Counseling Today, From the President

From the president: Gaining strength through our history

Catherine B. Roland February 3, 2017

Catherine Roland, ACA’s 65th president

Challenges are everywhere if we look. Challenges emerge in state legislatures, on social media, in schools K-16 and beyond, in mental health agencies and in our private offices. Challenges are in our lives and hearts.

Perspective is vital during this time. Our personal perspective at times falls behind, or sometimes ahead of, the general perspective of society and the communities in which we live and work. For instance, when the communities, school districts or agencies with which we are affiliated take a stand on new legislation or push forward new edicts about the ACA Code of Ethics, our own ethical perspective must remain firm, valiant and loyal.

Although such actions run the risk of being misinterpreted, possibly causing us trouble or even retaliation, we must meet that challenge. We do this by being vigilant and taking advantage of the support that is available through trusted colleagues and especially the American Counseling Association. We do this by honoring our history and the longtime good work that counselors have done in the field.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with an 86-year-old woman who was, as she told me, “born and bred” in Louisiana. While bemoaning the political scene as she saw it from her experienced view as a helping professional, she also spoke about the history that helped her to reframe current events and rebuild her personal strength.

The story she recounted was her experience of sitting on the floor in front of her family’s large brown radio on Dec. 8, 1941, and listening as President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She told me that that one event, which transpired when she was at the tender age of 10, had shaped her entire life. I have no doubt this was true. We spoke of resilience, courage, anger, sorrow and sadness, through wars, loss and times of hardship. We also spoke of the resolve to do the best and most ethical thing possible, always.

It struck me that evening that that perception, that vow, could lead us now. Experiencing something scary, dangerous, horrendous or threatening can spur us into action and cultivate a kind of stubbornness to continue on. The inner promise we make to ourselves and to our communities, loved ones, families and constituents must be based on loyalty and ethical behavior, doing the right thing and embracing courage. We must always be courageous, regardless of the wars that may rage within and outside of our minds and hearts.

My new friend, that wise 86-year-old dynamo, paraphrased something from FDR’s speech: “I interpret the invasion as the attack on our [ethics] code. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, good will prevail.”

That paraphrased statement speaks to me. I hope it does to you.

As we hear of more impending legislation that appears to be unethical and driven by hate, there may be several other direct attacks on the ACA Code of Ethics in 2017 (in addition to what took place in Tennessee this past year). So we must continue to engage our empathy and strength as counselors, in our practice and in our service. We will not be deterred from our profession and all the good that is in it.

The ACA 2017 Conference & Expo in San Francisco, March 16-19, is a place to join together, care collectively and be heard. Our keynote speakers this year are wonderful examples of the diversity and positivity that ACA embraces. At the opening keynote, Dr. Irvin Yalom will enthrall us with his celebrated personal and existential views of psychotherapy and the world, with which many of us are familiar from his various books. His memoir, Was That Life? Well, Then, Once Again, will be published this year, and a book signing will follow his keynote. I can’t wait.

The wonderful Jessica Pettitt — educator, humorist, radical and advocate — will present Saturday’s keynote. I predict that we will laugh, have some fun and lighten up as we embrace her caustic and right-on way of informing us of our world as she sees it. I am very much looking forward to meeting and hearing from Jessica.

Let’s do this! See you in San Francisco, where I plan to leave my heart.

Best always,



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