Can you believe how the year has just flown by and that this is my last column to you?
As I contemplated what I would say, so many thoughts flooded my mind that I wondered how I could pull them all together and still stay within my limited word count. One of the first things I did was review my goals statement and my responses to the questions asked of all the ACA presidential candidates when I was seeking this office. I smiled when I realized how energetic, enthusiastic and lofty those goals were for someone serving in this role for only one year. Yes, when you run for this office, you understand that you are making a three-year commitment (inclusive of your year as president-elect and another year as immediate past president), but you are only president for a limited amount of time. Take my word for it, the clock goes by very fast! You have the opportunity to effect change, but not to the extent I had hoped.
Let me begin by saying what an honor it has been to serve as your president. This has been a phenomenal year, and I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people. When you make the decision to serve in this capacity, so many considerations must be evaluated, including the impact that service will have on your “real” job and your family. You also must determine whether you can exert a positive influence during your time of service.
As I delved into my true reasons for wanting to be the president of a 45,000-member organization, my thinking encompassed the leaders I had been exposed to in the past as well as the question of what I could possibly do differently. One of my primary goals was to inspire others to seek leadership opportunities. Whether this leadership manifested itself at the local, branch, region or division level, I wanted to encourage more diversity around the leadership table. I hoped through the simplicity of my story, others would be moved to realize their potential for leadership as well.
At the ACA Annual Conference in New Orleans, I received overwhelming confirmation of this goal being accomplished. This confirmation came from young and mature counselors alike who came up to me and thanked me for my example of leadership. It came in the form of the many hugs I received and the pictures I took with those who felt comfortable enough to approach me and ask. It came from the many individuals who talked about their struggles as minority counselors — whether because of their race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability — and how they felt inspired to do more for the profession through advocacy and seeking leadership opportunities. These wonderful counselors simultaneously exuded a feeling of hope and the courage to risk having their voices heard.
I cried through some of the hugs, tears and stories that some of you chose to share with me, and I want to send a big Thank You to each of you and let you know how much that meant to me and to my personal growth this year. I might not have accomplished all of my lofty goals, but something happened along this journey that has impacted my heart, and that has been due to your personal stories. So, I am sending another big hug your way!
Mentioning goals, this has been a phenomenal year for your association. We have experienced a 6 percent increase in membership; the finances are in great shape; we held the most well-attended conference in more than a decade; plans were initiated for the establishment of a research and policy center; international collaborations are at a historically high level; disaster and crisis protocols are being developed; a task force is being appointed to work on a revision of our ACA Code of Ethics; ACA provided feedback concerning proposed revisions for the fifth edition of theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; technology innovations are being incorporated into how we operate as an organization; graduate student initiatives are under way; and I could go on and on.
Needless to say, these things did not happen because of my leadership. I am sure you are familiar with the adage “It takes a village.” Well, that is an understatement for ACA. The people who were instrumental in all the successes of this past year include our awesome staff under the leadership of Richard Yep. Also, the Governing Council will continue to ensure that your needs are heard under the experienced leadership of Incoming President Don Locke. Your division, region and branch leaders continue to be phenomenal as well.
In the coming months, you will hear from the outstanding candidates who are running for the office of ACA president. I urge you to look for those who are enthusiastic about serving you in this profession. I know I am leaving you in capable hands, and I look forward to the upcoming leadership of Drs. Locke and Bradley Erford, your incoming president-elect.
Again, thank you for this honor, and I hope to see you next year at the ACA Conference in San Francisco!