Tag Archives: Counselors Audience

Counselors Audience

Sidebar: Counselors weigh in on evidence-based counseling

Lynne Shallcross September 1, 2012

In this sidebar to the September cover story, two counselors with different backgrounds share their thoughts on evidence-based counseling.

Click here to read the cover story, “Proof Positive?”

A view from across the pond
Johanna Sartori is a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy-accredited counselor/psychotherapist working in private practice in London. To contact her, email johanna.sartori@o2.co.uk.

Share your view on evidence-based practice.

My thoughts are that any profession from medicine to management benefits from collecting, reviewing and sharing evidence. What worries me about therapy in the United Kingdom right now — and from what I read, it seems this is further along in the U.S. — is that the pressure for diagnosis, treatment plan and quantifiable results means that public funds are diverted nearly entirely toward CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). The benefit of more relational-based therapy is best studied by qualitative rather than quantitative research, and this does not fit with the general payment-by-results policy. Yet it is the nuance of the therapeutic relationship that we learn time and time again is crucial to any benefit being realized. In essence, I think evidence-based counseling is a good thing, but it needs to be expanded to take in different research methods and different therapy models. This takes time and effort, and we ought to be working together to start producing this.

Explain how the situation stands in the United Kingdom.

The current situation in the U.K. means that a choice in talking therapies is only available to those with enough money to pay for private therapy. Otherwise, the National Health Service (NHS) offers a very limited range of services based around CBT. I feel strongly that public money should be made available to facilitate NHS patients working with the many existing experienced and professional practitioners in private practice, but that we in return have to demonstrate our efficacy. Given that there are thousands of private practitioners doing good work throughout the U.K., it seems to be a fantastic opportunity to agree [on] an acceptable way of monitoring this and learning from the aggregate data. I know from discussions on LinkedIn that Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation (CORE) is used by many practitioners, and I think there are opportunities to share findings from this. CORE measures the experience of the client, and if used at the assessment and ending sessions, shows the increase in well-being resulting from therapy.

Are there any drawbacks to evidence-based practice?

The drawback I see is that a conviction that “evidence is king” appears to override the need to examine that evidence. Public funds in the U.K. are channeled into the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT), mainly because it demonstrates outcome through regular reporting. However, if you look closely at what that evidence actually says, you see that IAPT services do not actually demonstrate good results. Waiting times for some are over three months, a course of treatment may be as little as two sessions and success rates overall are as low as 15 percent. Despite this, because these services are measurable, they are approved by the National Centre for Clinical Excellence and publicly funded.

— Lynne Shallcross

A practitioner’s take

American Counseling Association member Jason Menegio is a counselor and evidence-based practice specialist working at a nonprofit organization in Greensboro, N.C. To contact him, email jason.menegio@monarchnc.org.

What does your work encompass?

My primary responsibilities are to research and oversee the implementation of evidence-based and emerging best practices in assigned service areas including, but not limited to, providing training, monitoring, mentoring and continuing education. I also ensure that each individual who receives services has access to treatment/services/supports that are based on an evidence-based practice or emerging best practice, which is the basis for all service provision.

Why is evidence-based practice important?

Learning what treatments are effective and evidenced and backed up by research helps to guide our treatment decisions and to promote the overall well-being of clients being served, as evidenced by improved outcome measures. In other words, evidence-based practice helps to ensure that clients are getting the best service possible.

What are some of the benefits to evidence-based practice?

Some of the primary advantages include its ability to be data-driven, and [it] can be evaluated for its degree of effectiveness. It exposes potential gaps [in] what was studied and what needs further research. And it identifies effective interventions based on reviews of multiple rigorous studies rather than on subjective interpretations of the reviewer or clinician.

— LS

Lynne Shallcross is the associate editor and senior writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at lshallcross@counseling.org.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Cincinnati is full of surprises

Heather Rudow

In the past, tourists looking for a vacation hotspot in the Midwest tended to overlook Cincinnati in favor of larger cities. But this diamond in the rough has undergone a cultural transformation throughout the past decade — so much so that well-known travel guide Lonely Planet named Cincinnati one of its top three U.S. travel destinations for 2012. Even so, counselors and their families attending the American Counseling Association 2013 Conference & Expo (March 20-24) might be surprised by all that the Queen City has to offer.

Cincinnati, the third-largest city in Ohio, sits along the Ohio River at the border of Kentucky and close to Indiana. It features unique offerings in the way of food, history and entertainment. Cincinnatians are proud of their hometown, and ACA members who live there are excited to show off all that the city has to offer to conference attendees.

Jewels of the city

G. Susan Mosley-Howard, a professor of educational psychology at Miami University of Ohio and an ACA member, has been living in Cincinnati for nearly 20 years. She says the city’s unique neighborhoods, stunning riverfront views and thriving fine arts community are some of her favorite things about Cincinnati. She hopes her fellow ACA members and conference-goers will take advantage of those features as much as possible while visiting.

When conference attendees have some downtime, Mosley-Howard says they should “definitely go to the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, the Cincinnati Zoo [and] Botanical Garden area, explore Findlay Market, take a walk through downtown and simply enjoy a meal on Fountain Square.”

Formerly known as the Cincinnati Union Terminal, the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal was one of the last great railroad stations built in the United States. It has since been transformed into museums, theaters and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. The Cincinnati Museum Center holds the Museum of Natural History & Science and the Cincinnati History Museum, along with an Omnimax theater. According to locals, the beautiful architecture of the 1930s art deco-style railroad station is alone worth a visit.

First opened in 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden not only is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, but also is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best, housing everything from gorillas to polar bears to white tigers. The botanical gardens are filled with perennial flowers, native plants, trees, shrubs and various other flora that visitors can take in after they have finished seeing the fauna at the zoo.

The zoo and botanical garden are just a couple of miles from Findlay Market, the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio. The market, which is brimming with prepared foods, local fruits and vegetables, cheeses, pastries, coffee, and wine and spirits, is open year-round except for Mondays. Visiting Findlay Market is a great way to get both a literal and figurative taste of Cincinnati’s local flavor as well as a bit of the city’s history because the market is located in the notable Over-the-Rhine district.

In the 1840s, Germans immigrated in large numbers to Cincinnati and tended to settle in the northern part of the city, which developed into today’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The area began to go through a resurgence about six years ago and has developed into one of Cincinnati’s brightest cultural hotspots. Locals say Over-the-Rhine offers a plethora of great places to eat and drink and is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. It is also home to Cincinnati’s arts community, including the free-of-charge Cincinnati Art Museum and the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

ACA member Carl Grueninger, lead counselor for Cincinnati Public Schools and chair of the counseling department at Walnut Hills High School, has family ties to the area. His great-grandparents settled in Over-the-Rhine after emigrating from Germany. “[The neighborhood] has cutting-edge restaurants, the Music Hall [and] 19th-century architecture,” he says.

During that time period, German entrepreneurs built a successful brewing industry that became associated with Over-the-Rhine. Grueninger recommends heading to Moerlein Lager House, which brews its own German-style beer and gives visitors a bit of the history of the area through its drinks.

Getting a taste of Cincinnati

Additionally, Grueninger suggests that conference attendees partake in some of the city’s other unique dining experiences. First, he recommends grabbing a plate of chili — though Cincinnati’s take on the classic dish is a little different than one might expect. The chili itself is a regional take on chili con carne, with different spices and a thinner consistency, but what really sets the city’s chili apart is all of the “ways” that Cincinnatians love to get it.

Grueninger’s personal recommendation is to order a “four-way,” which he describes as “chili and a generous topping of shredded cheese on a cheese coney — a hot dog [with] mustard, onions and shredded cheese on a bun.” Diners also have the option of ordering their chili served over spaghetti instead of on a cheese coney. Other options include purchasing a “three-way” (chili, spaghetti or a hotdog, and cheese), a “five-way” chili, spaghetti or a hotdog, cheese, onions and beans), a “two-way” (chili and spaghetti or a hotdog) or simply a “bowl,” with just the chili itself.

Chili parlors are abundant in Cincinnati, but Grueninger says the three most popular are Skyline Chili, Gold Star Chili and Camp Washington Chili.

After a satisfying chili dinner, conference-goers might also want to sample a scoop of Graeter’s ice cream, a much-loved regional chain that originated in Cincinnati. “The best ice cream in the world,” declares Grueninger. “My favorite flavor is the black raspberry chocolate chip.” A Graeter’s location in Fountain Square is within walking distance of the Duke Energy Convention Center, where the ACA Conference & Expo will be held.

“Cincinnati’s Fountain Square is the center of our city,” Grueninger says. “Whenever someone comes to visit the city — an important politician, when we win at sports or when the Choir Games are in town — we gather at Fountain Square. It is about two blocks from the convention center where the conference will be held, and many of the hotels people will stay at are either surrounding Fountain Square or are only a few blocks from it.”

For those conference attendees looking to unleash their inner carnivore while in Cincinnati, Grueninger suggests heading to the Ohio River to dine at Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse. “Former presidents, the late Bob Hope and many sports figures all would eat here for the famous ribs,” he says. Or attendees can check out Jeff Ruby Steakhouse, located on Walnut Street in nearby Fountain Square, for what Grueninger considers the “best steaks in town.”

A new hub of activity

Locals also recommend visiting a newly developed neighborhood called The Banks, located (logically enough) along the banks of the Ohio River. The city recently revamped this riverfront area, turning it into a stylish hub of activity that is within walking distance of the convention center. Among the neighborhood’s highlights are Smale Riverfront Park; the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, where visitors can learn about the history of slavery in America and investigate their genealogy; the Taft Museum of Art, which features unique works of art, both from Cincinnati artists and from artists around the world; and the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team Hall of Fame, which is the largest team hall of fame in the United States. Visitors can also tour the former home of President William Howard Taft, located in The Banks district. Additionally, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, used to reside a couple of miles northeast in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati. Her home is available for tours as well.

There are also interesting places to drink in The Banks, such as Moerlein Lager House and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, owned by the country music star and presumably named after his hit song “I Love This Bar.”

Because of Cincinnati’s close proximity to Kentucky, it is also easy to venture outside of the city during one’s stay. “You can walk across the river on the Purple People Bridge” — a pedestrian-only walkway known officially as the Newport Southbank Bridge — “or the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, [which] Roebling designed … before the Brooklyn Bridge, and visit Newport on the Levee or Covington, Kentucky,” Grueninger says. “Riverboat cruises are available also.”

Mosley-Howard adds that getting around the city, which is 80 square miles, shouldn’t be difficult for conference attendees. “If you are staying downtown, walking is easy,” she says. “The city’s metro bus system is good, however, to get around in the city core.” For more information on Cincinnati’s metro system, visit its website at go-metro.com.

Both Grueninger and Mosley-Howard are looking forward to having others in ACA experience the charm and positive spirit they see every day in Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati is known as a friendly city,” Grueninger says, “and I hope to meet many of my fellow counselors in March.”

For more information on the ACA 2013 Conference & Expo, including tours of the city provided by ACA, visit counseling.org/conference.

 Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Facts about Cincinnati 

  • Cincinnati was originally called Losantiville, meaning “the city opposite the mouth of the Licking River,” when it was settled in 1788. The city was renamed in 1790 after an organization formed by officers who served in the Revolutionary War called the Society of the Cincinnati.
  • Cincinnatians, extremely proud of the massive growth of their city during its first 40 years, began referring to their home as the “Queen City” or the “Queen of the West.” The nickname was memorialized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1854 poem “Catawba Wine.”
  • Cincinnati was also known as Porkopolis for a time beginning around 1835, when it was the country’s chief hog-packing center and herds of pigs traveled the streets. Some locals speculate that this chapter of Cincinnati history is where the city’s famous Flying Pig Marathon got its mysterious name.
  • Well-known Cincinnatians include Henry Heimlich, George Clooney, Doris Day, Annie Oakley, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Springer, Bootsy Collins and the Isley Brothers.
  • The Cincinnati Reds, formed in 1869, were the first all-professional baseball team in the United States. The city also hosted the first night game in Major League Baseball history in 1935.
  • Cincinnati is home to the first professional city fire department in the United States.
  • The Oscar-nominated film Seabiscuit starring Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire was filmed in Cincinnati.
  • Cincinnati was the first U.S. city to establish a municipal university — the University of Cincinnati in 1870.
  • Cincinnati was the site of the first airmail transportation in the United States in 1835. The mail was carried by hot air balloon.
  • Two-thirds of the U.S. population lives within a one-day drive of Cincinnati.

— Heather Rudow

What travel sites are saying about Cincinnati

  •   Frommer’s recommends visiting the Mount Adams neighborhood for “stunning views of downtown and the Ohio River.”
  • Lonely Planet chose Cincinnati as one of its top U.S. travel destinations for 2012. Cincinnati’s “historically entertaining” American Legacy Tours, the American Sign Museum and Carew Tower, the world’s tallest standing pre-World War II tower, are just a few of the reasons the city made the list.
  • Budget Travel magazine ranked Cincinnati as one of America’s “11 Greatest Waterfront Towns.” The magazine suggests dining at Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse for its “unique riverfront setting,” as well as signing up for a historic boat cruise on BB Riverboats.
  • Midwest Living magazine says, “This historic city on the Ohio River offers top cultural institutions and a revitalized riverfront.” Among the highlights on its list of Cincinnati’s 15 top attractions are the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (see picture above), the Cincinnati Observatory, downtown’s Contemporary Art Center, Hyde Park Square and Findlay Market.

— HR 


ACA partners with SAMHSA for 2012 Voice Awards

Heather Rudow August 23, 2012

(ACA Executive Director Richard Yep, ACA President Bradley T. Erford and Patty Nunez, past representative to the ACA Governing Counsel and president of the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors)

The American Counseling Association once again served as a program partner with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the seventh annual Voice Awards ceremony on Aug. 22. Taking place in Hollywood and hosted by David Shore, writer, producer and creator of the TV series “House M.D.,” the ceremony recognized community, sports, TV and film industry leaders who have raised awareness and promoted the understanding of substance abuse and mental health disorders and recovery from them.

ACA Executive Director Richard Yep, ACA President Bradley T. Erford and Patty Nunez, a past representative to the ACA Governing Counsel and current president of the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, attended this year’s event.

Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers received a special recognition award for his work to raise awareness about mental health issues and for his financial support of nonprofit organizations that provide mental health awareness and treatment services for children.

(Chris Herren, Metta World Peace, Chamique Holdsclaw)

SAMHSA also recognized screenwriter and producer Shonda Rhimes with a career achievement award for her ongoing efforts to educate television audiences about the real experiences of people with behavioral health problems and those affected by trauma.

Former NBA player Chris Herren and former Washington Mystic and San Antonio Silver Stars player Chamique Holdsclaw were also honored at the ceremony for speaking out about the mental health challenges they faced during their careers as professional athletes.

The 2012 Voice Awards entertainment winners are:

 Television Category

  • “Castle” (ABC) for the episode “Kill Shot,” addressing resilience, peer support and recovery from trauma.
  • “Glee” (Fox) for the episode “On My Way,” addressing suicide prevention, resilience and recovery from trauma.
  • “Homeland” (Showtime) for the episode “The Vest,” addressing mental illness, peer support and recovery.
  • “Law & Order: SVU” (NBC) for the episode “Personal Fouls,” addressing resilience and recovery from trauma.
  • “Necessary Roughness” (USA) for a series of episodes addressing behavioral health issues and recovery.
  • “Parenthood” (NBC) for a storyline addressing substance abuse, family support and recovery.

Film Category

  • “Take Shelter” for addressing mental illness, family support and recovery.

Documentary Category

  • “Bob and the Monster” for addressing substance abuse, peer support and recovery.
  • “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong” for addressing behavioral health issues, resilience and recovery.
  • “Unguarded” (ESPN) for addressing substance abuse, resilience and recovery.

For more information, visit samhsa.gov.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Sikh counselor educators offer perspective on Oak Creek shooting

Anneliese A. Singh and Muninder Kaur Ahluwalia August 16, 2012

As members of the Sikh faith, we were in shock when we received the news on Aug. 5 that six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek had been shot and killed. Immediately, we reached out to our families and were glued to the television as we tried to make sense of such a terrible tragedy. Having been raised as Sikh women within Indian families and growing up attending our own Sikh Gurdwaras (houses of worship), we felt a palpable sense of what this community was experiencing.

The shooting occurred between the end of the Sikh religious service and the beginning of langar (which means “community kitchen” and is a Sikh tradition to prepare and offer food to the congregation and anyone who is in need), a sacred time of community connection and devotion. In addition to watching this terrible event unfold on television, as counselor educators, we were immediately concerned about the degree to which members of the Oak Creek Gurdwara would receive culturally competent mental health services. So, as two people who have bonded together not only as Sikh, Indian women, but also as counselor educators, we decided to write a statement encouraging our colleagues to read resources relevant to providing culturally competent mental health resources to our community, both within and outside of the Oak Creek community.

Since writing that statement just a week ago, we have responded to more than 100 people who have written to us expressing their support for the Sikh community at large, their commitment to educating future counselors and their desire to learn more about the Sikh faith. One of the common questions we have been asked is what counselors should know about this specific tragedy. We believe counselors should have three major pieces of knowledge.

First, counselors should know the basic tenets of Sikhism. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion and is founded on principles of social justice. Sikhism promotes respect for all people, service to humanity and sharing resources. Sikh men and women have uncut hair, and men are recognizable by their turbans and beards (some Sikh women wear turbans as well). Sikh boys wear a patka (a bandana-like head covering) before they begin wearing turbans. Because of these clear visible identifiers as religious minorities, they have been targets of both overt and covert prejudice and discrimination. (It is important to note that not all Sikhs have these visible identifiers and yet may still have oppressive experiences.)

Second, counselors should be aware that Sikh Americans often experience hate violence. This is because we are perceived to be “perpetual foreigners” or “terrorists” due to ignorance and discrimination in the United States. This hate violence is often linked to anti-Muslim sentiments as well, and often goes unnamed in media reporting about the Oak Creek shooting and other hate violence against Sikhs. A tragedy such as the one in Oak Creek can retraumatize individuals and underscore their vulnerability.

Third, there is a cultural context of grief and trauma that is distinctly Sikh that counselors should be aware of to provide effective intervention and prevention efforts. Sikhs rarely turn to mental health services as a source of support; they more often rely heavily on family and community. The Gurdwara is a community gathering space. In addition, the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book) is seen as a guide to everyday life and is turned to both in times of joy and distress. It is important to consider that because the Gurdwara was the place of the shootings and the Sikh community was the target, the grief process might be further complicated because traditional sources of support have been disrupted.

For us, one of the best parts of being Sikh counselor educators during this time has been connecting with other Sikh counselors and other helping professionals to form a group called the Sikh Healing Collective. Members of the collective are fellow Sikhs who are developing short-term and long-term support systems for the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara members, as well as developing prevention efforts (for example, writing this article, asking national organizations for statements on this tragedy, writing letters to teachers who will work with the children who witnessed this response or who are aware of this tragedy). We encourage other counselors to consider the resources they might need if a similar tragedy occurred to Sikhs in their community, or on a larger scale. In developing a strong response that is multiculturally competent and mindful of the numerous social justice issues involved, it has taken many, many helping professionals networking across states, conference calls and knowledge bases.

If we were to give recommendations to counselors who might find themselves working in the midst of a tragedy similar to this, we would suggest that they work together with other mental health professionals from the targeted community, as well as allies to the community. Although it’s clear that the imminent crisis first needs to be addressed, it is essential that counselors develop and implement short- and long-term goals, both at the local and national levels. Counselors and counselor educators together should work to educate laypersons and mental health professionals alike. In addition to education, training for future professionals is vital for continued culturally competent counseling services.

To best assess needs, it is important to engage in community-based research and assessment on issues that the community perceives to be important. Best practices would include individual and group work with people directly and indirectly affected by the tragedy, as well as systemic work in schools, universities, organizations and government entities.

As we write this article, we are reminded of the importance of infusing a focus on prevention in our work as counselors and counselor educators to ensure that our profession is continuously moving toward culturally responsive counseling and advocacy. We hope this article is a part of that movement toward prevention and attention to social justice in our field.

 Anneliese A. Singh is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services at the University of Georgia. She is a member of the American Counseling Association and past-president of the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling, a division of ACA. Contact her at asingh@uga.edu.

Muninder Kaur Ahluwalia is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. She is a member of ACA. Contact her at ahluwaliam@mail.montclair.edu.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

Arizona creates local ALGBTIC branch

Heather Rudow August 13, 2012

Members of the Arizona Counselors Association (AzCA) have created a local branch of the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling (ALGBTIC) to help meet the needs of and advocate for the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning intersex and ally community (LGBTQQIA).

The primary goals of the Arizona Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling (AzALGBTIC) include the following:

  • To promote awareness and knowledge about LGBTQQIA issues and advocate for clients and the community.
  • To stay informed about and advocate for the counseling profession, LGBTQQIA issues in counseling, changes in oppressive systems and relevant legislation.
  • To promote greater awareness and understanding of sexual minority issues among members of the counseling profession and related helping occupations.
  • To develop, implement and foster interest in charitable, scientific and educational programs, and alliances designed to further the human growth and development of LGBTQQIA clients, allies and their communities.
  • To protect from harm LGBTQQIA individuals by language, stereotypes, myths, misinformation, threats of expulsion from social and institutional structures and other entities, and from beliefs contrary to their identity.
  • To provide educational programs and resources to raise the standard of practice for all counselors who serve LGBTQQIA clients, allies and communities.

Chad Mosher, executive director of AzCA, member of ALGBTIC and founding member of AzALGBTIC, says the idea for the group originated when several members of ALGBTIC who belonged to the AzCA felt there needed to be representation within that branch of ACA.

“The President of AzCA at that time approached me to discuss the focus of AzCA during his term as president, [which was] LGBTQQIA and social justice issues,” says Mosher, who is also a counselor educator and chair of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Phoenix in Tucson. “Another founding member of AzALGBTIC and I discussed the logistics of starting a chapter in Arizona with Pete Finnerty. Pete was chair of the State Branch Committee and was very supportive of our efforts to develop AzALGBTIC. At the 2012 ACA [Annual Conference] in San Francisco, [we] spoke with attendees from Arizona about the development of AzALGBTIC and the need for leadership in Arizona around LGBTQ issues. I announced the need for AzALGBTIC at the state conference in May 2012, with the full support of the Governing Board of AzCA. By June 1, we had about 15 interested people, held a meeting and supported Elizabeth Forsyth as president of AzALGBTIC. We have incredible support from the AzCA Governing Board and from leadership in ALGBTIC. We also have incredible support from AzCA members, members of the LGBTQQIA community in Tucson and Phoenix and have partnered with several LGBTQQIA organizations to promote our efforts within AzALGBTIC.”

Currently, the group has about 25 members.

Finnerty, who is president of ALGBTIC, says the group is thrilled by the creation of a new branch. “The formation of an ALGBTIC branch in Arizona shows that the counselors of the state believe in equality and a focus on their clients,” Finnerty says. “These counselors show us that even when discrimination is written into law by legislators, counselors will advocate for their clients and do what is in the best interest of those clients as outlined by the ACA Code of Ethics. On behalf of the ALGBTIC Board, we applaud the counselors who are organizing AzALGBTIC and we will support them in every way possible to serve LGBTQQIA clients equitably and strongly.”

Mosher says he is glad that the creation of AzALGBTIC has put something positive into the political and public policy climate of Arizona.

“Arizona is often in the news for its controversial immigration, reproductive rights, multicultural education, and health and human services laws, policies and practices,” Mosher says. “What is not broadcast are the incredible efforts of various LGBTQQIA community groups, such as the LGBTQ Behavioral Health Coalition of Southern Arizona or the LGBTQ Behavioral Health Consortium of the Phoenix Metro Area. These groups, with the assistance of state, district, county and local behavioral health systems, convened its first annual LGBTQ Behavioral Health Conference in Tucson. I am a member of the LGBTQ Behavioral Health Coalition and the Conference Planning Committee, and can proudly say that there was overwhelming support within the behavioral health agencies across the state to focus on LGBTQQIA competencies in public behavioral health. We have goals and ambitions of creating safe places in all the agencies across the state [and] of creating LGBTQQIA cultural competence liaisons within agencies [that] act as ambassadors to the larger coalitions and consortiums so that individuals receive high-quality, competency-based care. The climate for LGBTQQIA residents and counselors can always be better, and systems of oppression always need to be challenged. Arizona is no different. LGBTQQIA counselors have expressed a great desire to connect, unify and direct our efforts toward improving client care, toward educating the public and our colleagues about LGBTQQIA issues, and to challenge all systems of oppression. Community groups in Tucson and Phoenix have advocated for very supportive and LGBTQQIA-affirming environments. AzALGBTIC can help change the environment in Arizona by supporting community organizations.”

Forsyth, president of AzALGBTIC, agrees and says she is looking forward to all of the positive contributions the group will bring to Arizona.

“Arizona is a conservative state, but the climate for LGBTQQIA residents is actually mixed,” Forsyth says. “We have the majority of voters against LGBTQQIA rights, but there is definitely a strong LGBTQQIA community. The LGBTQQIA community is under-served in Arizona, and the opportunity for counselors to encompass this into their practice is vastly beneficial. From the population of counselors I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, we are bound to have clients facing LGBTQQIA rights issues in every practice, regardless if advertised as LGBTQQIA -friendly or not. Promoting and understanding cultural competencies is vital to the success of therapy.”

Currently, there are 10 states in addition to Arizona that have their own branches of ALGBTIC:  Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

However, Mosher says, Arizona is the only state in the Western Region of ACA with an ALGBTIC chapter. He says it is imperative to get involved on a local level and start state chapters of ALGBTIC.

“For one, clinical services and community involvement can be foci of chapter members,” Mosher says. “Chapters can actively promote greater awareness and understanding LGBTQQIA issues among members of the counseling profession and related helping occupations. Second, members of state chapters can be supported as leaders in the counseling field as they work to improve standards and delivery of counseling services provided to LGBTQQIA clients and communities. This is a vital focus for the promotion of health and wellness within LGBTQQIA communities and for the promotion of the counseling field. State branches benefit from increased membership, and increased membership can support the delivery of quality services. Third, members of state branches need a safe place in which to explore the expansion of their LGBTQQIA competencies as set forth by ALGBTIC. ALGBTIC recently released a new set of competencies for LGBTQQIA individuals, and clinicians need a safe place to learn about, receive supervision and implement the competencies. State chapters of ALGBTIC can provide trainings for [their] members and can provide other important information from ALGBTIC. Finally, state branches can stay informed about LGBTQQIA issues within their state and become advocates. LGBTQQIA issues are in the news often, having different effects on LGBTQQIA communities. LGBTQQIA individuals experience all sorts of institutional and systemic barriers, sometimes blocking access to adequate services. ALGBTIC chapter members can provide needed information about LGBTQQIA issues to branch leaders. Everyone benefits from the exchange of information.”

Forsyth believes state branches of ALBGTIC help support and advocate for the LGBTQ community and allow counselors to be active within their own communities as well as across the country.  “This promotes cultural competencies as well as provides a much-needed service to the LGBTQ community,” she says.

Though AzALGBTIC is still a new chapter and the lone group of its kind in the Western Region, Forsyth is looking forward to growing in many ways in the upcoming year. “In the future, we hope to share ideas via conferences, workshops, networking and publications in order to advance our knowledge, skills and awareness of counseling LGBTQQIA individuals,” she says.

Mosher says he too has a lot of plans for AzALGBTIC’s future. “This year, AzALGBTIC would like to provide trainings on the new LGBTQQIA competencies to clinicians, educators and students within Arizona and our neighboring states,” he says. “We need members, donors and sponsors to help us achieve our goals. To promote our efforts, we would like to have a presence at the various ‘pride’ functions in each major city in Arizona and build collaborative relationships with key LGBTQQIA organizations and leaders.”

For more information, visit ALGBTIC’s website and AzCA’s website.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.