Monthly Archives: December 2006

When work doesn’t work

Lisa A. Mainiero and Sherry E. Sullivan December 22, 2006

Jean is a troubled 40-year-old who has been working as a district manager for the same sales company for eight years. With three children at home, ages 12, 8 and 5, she is torn between priorities for her career and her family life. Her husband’s new job is going to require a lot more travel, and she is wondering what she should do. Give up her career entirely and devote herself to being a full-time mom? Reduce her work hours and take a demotion? Hire a full-time caregiver for her children?

Sam is an accountant who is tired of the daily grind of numbers, numbers, numbers. He was just granted a partnership at his small office in the country, but now he isn’t sure he wants to continue as an accountant. He finds his daily work downright boring. His wife works for a large Fortune 500 firm and was just given a big promotion to the general manager level. She is insisting that they hire a nanny to take care of their kids. But why can’t he be the one to stay home and be a full-time dad?

Meredith has had it all — a high-flying career, a long series of promotions and worldwide travel assignments in far-flung locations. At the end of her career, she is wondering: “Is this all there is to life?” Her husband, a computer graphic artist, doesn’t want to travel anymore, and her children are grown. She is wondering if there is something else — something more — she can do with her career that would be more authentic, more fulfilling and complementary of her passion for gourmet cooking.

Attention career counselors: Jean, Meredith and Sam are typical modern-day careerists with contemporary career and life balance issues. If Jean, Meredith or Sam were to walk into your office today for some career counseling, what advice would you provide? Would you counsel them based on old axioms: Define your priorities; consider what is most important to you; make a decision that is consistent with your values.

A new model

There is a new approach. We have found that today’s workers want “kaleidoscope careers” — careers created on their own terms and defined not by a corporation but by their own values and life choices. In our research with more than 3,000 employees, we discovered that people were making major life changes in their careers to shift the pattern of their lives as needed. People were motivated by three central parameters:

  • Authenticity — a need to be genuine and to act in ways congruent with their values
  • Balance — the need for a more balanced family life
  • Challenge — the need for exciting, stimulating work

We found that today’s workers want the ability to leave their jobs for short periods of time to recharge or to resolve family issues and then to return to those jobs refreshed and more capable than before.

The Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM) is a new way of thinking about careers. The model suggests that each of the three parameters — authenticity, balance and challenge — is active as a signpost throughout a person’s career. Certain issues predominate at different points in the individual’s life span. For Jean, issues of balance between career and family predominate at this point in time because her husband’s job demands have shifted and she is now worried about her children. For Meredith, issues of authenticity predominate as she reconsiders her priorities at the end of her career. Sam is caught between issues of challenge and balance: His work is no longer stimulating and he wants a break, so the option of becoming a stay-at-home dad is a possibility.

We call this the ABCs (authenticity, balance and challenge) of a kaleidoscope career. Each issue serves as a decision-making parameter that can cause a pivot in thinking about the importance of a career at that particular point in time. Just as a kaleidoscope uses three mirrors to create infinite patterns, the KCM has three “mirrors” or parameters (authenticity, balance and challenge) that combine in different ways throughout a person’s life to reflect the unique patterns of his or her career.

To use an artistic metaphor, the colors of a woman’s kaleidoscope are reflected in these three parameters, shaping her decisions as one aspect of the kaleidoscope takes on greater intensity as a decision-making parameter at different points of her life. Over the course of her life span, as a woman searches for the fit that best matches the character and context of her life, the colors of the kaleidoscope shift in response. One color (parameter) moves to the foreground and intensifies as it takes priority at that time in her life. The other colors lessen in intensity and recede to the background but are still present and active because all aspects are necessary to create the current pattern of her life/career. 

For example, at one point a woman may delay having children so she can devote more energy to her career. At another point, she may subjugate career ambitions for the sake of her family needs. Still later, she may forge ahead, searching for meaning and spirituality in her life. Somewhere in the middle she may be most concerned about balance and relationships in her life. Her context, and the level of stress she experiences at different “tipping points” over the life span, shapes her choices.

We found that women and men have different profiles based on the KCM. Most men were interested in challenge and authenticity early in their careers. In midlife, many men started to express a loss of family closeness and reoriented their motivations around the family balance parameter. It’s not that men do not value family. Instead, we found that men took their roles as family providers quite seriously and demonstrated their love for their families by being the best providers possible.

Women, on the other hand, began their careers with a sense of challenge and inspiration, but in their 30s and 40s, many felt the pull and tug of family balance issues to the point that they sometimes were compelled to “opt out” of their careers. Later, when family responsibilities were equalized and (mostly) completed, many women asked themselves, “Is this all there is?” Driven by the authenticity parameter, they discovered opportunities to be genuine and return to the workforce in ways that followed their passions.

Alpha and beta careers

Our research shows that people today are experimenting with “alpha” and “beta” kaleidoscope careers. Rather than work long, hard hours in pursuit of the brass ring of a promised future promotion, workers today are taking stock and making career decisions that best suit the fabric of their lives. If family concerns are an issue, then a mom or dad may opt out of the workforce for a short period of time to manage elder care or child care responsibilities. If workers want more challenge in their jobs, they are not afraid to look elsewhere for more stimulating work. Still others are putting their need to be genuine first and finding career paths that allow them to behave in accordance with their values. Many of these workers are starting companies of their own.

In a beta kaleidoscope career profile, workers make balance issues the pre-eminent factor in their lives and make career choices that favor family needs. Beta kaleidoscope careerists are more family-centric and less interested in the demands associated with getting promoted. They prefer to have flexible work hours that allow them to more adequately and sanely balance family needs with work. 

Still other careerists fit the alpha kaleidoscope career profile. They are very interested in pursuing their own authentic goals and finding challenging, stimulating work that might involve advancement. For example, in the cases mentioned previously, Meredith, Jean’s husband and Sam’s wife might be alpha careerists. But Jean, Sam and Meredith’s husband might fit more into the beta kaleidoscope profile.

We also found that some women were alpha kaleidoscope careerists — very interested in the challenge of their careers and motivated to do more — while some men, such as Sam in the opening example, wanted to be beta kaleidoscope careerists and focus on aspects of their lives other than work.

Kaleidoscope Career

Self-Inventory

To counsel confused clients who are caught in a bind between their work and family lives, we developed a questionnaire called the Kaleidoscope Career Self-Inventory (KCSI). The inventory helps people realize whether they are motivated to pursue an alpha or beta kaleidoscope career profile. The KCSI examines individuals’ drive for challenge, balance and authenticity in their lives at the present time. Counselors can use the inventory as a tool to help employees realize their career potential or, alternatively, accept that their needs for balance override their desires for promotion.

The KCSI examines three parameters:

  • Authenticity, or a person’s drive to find congruence between work and his or her own personal values. This often involves asking “How can I be authentic, true to myself and make genuine decisions for myself?”
  • This is juxtaposed against …
  • A family’s need for balance, relationships and caregiving, which intersects with …
  • An individual’s need for challenge, career advancement and self-worth

By taking the KCSI, employees can:

  • Identify whether they are motivated by challenge, authenticity or balance at the present time in their lives
  • Discover which of the alpha or beta kaleidoscope career patterns suits their needs at the present time
  • Engage in a discussion with human resource professionals about the possibilities for a more permeable kaleidoscope career in their firms. This may require major shifts and changes in corporate policies and procedures.

Statements on the KCSI include:

  • I look for new challenges in everything I do. (Challenge)
  • I hope to find a greater purpose to my life that suits who I am. (Authenticity)
  • I constantly arrange my work around my family needs. (Balance)
  • I want to leave my signature on what I accomplish in life. (Authenticity)
  • My work is meaningless if I can’t take the time to be with my family. (Balance)
  • Most people would describe me as being very goal-directed. (Challenge)

For career counselors, the KCSI is an important tool for assessing the strength of these parameters in each individual’s life. Based on the results, you will be able to counsel clients on the concept of kaleidoscope careers and help them determine whether an alpha or beta kaleidoscope career profile is right for them at the present time. Depending on the decision that is reached, clients may be referred to human resource professionals who can downscale or upsize their work responsibilities accordingly.

Workers today often find themselves caught in a bind between priorities for their careers and their family lives. Career counselors can help clients fraught with anxiety over these issues determine the best fit for their lives. By understanding the concept of a kaleidoscope career and by defining priorities in terms of authenticity, balance and challenge, career counselors can make a difference in people’s lives and reduce their stress levels.

To learn more about kaleidoscope careers and what today’s workers want, read our book, The Opt-Out Revolt: Why People Are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers. Visit our website at www.theoptoutrevolt.com.

Sherry E. Sullivan is a career coach at the Reed Center for Careers and Diversity. She has published more than 100 articles in Career Development International, Career Development Quarterly, International Journal of Career Management and many other journals, and held numerous leadership positions in the Careers Division of the Academy of Management.

Lisa A. Mainiero has served in leadership positions for the Academy of Management’s Gender and Diversity Division and as a member of that organization’s Career Division Executive Board. She has counseled hundreds of M.B.A. and undergraduate students through her popular yearly course, “Career Planning.” Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

A victory earned over years

Richard Yep December 15, 2006

Richard Yep

Let me wish all of you a happy, prosperous, healthy and peaceful new year. The staff and I enjoyed a few days off at the end of the month, but rest assured that we have returned to the office with a renewed vigor in hopes of doing even more to make the American Counseling Association the resource on which you can depend.

As you have seen on page one of this issue, our multiyear effort to have the federal government recognize the skill, experience and training of licensed professional counselors took another giant step forward when the U.S. Congress approved a bill last month that will result in many more opportunities for professional counselors who provide services to our nation’s veterans.

Literally completed at the 11th hour prior to the adjournment of the 109th Congress, the Senate agreed to a bill that will allow licensed mental health counselors to fill jobs for which they were previously restricted from applying within the Department of Veterans Affairs. This means professional counselors will be able to seek supervisory positions as well as other jobs that are at a much higher grade level than they could previously.

While I acknowledge the guidance of the current volunteer leadership and the work of our public policy staff, I would be remiss if I did not express appreciation for prior ACA leadership teams and government relations personnel who helped move us forward to this important legislative victory. Similar to our work on the elementary school counseling demonstration program, this effort took a number of years to reach fruition.

In past columns, I have indicated that ACA wants to provide our members with resources, services and advocacy that will result in making you a better professional counselor and, I hope, improve your career opportunities. I believe passage of the VA legislation is yet one more step in meeting the commitment we’ve made to you and your colleagues.

Understand that the public policy process will still need to be followed in regard to this issue to ensure that the positions and opportunities made possible with this legislation will be realized. The regulatory process is next, followed by actual implementation. You have my commitment that the ACA staff and I will continue to do what we can to expedite this process and provide the information necessary for the federal government to move as quickly as possible.

Let me also say that in regard to legislation affecting licensed professional counselors, we still need to stay focused on issues such as TRICARE (the federal health program for the military), Medicare and enactment of licensure in both California and Nevada (see related story on page 16).

While we are paying close attention to the mental health issues listed above, we will also continue to be actively engaged in other issues that affect professional counselors who work in the areas of school, career and rehabilitation. This is a tall order for a department of four staff and a committee of 12. Quite frankly, if we are to have continued success, we need your voice and your commitment as well. Please consider signing up for the Government Relations listserv by visiting www.counseling.org/publicpolicy and clicking on the box with those words. Stay in touch with what is going on and how you can play a role in our important legislative efforts!

I also wanted to let you know of the passing of two very dedicated ACA former employees. Mr. Arnold Van Meter Jr. served as our director of personnel for a number of years and had retired to Florida awhile back. As the staff continued to grow given the projects and programs we undertook, “Van” was instrumental in his personnel role.

Ms. Lois Howell was an administrative assistant to the ACA executive director and other senior managers before her retirement in the early 1990s. Lois was someone who could be counted on as a consummate administrative assistant. Her organization and knowledge of punctuation were skills for which I was always very appreciative.

Both these individuals will be missed. We are grateful for the service they provided to ACA.

As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at ryep@counseling.org or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.

Common threads connect keynote speaker to counselors

Angela Kennedy

The American Counseling Association announced last fall that Linda Ellerbee would serve as a keynote speaker for the 2007 Annual Convention in Detroit. Some may ask why an acclaimed television producer and former network journalist is speaking to a group of counselors. After all, what do journalists and counselors have in common?

The answer is quite simple: Professionals in both fields have to be exceptional listeners to succeed at what they do. One of the first things fledgling reporters learn is that everyone has a story to tell; they just have to listen and draw that story out.

Ellerbee’s life story centers around change, adaptation and survival — universal themes with which everyone, particularly counselors, can relate. Additionally, Ellerbee said in a recent interview with Counseling Today, she will weave others’ stories into her ACA Convention keynote, especially those of the children she has worked with, listened to and ultimately given voice to as an advocate for their needs.

“I always start out a speech by saying that I don’t do what you do for a living,” Ellerbee stated, “but when you hear me today, I want you to listen to the way our lives and decisions are alike, not how they are different.” On one level, she said, her speech will be about surviving change, embracing it when necessary and trying to make changes for the betterment of others. She will also share some of the insights she has gained while working with children and producing Nick News, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning news series for kids, over the last 15 years.

“Obviously I can’t talk about counseling because I’m not a counselor,”

Ellerbee said. “But what I can do is tell my story about what I’ve gone through and what kids today are going through. And maybe that will be helpful to counselors.” She added that she doesn’t lecture or preach in her speeches but prefers to craft her tale with storytelling and a bit of humor. “As a network correspondent, I sat in Washington and had to listen to too many dull speeches over too many years,” she said, showing her sense of humor.

Among the topics Ellerbee will be discussing are the importance of media literacy, her fight with breast cancer, why she chose to leave network news to start a production company and why she eventually took a special interest in children’s programming — a decision brought on when the United States was at war.

“It started with Gulf War I and Geraldine Laybourne, the president of Nick (cable network Nickelodeon) and a former educator,” Ellerbee explained. “She was concerned that America’s kids couldn’t ignore this war and get away from the 24-hour news coverage. She was afraid that the kids were frightened by this and no one was talking to kids about it specifically — nothing is scarier than schoolyard rumors.” Ellerbee’s company, Lucky Duck, was tasked to do a show explaining the Gulf War to children.

“People were saying, ‘Why can’t we leave kids in blissful ignorance?’ We can’t because today they’re not,” she said. “I’m not sure they ever were. So with Nick News, we bring (issues) out in the open.” The programs, which are made for parents and kids to watch together, have highlighted many heavy subjects over the last decade-and-a-half, including HIV/AIDS, the West Bank conflict, the past genocide of the Jews and the current genocide in Sudan. Ellerbee travels across the world to interview and film children and teenagers struggling with these issues. As part of Nick News features, she brings children of all ages and races together on a sound stage to discuss the problems they are facing, asking them how they feel and what they want to change. “It’s like a therapy session,” she says. “Millions of kids are watching 15 kids wrestle with a problem.”

Currently, Ellerbee is working on a program about children with autism. Because many of these children are being mainstreamed, she believes it’s important to educate all children on the disorder. “One of my personal principles with Nick News is that we are all more alike than we are different,” she said. “It’s only that our differences are easier and quicker to define.”

With that, the common thread between a journalist and a counselor gets even clearer.

Mental health anti-stigma campaign unveiled by SAMHSA, Ad Council

Angela Kennedy

In December, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in partnership with the Ad Council, launched a national, multimedia public service awareness campaign designed to decrease negative attitudes concerning mental illness. One of the campaign’s fundamental strategies is to encourage young adults to support friends who are living with mental health problems.

“We took a new approach to destigmatizing mental illness with this campaign,” said Assistant Surgeon General Eric B. Broderick, SAMHSA’s acting deputy administrator. “Instead of telling people why they shouldn’t discriminate against people with mental illnesses, we are showing how friends can be supportive of those who have disclosed they are having a mental health problem and the critical role that friendship plays in recovery.”

Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans (85 percent) believe that people with mental illnesses are not to blame for their conditions, only about one in four (26 percent) thinks that people are generally caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual survey on health orientations and practices. The survey data also found that only one-quarter of young adults believe a person affected by a mental illness can eventually recover, while slightly more than one-half (54 percent) of those who know someone with a mental illness believe that treatment can help individuals with mental illnesses lead normal lives.

“Undoubtedly, this campaign will move us, as a nation, closer to the day when the public will feel the responsibility to support and provide ready access to effective treatment and services,” Broderick said. “It will move us toward the day when we can make sure individuals, especially our young adults, are not uncomfortable seeking help.”

According to SAMHSA, in 2005, an estimated 24.6 million adults aged 18 and older experienced serious psychological distress (SPD), which is highly correlated with serious mental illness. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, the prevalence of SPD is high (18.6 percent versus 11.3 percent for all adults aged 18 and older). At the same time, this age group shows the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. The good news is that those in this age group with mental health conditions have a high potential for minimizing future disability if social acceptance is broadened and they receive the right support and services early on, according to SAMHSA.

“Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of,” said acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu, who helped kick off the campaign. “It is an illness that should be treated with the same urgency and compassion as any other illness. And just like any other illness, the support of friends and family members is key to recovery.”

Created pro bono by Grey Worldwide, the public service ad campaign aims to reach 18- to 25-year-olds who have friends living with mental illnesses. The campaign highlights the importance of providing support. Featuring a voiceover by Tony Award-winning actor Liev Schreiber, the television and radio spots illustrate how friendship is the key to recovery for many people struggling with a mental illness.

The campaign also includes print and interactive advertising that directs individuals to a comprehensive new website (www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov) to learn more about mental health, what role they can play in a friend’s recovery and where to find local services. The PSAs (which feature the tagline “Mental Illness: What a Difference a Friend Makes”) were distributed to more than 28,000 media outlets nationwide and will air in advertising time donated by the media.

“The prevalence of mental illness among young adults in our country is staggering,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We need to reduce the widespread stigma and provide a greater opportunity for recovery. Our research revealed that there is a great fear and a general lack of knowledge about mental illness. Therefore, we were careful not to develop advertising that would further perpetuate the stigma. Rather than focusing on the fear, we identified a key strategic message that would motivate young adults throughout the country — the power of friendship.” Conlon believes the age group targeted by the campaign can serve as a significant catalyst for the rest of the population to take action.

A personal account

The press conference in Washington, D.C., unveiling the mental health anti-stigma campaign included the poignant story of one teenager’s struggle with depression and her loyal friend’s willingness to help her out of the shadows. Cara Anthieny was hospitalized and diagnosed with major depression when she was 15. Her friend, Michaela Peace Gregory, stood by her, visited her in the hospital and eventually gave her the strength to change her life.

Anthieny’s depression began in the summer following her freshman year in high school. A series of disappointments and a broken relationship started her on a downward spiral. One of her closest friends at the time slowly pulled away from her, telling her she “talked about her problems too much.” Anthieny’s typical teen angst developed into serious depression as she began cutting herself and having thoughts of death.

“I just wanted to be alone,” Anthieny said in an interview with Counseling Today shortly after the press conference. “I stopped showering and would sleep all the time. I would hope that I just wouldn’t wake up.” She still had friends, she noted, but didn’t confide in them because she feared they would leave her if she did.

During the last week of school her sophomore year, Anthieny’s parents admitted her into a psychiatric facility. While there recovering, she not only received the services she desperately needed but also discovered the power of true friendship. “Michaela and her family drove over 100 miles to the hospital to visit me,” Anthieny said. “They brought books, candy, and we talked about everything. They stayed all afternoon. That was very important to me in my recovery. Before, I felt alone in my own world, but they showed me I wasn’t alone.”

Gregory told Counseling Today she was familiar with depression and its effects because her older sister was battling the illness as well. She decided she wanted to reach out to help her friend Anthieny just as she had helped her sister. “I just kept reminding her (Anthieny) how beautiful she was and telling her that we wanted her here, (that) she makes our lives better,” Gregory said. “I think the most important thing to remember is that people who are depressed are battling with themselves. You have to be selfless even though they may not be fulfilling the friendship.”

Anthieny has since found her voice and passion in poetry, using it as a healthy form of self-expression to release her pain. She performs her poetry in poetry slams across the nation. Both Anthieny and Gregory have graduated from high school and are attending community college. Anthieny, now 18, believes that her depression will never truly leave her. But she also believes she now has the tools and the friends to help her effectively manage her mental illness.

Counselors claim major victory

Scott Barstow

The counseling profession took a significant step toward full recognition under federal law with passage of legislation establishing licensed professional counselors as mental health specialists within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Passage of the legislation took place literally in the final hours of the 109th Congress in December. The language establishing explicit recognition of counselors was included as part of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act of 2006 (S. 3421), along with other provisions designed to improve veterans’ access to necessary health care services. 

The American Counseling Association has worked for years, along with the American Mental Health Counselors Association, to remove the glass ceiling for licensed professional counselors working in the VA. Although the agency has long employed rehabilitation counselors at its facilities to help veterans adjust to life after service, it had yet to recognize licensed professional counselors as full-fledged mental health professionals. The Veterans Health Administration is heavily dominated by clinical social workers and, previously, licensed professional counselors were ineligible for the same clinical and supervisory positions open to social workers. This situation created an uneven playing field at the VA, with relatively inexperienced social workers being hired and promoted for mental health specialist positions over eligible and often better trained and more experienced licensed professional counselors. Licensed marriage and family therapists have been in the same position and now will also be recognized under the language included in S. 3421.

The Senate approved language establishing explicit recognition of licensed professional counselors as part of the Veterans Health Care Act (S. 1182) in December 2005. Following passage of S. 1182, ACA and AMHCA focused on getting the House Veterans Affairs Committee to adopt the same language. This effort led to the May 2006 introduction of stand-alone legislation, the Veterans Mental Health Care Access Improvement Act (H.R. 5396), which focused solely on establishing recognition of licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists within the VA health care system. It was important that Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Health, and Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, introduced the legislation. Thanks in large part to the grassroots support of ACA members, the legislation gained an additional 20 co-sponsors from both parties.

Although the support enjoyed by H.R. 5396 was encouraging, it would have mattered little without the passage of veterans legislation by Congress. For months, the House Veterans Affairs Committee appeared poised to approve veterans legislation, including the counselor recognition language. But despite a committee-held hearing on veterans mental health issues, movement on the legislation appeared stalled because of disagreements on other issues concerning veterans. In the closing hours of the session, however, House and Senate members reached a compromise that led to passage of a new bill, S. 3421. The House passed the bill on Dec. 8, and the Senate followed suit in the early-morning hours of Dec. 9, minutes before the 109th Congress officially ended. President George W. Bush was expected to sign the bill into law shortly after Counseling Today went to press..

“This is a huge win for us, and I’m proud that this happened on my watch,” said ACA President Marie Wakefield. “The passage of this legislation is particularly timely. Given all of the polytrauma experienced by the veterans returning from Iraq, it’s extremely important that we have as many licensed professional counselors and certified rehabilitation counselors as possible available to work for the VA. There are thousands of returning vets with severe disabilities, emotional and readjustment problems, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).” AMHCA President Gail Mears described the legislation as “a significant step forward for our profession and for consumers.” 

ACA Executive Director Richard Yep was also encouraged by the final outcome and acknowledged persistent advocacy efforts as key to finally attaining the legislative victory. “I know it can be hard to see why advocacy by your national organization is so important on a day-to-day basis when breakthroughs aren’t always happening,” he said, “but this kind of victory shows what’s possible with sustained hard work and why it’s so important to keep pushing.” 

AMHCA Executive Director and CEO Mark Hamilton said, “The inclusion of licensed mental health counselors by the VA and the quality of services they provide will make it easier for those who served our nation and who are in need of mental health services to get the health care they need. Passage of this legislation could not have been achieved without the longtime collaborative efforts of AMHCA and ACA.”

Counselors involved in the effort to gain VA recognition also applauded the news. “With the record number of returning veterans who are suffering mental health issues and their families needing resources, opening up options is essential,” said Cynde Collins-Clark, a licensed professional counselor who was named 2006 Oklahoma Mother of the Year for her work on behalf of veterans, including her son. “Each mental health credential has a place in the healing of veterans and their families, and the expertise of LPC s and LMFTs will add richly to the resources.”

Gary Felhoelter, a counselor at a VA facility in Louisville, Ky., said, “This passage will give so many others new hope and motivation. I have not felt such a high in so many years. I am so proud of ACA and their legislative folks who kept fighting despite the many setbacks.”

While counselors certainly have reason to celebrate this milestone victory, the legislation will not take effect immediately. The VA (perhaps in conjunction with the Office of Personnel Management) will first need to develop proposed regulations to implement provisions of the new law. Upon their completion, the proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. After the comment period ends, the VA will consider the public’s recommendations in the course of developing a final rule. Consideration of public comments and development of the final version of the regulations could take anywhere from one month to half a year or longer. When ready, the final rule will be published in the Federal Register. 

Due to the unpredictable nature of the regulatory process, it is impossible to state with any certainty when the new law will take effect. ACA will be tracking the process closely, however, and will work with the VA and the Office of Personnel Management to develop the regulations. Information regarding developments on this issue will be posted on ACA’s website at www.counseling.org/publicpolicy, on the ACA government relations e-mail list and in future issues of Counseling Today.

It is hoped that recognition within the newly passed veterans legislation will make it easier to achieve the counseling profession’s other goals for recognition under federal programs. These goals include gaining independent practice authority within the TRICARE health services program for active-duty military personnel and their dependents, and coverage under the Medicare program covering older Americans and Americans with disabilities.

ACA congratulates the many counselors who took part in the effort to push for full recognition within the VA. Major legislative victories are made possible by grassroots support, and this accomplishment would not have been possible without your help. Thank you!

For more information on this issue, contact Scott Barstow with ACA’s Office of Public Policy and Legislation at 800.347.6647 ext. 234 or via e-mail at sbarstow@counseling.org.