Counseling Today, Features

The nature and function of history

Angela Kennedy February 17, 2007

Since its approval by the American Counseling Association Governing Counseling last November, the Historical Issues in Counseling Listserv has seen its roster grow to include a veritable who’s who of the counseling profession. The interest network’s founder, William C. Briddick, hopes that is just the beginning.

“The history of our profession is rich and unique, but unfortunately we are not savvy historians. We need an organized group to chart the direction of the profession for the future — for our professional grandchildren,” says Briddick, an associate professor at South Dakota State University. “They should be able to look back and have a comprehensive understanding of what we did and why we did what we did.”

In 1985, as an undergraduate, Briddick first became inspired to record the past after reading Roger Aubrey’s landmark 1977 article on the history of guidance and counseling in the Personnel and Guidance Journal. “After walking out of the library that day, I knew I wanted to be a counselor educator,” Briddick says, adding that he still has a tattered copy of Aubrey’s article. “There’s writing and underlining all over it and probably a few coffee stains too, but that one article impacted me so much.”

Briddick acknowledges both Mark Pope, past president of ACA, and Mark Savickas, an adjunct professor of counselor education at Kent State University, as major supporters and contributors to getting the interest network under way. “Everybody on the list, others at ACA and those leading us forward hold a treasure trove of information and experience within the profession, and they want to preserve it,” Briddick says. “That’s what makes our profession great — these people. I feel like we are in a good place now.”

Pope agrees that Listserv participants will be an important archival group. The more counselors who join and take interest in the Listserv, the more resources counselors will have to draw on in the future, he says. “It’s an important service to help keep historic issues current,” Pope says. “We have to focus on our history instead of just the future. This network will allow counselors the opportunity to have input into the process and the progress of the profession. When we go to make new policies, new standards or even revisions to the ethics code, a lot of times we don’t know what happened 10 to 20 years ago. Knowing who we are and where we came from will help us to not make the same mistakes again and keep us from going in circles. The only way to make progress is to understand our history.”

Briddick understands that some history has already been forgotten or lost, but he hopes that with today’s technology, the network of counselors will begin to preserve the profession’s tribulations, successes and inspirations for the next generation. “I’m sure we’ve lost significant portions of our history,” he laments. “We are so busy with our lives today — the madness of the day-to-day — that we don’t look back at what happened 25, 30, 50 years ago.”

Briddick believes the history of the profession and the documentation of its future are keys to unlocking the ongoing mystery of professional identity. “Counselors are so hungry to a) find out who we are and b) to tell people about who we are,” he says. “I don’t see how we can continue our path of professional development and not pay attention to our history.”

Briddick encourages counselors from all walks of the profession to join the interest network and Listserv and post what they are currently working on. He says the network is interested in hearing ideas for the future as well as experiences from counselors’ past. Briddick admits he has an agenda and says it’s simple: to keep good records and eventually to hand the reins over to another counseling history buff.

During the past several years, the American Counseling Association has approved several Listservs to allow counselors to come into community with others who share special interest in a particular focus area. To join any of the ACA Interest Networks listed below, e-mail Holly Clubb at with your name, e-mail address, the interest network you wish to join and ACA Membership status (member/nonmember). Joining an interest network gives you access to participate in that network’s Listserv.

  • Children’s Counseling Interest Network
  • Historical Issues in Counseling Interest
  • Network
  • Interest Network for Advances in Therapeutic Humor
  • Multiracial/Multiethnic Counseling Concerns Interest Network
  • Network for Jewish Interests
  • Sports Counseling
  • Interest Network
  • Traumatology Interest Network
  • Women’s Interest
  • Network