Next month, thousands of professional counselors and graduate students will come together in New Orleans for the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition. The registrations we have received indicate that we will be welcoming professionals from all over the country and from many parts of the world. Those who have visited New Orleans previously know a truly unique city is waiting to greet them, and those who have never been to the Big Easy … well, all I can say is buckle your seat belt and be prepared for quite a ride! New Orleans has a vibrancy that extends beyond the greatest jazz and the most amazing restaurants. It is a city with a true soul, a spirit that continues to rise up and face adversity — not unlike the counseling profession.
Many of you attending the ACA Conference will be involved in our community-wide Day of Giving Back project, which will encompass providing services in many different venues throughout New Orleans, as well as learning about community advocacy strategies that participants will be able to take back to their own cities.
I hope you are able to join us in New Orleans — and not just because we are trying to meet some financial commitment for the association. Rather, I want you there to witness the services and networking being brought about by the changing demographics we see in the ACA membership. We have an increasing number of graduate students relative to professional members. We have a number of midcareer counselors who are seeking new career paths. We also have a “graying” group of members who have seen the best of times (and perhaps the worst of times) in regard to the opportunities and challenges the counseling profession has faced over the past 60 years.
Clearly, we will have an incredible mix of professionals and students, and we hope that the Annual Conference will help to meet the needs of each unique constituency.
In January, I attended the annual conference of the American Association of State Counseling Boards. As the organization kicked off its 25th year of service (which will be observed at AASCB’s 2012 event in Charleston, S.C.), we heard from Ted Remley, the conference’s keynote speaker and AASCB’s first president. Ted made a number of interesting points as he looked back at AASCB’s history, but he also inspired the group to meet the challenges that it will face in the coming years.
Ted noted that he and his contemporaries made up the first generation of licensed counselors. Many of you in Ted’s generation recall when there was no such thing as counselor licensure and what you went through to achieve passage of that legislation. Ted asked the audience to remember that we have licensure today because counselors stepped up, faced the challenge and did something that he believes truly kept the profession alive.
Ted observed that if the profession was going to survive, it needed to work together rather than fragmenting into specialties that went off to do their own thing. Similar to how AASCB supported licensure efforts throughout the United States during the past 25 years, Ted encouraged the group to begin working on creating and supporting minimum standards for reciprocity and portability.
In New Orleans at the ACA Conference, I hope that attendees will take the time to embrace their diversity of thought, while also coming together with ideas that support a unified profession. As Ted said this past month, if the profession is going to make it, we have to work together.
As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.
Thanks and be well.