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Uncovering counseling’s past

By Bethany Bray July 30, 2014

Counselors are often urging their clients to learn from their past, to reflect on the decisions they have made and to consider how they have grown and changed.

That lesson could – and should — be applied to the profession itself, according to the Historical HistoryIssues in Counseling Network.

The 25-member group, one of 17 interest networks open to members of the American Counseling Association, focuses on researching, highlighting and preserving the counseling profession’s history.

Knowing the profession’s full history and identity can help shape its future, contends network leader William “Chris” Briddick.

Briddick, an associate professor of counseling at South Dakota State University, says there is a great deal about counseling’s history that is yet to be uncovered and archived.

The interest network is always happy to welcome fellow counselors who have questions and who are eager to help in the search.


Q+A: Historical Issues and Counseling Network

Responses from group leader Chris Briddick


Why should counselors be aware of and interested in this area?

The field of counseling has a remarkable history, some of which we know, and the rest which is awaiting our discovery. Some of the things we thought we knew about our profession historically have in recent years been reexamined and, in some instances, revised. Other pieces of history have been further illuminated and more clearly defined.


What are some current issues or hot topics you’ve been discussing?

At present, there aren’t necessarily any pressing issues. It is really up to those interested in history to help define topics of interest. Certainly, a few come to mind: counselor education programs and their history; ethics; licensure and accreditation; trends and issues of different decades (what were the major trends and issues and when?).


What challenges do counselors face in this area?

Like just about everybody, counselors are pretty lax in preserving their history. Psychology has archives. I think it is time counseling establishes its own archives somewhere, a place where historical documents, recordings, photos, etc., can be preserved for future generations.


What’s going on in this area?

[When] we look at history, we tend to look at what has gone on and perhaps make some statements about where we have been and where we might like to go. I don’t know [if] a lot is going on, other than looking at what has already happened. As for me personally, I tend to take my time with history. Part of the fun of studying history is the “digging around” you get to do in terms of locating materials. I will say [that] in recent years, technology has proven to be a really good friend in that regard to those of us interested in history.


What are some trends you’re seeing?

The word trend is tricky because by definition it can point to a general direction of movement or it can also be used to talk about what is fashionable at a particular point in time. I would like to think counseling is more concerned with its general direction and destinations and less about looking fashionable. I think there is evidence to suggest that we are wrestling with important HistoryStraightAheadissues and still working on identity as individual practitioners but also as a profession.

A trend I have encountered that I really like is a return to talking more about our future as a profession. The recent collaborative effort for the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling [initiative] is hopefully something that down the road is seen as historically significant in the further growth and development of our profession. I remember a more individualized piece from awhile ago in Counseling Today where Lynne Shallcross pulled together comments from key leaders in the profession providing glimpses of the future in an article entitled “What the future holds for the counseling profession.”  I know that sounds odd coming from someone interested in history, but some of our greatest history is achieved when we work hard in the present to get the future right. In our case, that means serving our clients and making a positive difference in the lives of others. Time will tell. I maintain that history, in this case, may well be on our side.


What does a new counselor need to know about this topic?

New counselors need to know that they are a part of a great profession that is trying to catch up on its history. They also need to know that the profession needs help in discovering its history. Part of your identity as a counselor comes with the realization that you are a part of something amazing that is way bigger than you. Personally and professionally, it’s something each of us can celebrate.


What does a more experienced counselor need to know?

See the above response for new counselors.


What are some tips or insights you’d give regarding this area that could be useful to all counselor practitioners?

We have a great history that is awaiting our attention. Think about questions you might have about our profession’s history and then dig in! Go to work seeking answers to those questions, but keep in mind it may take you awhile to discover those answers. Not everybody will choose to do that, but those who do are welcome to join us on our quest.


What makes you, personally, interested in this area?

I have had a couple of incredible mentors along the way — Roger Aubrey and, more recently, Mark Savickas — who taught me the significance of our professional history. Their respect and enthusiasm for the topic were transformational for me. I sat down, started working and made a habit of looking back.






ACA’s 17 interest networks, from sports counseling and animal-assisted therapy to traumatology and veterans issues, are open to any ACA member.

For more information or to get involved, see






Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at



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