than ChatGPT. In that manner, you could interpret the ChatGPT usage as the floor and that we might expect heightened results by using a more advanced generative AI app. There isn’t an ironclad guarantee that a more advanced generative AI will do better. The odds though are in that direction.

We also have to be watchful for in a sense polluting an experiment by perchance using questions that have already been seen by the generative AI during the initial data-training. Furthermore, if the generative AI is hooked up to the Internet, the AI might simply go out and find the questions and their answers, similar to a search engine, rather than trying to directly answer the questions. ChatGPT in that sense is a handy choice because the free version does not readily allow for Internet access to perform its activities and the data training was last cut off in January 2022 (at the time of writing of this discussion).

Let’s dive into the ad hoc experiment by first establishing the nature of the mental health therapy or mental health counseling exam.

The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is devised and administered via an organization known as the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. Here is what the website for the organization says (excerpts):

  • “The National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) is the premier credentialing body for counselors, ensuring that counselors who become nationally certified have achieved the highest standard of practice through education, examination, supervision, experience, and ethical guidelines.”
  • “Established as a not-for-profit, independent certification organization in 1982, NBCC’s original and primary purposes have broadened, and its divisions and affiliates have taken on additional responsibilities to advance the counseling profession and enhance mental health worldwide.”
  • “Today, there are over 69,000 National Certified Counselors (NCCs) in more than 40 countries.”

The gist is that this is a well-known and widely accepted organization, and the exam is likewise well-known and widely accepted. I bring this up in case you read a study that used generative AI on some relatively unknown exam or less than a stellar reputational exam, in which case, you would want to gauge the result of the study as partially on the rigor and standing of the test being given at the get-go.

Here is what the website about the NCMHCE says about the exam (excerpts):

  • “The National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) is designed to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities determined to be important for providing effective counseling services. The NCMHCE is a requirement for counselor licensure in many states. It is one of two examination options for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification and also fulfills the examination requirement for the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) specialty certification.”
  • “The NCMHCE measures an individual’s ability to apply and evaluate knowledge in core counselor skills and competencies and to practice competently as a professional counselor. Specifically, it assesses an entry-level clinical mental health counselor’s ability to apply knowledge of theoretical and skill-based tenets to clinical case studies. The case studies are designed to capture a candidate’s ability to identify, analyze, diagnose, and develop plans for treatment of clinical concerns.”
  • “Candidates for the NCMHCE must have a graduate-level degree or higher from a counseling program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or administered by an institutionally accredited college or university. The counseling degree program must contain courses in eight requirement areas.”

Observe some key points mentioned in those excerpts.

First, the exam is used to assess entry-level clinical mental health counselors. You might say that this is handy for my ad hoc experiment since I want to focus on the keystone threshold needed to be considered suitably knowledgeable for proceeding to perform mental health therapy with actual clients or patients. Other exams might be used to assess more advanced skill levels, but I’m aiming here to start with the usual starting point. I’m sure that other researchers are or will try to do the same for more advanced instances.

Second, note that candidates who want to sit for the exam must have a graduate-level degree or higher from an accredited counseling program or as administered by an accredited college or university. This sets the bar higher than perhaps allowing an undergraduate to take the exam or maybe wantonly opening the exam to anyone who wants to take it. We can presume that the test is likely to ask questions of a hard nature. That’s good since we would want to make sure we give something challenging to generative AI rather than some easy-peasy questions or materials. We might also note that of course, generative AI would not qualify to officially take the exam since it has not met all the criteria to do so.

The official exam website provides an NCMHCE Sample Case Study that indicates the case study is considered updated as of March 2023. I selected six sample questions from this sample set. I want to loudly emphasize that this is an ad hoc selection and I do so merely to be illustrative of what might be done on a more rigorous basis.

Though the date says March 2023, there of course is a chance that these questions and their answers have been around before that date, for which ChatGPT might have seen before the January 2022 cutoff date. I tried to do various probing into ChatGPT to see if the content had already been prior encountered. By and large, it doesn’t seem to be, but that’s not known for sure, and a deeper analysis would need to be undertaken to ascertain this. For the moment, let’s go with the flow and assume that the sample questions weren’t previously seen by ChatGPT during its data training.

The six sampled sample questions cover these six respective topics:

  • Q1. Establish a therapeutic alliance.
  • Q2. Identify strengths that improve the likelihood of goal attainment.
  • Q3. Discuss limits of confidentiality.
  • Q4. Determine a diagnosis.
  • Q5. Assess the presenting problem and level of distress.
  • Q6. Establish short- and long-term counseling goals consistent with the client’s diagnosis.

Keep that in mind as I walk you through what ChatGPT provided as answers to the posed questions.

The test is essentially based on case studies. For these six sampled sample questions, a case study was provided in the publicly posted material. The case study was fed into ChatGPT for this analysis. Rather than displaying for you the entirety of the case study, I will do a quick recap to bring you up to speed.

In this instance, the case study entails a divorced female of age 35 who is first undertaking a mental health counseling session with a mental health therapist who has some background about the client or patient but otherwise, this is the first meeting of the two. The client or patient has already been provisionally diagnosed as having a major depressive disorder.

Additional background is given about the client or patient. For example, after her divorce, she began staying in bed quite a lot and moved back in with her mother. She got fired from her job. She has had financial difficulties. Most days, she feels sad, empty, and anxious. She has joint legal custody with her ex-husband of their two children, respectively aged 10 and 12. And so on.

That outlines the nature of the underlying case study.

Questions And The Answers Generated By The Generative AI

I am going to walk you through each of the six multiple-choice questions and also showcase the answers that were generated by ChatGPT so that you can follow along step-by-step.

My initiating prompt asks ChatGPT to provide answers plus explain why each chosen answer was considered the correct answer by ChatGPT. Asking for an explanation is not necessary, but I thought getting explanations might be interesting to see.

There is also a bit of prompting strategy involved, namely that by asking for an explanation the chances are that a generative AI app might be more extensive in trying to solve a given question or problem, see my discussion at the link here. You could suggest that I was aiding the generative AI by giving an establishing prompt that would urge it to do a better job than otherwise. Whenever you look at research studies doing just about anything with generative AI, make sure to find out what prompts they used. This is a significant factor related to the performance of the generative AI. Studies that fail to showcase their prompts are unfortunately doing a bit of a disservice by not revealing how they got the generative AI to undertake things.

The sampled sample questions are based on the case study, and I’ve placed them in quotes to indicate they came from the case study. In some instances, the wording is slightly reworded merely and strictly for purposes of feeding them into ChatGPT.

I am purposely not going to speculate or comment on the answers that are given by ChatGPT. I will simply note whether ChatGPT selected the correct multiple-choice selection as stipulated in the sample set. I’m guessing that mental health therapists and mental health counselors will undoubtedly find the explanations of special interest and will indubitably get them extensively mulling over what ChatGPT had to say.

Here is my establishing prompt and the answer provided by ChatGPT:

  • My prompt: “I am going to ask you a series of questions about the case study. The questions are multiple-choice. You are to select an answer of either A, B, C, or D from the choices provided for each question. I want you to carefully read each question and then indicate which answer is the best answer of the choices provided. You are to also explain why the answer you’ve chosen is the best answer. Are you ready to answer the first question?”
  • ChatGPT generated a response: “Yes, I'm ready. Please proceed with the first question.”

Okay, we are good to go.

Here’s the first question:

“Q1. What would be the best way for a mental therapist to at initial intake seek to establish a therapeutic relationship with this person?”

“A. Reflect on what is irrational about the woman’s self-evaluations.”

“B. Advise her about how to manage her painful experiences.”

“C. Summarize her emotions and her desire for change.”

“D. Explore how she could improve her role in relationships.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer to Q1 is C. Summarize her emotions and her desire for change.”

“Explanation: Establishing a therapeutic relationship involves demonstrating empathy, understanding, and acknowledging the client's emotions. Summarizing her emotions and desire for change (Option C) helps validate her experiences and shows that the therapist is actively listening and comprehending her situation. This approach helps build rapport and sets the foundation for a collaborative therapeutic relationship. It also allows the client to feel heard and understood, creating a safe space for further exploration and intervention.”

End of ChatGPT response

ChatGPT selected answer C, which is considered the correct answer as per the sample set.

The explanation indicates the presumed basis. I could have also asked ChatGPT to explain why the other answers weren’t as good as the selected answer. That would have gotten quite wordy and didn’t seem needed for this ad hoc analysis. A deeper study might want to consider getting a lengthier reply with a more elaborate explanation.

We move to the second question:

“Q2. What information should a mental health therapist explore to help the client remember her strengths?”

“A. The client’s disclosure about her previous level of functioning.”

“B. The client’s recollections of past mistakes.

“C. The client’s feelings about her mother paying for counseling.”

“D. The client’s use of cognitive distortions.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer to Q2 is A. The client’s disclosure about her previous level of functioning.”

“Exploring the client's disclosure about her previous level of functioning (Option A) would be most relevant to identify and highlight her strengths. Understanding her past achievements, abilities, and positive aspects of her life before the onset of depressive symptoms can help the therapist and the client focus on resources that can be tapped into for recovery. This approach emphasizes a strengths-based perspective and encourages the client to recognize her capabilities, fostering a more positive outlook on her current situation.”

End of ChatGPT response

The answer indicated by ChatGPT is answer A, which is also the correct answer per the sample set. We are now two-for-two in terms of having gotten the questions right.

Next, let’s see what happens with the third question:

“Q3. How should a mental health therapist handle the client’s concern about confidentiality?”

“A. Explain that as a mental therapist, they will share progress updates with the mother but not provide any details.”

“B. Clarify what can and cannot be shared through informed consent.”

“C. Request the mother’s assent to the treatment and obtain the client’s consent.”

“D. Ask the client for a signed release that would include her mother as part of the treatment process.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer to Q3 is B. Clarify what can and cannot be shared through informed consent.”

“The best approach is to clarify confidentiality issues through informed consent (Option B). The therapist should explain the limits of confidentiality, outlining what information can be shared and under what circumstances. This empowers the client to make an informed decision about what aspects of her treatment will remain confidential and what may need to be shared. It respects the client's autonomy and privacy while addressing concerns about the involvement of her mother in the therapy process.”

End of ChatGPT response

The answer indicated by ChatGPT is B, which is also the correct answer via the sample set. Three for three, so far.

Here’s the fourth question:

“Q4. From the perspective of the mental health therapist, what self-report from the client is a discernable criterion for the given diagnosis?”

“A. Her disagreements with her mother.”

“B. Her increased psychomotor agitation.”

“C. Her difficulty managing her children.”

“D. Her decreased pleasure in her activities.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer to Q4 is D. Her decreased pleasure in her activities.”

“A discernible criterion for a major depressive disorder is often a pervasive and persistent decrease in pleasure or interest in previously enjoyed activities. This is commonly referred to as anhedonia. The client's report of not being able to remember the last time she enjoyed something and the cessation of an activity she used to find enjoyable (creating jewelry) aligns with this criterion. While other aspects, such as disagreements with her mother (Option A) or difficulty managing her children (Option C), may be related to her emotional state, the decreased pleasure in activities is a more specific indicator for depression.”

End of ChatGPT response

The answer indicated by ChatGPT is D, which is the correct answer according to the sample set. You will also note that this time the explanation opted to explain why the chosen answer was considered a better choice than some of the other proposed answers.

We are at four of four in terms of getting the correct answers.

Let’s see what occurs with the fifth question:

“Q5. What criteria were likely used to determine the severity specified for the client’s major depressive disorder?”

“A. The number of symptoms is not substantially in excess of those needed to make the diagnosis, yet functional impairment exists.”

“B. The intensity of the symptoms is distressing but manageable, and results in minor impairment of social or occupational functioning.”

“C. The intensity of symptoms is high and is accompanied by psychomotor agitation and mixed features associated with a major depressive episode.”

“D. The number of symptoms and their intensity are distressing and unmanageable and interfere with the client’s social and occupational functioning.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer to Q5 is D. The number of symptoms and their intensity are distressing and unmanageable and interfere with the client’s social and occupational functioning.”

“The severity specified for major depressive disorder is often determined by the number and intensity of symptoms, as well as their impact on the client's social and occupational functioning. In this case, the client reports feeling sad, empty, and anxious most days, experiences tension every day, has difficulty getting out of bed, and has ceased engaging in previously enjoyed activities. Additionally, she has lost her job, faces financial difficulties, and expresses guilt about her interactions with her children. These factors suggest a significant impact on both social and occupational functioning, aligning with the criteria for a more severe form of major depressive disorder.”

End of ChatGPT response

ChatGPT indicates the answer should be D, but the sample set indicates the correct answer is A. This is the first miss by ChatGPT in this set of sampled sample questions.

I was curious whether ChatGPT could justify the answer D versus the answer A.

One thing to keep in mind is that some generative AI apps such as ChatGPT tend to immediately back down when you challenge them about an answer. The AI will indicate that it was wrong and switch to the answer that you say is the correct answer. In a sense, this is somewhat disconcerting because you would generally prefer the AI to moderately push back and support an answer that was chosen.

I am not saying this should be doggedly dogmatic. It certainly makes sense to have the AI back down if the user is telling the AI that the answer is wrong, though I think you can see how this might be a dangerous slope to slide upon. Just because a user says that something is wrong does not mean that it indeed is wrong. You can end up with the AI being too easily convinced of falsehoods simply because the user said they were truths. This is an ongoing issue of concern about generative AI, see my analysis at the link here.

All in all, rather than telling the AI that it was wrong, which would possibly get it to collapse like a deck of cards, I came to the matter politely and tangentially. I merely asked ChatGPT to compare the answer D with the answer A. I didn’t tip my hand that the answer A is considered the correct answer.

Here we go:

  • My prompt: “I'd like you to compare the answer D that you selected to the choice A. What makes answer D better than answer A?”
  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Let's compare options D and A:”

“D. The number of symptoms and their intensity are distressing and unmanageable and interfere with the client’s social and occupational functioning.”

“A. The number of symptoms is not substantially in excess of those needed to make the diagnosis, yet functional impairment exists.”

“The main distinction lies in the severity of functional impairment. Option D suggests that the number of symptoms and their intensity are distressing and unmanageable, leading to significant interference with social and occupational functioning. This aligns with a more severe form of major depressive disorder, where the impairment is substantial.”

“On the other hand, Option A acknowledges functional impairment but does not emphasize the distressing and unmanageable nature of the symptoms. It leaves room for interpretation that the impairment might be present but not to the extent that it is distressing or unmanageable.”

“In the context of major depressive disorder, severity is often determined not just by the presence of symptoms but also by the impact on daily functioning. Option D explicitly addresses the distress and interference with functioning, making it a more comprehensive and accurate description of a severe presentation of major depressive disorder.”

End of ChatGPT response

I’d bet that mental health professionals could readily debate the indication of ChatGPT about why one of the answers is construed as better than the other. Please do so at your leisure.

Moving to the sixth and final question, take a look at this one:

“Q6. From the perspective of the mental health therapist, what short-term goal would guide the treatment of the client’s presenting problem?’

“A. Spend one hour each day rewriting difficult childhood memories with her mother.”

“B. Return to her previous sleep schedule to be more present with her children.”

“C. Spend one hour each day journaling about her vision for her next marriage.”

“D. Return to full-time work in nursing to boost her self-image and mood.”

  • ChatGPT generated response:

“Answer is B. Return to her previous sleep schedule to be more present with her children.”

“The most appropriate short-term goal would be to address the immediate issue affecting her daily functioning, which is her disrupted sleep schedule. Returning to her previous sleep schedule (Option B) can have a positive impact on her mood, energy levels, and ability to engage with her children. This goal is specific, achievable, and directly addresses a key factor contributing to her distress. It also aligns with improving her overall well-being and functioning in the short term.”

End of ChatGPT response

The answer selected by ChatGPT is answer B, which is the correct answer according to the sample set.


Please do not try to calculate the percentage of times that ChatGPT was able to correctly answer the sampled sample. Doing so would be ridiculous as this was not a rigorous experiment but instead an ad hoc one and meant solely to get the juices flowing about examining how generative AI might do on these kinds of tests. That being said, I believe there is enough indication that performing a thorough study would be worthwhile. Had the generative AI got none of the answers correctly I would probably be leaning toward suggesting that a full-on study wasn’t likely worth the effort. This snippet suggests that doing more might be valuable.

There are flies in the ointment on these matters.

One argument about having generative AI take these various types of tests is that there isn’t any human soul or human connection that is also being assessed, see my discussion at the link here. In other words, just because a generative AI app can answer questions on a dry test does not mean that we would want the generative AI to interact with real people in real life and provide advice as to whatever domain or realm of expertise is being tested.

The argument is further amplified when considering the topic of mental health. Some would assert that only another human can adequately counsel another human. An AI system is not human and does not have human experience under its belt. A counterviewpoint is that notwithstanding humanness, there is still a place for AI to aid humans, including in the sphere of mental health guidance or advice.

Let’s conclude this discussion for now by invoking a famous line.

The renowned American psychologist Carl Rogers purportedly said this: “In my early professional years, I was asking the question, how can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way, how can I provide a relationship that this person may use for their personal growth?”

Can generative AI form a relationship with humans and if so, do we want that to be how mental health is conveyed or advised?

More questions ostensibly need more answers; thus, the endeavor must continue.

Mon, 01 Jan 2024 09:36:00 -0600 Lance Eliot en text/html
How to choose a certified credit counselor

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Wed, 06 Dec 2023 10:00:00 -0600 en text/html
Garden Savings Federal Credit Union expands financial counseling team to better serve members

PARSIPPANY, NJ (January 4, 2024) — Garden Savings Federal Credit Union, a leading financial institution headquartered in Parsippany with branches in Newark, South Orange, and Dover, is excited to announce the certification of two of its team members as financial counselors, further enhancing the credit union’s commitment to providing comprehensive financial services and support to its members. The newly certified counselors are Stephanie Parise, and Leandra Lopes who have successfully completed the CUNA Credit Union Financial Counseling Program offered through the CrossState Credit Union Association.

With the addition of these two new certified financial counselors, Garden Savings FCU now boasts a total of six certified financial counselors, with at least one counselor available at each branch. This expanded team is well-equipped to offer personalized financial guidance and support to members seeking to gain control of their personal finances and address challenging financial issues.

“We are thrilled to congratulate Stephanie and Jenny on their expanded roles within our credit union,” said Tom Quigley, Chief Sales Officer of Garden Savings FCU. “Their expertise will be instrumental in helping our members navigate financial challenges and achieve their goals. We are proud to have such dedicated professionals on our team.”

Members are encouraged to take advantage of this valuable resource by scheduling appointments at their nearest branch, where they can meet with a counselor in person, or by arranging phone or virtual appointments at scheduled times. This flexible approach ensures that members can access the support and expertise of a certified financial counselor in a manner that best suits their individual needs and preferences.

Garden Savings FCU remains committed to empowering its member with knowledge and resources they need to make informed financial decisions, and the addition of these certified financial counselors further demonstrates the credit unions’ ongoing investment in the financial well-being of its members.

Picture attached (from left to right): Mike Powers, CEO & President with Leandra Lopes, Assistant Branch Manager of Newark Branch and Stephanie Parise, Branch Manager of Parsippany Branch.

About Garden Savings Federal Credit Union

Garden Savings Federal Credit Union headquartered in Parsippany, is a financial institution with over $350 million in  assets and a network of four branches. Their branches are strategically located in Parsippany, Dover, Newark, and South  Orange. We proudly serve a diverse and growing community of over 27,000 members, spanning across more than 150  Select Employer Groups, encompassing various organizations and companies.   


Carlos Ronquillo

Thu, 04 Jan 2024 07:47:00 -0600 en-US text/html Cerebral vs. BetterHelp: Which Is Best?

Cerebral is an online platform that offers mental health services to customers for a monthly fee. Cerebral offers talk therapy and medication management through licensed prescribing clinicians, such as psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners. The service is available online as well as via an app which can be purchased in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. The Cerebral app also provides subscribers with meditation exercises, journaling prompts and educational articles.

Cerebral is available to use in all U.S. states and Washington, D.C.

What Services Does Cerebral Offer?

Cerebral customers can sign up for a plan that includes either therapy, medication management or a combination of both.

Therapy Plan

With Cerebral’s Therapy plan, you first provide some background on your mental health goals, as well as what characteristics you’re looking for in a mental health professional—which helps to create a number of clinician options to choose from. You can then match with a therapy professional (such as a licensed counselor or licensed clinical social worker) who, after an initial meeting about your mental health goals and past experiences, will meet with you weekly (up to five sessions a month) via video or phone call. Most therapists are available days, nights and weekends, according to Cerebral. You may request further monthly sessions for an additional fee.

If you feel like your therapist is not a perfect fit, you can request a new match or use the app to browse Cerebral’s list of therapists to find your own.

Cerebral maintains that all its therapists hold a doctoral or master’s graduate degree from an accredited institution and are licensed or in the process of becoming licensed to practice in one or more states. These credentials include licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed mental health counselor (LMHC), licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).

Cerebral claims its therapists can help treat nearly 500 conditions, including:

Cerebral therapy may also help address situations such as:

  • Family conflicts
  • Grief and loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Sex trafficking
  • Low self-esteem or confidence
  • Trauma and abuse
  • Issues related to areas such as race, sexual orientation and gender identity

Cerebral therapists may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and psychodynamic psychotherapy, among others, as part of their treatment plans.

Medication Plan

Cerebral’s Medication plan begins with an initial assessment with a prescriber to review your symptoms, medical history and medication experience, notes the company. Follow-up appointments with your Cerebral prescriber—up to two video or phone calls per month—are also included in the medication plan.

Cerebral practitioners can prescribe medications for:

In certain states, Cerebral practitioners may also prescribe medications for:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Alcohol dependence

As of this writing, Cerebral does not prescribe benzodiazepines or stimulants, such as Xanax or Adderall.

Prescriptions are sent to your pharmacy of choice or Cerebral’s in-house pharmacy, Cerebral Rx. The cost of medication is not included in your plan fee.

Cerebral Rx delivers your prescription via free two-day shipping and offers automatic refills. Insurance does not cover Cerebral Rx, but the company claims its pharmacy offers 80% off retail pharmacy prices. Cerebral Rx is not available in Alabama, California and North Carolina.

The Therapy + Medication plan includes all the features of both the Therapy and Medication plans.

How Much Does Cerebral Cost?

Cerebral’s three plans are priced as follows:

  • Medication: $99 per month
  • Therapy: $295 per month
  • Therapy + Medication: $395 per month

If you sign up for two months right off the bat, you can save 40% off your first month’s cost with Cerebral’s Strong Start package.

Users can cancel their Cerebral subscription at any time.

Cerebral is in network, depending on your state, with Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Magellan Health and United Healthcare/Optum. For in-network subscribers, the monthly subscription fee may be as low as $30 for all plans; this excludes visit co-pays, medication costs and Strong Start packages.

Cerebral does not accept Medicare or any Medicaid programs.

Wed, 03 Jan 2024 00:40:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Parenting Counselors: A resource for families No result found, try new keyword!Parenting counselors are new to the United States. In Europe they have gained wide acceptance. Skills learned and implemented in family life by the parent may easily translate in other scenarios ... Tue, 14 Nov 2023 11:14:00 -0600 en-us text/html Credit Counseling: What It Means and How It Works

What Is Credit Counseling?

Credit counseling provides consumers who may feel overburdened by debt with guidance on consumer credit, money management, debt management, and budgeting. The goal of most credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy if they find themselves struggling with debt repayment.

Many counseling services will negotiate with creditors on the borrower’s behalf to reduce credit card and loan interest rates and waive late fees. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), credit counseling agencies most often operate on a nonprofit basis, although there are credit counselors that are for-profit.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit counseling helps consumers with consumer credit, money management, debt management, and budgeting.
  • One purpose of credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy if they are struggling with their debt burdens.
  • Counseling services negotiate with creditors on the borrower’s behalf to reduce interest rates and waive fees.
  • A credit counselor can also discuss debt repayment strategies to help you choose a method that works best for you.

How Credit Counseling Works

Credit counseling is an option for consumers who can't manage their debt when it becomes too overwhelming. In most cases, these borrowers can make at least the minimum payment, unlike those who are on the verge of bankruptcy. The goal is to get back on track by working with a credit counselor to come up with a manageable financial plan and pay off their financial obligations. It also helps borrowers come up with budgeting and debt management skills.

Reputable credit counseling organizations employ trained and certified staff. These counselors can talk with clients to help them develop a personalized plan for their credit issues. An initial counseling session typically lasts one hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. A reputable agency should offer information about its services free of charge without requiring potential clients to disclose details about their situation.

Credit counseling companies can help you create a debt management plan (DMP), which allows you to make a single payment toward your debt each month. Under a DMP, the consumer deposits money each month into an account held within the credit counseling organization. The organization uses the funds to pay unsecured debt, such as credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills.

These debt payments follow a schedule that the counselor and the consumer develop together. Creditors often need to agree to the scheduled repayment plan, and in some cases, they may decide to lower interest rates or waive fees. A successful DMP requires regular, timely payments. It may take 48 months or more to complete a DMP.

If you’re considering debt settlement, be wary of companies that ask for an up-front fee or service charge. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposes certain requirements that must be met before you can be charged a fee for debt settlement services.

Credit Counseling Services

There are many not-for-profit credit counseling groups that offer services in person, online, and via telephone. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Local financial institutions and consumer protection agencies also may be good sources of information. However, nonprofit status does not guarantee that services are free, affordable, or legitimate.

Some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, which they may hide. Others may urge clients to make contributions to their charitable organization. When considering any credit counseling service, it’s important to understand what fees, if any, you may be charged and what those fees are for.

Bankruptcy can be extremely damaging to your credit, so it’s important to explore every option for managing debt before choosing this option.

Credit Counseling and Debt Management

Credit counseling can help with getting out of debt, depending on your situation and your needs. For example, if you’re struggling to come up with a realistic budget, then a credit counselor can review your spending and income and help you identify areas where you could improve and create more money to apply to debt repayment.

A credit counselor can also discuss debt repayment strategies to help you choose a method that works best for you. For example, they may help you weigh the merits of the debt snowball method versus the debt avalanche method. Both methods require you to prioritize your debts and pay as much money toward the first one as possible while paying the minimum to the rest of your debts.

Where they differ lies in how you order your debts. With the debt avalanche, you pay off debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest. This method can help you save money on interest over time. With the debt snowball, you pay off debts from the lowest balance to the highest. You may not save as much on interest, but you can get motivated to keep paying down debt if you’re able to clear one or two balances relatively quickly.

Whether a credit counselor is an effective way for you to pay off debt depends on what you can afford to pay, based on your income, your budget, and your overall financial situation. For example, if you can’t afford to pay your debts monthly, but you do have some money in savings, then you may consider debt settlement instead. And in a dire financial situation, bankruptcy may be the last resort.

If you’re concerned about a credit counseling agency’s reputation, consider contacting your state attorney general’s office or state consumer protection agency to learn whether a particular company has had any complaints filed against it.

Help Finding a Credit Counselor

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a nonprofit that connects consumers with nonprofit credit counselors. The U.S. Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.

As you search for a credit counselor, there are certain questions to keep in mind that can help you find someone reputable with whom to work. Some of the most important things to ask include:

  • What services do you offer?
  • How is credit counseling offered at your organization?
  • How often will we meet or communicate?
  • Do you offer free educational resources?
  • What fees, if any, do you charge?
  • What if I can’t afford to pay?
  • Do I have to sign a contract to use your services?
  • What are your certifications and qualifications?

Asking these kinds of questions can help you make a more informed decision about which credit counseling agency you’d like to work with.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Credit Counseling

Credit counseling may be a blessing for some borrowers. But keep in mind that there are certain drawbacks to using this type of service. We've highlighted some of the main pros and cons of credit counseling below.


The main benefit of entering a credit counseling program is that you're getting the help you need. Budgeting, managing spending, and controlling debt can often be daunting for many individuals—especially when times get tough. Being guided by a financial professional who can help you through a repayment plan can help you get back on track and build a plan for a better financial future.

As noted above, a debt repayment plan involves depositing a lump sum with the credit counselor each month. Payments are made to your creditors from that account as per the plan. This means that you only have to make one payment to a single place rather than multiple creditors all at once.

Creditors often want to work with borrowers to get their debts repaid. So, in many cases, you may find that counselors can lower interest rates to pay off your debts faster, and they may be able to get (late) fees waived.


One of the main disadvantages of using credit counseling is that it may affect your credit report. Some agencies may put a comment on your report that indicates you are on a debt management plan through credit counseling. This means that creditors may see this when you apply for new credit, or if you want to extend any existing credit limits. Some lenders may turn you down if they see this on your report. Be sure to ask the credit counselor what the implications are before you sign up.

Accounts that are deemed part of the debt repayment plan have to be closed. This may help you from accruing additional balances, but the downfall is that you may not be able to access any additional available credit even when you have an emergency.

  • Free and low-cost help with managing finances and paying off debt

  • Debt management plans only require a single monthly payment

  • Possible to get interest rates lowered and fees waived

  • Note added to credit report for using a debt management plan

  • Accounts may be closed, eliminating any available credit

Credit Counseling vs. Debt Settlement vs. Debt Consolidation

It’s important to note that credit counseling and agencies that provide these services are not the same as companies that offer debt settlement or debt consolidation services. These two services may share some similarities, but they are different.

Debt settlement involves the negotiation of a reduction in the total amount of debt owed. This is something that you can either do on your own or you can hire a debt settlement company. The latter option typically involves a fee. Debt settlement can help you eliminate debts for less than what’s owed and avoid bankruptcy, but it can have negative consequences for your credit score.

Debt consolidation is a process in which you take out a consolidation loan to pay off all of your existing debts. Then you would make payments toward the new loan going forward, according to the interest rate and terms set by the lender. This method doesn’t allow you to pay less than what’s owed toward your debt, but it can make repaying what you owe more streamlined and convenient. Consolidation is also a lot kinder to your credit score than debt settlement.

When Should I Seek Credit Counseling?

Credit counseling offers borrowers a way to repay their debt through a credit counseling agency. It also offers advice regarding your debt and broader financial situation. You should consider credit counseling and debt management plans when your debt is overwhelming and you can't manage your debts. In most cases, you can at least make the minimum payments. This is much different than and not as drastic as bankruptcy which is the point at whic you've used up every other option available to you.

Does Credit Counseling Affect My Credit Score?

Credit counseling may not necessarily impact your credit score. But some agencies may report that you are on a debt repayment plan. As such, existing and future creditors can see this information and may decline applications as they may consider you a risk.

What's the Difference Between Credit Counseling and Bankruptcy?

Credit counseling allows you to work with a credit counseling agency to help you pay off your debts by closing your accounts, lowering your interest rates, and in some cases, eliminating additional fees. Credit counseling may not necessarily affect your credit rating or your ability to borrow in the future.

Bankruptcy, on the other hand, is usually a last resort. Borrowers who file for bankruptcy are usually at the end of the line after having exhausted all other avenues. They usually have so much debt that they can't even manage minimum payments. Creditors are usually willing to settle lower amounts versus what's owed and borrowers are usually required to sell certain assets. Declaring bankruptcy does affect your credit report and credit score.

The Bottom Line

If you can't manage your debt but you aren't on the verge of bankruptcy, it may be worthwhile to consider credit counseling. This involves using the services of a professional agency that can step in to help. A credit counselor will help you make and manage a plan that can eliminate your debt. Keep in mind that, although it may not impact your credit score, the agency may report that you are using their services on your credit report. It's always a good idea to check with the agency about whether it reports to the credit bureaus.

Wed, 13 Dec 2023 10:01:00 -0600 en text/html
TopLine Financial Credit Union Employees Become Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors

MAPLE GROVE, Minn., Nov. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- , a Twin Cities-based member-owned , employees have successfully completed Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) which provides employees with skills and knowledge to help guide members to sound financial decisions. TopLine employees who complete the course receive the Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors (CCUFC) designation.

The program enhances employees’ financial knowledge and skills to provide an elevated level of financial wellness, guidance and counseling to assist credit union members. Through the year-long certified program, credit union employees learn how to better council members on developing healthy financial habits, such as establishing a financial services relationship, developing a budget, importance of emergency savings, saving for retirement/401k contributions, tracking expenses, using credit wisely, paying down debt, understanding credit reports and scores, and the importance to planning for their futures.

Currently more than 57% of all member facing TopLine employees are Certified Credit Union Financial Counselors (CCUFC) with 22 employees successfully completing the FiCEP course in 2022 and 18 in 2023 and additional employees enrolled to complete the course in 2024. TopLine emphasizes the importance of providing an enhanced level of service to members and communities based on the cooperative philosophy of “people helping people.”

“We remain committed to providing financial expertise, guidance and resources that meet our members’ individual needs to improve their financial wellness,” says Mick Olson, TopLine President and CEO. “We are extremely proud to have so many employees participate in the financial counseling program to better help members proactively with their finances, as well as those who are experiencing financial difficulties.”

Credit Union National Association (CUNA) advocates on behalf of America’s credit union. They work to protect credit unions’ best interest in Washington and all 50 states while fueling professional growth at every level, standing committed to the financial well-being of every member, and championing the credit union story. The CUNA Financial Counseling Certification Program (FiCEP) provides credit union employees with the skills and knowledge required to guide their members to sound financial decisions.

, a Twin Cities-based credit union, is Minnesota’s 11th largest credit union, with assets of more than $794 million and serves over 50,000 members. Established in 1935, the not-for-profit financial cooperative offers a complete line of financial services from its five — in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, Plymouth and in St. Paul’s Como Park — as well as by phone, and online at . Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or volunteers in Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington and Wright counties in Minnesota and their immediate family members. TopLine has been recognized as a National Standard Top Workplace for the 6 out of 7 years and has been named Twin Cities Business 2023 Best of Business Reader’s Choice Poll finalist in two categories: Credit Union and Mortgage Lender. Visit us on our Facebook or Instagram. To learn more about the credit union’s foundation, visit

Vicki Roscoe Erickson
Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
TopLine Financial Credit Union
| 763.391.0872

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

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TopLine Credit Union Financial Counselors

TopLine Credit Union Financial Counselors

Tue, 14 Nov 2023 00:31:00 -0600 en text/html
Illinois offers funding for training certification of substance use counselors

(The Center Square) – With Illinois faced with a drug crisis that has seen the number of overdose deaths surge by more than 5% as recently as in 2022, Illinois Certification Board Executive Director Chris Boyster is relieved to see state officials now taking on all the help they can in the fight to keep more residents safe.

“The idea came from the fact that both the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Certification Board recognize that there is a workforce crisis in the human service sector and we have seen that the number of people applying to come into the field to be a certified alcohol/drug counselor is not keeping up with the number of people exiting the field because of an aging population,” Boyster told The Center Square. “This program is also going to provide such things as tuition assistance, job placement and other services that might be obstacles to someone completing their program.”

Since recently launching The Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, or CADC Workforce Expansion Program, Boyster insists organizers have already started to see an increase in the number of individuals applying for the program. The hope is now that Phase 2 is in operation, growth will be even more pronounced. Residents currently enrolled in an ICB Accredited Training Program who have plans of entering a services field can also apply for tuition assistance, scholarship programs and internship stipends.

Boyster adds his experiences have taught him that certain types of individuals make for the best CADC students and ultimately professional counselors.

“You got to have a passion to help others,” he said. “Obviously, you’re not going to become a millionaire by working in this arena, but you’ll get paid back tenfold by helping those often at the lowest point of their life that need help. A lot of times, people that have been in recovery themselves want to go out and help others.”

While more than 1.5 million Illinoisans are now annually affected by substance use disorder, a deeper data dive also points to the impact the field of CADC workers have had, with their work ultimately increasing the chances of an individual recovering largely based on the emotional and psychological support they provide.

“The Department of Human Services has been working to address this issue because they’ve heard it from the provider community for a very long time,” Boyster added. “I think this is an exciting collaboration and investment in the futures of those who want to work in the field.”

Tue, 26 Dec 2023 21:15:00 -0600 en text/html
'We enable': Portland drug counselor calls for new approach to homelessness

It's time to meet this week's second chance pet! Some say you are what you're name is and that is definitely the case for Sir Fluff. This happy-go-lucky malamute mix is an older fella that is now looking for a new forever home to live his golden years. Sam Ellingson with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington stopped by AM Extra to introduce us to Sir Fluff.

If you're interested in meeting him, or to check out other pets up for adoption, go to their website

Sun, 16 Apr 2023 06:17:00 -0500 en-US text/html
Houston ISD board to consider hiring uncertified school counselors

Houston ISD's board will vote Thursday on whether to seek a waiver from the Texas Education Agency that would allow the district to hire uncertified school counselors, in an effort to address a continued counselor shortage this school year. If passed, the district can make its case to TEA as to why an applicant should be considered despite a lack of certification.

"TEA relies on the standard responses included in the online waiver application to allow the district to ‘bring to life' why the individual is the best candidate for the role," said a spokesperson for TEA in an email to Houston Public Media. "TEA also requests confirmation that the board of trustees has discussed and approved the waiver request being submitted to TEA for review."

School counselors in HISD handle everything from intervening in mental health crises to helping students get their academic needs met. Their ultimate goal is to promote the social and emotional well-being of each child, according to a student's individual challenges.

Typically, TEA requires school counselors to have at least a master's degree in a counseling-related field and to pass the state certification exam before they are allowed to work on public school campuses. It used to also require at least two years of classroom teaching experience in a public or accredited private school, but this requirement was dropped in September.

"The most concerning thing to me is, if they don't have to be certified, then what do they have to have? Because when you're certified, we already know you have the basic requirements to be able to perform the job," said a current school counselor in HISD, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the district. "Would they be required to at least have a master's degree in a counseling field? I think they at least need that."

If the waiver request passes, it will largely be up to HISD to decide what set of credentials are appropriate for potential hires.

"I cannot believe, for a job that requires so much training, that they would even allow a waiver for a position where you're responsible for someone's social and emotional health," said Adriana Hasley, a former school counselor in HISD. "It's not a position where you can just learn on the job. They would be putting children at risk."

Hasley worked as a counselor at Wainwright Elementary in northwest Houston for three years before resigning in November. She said her decision to leave was largely due to a toxic workplace environment as a result of the state takeover of HISD.

Over the summer, Wainwright's principal elected to align the school with state-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles's New Education System, characterized by stringent class schedules and standardized lesson plans.

Hasley said her supervisor asked the school's counselors to spend the majority of their day teaching lessons on social and emotional skills to students in classrooms, leaving little to no time for individualized counseling.

"When you have students that have needs that you have to accommodate, and the school does not give you the ability to accommodate them, that's unethical," she said.

Hasley believes the leadership shake-up of the district has created a hostile culture, and if HISD wants to remedy its counselor shortage, it should address the root of the problem, rather than lowering the bar for entry.

"A lot of people have left because of the social and emotional unrest they're feeling. It's almost like every day, you feel you're at war, and that takes a toll," she said. "If you're not feeling secure in your own social and emotional state as a counselor, how can we take care of others?"

HISD currently has 16 vacancies for counselors. HISD's board approved a similar strategy to address its teacher shortage earlier this year when it voted to seek a waiver that would allow it to hire uncertified teachers. Meanwhile, Superintendent Miles continued to espouse his commitment to quality teaching in the district and the creation of a "high-performance culture." At New Education System schools, Miles stressed the need for a "hospital model" that allowed teachers to focus on teaching by delegating tasks like making copies and grading papers to teaching assistants – much like surgeons are allowed to solely focus on surgery within a hospital setting.

"You would never think to get a waiver for a doctor's credentials, so we shouldn't do it in education either," Hasley said. "Why do we have rules and regulations in place if we're just going to waive all of them?"

The board will vote on the measure at its regular 5 p.m. meeting on Dec. 14.

Tue, 12 Dec 2023 23:48:00 -0600 Rebecca Noel en-US text/html

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