Counseling Today, From the President

From the president: Intentional collaboration at all levels

By Robert L. Smith September 26, 2014

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Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., ACA 63rd President

Those of you who have been following the From the President columns lately are probably familiar with the global theme of intentional collaboration that I have been emphasizing. In this column, I’d like to offer a more in-depth review of this concept, while also looking at the importance of infusing intentional collaboration in all aspects of our lives, both within and outside of what we do as professional counselors and educators.

Intentionality can have a number of different meanings. In this column and others, I refer to intentionality as involving thoughtfulness, contemplation, planning and purposeful action that can lead to the empowerment of individuals or groups of individuals. Collaboration involves working with other individuals or groups to achieve a desired goal. This can involve two or more organizations internal to the American Counseling Association, such as the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, Counselors for Social Justice and the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, or external organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).       

Most collaboration requires leadership, which can take place at a number of levels. At the ACA presidential level, a current example involves inviting projects from ACA divisions that will increase their membership and strengthen their relevance. These projects, funded by ACA and reviewed by the ACA Executive Committee and ACA staff, are intended to strengthen the infrastructure of our organization — in this case, our divisions. By the time this column is published, division presidents will have received proposal forms and instructions so that their divisions can take action.

Intentional external collaboration involves ACA working with closely related professional associations such as APA and AAMFT. Because of ACA’s current status and phenomenal growth, we can participate on equal footing and with equal voice with all other associations. Recently, I had successful meetings with APA leadership, particularly those involved in the Society of Counseling Psychology, to discuss current issues and future collaborative efforts. I look forward to continuing this collaboration at the society’s upcoming summit, just as I look forward to continuing the collaboration with AAMFT later this year at its annual conference. These represent only two examples of the many organizations that are significant to ACA’s present and future and with which ACA continues to work.

The cover story in this issue of Counseling Today focuses on our work with families. Cohesion and adaptability, concepts associated with the circumplex model of marital and family systems, are often included when discussing healthy families. Cohesion focuses on the ability of a couple and family system to balance separateness. Adaptability, as it relates to a family system, is the ability of a family to change its structure, roles, rules, behaviors and response patterns when confronted with challenging situations and life stressors. Adaptability is considered a measure of a system’s ability to adjust to change.

These concepts also have relevance for healthy organizations. In the field of organizational management, adaptability can be seen as an ability to change in order to stay relevant and meet existing needs. If ACA and professional counselors are to solve current issues, whether it’s inclusion of our services under Medicare, hiring within the Department of Veterans Affairs or funding for school counseling, it would be wise for our collaborative efforts to be cohesive and for our subsequent actions to be appropriately adaptive. These are tall orders, but the goals are worth striving for as we collaborate to accomplish those things we would like to see changed in our professional and personal lives, whether they relate to organizations, families or individuals.

All the best,

Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., NCC

ACA 63rd President

Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.

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