We need only to open a newspaper, tune in to the nightly news on TV or visit a website highlighting the day’s news to learn about amazing people who consider themselves ordinary but do extraordinary things. I’m not referring to athletes who set new records or titans of business who command salaries in the millions. Nope, I’m talking about those in the helping professions who go to work each and every day and do their best to help clients, students and communities with the challenges of life.
In previous columns, I have shared with you the trials, tribulations and successes of your peers. Specifically, I want you to think about your colleagues who do what they do not for notoriety but because they want to help those in distress. Whether it is giving guidance to adults who are navigating career challenges, offering help to LGBTQ teens who just want to live their lives or providing service to returning veterans who are having difficulty adjusting to civilian life, ACA members play critical roles in their communities. And they do so without fanfare.
As ACA past president Sam Gladding has said, these counseling professionals really are “unsung heroes.” I couldn’t agree more. As many of you know, the ACA Foundation annually recognizes someone with the Samuel T. Gladding Unsung Heroes Award. Last year’s recipient, Bob Schmidt of Connecticut, was recognized for his amazing commitment to the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Bob has worked tirelessly with the school, the community and other service organizations to ensure that those in the town where the shooting occurred could begin to rebuild their lives.
I am fortunate to work for organizations such as ACA and the ACA Foundation because it allows me to observe and interact with such selfless individuals. Through my work, I am reminded of the tremendous efforts of our members and leaders. I also realize that we need to do more to ensure that there is “care for the caregivers” as well.
As the charitable and supporting arm of ACA, the ACA Foundation has acknowledged that it will continue to develop these resources for professional counselors. An example of this effort is the ACA Foundation’s flagship publication, Terrorism, Trauma and Tragedies: A Counselor’s Guide to Preparing and Responding. This publication, now in its third edition and edited by Jane Webber and J. Barry Mascari, was first released shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The latest edition reflects the dramatic growth in knowledge and experience within the field. In addition to caring for the caregiver, the publication addresses compassion fatigue, secondary traumatization and debriefing strategies to aid those on the front lines of disaster relief. The resource also offers lessons learned, crisis plans, step-by-step protocols, treatment strategies and insights from experienced professionals.
From my vantage point, we all need to continue supporting the ACA Foundation and the good work it is doing. I know that as many of you begin looking toward the end of the calendar year, you start to think about the charities that have had meaning and impact in your life. For this reason, I will once again be making a contribution to the ACA Foundation. I hope you will join many of your fellow ACA members and do the same. Just think: If each ACA member gave $5 (for the year, not the month — although that would be nice!), we could have an incredible impact on the development of resources that support professional counseling’s unsung heroes.
I encourage you to go to the ACA Foundation website at acafoundation.org and click on the “Donate Now” button. As I said, if we all contribute even a small amount this year, the collective good will be felt throughout the profession.