April is Counselor Awareness month and, even as we try to raise the awareness level of those outside of the profession, we should continue to learn more about each other. For example, the actions the American Counseling Association is taking on behalf of all of its members include submitting recommendations regarding the overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) and, most recently, the letter I wrote to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer asking her to veto a bill that would have allowed businesses in that state to cite religious beliefs as reason for denying service to individuals.
Lately, I have been receiving email messages, telephone calls and requests for meetings related to counselor advocacy. Almost all of these entreaties consist of questions regarding job opportunities, particularly related to the Department of Veterans Affairs, TRICARE and, now, the possibility of a Medicare bill that would include licensed professional counselors as independent service providers. As I review the communiqués that ACA has shared during the past two years (and over multiple ACA presidencies), it is clear that the staff and our volunteer leaders have consistently sent out a message of inclusion and commitment to all of our members. Information has been provided through multiple communication venues, including on our website, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages. In this month’s column, I have decided to include an open letter to the ACA membership regarding our commitment to serving ALL of our members.
Dear ACA members,
Many updates have been posted and printed to provide transparency in the efforts to lobby for increased opportunities for all of our members, both CACREP and non-CACREP graduates alike. Unfortunately, the current discourse among some of our members about ACA volunteer and staff advocacy efforts often lacks accuracy. Specifically, there is an erroneous belief that ACA is not acting on behalf of all of its members. Thus, we see complaints about CACREP in our forums. I encourage members to direct their concerns about CACREP to the CACREP leadership as I have done on numerous occasions in my role as president on behalf of ACA members.
I encourage our members to review the reports emanating from the Government Affairs office at ACA headquarters under the direction of Art Terrazas, the Public Policy and Legislation Committee under the direction of Bill Green and numerous publications in Counseling Today, the website and our social media sites. The ACA staff and volunteer leadership have been transparent in sharing their efforts to lobby on behalf of members. It is our duty to read these documents and become familiar with our advocacy efforts. I have also seen the staff as receptive to new ideas and responsive to crises at the state level.
While visiting with state branches this past fall and winter, I have reminded individuals that ACA is a membership organization. Thus, we depend upon the creativity and resourcefulness of our members to be engaged and active in advancing the profession. If you have solutions to the critical issues we are facing as an organization, I urge you — no, I implore you — to bring forth those solutions so that we can expeditiously move forward in expanding opportunities for professional counselors.
Thank you for reaching out to me. I am encouraged by your passion and commitment to the profession. I hope that you become motivated to join the movement toward increased opportunity.
Cirecie West-Olatunji, Ph.D.
President, ACA (2013-2014)
Follow Cirecie on Twitter: @Dr_CWO