Counseling Today, Features

Questions and answers with ACA President-Elect Colleen Logan

Angela Kennedy May 11, 2007

Next month, Colleen Logan will take on a new title as she steps into the leadership queue to become the next president-elect of the American Counseling Association.

Logan, a “20-plus”-year member of ACA and one of the founders of the Association for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues in Counseling, is the associate dean of the College of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University in Washington, D.C. In addition, she was recently named vice president for academic affairs at Argosy University-Dallas. She resides in the Washington metro area with her partner, Deborah, and son Brendan. The couple is expecting the birth of their second child in August.

Counseling Today caught up with Logan to learn more about her ambitions for the profession and the association.

Counseling Today: What motivated you to run for ACA president?

Colleen Logan: I really believe that I have the passion and energy to lead our organization in terms of greater success and professional identity and ultimately greater quality service to those whom we serve.

CT: How do you see the organization now, and how do you want it to look after your term?

CL: I would like to see our membership increase. I would like to see counselor professional identity grow even stronger and continue to stand head and shoulders with our sister mental health organizations. I would like professional counselors to remain on the forefront when it comes to dealing with trauma across all levels and experiences. ACA’s collaboration with the American Red Cross in response to Hurricane Katrina illustrated that counselors are on the forefront when it comes to helping everyday people with everyday problems during devastating times. I would like to see professional counselors have an even greater impact as well as presence in terms of media and how counselors are making a difference every day in people’s lives. I want to not only increase our membership but also increase the visibility of professional counselors.

CT: What’s a current hot topic that interests you?

CL: I am very excited that as a result of the combined efforts of ACA and AMHCA (the American Mental Health Counselors Association), professional counselors are now able to provide services to veterans and their significant others. I am also interested in the devastating impact of bullying and the myriad ways professional counselors can intervene and stop the cycle. Hot topics to me include the growth of our organization and what professional counseling really means, what we do for our members and ultimately what our members do to help people. I think we need to continue to find ways to make ACA necessary for our members so that, in turn, we can provide quality, affirmative services to the clients we serve.

CT: What inspired you to become a counselor?

CL: My father. He was the greatest influence in my life. He was a Presbyterian minister and helped everyone around him. He talked to everyone. He just would listen, hear and connect with people, and I wanted to do that. I wanted to … hear people’s stories and help.

CT: Who is the most influential person to you professionally?

CL: I would list some of the great pioneers in our field — Courtland Lee has been my mentor, and Patricia Arredondo. I have been very influenced by their writings, leadership and vision.

CT: What are you most proud of among your professional achievements?

CL: I’m proud of AGLBIC, how it’s grown and how it’s part of the tapestry of ACA. AGLBIC came from the outside to have a seat at the table, and now it’s part of ACA. It was fraught with challenges along the way from a number of sources, but since 1995 it’s grown.

I think AGLBIC has had a positive influence on the greater organization. The members and leaders of AGLBIC have had an enormously positive impact on me throughout my professional live. AGLBIC has been a source of strength and pride throughout my relationships, the birth of my son and the anticipation of the new baby. As AGLBIC has grown and increased its presence, my sense of pride and self-worth has grown exponentially. (Note: Logan was the co-chair of AGLBIC when it was an organizational affiliate, before it earned division status in ACA. At the ACA Convention in Detroit, the division changed its name to the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling, effective July 1.)

CT: Fill in the blank. Colleen Logan was the ACA president who ___________________?

CL: Changed the world one person at a time.

CT: The next few questions deal with the goals statements you provided when you were running for the office of ACA president. Explain your thoughts on revamping ACA marketing strategies.

CL: I think we really need to access someone who is “Hollywood” — someone like a Susan Sarandon, like an Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah. I say that knowing I’m aiming for the top, but it’s those kinds of people who can make it real for those who aren’t in Hollywood. For example, Ellen DeGeneres, right before she hosted the Oscars, was interviewed by Barbara Walters. She talked about how she dealt with her mom’s depression and used laughter. How she was sexually abused and how she had to deal with a very successful career, then to come out and lose it all. The power of her words and the way she’s overcome adversity— those are the kinds of high-profile stories that need to be told. I really believe we need to engage with a high-profile person who gets counseling.

CT: You mentioned that ACA needs to align with sister organizations. Why do you feel this is important, and which organizations do you suggest?

CL: I think we should continue to strengthen our relationships with our own divisions as well as sister organizations. We can do this by continuing our lobbying efforts with our own divisions and partners. We can continue our working relationships and partnerships with such organizations as the American Psychological Association, the American Association of State Counseling Boards and the National Association of School Psychologists as we bond together to ensure parity and quality mental health services for all.

CT: Another one of your goal statements reads, “Promote respect for human dignity and diversity by disseminating our competencies related to multiculturalism, diversity and advocacy.” Could you elaborate on that? Could this be a marketing aspect?

CL: I think it is part of who we are and ultimately would be a marketing tool. What I teach my students is that when you walk out of my class, I want you to know one thing, and that is you can sit down with anyone at any time and begin a relationship. That’s what it’s all about — the relationship. That’s the foundation of counseling, so having dignity and respect for everyone is a cornerstone. If we sit down and make a connection with someone no matter their background, experience or story, then I think that’s how we make a difference.

CT: You’ve mentioned the need to build a strong sense of professional identity within the field. What are your thoughts on the progression of counselor professional identity?

CL: I have a story — I tell a lot of stories. When I first started out as a counselor, I wouldn’t correct people if they said I was a psychologist because it had more prestige. Ultimately, I learned that I am a counselor through and through and I believe in counseling, and that really is the best fit for me. But I think a lot of people still struggle with that — what is a counselor? What does that mean? How are we different? How are we the same? What are the skills that we bring to the table? I think our identity is critically important. I would like to help ACA answer those questions better, across many levels, divisions, organizations, etc.

CT: So what’s the next step?

CL: Steps have been taken in terms of new strategic thinking over the last year such as the 20/20 Vision for the Future initiative that includes 29 major counseling organizations. I know there’s talk about a signature product. I think that will help. I think we need to spend some time in Counseling Today and on the ACA website talking about professional identity. We’ve talked about it through Listservs, but we need to massage that into a description we can all carry. I don’t know that I have all the answers to it, but I know that it’s missing. I don’t see that pride in counseling, and I want to help grow that.

CT: In answering questions posed to the ACA presidential candidates last year, you wrote, “I think the biggest challenge facing ACA is finding ways to creatively meet the needs of our changing membership.” What are your suggestions?

CL: We’ve got to get better at connecting with the graduate students. I know we have made great strides in making those connections, such as creation of the Graduate Student Task Force. Already this group is actively participating in the larger organization as evidenced by the booth in Detroit as well as the graduate student-sponsored workshops. We need to continue to find ways to access and mentor the graduate students who are new and are part of our organization.

CT: What advice do you have for those just starting their counseling careers?

CL: Get involved. By getting involved you learn a lot more about counseling and what issues are on the forefront. The most exciting thing for me when I joined ACA was that I got to go into a room and sit and listen to the people who were on the backs of my textbooks. It was phenomenal.

I remember one of my first conferences, and there was Patricia Arredondo speaking, talking — talking to me, a little graduate student from the University of Virginia. She heard my ideas and connected with me and I had just seen her on the back of a book — a book, by the way, that changed my life in terms of multiculturalism and diversity. I later invited her to come talk with my students, and I could see them transform because they were in the presence of someone they had only read about. But now they could talk with that person.

CT: What’s been the biggest challenge for you professionally?

CL: Wanting to do it all. I mean, I love to practice, I love leadership, organizations, my profession, I love connecting with people — and I want to do it all. I think the challenge for me has been learning to prioritize and make sure I take time to smell the roses, so to speak. To just “be” and enjoy it. It always feels like there is so much to change and so much work to do. That’s been a challenge.

CT: What has been the most rewarding experience for you?

CL: The birth of my son and watching him grow and thrive.

CT: What are your ambitions or goals for the future?

CL: What immediately comes to mind is that I want to be a good mom. I want to make a difference — an enormous difference in this world — so that my two children have the opportunity to experience life at its fullest without prejudice. They are part of a unique family, but it’s their family.