Counseling Today, From the Executive Director

It’s a two-way street

Richard Yep April 7, 2006

Richard Yep

In many of my columns, I try to point out the services, benefits and products that the American Counseling Association has made available for professional counselors. I have asked you and your colleagues to tell us what you think of the job we’re doing and whether you think we’re on the right track. I also know many of you are quite busy. This indicates that we need to produce products that can save you time while also keeping you on the cutting edge of effective counseling practice.

The leadership, staff and I have tried to figure out what ACA members and other professional counselors need and want from our association by reviewing surveys and looking at data gathering in other ways. We are avid fans of newspapers, magazines and the Internet, and we have an interest in finding out what makes people “tick.”

Based on recent increases in the number of people joining ACA, the strong sales of publications, the response to our upcoming convention (March 30-April 3) co-sponsored by the Canadian Counselling Association in Montreal, record-breaking contributions to the Counselors Care Fund and the many positive responses to last month’s issue of Counseling Today that focused on “Counseling Around the World,” I think that, for the most part, we’re on the right track.

However, I want more. I am inviting you, an individual who identifies as being a professional counselor, counselor educator, supervisor, administrator or related human-service provider, to tell me what you would like to see from ACA. We need to move in the direction of “demassification” — producing products and services tailored for individuals rather than for the masses — if we are to survive as a professional membership organization.

We will continue representing the profession by setting professional standards, developing ethical practice and advocating our expertise and needs to those in public policy positions, but we also want to make sure that ACA is meeting your needs. Decisions about what to do and what to provide for the membership can only be made successfully if we are traveling a two-way street. First we need your input so the leadership and staff can develop the requested resource. Then we need your subsequent feedback so we can revise that resource and better meet your needs.

An example is the latest generation of the ACA website at www.counseling.org. We looked at member feedback about our old site, followed up by designing the new site with this feedback in mind and made continued modifications as we were in development (as well as after the new site’s launch). This continued dialogue demonstrates how working on the “two-way street” model significantly enhances what we now have. Of course, with something like a website, changes and edits can be made in “real time,” allowing us to bypass lots of policy, paperwork and bureaucracy. More product development must utilize this type of model.

Times have certainly changed, and ACA must move toward what will make you, our members, the best possible professional counselors. The Governing Council has undertaken a major change in the way it addresses the profession’s needs. Focusing on six major strategic areas, the Governing Council has moved toward a knowledge-based governance model. This is a significant shift away from “business as usual,” and you are sure to read more about it in the coming months. One of the keys to this model of governance is the ability to make decisions based on the real needs of the membership and society at large rather than what a select few believe is best for the masses.

We are in the midst of a transformation at ACA, and I am honored to be working with the leadership and staff we currently have in place. However, without your input, opinions and, yes, feelings (after all, we are a counseling organization!), we will fall short of our goals. I strongly encourage you to be a part of this great revolution, to move the profession ahead and to be a better advocate for your clients and students. Know also that you can depend on ACA to help you meet your professional goals and aspirations, regardless of where you are in your career.

I hope to see (and hear from) many of you at the annual convention in Montreal (more information is available at www.counseling.org/convention). However, if you can’t attend, I still encourage you to let me know your thoughts on how ACA can deliver the resources you need.

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

Thanks and be well.