Monthly Archives: August 2007

Deadline for NPI approaching quickly

Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook August 12, 2007

Q: I’m a bit confused and hope you can help me. I just opened a private practice at the start of the month and will begin seeing fee-for-service (private pay) clients beginning this week. I just found out about NPI (National Provider Identifier) numbers yesterday when ordering my imprinted HCFA forms. Since I am not on any insurance panels and will not get reimbursed by insurance companies (clients will submit their HCFA billing forms to their insurance company for reimbursement), do I need an NPI?

A: It is not necessary to get an NPI if you never bill managed care or insurance. If the client sends the bill on to his or her insurance, you may need an NPI. We recommend you obtain one regardless.

Q: I am having some difficulty getting started. I received my tax ID number (employer ID), but I cannot seem to find what the NPI number is. Additionally, CAQH (the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare) is giving me difficulties with the information I need from them. I am not sure exactly what they do either. Please help!

A: We have had many questions about this as the deadline for obtaining your NPI approaches, so we will provide this information again:

Important date! May 23 is the deadline for obtaining your NPI. The Administrative Simplification provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandated the adoption of a standard unique identifier for health care providers. Information can be obtained at www.cms.hhs.gov/nationalprovidentstand/, and an application can be downloaded at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/NPPES/Welcome.do. Additional information regarding private practice issues is available on the ACA website at www.counseling.org/Counselors/. From this page, click on “Private Practice Pointers” (note that this is an ACA members-only section).

CAQH information is available at https://caqh.geoaccess.com/oas/. Through CAQH, a counselor can submit a credentialing application that can be accessed by more than 100 insurance and managed health care companies.

We recommend you go through Aetna’s Credentialing Customer Service Department. Call 800.353.1232 and ask to be referred to CAQH to receive an “identification number.” Online, Aetna has a helpful link at www.aetna.com/provider/credentialing.html that will facilitate this process. Just fill out the Aetna application request form, and you will be added to its CAQH-Aetna Provider Application Roster.

You can try this yourself, or you can contact Netsource Billing (call Donna at 866.441.1591), which will process your CAQH application for a fee.

Q: My question concerns a situation in which one person holds ownership in a private practice and allows another person to sublet an office. They do not share in the practice and are not partners. The counselor pays rent to the private practice. My thoughts are that the person who holds the highest coverage amount could be drawn into litigation in the event of an injury or claim.

A: The good news is that as a profession, counseling is not at the top of the list for lawsuits. Moreover, malpractice insurance for counselors is available at very reasonable rates. It goes without saying (even though we are saying it) that all counselors in private practice must have malpractice insurance. You do not have to do anything wrong or negligent to be sued.

We have never heard of a counselor being targeted in a lawsuit because of having the highest coverage. The minimum malpractice coverage required by insurance and managed health care companies is $1 million/$3 million. Malpractice insurance is available through the American Counseling Association Insurance Trust (call 800.347.6647 ext. 284). We recommend getting as much coverage as possible. Peace of mind is worth the extra cost.

Q: I’ve noticed that several of my clients (private practice) are reporting higher copays and deductibles as of Jan. 1 2007. I’m a master’s-level (LPC) clinician in Missouri. When BlueCross BlueShield was bought by Anthem and the new year began, this is when the higher copay started. Now, instead of an office visit copay of perhaps $25, my clients’ plans have me as a “specialist,” and the copay can be as high as $50. I’ve been shocked and saddened by this practice, as it often either meant that my clients couldn’t come to therapy regularly or decided to end therapy altogether.

Have you heard of this? Will the new (mental health parity) bill attend to this issue? I think it’s just a way for Anthem to have its clients pay unfairly for more of their mental health or substance abuse treatment. So far, Anthem is the only company I’ve seen do this. I’d appreciate hearing your feedback on this issue.

A: Yes, this has happened, along with much higher deductibles on some insurance plans. Indeed, it poses a hardship on our clients.

When industry representatives negotiate an insurance contract for their employees or look for better deals with the various managed care and insurance companies, they search for the best ways to save themselves and their employees money and supposedly hold down health care costs. It’s supply and demand.

Across the board, more of the expense of health care is being turned over to employees. Many are facing higher copays, not only for mental health but for doctor visits as well. It appears the insurance industry is trying to save the companies they represent some money and/or make more profit. We may see more of this. Some of my clients failed to notice the Jan. 1 letters from their insurance plans and were shocked to learn their deductible was now $500 or even $1,000 or their copays increased substantially.

Union plans and very large company plans are still paying as they were. We are watching these trends and will alert our readers to changes. We warn counselors to start each year always asking clients for the full fee for one or two or now three sessions to cover the deductible that has renewed itself each Jan. 1.

Q: We were your room monitors at the ACA Convention in Detroit. We wanted to let you both know that we really enjoyed listening to all of your ideas, thoughts and opinions. We purchased the notebook of information and appreciate everything that is in there. However, there is one thing we were interested in that we can’t find in our notes. One of you talked about purchasing “canned group material” for education purposes. Where did you say that we could find those materials?

A: One very good resource is Impact Publishers (www.impactpublishers.com/). Take a look at the website and scroll around to see all the topics: parenting, marriage, depression, stress, communication, etc. Another useful resource is AGS (check out the website at www.pearsonassesments.com/pa-search/search.asp).

These materials can be used for educational purposes. We recommend them for free public presentations as a service to the community as well as speaker’s topics to market a private practice.

Robert J. Walsh and Norman C. Dasenbrook are coauthors of The Complete Guide to Private Practice for Licensed Mental Health Professionals (www.counseling-privatepractice.com). ACA members can e-mail their questions to walshgasp@aol.com and access a series of “Private Practice Pointers” on the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org

The importance of follow-up

By Amy Reece Connelly

Follow-up. It’s one of the most crucial elements in a job search, yet only a small percentage of candidates perform any sort of follow-up.

Consider these scenarios.

Scenario #1: You found the perfect job. The description was written for someone with your exact background. You spent hours putting the final touches on your résumé and cover letter and sent your application package in plenty of time to meet the deadline. But it’s been weeks, and you haven’t heard anything.

Clearly, the candidate has taken pains to perfect application materials. The job was written for him (and possibly 250 other similarly qualified candidates). The goal of follow-up in this case is for the candidate to make himself stand out.

A well-placed phone call to the hiring authority (HA) is called for: “Hi, this is (identify yourself). I sent in an application for (name the position) two weeks ago, and I wanted to make certain you had received it.” (Sometimes the HA will look through the stack of résumés and confirm receipt; often, that résumé stays at the top of the stack.) The HA responds, “Yes, I have your résumé right here.” Here’s the candidate’s opportunity to be memorable: “Oh, good! I’m very interested in this position because … (whatever is appropriate and could potentially draw the HA into an extended conversation).” As the conversation draws to a close, ask for more information: “What is the status of your search? When do you anticipate inviting candidates for onsite interviews?” Offer to make yourself available: “I’m planning a trip to the area the week of the 15th. Would it be possible to arrange a meeting?”

Mission accomplished. The candidate has learned his application has been received, his résumé is at the top of the stack of applicants, he had a five-minute conversation with the HA and he has another excuse to follow up in a week.

Scenario #2: They called about your application and said you looked like a good fit. They’ll be scheduling campus interviews soon. They’ll be in touch. (That was last month.)

This situation is rampant with opportunities for follow-up.  First of all, whenever contact is initiated by the HA, a letter of appreciation, even in the form of an e-mail, is appropriate. It doesn’t need to be long, but you should express continued interest in the position, highlight a specific element of the conversation you had and indicate flexibility for their deadlines. If appropriate, send additional information that supports your candidacy (a copy of a paper you authored, for example).

If it’s been a couple of weeks and you haven’t heard anything, by all means, place a telephone call: “When we spoke two weeks ago, you indicated you would be inviting candidates to campus later this month. I was wondering if you could give me an update on the status of your search.”

Scenario #3: Last week’s interview went great! You were well-prepared for the questions that were asked, and you clicked with the rest of the staff. Now, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the offer.

If you think all you have to do is wait, then think again. This is a prime opportunity to make your case as the right candidate for the job. Sending custom e-mails to everyone you met will help seal the deal. Express your enthusiasm for the position and identify specific areas in which you could immediately make an impact.

From an employer’s perspective, following up demonstrates a high level of interest in the position and also shows initiative and professionalism. The candidate who follows up with an employer has positioned him/herself as someone who will take the extra steps to make certain a job is not just done, but done well. That candidate will be memorable, provided the follow-up is handled in a professional manner.

Following up should always be employer-focused, but candidates benefit in a number of ways as well.

  • It provides you with an update on the process.
  • It can help direct your focus (when you are no longer being considered in a search, you can focus your efforts elsewhere).
  • It can push the employer to make an offer, as the following real-life example illustrates..

A friend of mine was wrapping up a job search. She had received an offer from her second choice but was still waiting to hear from her “dream job.”

“Call them,” I told her.

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Tell them you have an offer that you need to respond to, so you need to know if they’re close to a decision.”

In less than an hour, she called me back: “They’re (her dream job) putting an offer together right now.”

No news is no news. Following up provides information and opportunity and positions you as a memorable candidate.

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Giving counseling a sporting chance

Jonathan Rollins

Without her participation in sports, Taunya Tinsley doesn’t know if she would have even attended college. But her prowess on the basketball court led her to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where she was an all-conference performer her senior year. Even as her star was shining athletically, however, someone asked her a question that adjusted her perspective: “What are you going to do after your ‘retirement’ from sports?”

That conversation not only offered Tinsley a wake-up call but also helped her discover her life’s calling. She realized all student-athletes could benefit from counseling on issues that stretched far beyond the basketball court or baseball diamond. “Even as a high school student-athlete, I knew that sports really meant something to me,” says Tinsley, a member of the American Counseling Association and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. “I decided I wanted to work with athletes on how to use athletics for personal growth.”

While earning her master’s degree in higher education with an emphasis in student development from the University of Iowa, Tinsley worked in the women’s athletic department, focusing on academic support and career development. After a stint providing academic support to student-athletes at the University of Pittsburgh, she moved on to Duquesne University, where she obtained her doctorate in counselor education and supervision with an emphasis in sports counseling. Today, she is an assistant professor at California University of Pennsylvania and program coordinator for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame’s Play It Smart Program. As described on the Play It Smart website (http://playitsmart.footballfoundation.com), the educational program is “designed to take a student-athlete’s passion for sports and intense dedication to their team and transform it into a force for greater good in their lives.”

Shaun Tyrance became a sports counselor in large part because of the counseling he didn’t receive during his days as an athlete. “During my college career, I could have really used someone to talk to outside of the (football) program,” says Tyrance, a four-year letter winner who played quarterback at Davidson College in North Carolina from 1996 to 2000. “I struggled academically and had my ups and downs on the field,” including operations on both knees. “As an athlete, there’s only so much you feel that you can tell your coaches. In male macho sports like football, where any sign of weakness is looked on negatively, you don’t feel comfortable talking about your personal life or your self-doubts.”

During his senior year, Tyrance found an article about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team employing a sports psychologist. “I thought, ‘Wow, I would have performed a lot better on and off the field with that kind of help.’” Inspired in part by the article, he went on to earn his master’s degree in sports psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

While going through the doctoral program in counselor education at North Carolina State University, Tyrance also took a job in the school’s athletic department as an academic counselor for freshman and sophomore football players. That experience opened his eyes even wider to both the need for and impact of sports counseling. “That job was 15 percent academic support and 85 percent counseling,” he says. “It was completely about building trust and relationships with those students. I was the first person they called when issues came up — and not just academic issues. A lot of it was really about their transition from high school to college. They had left girlfriends behind, they were sitting on the bench for the first time, they were away from home for the first time or they were feeling the pressure to perform right away.” Today, Tyrance is a sports counselor and performance enhancement specialist in private practice who contracts with both professional and college sports teams. Those interested in discussing sports counseling can contact Tyrance, a member of ACA, at shaun.tyrance@gmail.com.

From skeptic to fan

If the mixture of sports and counseling seemed like a natural fit to both Tinsley and Tyrance, Lisa Lopez Levers needed convincing that the specialty was legitimate. An associate professor in the Department of Counseling at Duquesne, Levers listened reluctantly as doctoral students (including her advisee, Tinsley) approached her about sports counseling’s efficacy. “I thought, ‘Great, just what we need — another counseling specialty,’” says Levers, a member of ACA and ACES. “To be honest, I looked down my nose at sports counseling. It’s a very easy notion to dismiss. I had to get past my initial bias that sports is just a game. But the work of my doctoral students intrigued me, and as I began to unpack the issues, I could see just how relevant it was.”

What ultimately sold Levers on sports counseling was the realization that its uses weren’t limited to high-level athletes and that the issues it dealt with weren’t limited to the playing field. She recalled a program in southern Africa that used soccer as an incentive to bring in young people who needed treatment and counseling related to HIV/AIDS. “I started seeing sports counseling from a human development perspective and the role it played with kids impacted by AIDS,” she says. “What a wonderful intervention: sports with some counseling around it, some mentoring around it. I decided it could be an enterprise that was very helpful with young people.”

She also perceived that sports counseling possessed an important multicultural element. “We can formulate initial relationships across cultural, ethnic and religious lines through sports,” Levers says. “I think athletics is one of those arenas that breaks down divisive barriers.”

Witnessing the reaction of her master’s students who were working with adolescents in schools further convinced Levers that sports counseling deserved wider attention. “I saw my students get so excited when I raised the subject with them,” she says. “Sports counseling was something they could really envision using to work effectively with kids.”

Now one of the leading proponents of sports counseling, Levers decided to work with Tinsley to put together an ACA Sports Counseling Interest Network, which was approved in March 2006. “It seemed it was time to have a more systematic, more formalized conversation about sports counseling,” Levers says. “People have been doing (sports counseling) for a long time, but it’s been under the surface. I thought we needed to name it and say exactly what we’re doing.” Today, of ACA’s eight special interest networks, the sports counseling group has the largest number of participants on its Listserv.

Many arenas, many ‘athletes’

Levers studied with a kung fu master for 13 years, so she was naturally interested in the connections between physical and mental health. Today she sees a plethora of applications for sports counseling, from helping young athletes improve their academic and social skills to teaching tai chi to senior clients who want to remain physically active despite suffering from arthritis. “The approaches may seem very different, but they’re both on the spectrum of sports counseling,” she says.

Sports counseling can be particularly effective at the high school level, Tinsley says. While the Play It Smart Program’s focus is academic support, student-athletes also receive personal, career and social counseling, she says. Play It Smart counselors, known as “academic coaches,” work with student-athletes from the ninth grade on. On one level, they help students determine their interest in attending college, examine which schools might fit them best and look into potential majors and careers. Counselors also take the student-athletes on college visits.

Just as important, Tinsley says, the program helps these students explore who they are and who they can become outside of the world of sports, because for many, their identity is completely wrapped up in being an athlete. Tinsley has brought in members of the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers to talk to student-athletes about life after sports and the importance of having something else going on in their lives. “Even for those athletes who only play in high school, it can be really hard for them to give up sports and make a successful transition,” Tinsley says. “We want to help them look at how they can define themselves otherwise and how they can use the skills they’ve learned as an athlete in other areas of life — skills such as teamwork, discipline, preparing themselves to compete, commitment and so on. For example, the commitment they show for studying film (to prepare for a game) should be the same commitment they show to preparing for the SAT.”

Some people may wonder if sports counseling is just another term for sports psychology. But as Levers explains, sports psychology focuses almost exclusively on developing athletic skill and enhancing performance, while “sports counseling has a more holistic, ecological focus. It looks across spheres of a person’s life to see what role sports can play in academic and psychosocial issues.”

Of course, the line between the two is not always distinct. “A lot of performance enhancement and sports counseling goes hand in hand,” says Tyrance, whose clients include the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s women’s basketball team. “If someone’s struggling on the basketball court, I’ve found that they are usually struggling in another aspect of their life. They may be struggling academically, have family issues or dealing with something else off the court,” he says. “If a player has an issue handling pressure in key moments of a game, I’ll teach them relaxation techniques, but I’ll also dig deeper. I want to find out where this is coming from.”

“I really believe that I’m doing something preventative (as a sports counselor),” Tyrance continues. “I don’t want to be the one they call only when somebody needs to be ‘fixed’ athletically.” He says a large part of his job is simply spending time fostering relationships with the athletes. “Sports is a very close-knit, family environment, so you have to make them comfortable with you. This job doesn’t work if you make yourself an outsider. You can’t be a once-a-week counselor. If that’s the only time they see you, they’re never going to trust you.”

Tyrance also tries to make the athletes understand that he is their advocate. “I tell them, ‘I’m not here for Coach. I’m here for you. Nothing you tell me will ever go to Coach. This is a complete partnership between you and me.’”

An emerging field

Tyrance, Tinsley and Levers each envision a healthy future for sports counseling, in large part because it can be utilized in a variety of settings and for various populations. At the highest level, Tinsley says, many professional teams employ a director of player development who helps athletes with issues such as career development (post-sports) and degree completion. In addition, she says, many professional athletes and their families want to work with counselors who understand the issues and pressures athletes experience. Common areas of concern include anger management, marriage problems and strained relationships with children, according to Tinsley, who is pursuing this niche in her private practice.

In many instances, counselors can help athletes access the support systems available to them outside of the coaching and training staff, Tinsley says. “They’re often not sure if support is out there for them,” she says, “because people tend to see them only as an athlete, not as a person.” Even community counselors or mental health counselors who don’t specialize in sports counseling can help athletes with transitioning to life after sports, when they may face issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders, depression and questions about starting a new career. “But having an understanding of the athletes’ world is going to be beneficial,” she says.

At the collegiate level, Tyrance says, athletic departments increasingly are looking for individuals with master’s degrees in counseling to serve as academic advisers. One of the best places to find these openings is on the National Collegiate Athletic Association website at www.ncaa.org. Under “employment,” look for jobs that say “counselor” or “academic adviser.”

But sports counseling isn’t limited to purely athletic arenas. As Levers points out, there are plenty of opportunities to utilize sports counseling in both private practice and schools. Another potential growth area? “In this country, I don’t see quite so much emphasis on sports counseling in community agencies, but I could see it blossoming there in the kinds of programming aimed at pulling young people in and helping them to develop good social skills in the process,” she says. A growing amount of research confirms that athletics can help young adults build positive social skills, she says.

Abundant employment opportunities in sports counseling are already available, Tinsley says. What is missing, she asserts, are adequate training opportunities for counseling students interested in this specialty. Tinsley has developed and taught a course on “Issues and Techniques in Counseling Athletes” at both Duquesne and California University of Pennsylvania. California University has also proposed an online nine-credit sports counseling certificate to begin next summer. At the moment, however, such courses are the exception rather than the rule in counseling programs.

Tinsley hopes that counseling programs will eventually recognize athletes as a distinct and diverse population and make specialized training available to counseling students. One of her goals is to see sports counseling programs accredited by CACREP. “Because of the number of kids who participate in athletics in the United States, it’s important to include them in our counseling courses,” she says. Tinsley firmly believes, for instance, that the counseling profession needs to do a better job of preparing school counselors to work with student-athletes.

To join the Sports Counseling Interest Network, e-mail Holly Clubb (hclubb@counseling.org) at ACA with your name, e-mail address and ACA membership status. Participants often post research related to sports counseling on the interest network’s Listserv.

In addition, the Sports Counseling Interest Network will be meeting at the ACA Convention in Detroit on Friday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to noon to discuss next steps in promoting and developing the specialty.

Love, hope, justice and multicultural counseling

Judy Daniels and Michael D’Andrea

We begin the new year by focusing on several key concepts that underlie the multicultural counseling movement. Although the concepts of love, hope and justice are central to the work that culturally competent counselors do, these constructs are not always given the attention they deserve in counselor education training programs or at workshops presented at professional counseling conferences. With this in mind, we direct attention to the relevance of love, hope and justice for the multicultural counseling movement in general and the work that culturally competent counselors do in particular.

The meaning of love

In the 50-plus combined years that we have spent in the counseling profession, we can recall few times when the concept of love and its relevance to the work professional counselors do has been discussed in substantial ways in either counselor education training programs or professional workshops. This is particularly disconcerting from a multicultural perspective, especially given the important role love has played in the evolution of the multicultural counseling movement. 

The genesis of the multicultural counseling movement can be traced to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That movement, of course, was greatly influenced by the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. It could be argued that one of King’s greatest contributions in shaping the civil rights movement was his call to promote a love ethic, which he asserted was vital to building a more just, sane and peaceful society. The goal, according to King, was to create a “beloved community” in which persons from diverse cultural, racial and ethnic groups and backgrounds could live and work together in dignity and peace.

In presenting his views about the need to build a beloved community in our nation and world, King described three kinds of love: eros (a sort of aesthetic or romantic love); philia (the sort of love that is expressed in affection among friends); and agape (a love based in a deep understanding and acceptance of the redeeming good will of all persons; an overflowing love that is purely spontaneous and creative). He emphasized that the quest to create a beloved community needed to be based in agape love. In writing about this point, he said, “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people. … It begins by loving others for their sakes … and makes no distinction between friend and enemy; it is directed toward both. … Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”    

The small group of Black counselors and psychologists who pioneered the multicultural counseling movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s were clearly impacted by the zeitgeist of those times, including the civil rights movement and King’s contributions to that historic phenomenon. This was reflected in how these pioneers confronted various forms of cultural and scientific racism and White supremacy that permeated counseling and psychotherapy theories and practices. Their efforts were driven largely by a deep and abiding love for their own racial-cultural group and their commitment to transforming the racial epistemological hegemony that characterized the fields of counseling and psychology.

These pioneers experienced intense resistance and disrespect from many White persons in these professions. However, their deep love for their work and their commitment to confronting injustices in the counseling profession resulted in the formation of new organizational entities (including the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, formerly called the Association of Non-White Concerns, in the American Counseling Association) and numerous other changes. These initial efforts and the continuing expression of love and determination by hundreds of other multicultural allies culminated in a major professional outcome that is still transforming the field of counselor education and professional counseling practice in the United States.

Fueling love with hope

The power of love that underlies much of the work of multicultural counseling advocates is not based on a soft-hearted or sentimental love of the human family. Rather, it is based on the sort of tough-minded, determined agape love that King wrote about during his lifetime. A careful analysis of his writings reveals that this transformative love is fueled by a persistent belief and hope in people’s ability to create a more sane, just society.

This issue of hope is certainly central to the work counselors do with their clients. Without promoting and realizing a genuine sense for a hopeful tomorrow, counselors are unable to help clients access their own repository of psychological and spiritual resources when confronting serious personal life challenges. Promoting hope is a particularly important consideration when working with persons from marginalized groups whose visions of a better future have been clouded by the cataracts of oppression and injustice.

When working with these clients, culturally competent counselors do not offer false or superficial forms of hope. They understand that such efforts only work to antagonize persons who continue to be subjected to various forms of racism, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism or other forms of cultural oppression. These forms of injustice can effectively erode even the most resilient person’s sense of hope for a better future and their own unique human potential and beauty.

Instead, culturally competent counselors foster the empowerment of their clients by empathically addressing the totality of their clients’ lives. This involves:

  • Respectfully connecting with culturally diverse clients, helping them talk about their intrapsychic pain and assisting them in unraveling the confusion and frustrations that characterize their lives.
  • Providing opportunities for these clients to explore the adverse impact of toxic interpersonal-environmental-contextual factors that undermine their sense of hopefulness and well-being. In doing so, culturally competent counselors often find themselves utilizing many of the multicultural and social justice advocacy competencies that ACA formally endorsed in 2003. 

Fostering justice with courage and struggle

Increasing numbers of counselors are coming to more fully appreciate how such advocacy services result in more substantial, positive and lasting psychological and developmental outcomes among clients from diverse groups and backgrounds. The increasing number of culturally competent counselors interested in understanding how they can further promote these helping outcomes soon recognize that they must be willing to engage in various social justice struggles in the communities where they live and work. 

This understanding comes from important new insights about the connection between using agape love and the importance of promoting clients’ hope for a better future as they implement a broad range of social justice advocacy services. Members of ACA have acknowledged the importance of training counselors to become more effective social justice advocates. This was manifested in the establishment of the Counselors for Social Justice division several years ago and the work that many CSJ members did to secure formal endorsement of the advocacy competencies in ACA in 2003. Interested readers can learn more about the advocacy competencies by going to the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

Although there is growing interest in the important role counselors can play as social justice advocates, it is important to point out that this sort of work is wrought with unique challenges. These challenges include displaying the courage required to engage in various social and political struggles that are necessary to help build more just, democratic, empowering and sane schools, universities, human service agencies and communities. Such struggles also require the sort of agape love and genuine hope that will sustain counselors in times when they are subjected to various dangers. This might include withstanding professional and personal danger resulting from different types of backlash. This backlash reflects other people’s desire to maintain a status quo that is not always just or fair for many people from diverse cultural and racial groups in our society.

James McWhirter, a longtime leader in ACA and a professor at Arizona State University, commented on the linkages that exist between many of the ideas presented in this column. This includes addressing the need for counselors to maintain their own hope in promoting justice by engaging in different types of struggles. As McWhirter states, “For hope to work, it needs to walk along with truth, fairness and, far too often, struggle. And in this struggle, all of us benefit. I believe the world is a little bit better today because of your struggle.”

As we begin the new year, we hope you will join us in reflecting on the importance of communicating a genuine sense of love for our clients as we strive to assist them in realizing new dimensions of hope that will sustain and revitalize them during challenging times. To those counselors genuinely committed to promoting multicultural competence and social justice advocacy, let us also commit ourselves to drawing upon our individual and collective courage as we continue the struggle to promote love, hope and human dignity and development through diversity throughout the year.

Opportunities for growth

Marie Wakefield

As I made my final plans for traveling to Detroit for the 2007 American Counseling Association Annual Convention & Exposition, March 21-25, I began to reflect on how meaningful the convention has been for me and how much I have developed as a professional by attending over the years.

There are the obvious benefits, such as the education sessions, which have vastly expanded my knowledge and opened my eyes to new ways of approaching a difficult situation or solving a problem. Then there are the less obvious and sometimes unexpected outcomes. I have developed friendships, for example, that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and over the years, I have developed a network of colleagues who are now a big part of my life.

Through my work on committees and now the Governing Council, I have learned how to consider all points of view and to achieve a balance so that the decisions made by the leadership are good for the entire profession. The ACA Convention is the best place to really hear what is on the minds of members. If you don’t attend, your voice may not be heard in quite the same way.  

I always return home from the ACA Convention & Exposition renewed and full of energy. Although it can be an exhausting few days, the experience is so enriching that I am more motivated and more satisfied than ever that I chose this profession.

The “cross-pollination” that occurs at the convention is something that I truly treasure. Although my background is school counseling and administration, I love it when I find myself sitting next to a career counselor or a counselor educator or a couples counselor. It is truly amazing how our profession overlaps and how we can learn from each other. It is apparent to me that the work setting is of less significance than the opportunities to broaden my thinking. The connection we all share is our commitment to helping people throughout the life span. And that life span is on full display at the convention because of the breadth and depth of the programs selected. The ACA Convention & Exposition is a big tent, and we are all in it together. Yet we can still find our own niche within that tent!

In Detroit, I look forward to hearing the message that keynoter Linda Ellerbee has to convey. I’m also excited about interacting with colleagues from around the world and seeing the products and services on display at the exposition. I also look forward to hearing from you, finding out what concerns and daily challenges you have. Much discussion recently has centered on counseling salaries and what we might need to do as a profession to address this issue. Come to Detroit so that we can hear from you and develop an effective action plan that will lead to improvements at the local level as well as the state and federal levels. We need to tackle many issues as a profession, and the convention is an ideal place to learn about what is happening now and what we need to focus on in the future.

If you haven’t yet registered, I urge you to do so today. In fact, register by Feb. 15 and take advantage of the Advance rates! If you have never attended an ACA Convention, this is the best time to do so. You will find that we love our “first-timers.” A special First-Timers Orientation and Mentoring Luncheon is a must stop — you will find out how you can get the most out of your convention experience. Other attendees will notice your first-timer ribbon and be happy to help you become immersed in this grand gathering of thousands of counseling professionals from around the world.

If you are a student, this is the best place to explore jobs, network and mingle with some of the most well-known names in counseling. And a special Graduate Student Lounge will be your very own gathering place in Detroit!

Beginning on page 27 of this issue of Counseling Today, you will see a four-page convention mini-guide with more details and updates. You also may want to visit the convention website at www.counseling.org/convention. 

The ACA Convention & Exposition is truly the epicenter of the counseling profession for one week in March. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I look forward to seeing you there!