Next month will mark the first anniversary of one of the most impactful, discussed and upending national elections in U.S. history. More importantly, that election was the beginning of a whole string of events that brought some groups together, drove a wedge between others and began a roller coaster of emotions connected to some of society’s most critical issues, including health care policy, immigration, interpersonal relations, the environment, professional counselors’ ethical practice and discrimination. Underlying all of this is a question: What kind of community and society do we want to be?
Let me be clear. This column is not about being a Democrat, a Republican or an independent. Rather, the questions I’m raising are ones that professional counselors need to address as they grapple with how best to help their clients or students and the communities in which counselors work.
During the past year, the American Counseling Association has adopted and disseminated many position statements and policy briefs. Statements have focused on issues such as transgender persons in the military; the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia; support of those impacted by Hurricane Harvey; access to all-sex bathrooms; and nondiscrimination. These statements and positions are not left-wing, nor are they right-wing. Rather, they support the association’s belief about providing important information and resources to those who work as professional counselors or counselor educators and to graduate students who are preparing to work as professional counselors.
I think it is important for professional counselors to be keyed in to critical issues happening in society. However, I have started hearing people say, “I just can’t turn CNN on or pick up a newspaper anymore.” They’re saying this because of their fatigue over the latest crisis, issue or tweet that is being reported. Again, this is not a dig at our nation’s president so much as it is an observation of how good people, who want to do good things for our society, are being worn down by what they see in the news and on social media.
I encourage all of us to stay abreast of the news but also to think about our role in making a difference, in part by helping to unite and mitigate the divisiveness that continues to grow. Just as society is changing, professional counseling must adapt and align to that change. At ACA, we realize that change is necessary. Your ACA staff is working to make the transformation necessary to help carry out the strategic plan that your Governing Council is crafting. We have invested many hours of dialogue, decision-making and consensus building to develop a strategic plan that will help guide us over the next few years and into the future.
I’m interested in knowing whether the work you do with your clients and students has changed over the past year. Do you find it to be pretty much “business as usual,” or have new issues emerged? Are these “new” issues actually the same issues but framed in a different way? Have you felt the need to alter how you work with your clients or students?
We are living in interesting, possibly confusing, but most certainly complex times. Some people may never have felt previously that the government or other societal issues truly affected them, but that may have changed over the past 12 months. For ACA to better serve you, we want to know what else we can provide that would enhance the work you do.
Despite the many changes going on, you can count on one thing: my ongoing respect and admiration for everything that professional counselors and counselor educators do for so many millions of clients and students each and every day. Your work is critical, and those of us on staff hope you know how much we want to provide information, resources and support for what you do.
As always, I look forward to receiving your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me by phone at 800-347-6647 ext. 231 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.