The year has flown by very quickly and we have accomplished a great deal together, both as the American Counseling Association family and the larger counseling profession. There are many accomplishments I would like to share with you and many people to thank in the brief space available, but let me start by saying that ACA is on its strongest financial footing in many years. Our membership recently surpassed 52,700 individuals, reflecting a modern-day record of 25 straight months of membership increases. Denise Brown, Carol Neiman and the rest of the membership staff are magnificent examples of ACA’s “can do” attitude. We must do well as a business to do “good” as a profession, and our strong financial position means we have many years of promoting good works ahead of us. I am eternally grateful to ACA Treasurer Lynn Linde and ACA Chief Financial Officer Deb Barnes for their incredible fiscal stewardship.
I am exceedingly pleased with a half dozen new initiatives accomplished this year. First, the new and greatly improved ACA website, which officially went live in March, looks spectacular and is far easier to navigate than its predecessor. Second, ACA created the Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research under the capable leadership of David Kaplan and Will Stroble, two of the six counseling professionals on staff at ACA. One of the center’s first initiatives was the Practice Briefs Project. These practice briefs provide concise information on counseling topics that keep practitioners current with research-based practice. Each brief is packed with information and linked to additional web-based resources. The first dozen briefs, on topics ranging from posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide intervention to intimate partner violence and adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, already have been posted to the website; there are plans to add several dozen more throughout the next year. This series was edited by Victoria Kress, Catharina Chang, Rick Balkin, Joshua Watson and Skip Niles.
A third initiative involved giving a larger voice and role to our student members, and I am pleased to announce that Anna Flores Locke was elected the first voting student representative to the ACA Governing Council. The fourth initiative was wide-scale implementation of the ACA mentoring program, a project developed by the ACA Graduate Student Committee under the outstanding leadership of Nicole Adamson (the first ACA student member to chair an ACA standing committee) and Victoria Kress. To date, more than 200 mentor/mentee matches have been made, and the program is off to an exceptional start. If you would like to become a mentor to the next generation of professional counselors, see counseling.org/aca-community/mentoring-program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and change the world!
The fifth initiative was the appointment of an ACA Task Force on Leadership Development under the leadership of Jane Goodman. This task force identified more than 40 emerging ACA leaders, and these individuals are being nurtured and encouraged to become more active in ACA leadership at every level.
A final initiative just now getting off the ground is related to this month’s cover story topic: What does counseling look like globally? ACA is deeply interested in helping to develop counseling around the globe and has several international counseling initiatives in the works. Key among these is developing the capacity to offer electronic international memberships to counseling professionals and students in developing countries within a cost structure that is sensitive to economic realities. Through the outstanding effort of Daya Singh Sandhu, we have established an International Counseling Interest Network that is poised to become an organizational affiliate and, eventually, an ACA division. Counseling has gone global, and ACA can play a key role in nurturing the counseling movement around the world. I was delighted to meet so many international students at the ACA Conference & Expo in Cincinnati, an event seamlessly implemented by ACA staff under the leadership of the incomparable Robin Hayes, Theresa Holmes and Trinh Le.
On the subject of new organizational entities, please join me in welcoming our 20th ACA division, the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling. In addition, the Traumatology Interest Network is petitioning to become an organizational affiliate, also with hopes of becoming a division of ACA. The future of our profession is evolving, and ACA is growing and changing along with it.
Although a number of new initiatives were begun and accomplished, another very important initiative sponsored by ACA and the American Association of State Counseling Boards was brought to a successful conclusion. The 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative began in fall 2005 with a meeting of the Steering Committee, but it truly got under way in earnest when the 30 original delegates convened for the first time in Montréal in March 2006. The goal of 20/20 was simple: to work together as colleagues from diverse counseling constituencies and backgrounds to forge consensus on issues of importance to the future of our counseling profession. We have accomplished a great deal since that inception: a consensus definition of counseling; consensus principles for unifying the profession; a consensus licensure title; a consensus scope of practice; and a consensus endorsement of the concept of a single counseling accrediting organization. This year we celebrate the culmination of seven years of work to ensure that the future of our counseling profession is far better than the one we leave behind.
All of this progress, these changes and initiatives, would not be possible without the superb support and skills of ACA’s incredible 64 staff members and the best executive director in the world, Rich Yep. I have known and worked with Rich in leadership for more than a dozen years. I recently had the opportunity to observe him in his role as a volunteer leader in his own professional organization, the American Society of Association Executives. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has worked closely with Rich that he is as revered in ASAE as he is in ACA. We are truly fortunate to have an executive director with Rich’s skills and panache at the helm of ACA. Change is a natural part of life, and Rich is prepared to guide us through whatever transitions lie ahead. And there will be many.
My son runs track, the 400- and 800-meter distances, at his university. I never really considered track to be a “team sport” the way basketball and football are, but track clearly is a team effort when it comes to the relays. Every member of the relay team has the responsibility to move as fast as they can during their leg of the race and then to ensure a smooth handoff of the baton to the next runner. I have witnessed disastrous handoffs and marveled at others that seemed like poetry in motion. Once the handoff has been accomplished, all eyes focus on the next runner (as they should). Rarely do spectators notice the exhausted runner who just finished and is now gasping for air and coping with the aftereffects.
July 1 marks the 61st ACA baton handoff, as Cirecie West-Olatunji becomes the 62nd president of ACA. Cirecie and I have worked side by side over the past four years on Governing Council, and her stated goals of promoting mentoring, volunteerism, leadership development and the internationalization of counseling are fully supported by leadership and staff. We all look forward to another strong year of progress on these and other strategic initiatives under Cirecie’s very capable leadership.
On July 1, as Cirecie takes off full speed for the next leg, I will be that exhausted runner on the sideline. But rather than gasping and doubling over, I will feel immense gratitude for the accomplishments we achieved and the transparent, respectful and professional way in which these accomplishments came to fruition. I will also feel greatly relieved knowing that you — our ACA members, future leaders, current leaders and outstanding staff members — will continue to give it your all as we continue our journey to build and transform the counseling profession.
As is always the case, I am sure I have missed some colleagues specifically deserving of thanks. After all, I am getting old and my memory is waning. ACA president years seem to me a lot like dog years; I feel like I have aged about a decade in the past dozen months. And as my grandma used to say, “There are two things you always remember about getting older. Memory is the second thing to go … and I can’t remember the first.” So I want to close this final column by saying, “Thank you!” for all that you do to keep elevating the counseling profession to greater and greater levels of respect, dignity and competent performance! All the best! — Brad