On occasion, even the best counselors in the field find themselves feeling stagnant or bogged down by routine — stuck in a box rather than thinking outside the box and trying new things with clients. A new joint initiative launched by the American Counseling Association and the Association for Creativity in Counseling, a division of ACA, should help counselors get “unstuck” — or simply inspire them to try interventions they haven’t thought about before.
The ACA-ACC Creative Interventions and Activities Clearinghouse, which will be housed in ACA’s online library at counseling.org, will showcase creative activities and interventions that professional counselors have developed for the use of other professional counselors. One of the clearinghouse’s main purposes is to serve as an idea and information exchange across counseling settings, including mental health counseling, private practice, rehabilitation counseling, counselor education and school counseling.
Both ACA members and nonmembers can submit activities and interventions. However, only ACA members can access the clearinghouse.
“ACA and divisions like ACC are always looking for collaborative ways to meet the professional needs of members and the academic, career and personal/social needs of clients and students,” ACA President Bradley T. Erford says. “We are focused on helping professional counselors provide more effective and creative ways to meet the counseling goals of clients and students and to make their lives more productive and meaningful. … This clearinghouse was developed by counselors [and] for counselors in order to help counselors more quickly and creatively find activities and interventions to better the lives of clients and students.”
ACC reached out to ACA with the desire to collaborate on the initiative. Thelma Duffey, founding president of ACC and ACC’s current representative on the ACA Governing Council, says the clearinghouse felt like a logical next step, both in ACC’s development and in promoting creative interventions throughout the counseling profession.
“ACC’s roots began with a series of conferences designed to present interesting, novel and relationally focused interventions and practices,” she says. “Eight years ago, ACC became a division developed for students, counselors and counselor educators to share creative and innovative resources and information. At that time, ACC’s flagship journal, the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, which publishes research, practice and theory-based manuscripts, was also launched. We have been so pleased by the membership’s response to these resources and to the steady energy and investment in this aspect of our professional practice. We now look forward to providing new helpful and practical resources to the ACA membership. ACC is excited to collaborate with ACA on this project.”
Will Stroble, director of ACA’s Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research, says members can expect to receive information on activities and interventions that are not taught in graduate school programs. “Typically, these types of activities and interventions must be bought, developed by counselors or learned from [other] practitioners,” he says. “As a new service, ACA members will get activities that include new modalities, creative experiences, discussions, readings and handouts.”
In addition, the activities are arranged by practice setting, Duffey says. “We have collected a number of activities and interventions for use in individual, family, couple and group settings, as well as in the classroom,” she says. “Music, film and literature are just a few of the media that members can find in the clearinghouse. Students and counselor educators [will] find a number of experiential activities focused on self-awareness, relational connectedness, diversity, ethical decision-making, and other related skills and competencies. Practitioners will find a wealth of resources related to a number of mental health topics such as grief and loss, self-esteem, goal setting, and personal growth and development.”
ACA members and nonmembers alike have asked for this type of information when contacting the ACA library in the past, Stroble says, making it easy to identify an existing need. “Counselors have routinely requested activities and interventions they could utilize in their counseling sessions with clients,” he says. “So often, other counseling practitioners and colleagues are doing great things in the profession, but very few counselors know about the great things [their professional peers] are doing. Through the clearinghouse project, information and knowledge will be shared. This information and knowledge will reach a wider audience than would otherwise be served.”
“The counseling profession is continuing to evolve,” Stroble continues. “New activities, models and interventions are always being developed. Graduate programs are not always able to teach all the new strategies and activities to students as they matriculate through their programs. In addition, attending conferences is not always possible for practitioners either, so this service will ideally fill the gap for our members.”
As Stroble points out, the ACA-ACC Creative Interventions and Activities Clearinghouse also provides counselors with an opportunity to give back to the profession by contributing their own ideas and adding to the ever-growing body of knowledge in the counseling profession.
Those behind the clearinghouse hope the resource will also help counselors to expand on their own individual knowledge while adding some useful tools to their repertoire.
“As counselors, we are grounded in our theoretical frameworks and at times seek techniques or interventions that resonate with those frameworks,” Duffey says. “As we search through the clearinghouse, we may find novel and theoretically compatible ideas to implement in our work. Our hope is that the clearinghouse will grow into a large database of activities and interventions grounded in counseling practice and education. We envision it as an international repository of counseling materials that is organized and easily accessible.”
Duffey believes the clearinghouse will attract members from all divisions and regions of ACA because it represents a unique resource for counselors across various settings and specialties.
“For one, the submission process is peer-reviewed and standardized, while supporting and encouraging the dissemination of innovative activities and interventions,” she says. “Second, the clearinghouse provides convenient access to practice-focused materials. Practitioners who may not be able to participate in national conferences because of their schedule demands or who may be less focused on research can connect with and learn from others around the world. Our hope is that practitioners who have a wealth of information and experience will take the time to share their approaches and participate in a forum they can access from their homes and practices. Finally, at a time when a focus on research and practice are both valued and needed in our profession, this resource could provide a way for practitioners and researchers to collaborate toward that end.”
Counselors interested in submitting an intervention or activity for possible inclusion in the ACA-ACC Creative Interventions and Activities Clearinghouse can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800.347.6647 ext. 281.
Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at email@example.com.
Letters to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.