Each year, July marks a “new beginning” for the American Counseling Association. This is when we welcome a whole new cadre of volunteer leaders to the national, regional, divisional and branch positions within the organization. As we thank those who have served during the past 12 months for their service, this new group of leaders approaches their appointments with energy, enthusiasm,
heightened engagement and a commitment to do their very best. It’s like a cycle of life and, after more than 25 years on staff, I still get a sense of renewed hope that these bright and intelligent individuals will continue to move the association and the counseling profession forward.
I have had the opportunity to work with our new president, Thelma Duffey, for a number of years. I believe she is the proverbial “right person at the right time” to lead ACA as its 64th president. Thelma is an active listener, collaborative in her endeavors, supportive of new professionals and fiercely proud to call herself a professional counselor.
In addition to President Duffey, there are literally thousands of volunteers serving at all levels of ACA and throughout outside organizations with which we share common concerns and mutual areas of interest. Of course, there are challenges each year when operating as part of such a large group. It is similar to being part of a very large family at Thanksgiving. Although we can agree to the menu, there are many ways to cook a turkey. For all of the positive gains the counseling profession has made throughout its history, one must realize that discussion, deliberation, debate and, more than likely, doubt were involved. Our work is so important — at points even groundbreaking — that it will always include some type of conflict and consternation.
Now for some truth in advertising. I freely admit to being somewhat conflict averse. I would much rather keep everyone around the table happy and moving forward, even if it means biting a hole in my tongue. But let’s face it — good, solid and meaningful work can be messy. I’ve learned that one needs to be prepared for the muck. It’s kind of like being at the start of a roller coaster ride. You know there will be some highs, lows and stomach-turning twists, but after a few minutes, you will arrive at a destination that is on solid ground. Currently, the many volunteer leaders who constitute various counseling entities are grappling with choices and decisions that ultimately will make the profession stronger and provide it with an even more solid identity, both for those within the profession and for our various constituent groups. But reaching the agreed-upon goals will take some heavy lifting and perhaps some compromise on everyone’s part.
More truth in advertising: I am an optimist at heart. I am confident that as ACA and its various partners confront the challenges around professional identity, counselor preparation, license portability, independent practice and ensuring the continued viability of the profession, we will emerge even stronger to provide critical services to society well into the middle and later parts of the 21st century.
When I look at those taking leadership roles in ACA and within our divisions, regions and branches, I see great things ahead. And although they are independent of ACA, when I look at the leadership of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and its affiliate, the Council on Rehabilitation Education, the National Board for Certified Counselors, the American Association of State Counseling Boards and a number of other kindred organizations, I see
even better times ahead for the members of ACA.