Greetings, fellow counselors. I am on an airplane returning from Singapore as I write this column, inspired by the experience and mindful of the great energy around me. A small group of us from the United States participated in the first American Counseling Association-Asia Pacific Counseling Conference and met with counselors, students and professional leaders from throughout the area. It was a wonderful thing to see people from across the globe, representing 12 countries, invested in the profession of counseling, sharing their ideas and areas of research, and seeking information and new knowledge.
I was taken by the positive energy, the humble appreciation and the keen interest in learning that so many attendees communicated. Participants would come up after the sessions and discuss their cultures and the ways that the information could be adapted to their worlds. The exchanges were hopeful, truly genuine and mutually respectful. There can be wonderful synergy when counselors come together, and this experience was both celebratory and a clear reflection of its benefits.
Two weeks before leaving for Singapore, I spent several days in a setting with a starkly different purpose: consulting with teachers, staff, administrators and families in Newtown, Connecticut. I didn’t know much about Newtown and its village of Sandy Hook prior to the horrific school shootings that took place there on Dec. 14, 2012. Since then, of course, the community’s courage, pain and efforts toward recovery have become well known.
I was asked to travel to Newtown, and I invited three counselors to join me. With the able coordination and collaboration of the Newtown Recovery and Resiliency Team, we were immersed in an experience that simultaneously left me in awe of the human spirit and reminded me of how challenging life can be. It also left me with a deep sense of humility and gratitude — for my life, for those I love, for my profession and for this day. Through our work, we are reminded that life can turn on a dime. We belong to a profession that regularly reminds us of what is important. I see this as a definite benefit of being a counselor.
Counseling is a wonderful profession — one that we must safeguard, support and advance. As we seek to do this, I am inspired by my two recent experiences. I believe that if, like our colleagues in Singapore, we come together with positive energy, humble appreciation, respect and a keen interest in learning ways to be resourceful and solve problems, we can be successful. And if we allow the Sandy Hook community and the very capable counselors who are leading the way there to provide some perspective, I believe it will encourage us to be mindful of how privileged we ultimately are and that we can work through any challenges we encounter.
In July, counselors and students from across the country will come together at the ACA Institute for Leadership Training (ILT) to share ideas, learn from one another and advocate on behalf of professional counselors everywhere. Together we will meet with legislators on Capitol Hill and let them know about the many contributions that counselors make across diverse settings. We will join in advocacy for counselors’ inclusion in national initiatives and legislation related to mental health. I will have an opportunity to discuss in detail the goals and possibilities for the professional advocacy and anti-bullying/interpersonal violence initiatives I have proposed for this year, and I will engage with ILT participants on ways to invite and include all interested counselors. In turn, I look forward to sharing the progress of these initiatives with you as they unfold.
Beginning in September, there will be a column in Counseling Today and information on the ACA website detailing the work that counselors are doing on behalf of our profession and our communities through these initiatives. Please follow these updates and consider finding ways to contribute and connect. I believe that as we collectively advocate for our profession, and as we collaborate in social action in our communities, we will not only strengthen our profession and the communities we serve, we will also forge bonds and strengthen our professional relationships. Good relationships are not only enjoyable but also help us find common ground when challenges arise. And through our relationships, we set the stage for creative problem-solving and for the synergy that makes things happen!
This can be a year of powerful impact. Who must we be to do this? Counselors coming together.
With thanks and appreciation,