From the President

Unification of the profession

Cirecie West-Olatunji August 1, 2013

NCericieow that the delegates of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling have had their final deliberations, it is time for all of us to reflect on the outcomes of the labor of those individuals from 31 of the most influential organizations in counseling.

Unification of the profession? My, my, we could not find a loftier goal, and we should applaud ourselves for taking on this challenge. It is a noble act to aspire, to have ideals, to want to be better. And, developmentally, it is a timely goal. It is where we should be. However, unification requires sacrifice, meaning we must give up something, individually and collectively, in order to acquire something more, something better. Unification of the profession requires — no, mandates — that we take extraordinary measures to reach heights heretofore unknown.

None of these measures can be considered new to even the most novice counselor or counselor trainee. Quite simply, we need faith, self-awareness, authentic dialogue and just enough humility to entertain the possibility that we could be in error from time to time. If we can be united as a profession, we can be stronger within the larger mental health community and advocate for practitioners and clients. With unification comes a clearer identity, increased self-confidence and augmented respect from others.

To attain unity, we need to have faith. This faith needs to begin with a belief in ourselves, each other, the process and the possibility that we can be successful. Unity requires each of us believing we can be better. It requires that we embrace change, no matter how daunting. Ultimately, as is the case for many of our clients, the absence of change must become more frightening than the process of change itself. Also, trust in each other is warranted. Old wounds are sometimes hard to heal, especially when they have been passed down from mentor to mentee over decades. Such transgenerational mistrust is a disservice to ourselves, our students and the profession. As such, we must embrace the difficulties and rejoice in the benefits. Additionally, I think sometimes the mere idea that we might unify is intimidating to us. After all, unification, no matter how laudable, still represents the unknown.

Second, to achieve unity, it is imperative that we focus on being self-aware. So many pitfalls exist that prevent us from checking in with ourselves to see if the problem is our own solipsism. Our own realities can sometimes loom so large that we drown out everything else. Self-awareness is the first step toward co-constructing new knowledge, going boldly where, collectively, we have not gone before. Thinking before speaking and reflecting before acting can aid us in the journey toward unification. We must first conduct a quick inventory of our thoughts and feelings in order to genuinely relate to each other, especially when discussing topics about which we are so passionate.

Only after we increase our self-awareness can we strive toward authentic dialogue. Human beings are wired for relationships; indeed, we thrive when we relate to one another. Authentic dialogue means that we are open and vulnerable to each other’s lived experiences, to our human drama. As such, authentic dialogue can be seen as the height of human relational behavior. Unification of the profession can be expedited through a commitment to genuineness and respect.

Finally, we are more likely to achieve unity if we reserve even a modicum of humility in our dialogue to consider the possibility that someone else has a clearer understanding of an issue than we do. Such humility allows us to see ourselves more clearly and, sometimes, even laugh at ourselves.

Human beings are amazing in that we can mold our destinies through our ascending or descending possibilities. I see the work of the 20/20 initiative as demonstrative of our ascending possibilities as a profession. Now it’s time for us to light a candle, burn sage, cross our fingers, say a prayer, sit in silence, meditate … you get my drift. The choice is up to us — all of us.

1 Comment

  1. Larry Epp

    I agree with the sentiments of this distinguished leader in the counseling profession. However, what is most noteworthy to me is what she left unspoken.

    Regrettably, CACREP has initiated a race to the very depths of academic pettiness. Since APA and NASW Programs discriminate against counselor educators, CACREP feels our professional identity would be enhanced if we discriminate against non-counselor educators as core faculty in our counseling programs. While not transparent to most of our profession, it is this very issue that is the sticking point for why we cannot have uniform national standards.

    It is my belief that we should not try to emulate the other mental health professions, but we should seek to truly embody the compassionate spirit of Carl Rogers and become kinder, more tolerant, and more embracing of the many strands of professional identity that compose our profession. It may come as a surprise to many that if Carl Rogers, as a psychologist, were alive today, he may not have an easy time securing a core faculty position in a CACREP program.

    The thinking of CACREP must change if all the sub-specialties of professional counseling are to find a home in its accreditation. CACREP must dispel its rhetoric of superiority, which has no empirical base, but ends up dividing the profession into competing camps. Counselors have triumphed in their battles with psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists for professional identity. What is most regrettable is that the CACREP controversy has pitted counselor against counselor; and we all know that in a war against ourselves, only our profession loses.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *