The two major party candidates for president of the United States consistently speak of the change they would bring to the office should they be elected. In fact, had the word “change” been monitored in political speeches over the past year, I am sure it would be among the top two or three words used.
Change is part of our culture at the American Counseling Association. In fact, it was the genesis of how our organization was founded. Four distinct counseling-related groups came together 56 years ago to unite as a single voice to advocate for counseling and to strengthen the profession. The leaders behind that move in 1952 displayed a wisdom that was both progressive and forward thinking.
Fast forward to 2008 and look at how that cutting-edge organization is currently doing. We have more than 40,000 members, 30 active branches, 19 divisions and several interest networks. You can join ACA or renew your membership via the phone, mail or Internet. Our publications operation is highly regarded and yields 10 to 12 new books each year.
Why am I referencing the growth and development of the ACA that I (and many of you) have grown up in during the past several years? Because I think that if our founding mothers and fathers saw what we have become, they would be vastly disappointed. Rather than being “forward thinking,” parts of our association continue to see how we can fit current membership needs and wants into a model created when many of us were still in elementary school — or not even born yet.
How in the world can we continue to operate without better responding to the needs, wants and professional desires of our members and potential members? It is time to allow those traditional structures, rules, methods and policies to move from “current operating procedure” to the archives. I think most of us know how much we owe to those who have gone before us. Those who helped to create ACA identified a need and, with bold action, met the challenge to grow and develop the profession of counseling. As stewards of the organization, we should be doing nothing less.
If ACA is to survive (and thrive), then bold changes will be needed. These changes must be accomplished through careful planning and consensus building — and accompanied by the courage to leave antiquated models of service delivery behind. This will not be an easy task. Likely, there will be those who choose not to continue playing on “our team.” As we move forward, however, we must be cognizant of remaining inclusive, welcoming divergent points of view and understanding what the profession needs both now and into the future.
While we need to embrace “change,” we must begin our work within the framework of what already exists — our current policies, procedures and bylaws. To do otherwise would be selfish and could lead to our association’s premature demise. I think you will agree that would not be a good thing.
I am hopeful the leadership-staff team we have in place will look at where we are, what we have to work with and what changes will be needed. In fact, I know they can do this. However, the resulting product will be only as good as the data on which decisions are based. So, to reiterate what I always say in this column, let us know what you think!
As ACA moves through 2008 and into 2009, I am confident you will see positive and meaningful developments in your professional organization. I thank you for being a member of ACA and look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.
I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.
Thanks and be well.