The past three decades can be described as a golden age in the history of the American Counseling Association. Licensure laws for professional counselors have been approved in all 50 states and several territories, helping to define the identity of the counseling profession. ACA publications, research, professional development activities and member services have increased exponentially. As a result, the prestige and reputation of ACA have soared to great heights.
As a proud member of ACA since January 1986, I can confidently state that our association shines brightly in the galaxy of all mental health professions. Still, ACA and the counseling profession face some significant challenges as we move into the future.
Counselors’ emerging international identity
The 21st century can be characterized as the century of globalization. New economic, political, educational, social and cultural realities have replaced the Cold War era with a new world order. For instance, with rapid changes in communication technologies such as the Internet, electronic mailing lists, Facebook and Twitter, social media has become an extremely powerful force for promoting social justice and advocacy initiatives worldwide. This powerful global force is likely to have a significant impact on counseling and other mental health professions, making it quite possible that we will someday celebrate the internationalization of counseling as a major force in our profession.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 450 million people around the world need counseling services but cannot currently access them. WHO also reports that counseling is the fastest-growing group among mental health professionals. As the internationalization of professional counseling rises to prominence, counselors and many other helping professionals are embracing a newly emerging international identity.
In response to the current zeitgeist of globalization, counseling organizations such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) have already begun collaborating with dozens of nations to establish professional counseling standards. Since 1993, ACA’s Journal of Counseling & Development has been intentional in its efforts to publish articles that have international relevance. Organizations such as Counselors Without Borders and the Association of Mental Health Counselors (India), which I founded in 2010, are other examples that speak both to the importance of and need for counseling around the world.
These efforts are often uncoordinated and sporadic, however, leaving counselors and consumers without a reliable means of accessing continuing professional support and resources. A clear mission and sharp focus are needed to address the contemporary international counseling needs created by globalization in our increasingly interconnected world. A critical need exists today for professional counseling in all countries, but especially in developing countries. Furthermore, an understanding of counseling is incomplete without international perspectives related to counseling theories, testing, concepts and worldviews.
Join the ACA International Counseling Interest Network
ACA, the largest and most influential counseling association in the world, recently took its next step in embracing international diversity, justice and advocacy. I am pleased to announce that in the latter half of June, the ACA Executive Committee approved an application to move forward with the creation of an interest network encompassing international counseling.
The ACA International Counseling Interest Network will provide much-needed guidance, leadership and resources focused on international counseling, global diversity, human rights issues, alternative approaches to counseling and internationally focused counseling research. If you are interested in joining this very timely endeavor, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can list you as a charter member of the ACA International Counseling Interest Network. You may also email Holly Clubb at ACA (email@example.com) and request to join the interest network. No additional cost is involved in joining the International Counseling Interest Network (or any of ACA’s other interest networks) — just a passion for international counseling. Please also encourage your ACA colleagues to join.
Finally, I would like to thank ACA past presidents Lynn Linde, Marcheta Evans and Don W. Locke, as well as ACA Executive Director Richard Yep, for their encouragement, support and guidance in this very important initiative. Most significantly, I am deeply obliged and grateful to current ACA President Bradley T. Erford, who has made promotion and support for the internationalization of counseling one of the priority initiatives of his presidency.
Daya Singh Sandhu is co-chair of the ACA International Committee and a professor in the Department of Educational & Counseling Psychology at the University of Louisville. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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