Former presidents of the American Counseling Association informed me that the time in this office would fly by faster than one could imagine. I now know this to be true, considering that I am writing my third column, which indicates that nearly a quarter of the 2014-2015 presidency has been completed. Yet I feel good about what has transpired to this point during my brief tenure. Some very significant task forces are already working on the most salient ACA concerns. My directive to each group is to present options to the Governing Council and ACA membership that will continue to move the association and the counseling profession forward. My expectation is to see concrete action at our Governing Council meeting held during the 2015 conference in Orlando, Florida. In the meantime, I will share updates of these activities in this column and other ACA outlets.
This month, however, I would like to share some thoughts about ACA members that have been reinforced for me while serving as your president. Four fundamental and significant characteristics are evident.
- First, ACA members are a caring group of professionals with a positive orientation. You care deeply about those you serve, your colleagues and the counseling profession.
- Second, ACA members are high-energy, articulate individuals. It therefore behooves all those in leadership positions to listen to you and tap into your energy.
- Third, ACA members recognize the significance of diversity and adaptability, along with unity and cohesiveness. We are a diverse group with a wide range of ideas. At the end of the day, however, we recognize the importance of unity and cohesiveness when responding to external challenges.
- Fourth, ACA is blessed with a significant number of outstanding leaders. Leaders range from the very seasoned to those who are emerging. Our leadership styles are diverse, and this diversity is demonstrated at every level. Our future as an organization is bright, as is the future of the counseling profession because of our volunteer leaders and ACA’s emphasis on preparing these leaders.
This last point was evident during the Institute for Leadership Training (ILT) held in Washington, D.C., in July. This year, ILT participants met jointly with the ACA Governing Council. For those unfamiliar with the ILT, ACA founded the institute to bring together leaders from the regions, branches and divisions to enhance their leadership skills, promote the counseling profession and meet with legislators to advocate on behalf of counselors. This year’s advocacy efforts included calling on Congress to demand that more licensed professional counselors (LPCs) are hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs, rallying support for the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program and building support for legislation that would provide reimbursement of LPCs as providers covered by Medicare.
I look forward to continually addressing these and other challenges while serving as your president. The ILT is just one example of ACA and its members working on behalf of professional counselors. Likewise, I know many of you are working in support of the counseling profession, perhaps quietly in your local setting or with students and fellow counselors, with your state legislators, or on special committees or commissions that influence decisions that affect our clients and professional counselors. Please share what you are doing through the various ACA outlets, demonstrating examples of working to create a better life for those in need, as well as advocating for professional counselors so they have the opportunity to use their skills and training to assist others.
Robert L. Smith, Ph.D.
Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.