Professional licensing exams trigger anxiety in most test takers. While eustress can be beneficial, a high level of anxiety, or distress, often leads to avoidance behaviors, increased anxiety, fear, and an inability to access one’s knowledge and experience. Here are 6 tips for pre-licensed people who take the exam to banish those high levels of anxiety and increase their confidence that they will PASS!
Knowledge and preparation can go along way to banishing anxiety so talk about
your licensing exam with colleagues, the earlier the better! Knowing more about the
exam experience helps dispel common misconceptions and confront worries.
Talk to your supervisor or test trainer about the exam. Many pre-licensed people
carry around worries and misconceptions about their licensing exam. Worries may be
related to an area of clinical practice that you feel unqualified in. What a great
opportunity to identify an arena for growth!
Know all of what is covered on the licensing exam. As a clinician in training,
we all have strengths and blind spots. Your licensing board, NBCC, and PTI do
everything they can to to spell out everything that could be included on the
licensing exam. Use this list as a blind spot and strength detector - and banish
anxiety about exams at the same time!
A test-taker cannot access stored material during a test when experiencing high
levels of anxiety so it is critical that you deal with it head-on. Everyone deals
with anxiety at different points in their life and you have learned new ways during
your professional training. You, as a professional have many ways of managing anxiety
when you are working with clients. Use those same skills for managing anxiety during
clinical sessions to managing anxiety during the test.
Know your resources! The testing process is an incredibly personal journey.
Understanding the options available allows the you to evaluate the plan that is best
suited for you. Understanding the many different ways in which others have
successfully passed exams on the first try can open up ways for you to find your
perfect path and the joy that comes with success!
Finally, think of your exam as you would in the termination of therapy with a
client. We talk to therapy clients about termination from the beginning of treatment,
not on the last day. Frame the exam and passing it as simply a transition phase in your
Explore the Psychotherapists Training Institute's other resources: ExamGuide • ExamAce • ExamMaster • ExamPro to help you take the puzzle out of passing.
Network with other clinicians who are preparing for the exam
Exam Trainers and personalized coaching
A total review of what is on the licensing exam
Complete knowledge of the exam structure and process
Readiness assessment to identify areas that need more study
A personal study plan
An excellent way to study for your clinical exam is to create or join a study group. Your group can be anywhere from 2 to 8 in size. Larger groups don’t give individuals enough time to practice their skills.
Groups can be face-to-face or virtual. Virtual groups can meet using streaming video or bridge lines. Here are some free resources.
Free bridge lines are available from www.mrconference.com.
Free streaming video is available from Skype.
You can also have documents, cases or treatment plans online so everyone can work on them by using Google Documents. Everyone needs to be registered with Google and one person would need to set it up and include everyone as users. Go to Google.com and click on "other" at the top of the page. The menu shows "Documents," click there and the menu will instruct you how to set up a document and add users.
Our PTI Suggested study process is:
Identify a clinical case to discuss. Use one of the case books recommended below.
Each member reads the case on their own and when the group meets, use the Eleven
Phase Case Development Model as outlined in the Clinical Mental Health Counselor
Handbook and Study Guide
Here is our PTI list of Questions & Steps to follow:
Are there any Red Flags? – Danger to self or others, acute organic, abuse.
Appropriateness for individual outpatient therapy?
Where do you develop a connection?
Make your Initial Assessment – Mental Status
Screen and rank/select problems. Choose the problem that is the most
significant in terms of its impact on their quality of life.
(after safety concerns, which come first).
Make an Initial DSM diagnosis
Verify and exclude diagnostic impressions – what is or is not important
in relation to the problems and diagnosis you are going to work on.
Complete your assessment database. What behaviors/symptoms are you going
Outline your Treatment plan for the main problem/diagnosis.
What Treatment modalities and approaches are to be used?
Termination, prognosis and maintenance. How would they know if they could
benefit from therapy again?
Use the following resources and chapters in your Study Guide:
Special Treatment Issues
Also look at the ACA and NBCC Ethical Standards in the back of the book.
DSM-5 Case Book (American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.)
All the Practice Planners published by Wiley & Sons. Inc.
Treatment Companion to the DSM 5 Casebook (APA)
Repeat the process of reading a case and going through the steps listed above OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Eventually it will become a dance you can do automatically so that when you're taking the exam you'll automatically have a sense of case development for each simulation.
The PTI Team
The resources listed below are selected from the resources that were used in the writing of Clinical Mental Health Counselor Handbook and Study Guide, (3rd ed.), (add LINK to PTI Book Page) Bullard, B.M., Lawless, L., Williams, M. (2105), PTI Press, MA and are listed by topics that reflect the important content domains of the NVMHCE.
Piaget, J. (1998). The Origins of Intelligence in Children. NY: Norton.
Seigel, Daniel J. (2012). The Developing Mind, 2nd ed., New York: The Guilford Press
Anastasi, A. Urbina S. (2009). Psychological Testing. (7th ed.). NY: Prentice Hall.
Buros (2011). Test in Print VIII. Buros Institute of Mental Measurements
DSM-5 - www.psychiatry.org/dsm5
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th Ed.) (2013).
Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th Ed.) (2013). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Antony, M.M., and Barlow, D.H. (eds.) (2010) Handbook of Assessment and Treatment Planning for Psychological Disorders, 2nd Ed., The Guilford Press, NY
Beck, A. T. et al (2004). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders, 2nd Ed., NY: Guilford Press.
Fonagy, P., Target, M., Cottrell, D., Phillips, J., and Kurtz, Z., (2005), What Works for Whom? A Critical Review of Treatments for Children and Adolescents, Guilford Press, NY