Counseling Today, From the President

The state of the association

Brian S. Canfield June 1, 2008

Because this is my last column as president of the American Counseling Association, I thought it appropriate to share some views on the state of our association. The first thing I would note is that the role of ACA remains unique. While many organizations — such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the National Board for Certified Counselors and the American Association of State Counseling Boards — as well as the 19 national divisions and 48 active branches of ACA play a critical and vital role in expanding the profession and practice of counseling in particular areas, only ACA is capable of unifying the field of counseling at the national level. As such, ACA has a leadership responsibility to work with constituent organizations to build and ensure the future of our profession. This task requires a great deal of ongoing collaboration and diplomacy.

ACA is a financially solid organization, with significant resources in reserve. To ensure our future, the ACA Financial Affairs Committee, under the leadership of ACA Treasurer David Capuzzi, has instituted

a more conservative approach to balancing income and expenses. Membership numbers are stable, and our 2008 national conference in Honolulu was one of the best on record, both in terms of financial success and positive feedback from participants.

The counseling profession continues to face many challenges. While we have achieved professional licensure in 49 states, we continue to encounter opposition from some groups that perceive the emergence of professional counseling as a threat to their own profession. This is a tired litany and an old battle, but it remains an area of concern for all professional counselors. Whether we are talking about psychiatry’s view of psychology or social work’s view of marriage and family, the history of the mental health field is one of contentious, often vicious, “turf battles.” As counselors, we must continue our efforts to break this cycle of created competition and strive to collaborate and work with our colleagues in other professions to find areas of commonality. We have made some significant gains, but much work remains to be done.

The profession of counseling in general, and ACA in particular, continues to struggle with its own sense of “professional identity.” At times, I have been critical of those who seek to employ the status and resources of ACA to further their own political and social agendas. My criticism of these efforts is not because such activities lack merit; rather, it is because such efforts are inherently divisive and distract us from our primary mission of advancing the profession and practice of professional counseling.

Efforts to take the profession down a particular political path — often perceived by many as liberal and “left leaning” — will invariably fail. Counselors are a diverse group of people, reflecting the diverse society in which we live and practice. As such, it is critical that ACA focuses on areas of interest common to all counselors. First and foremost, as counselors, we are united by our desire to help others. To do this effectively, we need ACA to champion the professional practice needs of counselors and graduate students, the vast majority of whom I believe want ACA to work proactively to ensure their ability to make a decent living as professional counselors.

In closing, I wish to express my appreciation to the ACA staff for their hard work and dedication. In particular, I would like to thank Richard Yep for his wisdom and support during this past year. We are indeed fortunate to have such a capable executive director. I would also like to thank Counseling Today editor-in-chief Jonathan Rollins for his editorial expertise and leadership.

I would like to wish my successor, Dr. Colleen Logan, the very best in her role as ACA president this coming year. Both Dr. Logan and Dr. Lynn Linde, our soon-to-be president-elect, are seasoned ACA leaders, and I know they will work diligently to advance the interests of our members and the counseling profession. I look forward to continuing to work with Colleen, Lynn and other ACA leaders in addressing the challenges facing our association.

Finally, I would like to thank you — my many friends, colleagues and fellow ACA members — for the honor and opportunity of serving as president of ACA this past year. I wish you all the very best and look forward to our continued association in the service of our clients and the counseling profession.