The mission of the American Counseling Association is to enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity. But as evidenced by the European Branch of ACA, as well as efforts to develop ties with multiple foreign professional counseling associations, ACA doesn’t view its mission as being confined to the boundaries of the United States.
Here is a glimpse at the inner workings, goals and achievements of EB-ACA and ACA’s British counterpart, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
EB-ACA is a voluntary, nonprofit professional organization dedicated to the support of English-speaking counselors living and working in Europe. Charles Latimer established EB-ACA nearly 50 years ago, and today the organization has more than 200 members.
Like ACA, the European Branch is managed by a Board of Governors, a body of 10-12 volunteers dedicated to maintaining the organization’s existence and professional activities. The current Board of Governors is composed of counselors from various backgrounds, including school counseling, addictions and substance abuse counseling, counselor education, medical/wellness counseling, mental health counseling, social work counseling, and marriage and family therapy. EB-ACA provides its members with an award-winning quarterly scholarly newsletter, Neues Perspectives for the European Counselor, which covers issues and trends in the field of counseling as well as information regarding training/continuing education opportunities.
Being true to its motto of “Stay Connected,” EB-ACA also publishes and distributes a membership directory to encourage members to network with each other. “We feel we provide a sort of home base for English-speaking counselors living and working in countries where English is not the main spoken language,” said Board of Governors member Rebecca Brickwedde.
Modeled after ACA’s organizational structure, EB-ACA elects a president each year. But the EB-ACA president also commits to representing the association the year prior to and the year after taking office. The organization’s current president is Frankie Nielsen, a middle school counselor with the Department of Defense. Active with EB-ACA since 1969, Nielsen holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and has lived in Europe for the past 36 years.
“It’s been a pretty exciting adventure for me,” Nielsen said. “The European Branch has my heart. We have a fantastic board, and we are really in good shape and keep busy with Learning Institutes throughout the year, as well as a number of other services, including our newsletter and our website.”
Like Nielsen, the majority of EB-ACA members are Americans, many of whom work directly or indirectly with U.S. military forces serving overseas or with American universities in Europe. EB-ACA also has many members who have private counseling practices or who work in other European agencies that serve the English-speaking community. “We also have American members living in the United States, many of whom once lived here in Europe or came to present a training (session) for us and wanted to stay connected to their overseas counseling friends,” Brickwedde said. She noted an average of approximately 20 percent of the branch’s membership base is made up of foreign nationals who maintain membership to stay abreast of the newest trends and techniques in the field of American counseling.
The EB-ACA Ethics Committee, as well as its other standing committees, maintains a liaison with the corresponding ACA committee. EB-ACA implements the ACA Code of Ethics and has the same ethical standards as ACA. The organization also provides contact hours of continuing education and training for the maintenance of members’ counseling certifications.
Learning Institutes and conventions
EB-ACA is one of the few organizations in Europe that offers a wide variety of accredited continuing education opportunities for counseling in English. “We offer three Learning Institutes during the year, in addition to our Annual Conference with its minisessions and Learning Institutes,” Nielsen said. “We are now also able to offer many of our professional development programs for graduate credit through San Diego State University.”
EB-ACA held its 46th Annual Conference in November 2005 in Mannheim, Germany, in the elegant Steigenberger Mannheimer Hof Hotel. “The conference was a great success, with 160 counseling professionals and students from eight different countries attending the 41 minisessions and three Learning Institutes,” Brickwedde said. “This year’s theme was ‘The Professional Counselor: Promoting Wellness Throughout the Life Span.’ The focus of the conference involved understanding how helping professionals can contribute to the overall mental health and well-being of our clients, as this is a task which is ongoing throughout the life span.”
Included were sessions to help counselors promote client wellness through guided imagery, meditation, creativity and the creative arts, laughter and self-esteem enhancement. The impact of stress on wellness was addressed as well, helping counselors to better understand the biology of the mind-body connection. “Also presented were sessions designed specifically to aid the counselor in taking care of themselves, refilling their own ‘well of wellness’ and understanding compassion fatigue,” Brickwedde said.
The conference program also highlighted issues such as substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, computer and computer gaming addiction, trauma and traumatic stress, professional ethics, distance counseling, marital issues, children and adolescents, bullying and aggression, shame and client assessment. In addition, multicultural content included sessions on wellness counseling in Turkey as well as counseling refugees.
ACA Past President Samuel T. Gladding provided the keynote address, “Promoting Wellness Through Creativity in Counseling,” at the conference’s candlelight evening banquet. Gladding, who also keynoted the conference in 1997, noted that EB-ACA is being challenged by the closing of military bases, where most of its members are employed, as well as by political pressure from other helping professions. “Nevertheless, EB-ACA appears to be strong,” he said. “The membership is dedicated. The conferences are stellar and offer diverse content sessions. Members come from all parts of Europe — England, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, etc. The EB-ACA Conference is truly an international meeting, with much that is pragmatic and germane to the profession of counseling being presented and discussed.”
The minisessions with the best attendance at this year’s EB-ACA Conference included:
- “Addressing Post-Deployment Marital Issues in Military Families,” presented by Brian Canfield, Nicole Young and Ashley Bordelon
- “Guided Imagery: Strategies for Insight and Behavior Change” and “Inventories, Surveys, Assessments and Forms,” presented by Dean Owen
- “Implementing Trauma Treatment in Alcohol Substance Abuse Program Counseling,” presented by Nancy Bernardy
- “Professional Ethics,” presented by Richard Nongard
The Learning Institute with the largest number of attendees was “Counseling Aggressive and Addicted Men,” presented by David Jolliff and Arthur Horne, followed by “Coping With Compassion Fatigue,” presented by Robert Bollet and Santiago Fallon. In addition, graduate students from the University of Maryland Europe-Bowie State University Counseling Program presented poster sessions that were very well-attended.
As with ACA, multiculturalism and diversity are hot topics among EB-ACA members. “Living in a multicultural society here in Europe, multiculturalism plays an important role,” Brickwedde said. “We try to include multicultural topics in all our conferences, as well as incorporate the need for multicultural aspects in all programs.” For example, in February 2005, EB-ACA sponsored a two-day Learning Institute on “Counseling With Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Clients.” The Learning Institute was presented by Brian Dew and Kris Vargas, leaders in the Association for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues in Counseling, a division of ACA.
“American youth growing up in Europe face cultural identity questions as well as special issues of loss and transition,” Brickwedde said. In addition, she said, they face issues similar to those encountered by young people living in the United States. Many of these topics will be addressed at the 47th EB-ACA Annual Conference in Bad Herrenalb, Germany, Nov. 9-12, 2006. Visit the EB-ACA website at www.online-infos.de/eb-aca/
main.htm for updates, the call for proposals and proposal forms. “We encourage our members, as well as the members of ACA, to submit presentation proposals for conference minisessions and Learning Institutes,” Brickwedde said.
For the future
“Even with the downsizing of the American presence in Europe, we see an ongoing role for EB-ACA in Europe,” Nielsen said. “As long as there are Americans and other English-speaking people in Europe, there will be a need to provide quality counseling and counselor training in English. Our goal is to continue the strong cooperation and networking among counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, psychologists, substance abuse professionals, counselor educators and the graduate students of the European community as we expand our membership to include even more professionals from these varied fields.”
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is a not-for-profit organization and professional membership association. BACP serves as the voice of counseling and psychotherapy throughout the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). The organization has more than 25,000 individual members, including 6,000 who are accredited counselors or psychotherapists. The majority of BACP members are private practitioners.
Founded in 1977, BACP is an umbrella organization with members from a wide range of theoretical backgrounds. Its members share a commitment to high professional standards and are held accountable using an ethical framework, much like ACA. Legislators, national and international organizations, and the British public recognize the association as the professional body and leading voice for counseling and psychotherapy in the United Kingdom. The association runs an active and successful program of media briefings and campaigns, which means that BACP is featured regularly on TV and radio and in the press at both the local and national level.
Structured similarly to ACA, the BACP has a Board of Governors elected by and from the membership. The association includes key professional subcommittees for professional conduct and professional standards. BACP supports a variety of special interest groups, which are similar to ACA’s divisions. These interest groups include the Association for Counselling at Work, the Association for Pastoral and Spiritual Care and Counselling, the Association for University and College Counselling, the Association of Independent Practitioners and the Faculty of Health for Counsellors and Psychotherapists Ltd. Chief Executive Jan Watson leads a team of 82 staff members to manage the association’s daily operations.
“BACP offers accreditation for individual counselors and psychotherapists, supervisors and training courses,” said BACP Deputy Chief Executive Alan Jamieson. “Accreditation involves the assessment of practitioner training, supervised practice, professional and personal development, theory and casework. Applicants complete an application form and provide a report from their current supervisor and ask for someone to propose their application. Once submitted, an application is first checked for eligibility, and once this is achieved, at least two assessors conduct a full assessment. BACP has procedures in place for ongoing quality assurance which apply to this process.” He noted that BACP also holds the United Kingdom Register of Counsellors.
“BACP is very much concerned with standards and with public protection,” Jamieson said. “To this end, BACP is very actively engaged in discussions with the government on plans for the statutory legislation of counseling, psychotherapy and psychologies — commonly called the psychological therapies.”
Regulation and standardized licensure are controversial topics in the United Kingdom, just as they are in the United States. Another major topic of interest in the United Kingdom is diversity, Jamieson said, which encompasses items ranging from disability and multiculturalism to gay/lesbian issues and social inclusion/social justice.
“The concept of multiculturalism is to a large extent widely accepted,” he said, “and diverse groups are well catered for in the U.K., especially in relation to counseling. BACP has disbanded its RACE (Race and Cultural Education) division, given that the work and recommendations of this group have been achieved and become ingrained into everyday practice.”
Trauma counseling is also a high priority issue in the United Kingdom, due in large part to the terrorist bombings last year in London and to a string of natural disasters around the world, including the Indian Ocean tsunami.
“Another subject is the rights and responsibilities, both legal and moral, of young people,” Jamieson said. “Ageism and mental health is a very big issue in the U.K. at present. Many older people suffer from depression, and the 50-plus age group is one of the high-risk suicide groups. Many mental health services ignore older people’s emotional needs and do not actively treat older people for depression. The public is becoming much more aware of older people’s mental health issues, particularly treatable disorders such as anxiety and depression.”
Another issue that is starting to become widely discussed in both the United States and the United Kingdom is self-harm and self-mutilation. “Self-harm is a very big issue in the U.K. at present,” Jamieson said. “Recent reports suggest that up to one in 10 teenagers self-harm, and it is a very specialized area for counselors. It seems that this worrying trend is on the increase, and it will be necessary for many more counselors to train in this area.”
For more information about BACP, visit its website at www.bacp.co.uk.