Monthly Archives: December 2015

Reads recommended by counselors: Psychotic Rage!: A True Story of Mental Illness, Murder and Reconciliation

Review by Judith A. Nelson & Richard E. Watts December 27, 2015

Psychotic Rage!: A True Story of Mental Illness, Murder and Reconciliation is the gut-wrenching, yet fascinating, account of the Malone family and their struggle with severe mental illness. The author, Benny Malone, now retired, was a mental health professional in schools and in the community throughout her career. In this book, she provides readers with a detailed account of living with a mentally ill family member and the journey through the medical, mental health and judicial systems as she and her husband tried desperately to help their son overcome a severe mental illness.

At age 14, Benny’s son, Chris, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By the time Chris was 21, his diagnosis had expanded to include schizoaffective disorder. The book details the roller coaster ride of Chris’ 18 hospitalizations due to self-harm or suicidal ideation between the ages of 14 and 24. During this 10-year period, Chris had relationships as a patient with nine different psychiatrists, PsychoticRageworked with two therapists and was prescribed 25 different medications. He was hospitalized for a total of 295 days during these years.

In Benny’s words, “Psychosis became our new family member following the schizoaffective diagnosis, and my son’s health significantly deteriorated despite continual psychiatric treatment.” Despite Benny and her husband’s dedication to their son’s psychiatric treatment, Chris’ health deteriorated until the situation spiraled into an unbelievably tragic event.

In their quiet suburban neighborhood on a warm summer day in 2005, Benny and her husband were chatting at their kitchen table when Chris, now 24, had a major psychotic break, attacking Benny and killing his father. In spite of all the help they had provided Chris and the years of ups and downs with his illness, nothing could have predicted such a tragic outcome.

Benny details the entire account of the murder, including the 911 call, the sirens, the ambulance and the police cars. The scene at the house was chaotic, and even Benny’s visit to the hospital for her injuries is disturbing given the compassionless treatment of the emergency room personnel.

Chris was arrested the same day as the murder. In November 2011, following 6 1/2 years awaiting trial for murder, he was ultimately found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. Benny recounts this long span of time prior to the trial in which Chris was transferred back and forth four times between a county jail and a state hospital, resulting in his spending a total of 39 months in jail and 38 months in the state hospital. These delays occurred because he was deemed not competent to stand trial for most of this time period.

After years of trying to manage Chris’ severe mental illness, Benny and her family didn’t anticipate the many additional years of burden they would experience struggling to navigate the criminal justice system. Readers are given a vivid sense of how the struggles of families dealing with severe mental illness seem unending.

Benny ends her story by explaining her understanding of her son’s inability to control his illness and her ability to forgive him for his erratic behavior that resulted in her husband’s murder.

This well-written account of living with a family member with a severe mental illness is intended for a variety of audiences. Psychotic Rage provides hope and encouragement to families such as Benny’s. She makes it clear that severe mental illness happens to all kinds of families, even those with a mother who is a mental health professional. Mental illness crosses all economic, social, racial, ethnic and faith lines and often attacks youth first.

The book is also meant for mental health professionals and those in training. It will help them better understand the complexity of severe mental illness and the ramifications for affected family members.

Psychotic Rage is also for policymakers and mental health advocates who need this important information to make informed decisions about the difficult legal aspects of patients and families facing serious mental illness.

To conclude, Psychotic Rage is a must-read for anyone who is interested in a compassionate understanding of the struggles of families who have a member with severe mental illness.

Benny Malone was the recipient of the Professional Writing Award at the most recent Texas Counseling Association Annual Professional Growth Conference.




Have a book that you’d like to recommend to other counselors? Contact us at



Judith A. Nelson is associate professor of counselor education (retired) at Sam Houston State University in Texas and a past president of the Texas Counseling Association. She and Bunny Malone, the author of the book being reviewed, were former colleagues in a suburban Houston school district.

Richard E. Watts is a Sam Houston State University distinguished professor of counseling, the immediate past president of the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology and a fellow of the American Counseling Association.

Technology Tutor: Tech resolutions for the new year

By Rob Reinhardt December 23, 2015

I don’t make personal New Year’s resolutions. For me, it feels more authentic to assess, evaluate and make resolutions year-round. I also take this approach in my business.

However, I find that the dawn of the new year is a great time for big-picture business resolutions. For most businesses, the end of the calendar year also means the end of the fiscal year. This means To Do Listthere are numbers to look at and crunch and, possibly, board meetings and other opportunities to discuss the company’s direction. This is a natural time to examine what’s working and what isn’t and to look toward new initiatives.

With that in mind, I present some recommended tech- and business-centric resolutions to consider for yourself and your practice. Rather than taking them all on, I encourage you to choose those that fit the overall goals for your practice.

Kick bad habits and create new, healthy ones. The age-old basis for New Year’s resolutions is the end of bad habits and the start of good ones. From a business standpoint, this means examining how you’re doing things. What’s working? What’s not? What has room for improvement? Have your recent marketing ventures provided a good return on investment (see Are any of your policies, procedures or approaches outdated (such as maintaining a Yellow Pages ad)? Is the new technology you implemented accomplishing what you had hoped? What area of your practice could be made more efficient or effective?

Many of the suggestions that follow fall under this umbrella, but it’s always good to start with a top-down view to identify areas of need.

Ensure that your contact form is secure. This is a resolution you can make not only for the good of your practice but also for the good of your current and future clients. Imagine how much better clients will feel knowing that, when they write to you, the contact form on your website is encrypted and secure. In keeping this resolution, you’ll also be taking steps to comply with both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Standard H.2.d. of the ethics code states: “Counselors use current encryption standards within their websites and/or technology-based communications that meet applicable legal requirements. Counselors take reasonable precautions to ensure the confidentiality of information transmitted through any electronic means.”

As I have noted in a previous column, the primary purpose of encryption in this context is to secure electronic protected health information. When it comes to your website, the contact form is usually the only place where such information is transmitted (and then stored). Consider making a resolution for your practice and your clients to secure this important communication channel. Read for options.

Consider an electronic health record/practice management system. Implementation of the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) in October was very telling. I heard from a great number of counselors who are still filing paper claims or using electronic systems that mimic the claims. They had many questions about how to handle the new codes, which code to use, whether to use a decimal point and more. People who were already using an integrated electronic medical record/electronic health record/practice management system already had their answers. Their chosen software solution was prepared to handle the transition for them.

This represents a microcosm of what I have seen over the past four years. Counselors who have found a practice management system that fits them solidly are saving themselves time and money because of the improved efficiency they experience. If you adopt this resolution, my list of reviews at offers a good starting point.

Make a transition plan. This resolution presents another opportunity to protect your clients. What would happen to them if you were no longer around? Do you have a plan in place to ensure they receive continued care? Will someone be able to step in and contact these clients in an emergency? Can someone access their records? How about your software and bank accounts? If you do have a plan, is it comprehensive enough?

This happens to be another item the ACA Code of Ethics requires us to address in Standard C.2.h. (Counselor Incapacitation, Death, Retirement or Termination of Practice): “Counselors prepare a plan for the transfer of clients and the dissemination of records to an identified colleague or records custodian in the case of the counselor’s incapacitation, death, retirement or termination of practice.

Listen to the ACA podcast on this topic to learn more:

Take HIPAA seriously but without panicking (just get started). If you (or your billing representative/vendor) are filing electronic insurance claims, then you are a “covered entity” and must comply with HIPAA. This is not as simple as having your privacy notices in place, but it also doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The key is that you at least get started and show progress.

As counselors, we know that people can become overwhelmed by the big picture, so we often help them break things down into chunks and take it a bit at a time. This same approach can be applied to HIPAA. So resolve today to get started by doing a little bit at a time. The following article can help you get started or, if you’ve already begun the process, see what’s left to do:



Rob Reinhardt, a licensed professional counselor supervisor, is a private practice and business consultant who helps counselors create and maintain efficient, successful private practices. Before becoming a professional counselor, he worked as a software developer and director of information technology. Contact him at

Letters to the

Getting to know (and love) Albert Ellis and his theory

Interview by Allen Ivey

As 2015 came to a close, so too did the 60th anniversary of Albert Ellis first presenting his widely influential approach to psychotherapy in 1955. Initially, his approach was severely challenged by many, and when he presented it to his peers at the annual American Psychological Association (APA) convention in Chicago in 1956, he was booed and jeered. But, ultimately, he won the respect Branding-Images_Ellishe deserved. Today, Ellis is considered the originator of cognitive behavior therapy, although he used the term rational emotive therapy, later changing it to rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT).

This interview summarizes the life and work of Albert Ellis, but it also offers insights into another emerging legend who is carrying on his legacy: Debbie Joffe Ellis, Albert’s spouse, co-author and co-presenter.


Allen Ivey: Debbie, we first met in Borneo in 2013 when Mary [Bradford Ivey] and I keynoted on neuroscience and counseling and you presented on REBT. Mary and I then attended your workshop where you presented REBT and did live demonstrations. We were vastly impressed and felt that Albert Ellis was alive in you, but at the same time that you had also added some important new dimensions, clarifying his work.

Thank you for taking time to review your life with Albert and the importance of REBT today. Perhaps the way to start is for you to tell about how you and Albert met and your developing relationship.

Debbie Joffe Ellis: My pleasure. It brings me deep satisfaction to share about my incredible husband and our rare and remarkable connection and relationship. I first heard of Al when I was a child and saw some of his books in my psychologist aunt’s library. I read parts of those books, and what I read made good sense. I could understand it — even though I was young, somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12. Little did I know then, or when I was studying REBT some years later, that I would end up adoring and marrying its founder and creator.

Whilst studying psychology at the University of Melbourne (Australia), I attended lectures and workshops Al gave whilst on a teaching visit there. I felt deeply moved, both by him and his dynamic, yet deeply compassionate, approach.

During that time of his visit, we chatted briefly. I noticed that many people, including students and professors, felt intimidated by Al’s direct and full-on manner. I did not feel that way at all. Whilst in awe of his brilliant work, I felt fully at ease in his company, and I felt that I had known him for a very long time. Behind his public and, at times, confrontational manner and no-nonsense style, I felt the truly kind, caring and good-hearted man that he was. His outer manner did not fool me.

Following the completion of my studies and my licensing as a psychologist, I practiced REBT in my private practice and taught the approach in Melbourne. Al and I did not meet again until 15 years later at an APA conference. Our remarkably close friendship began at that time. We were in regular contact through mail and phone calls, and I would visit him in New York each year. Our love relationship began a few years later.

I recognized his warmth, authenticity, trustworthiness, no-nonsense attitude, brilliance, magnificent wit and wisdom, as well as his kindness and genuine caring about the well-being of others. He had a reputation among some for being loud, using colorful language and appearing abrasive, curmudgeonly and provocative. He simply chose that way of expression to help get his points across in a memorable way so that people would think about their thinking, learn and remember aspects of his approach, apply it and benefit. The abrasiveness was not representative of his authentically caring and humble character. In our personal lives, he was most gentle, sweet and considerate in his manner, with his oft-outrageous humor and wit a source of great enjoyment and laughter.

Some may be surprised to know that in his younger years, Al loved going to performances of classical music, Broadway shows and movies. He said that if he had not become a psychologist, he would have loved to have written music and lyrics in addition to writing fiction, including the Great American Novel.

AI: Albert maintained a rigorous and demanding schedule late into his life and in the face of some serious health problems. What do you think gave him such a strong passion and drive to help others?

DJE: He cherished life, despite the health and other adversities he faced from childhood until the end of his life, including managing his diabetes. His hope was that through adopting his philosophy and approach, others would choose to enjoy and live their lives intensely, despite and including their challenges — as he had succeeded in doing. He was aware of how quickly life passes and of the importance of living life to the full. Al reminded us that life inevitably contains loss and suffering but that by thinking in healthy ways, unchangeable adversities can be endured in healthier ways.

Throughout childhood, he experienced illness, was often hospitalized for lengthy periods and rarely was visited by his family. He chose to occupy his mind with things that prevented him from dwelling on thoughts that led to his feeling sad and depressed. He read books from the hospital library, spoke with children in his ward and their visitors, and fell in love with the pretty nurses. He used his imagination to create vivid scenarios of what he would do when he grew up. This “cognitive distraction” action became one of the oft-used methods in REBT.

As a teen and young man, he suffered from intense shyness. He was too afraid to speak to girls. In college he was voted president of his political group but felt very anxious when it came to speaking in public. He then forced himself to speak more often, with the understanding that deliberately and repeatedly pushing himself to do what was uncomfortable would result in his feeling more comfortable and capable at it. As he forced himself to give talks, he reminded himself that the worst that could happen would be far from tragic or the end of his life. In a short time, not only was he over his fear of speaking in public, but he discovered that he was good at doing so and enjoyed it too.

Another well-known example of Al applying his “just do it” approach was his giving himself the task of talking to 100 girls during the month of August. He made one date, and she didn’t show up, but he overcame his fear of talking with females. This practice of “in vivo desensitization” and the practice of vigorous, encouraging, positive and realistic self-talk became a core part
of REBT.

When Al was about 24, he fell madly in love with a young woman, Karyl, who gave him the on-again, off-again treatment. One evening after she told him she wanted a break, he felt deeply depressed. He went for a midnight walk and had a major epiphany. He realized that it was not the rejection by Karyl that caused his depression but rather his demands and insistence that she should love him as much as he loved her, that she should not reject him and his belief that he could never be happy without her in his life. He realized that it was his attitude, irrational beliefs and absolutistic thinking — not the circumstance of being rejected and without Karyl — that created his despair. Searching for demands — the “shoulds” and “musts” — and strongly disputing them with precision to create healthy rather than debilitating emotional responses to disappointing events, and doing one’s best to eliminate absolutistic thinking are core parts of REBT.

AI: Given that, could we explore how REBT became important over time and some of the key issues and findings in that process? And talk about Albert’s foundational work in cultural difference.

DJE: In the early years of REBT, peers and colleagues harshly condemned Al, calling him and his theory superficial, simplistic and worse. But he persisted in talking, teaching and writing about it. He succeeded in changing the world of counseling and psychology. REBT ideas have influenced and been incorporated into many types of cognitive therapy, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), positive psychology, coaching and more. Al’s qualities of persistence, applying high tolerance for frustration and not needing the approval of others contributed to getting his goals accomplished and his approach being increasingly accepted and embraced. They are attitudes that REBT encourages and recommends to one and all.

Al was also a controversial trailblazer because of his significant contributions to changing long-held archaic and uncivil societal attitudes toward sex, sexuality, diversity, racial prejudice and more. He loudly championed equal rights for women and gays back in the 1940s and onward; supported interracial relationships and marriage (banned in some states in the country at that time); testified in the Supreme Court against censorship; wrote his groundbreaking book Sex Without Guilt, helping many people develop acceptance of premarital sex, masturbation, practices considered “abnormal” and other nonharmful activities labeled “evil” by conservatives of the time — to name just a few of the causes he put effort and energy into.

AI: Yes, Albert became a hero to me early in my career for his forward thinking about human rights. Most people, including many CBT followers, still have much to learn from this early pioneering work. At the end of his life, Albert experienced a serious loss when he was removed from his role as president of the board of directors of the Albert Ellis Institute. Furthermore, he was banned from teaching and working in his own institute. How did he experience this? How did Albert — the professional helper — behave in this challenging situation?

DJE: In his final years, strange and unanticipated conflicts arose. There were some changes in his institute which he did not approve of, in addition to other circumstances which shocked him. He was removed from his role as president of the board there and was not permitted to participate in teaching or to conduct his famous Friday night live therapy demonstrations there, after nearly five decades of giving them. The Albert Ellis Institute was founded and mostly paid for through his teaching, writing and outside speaking earnings. He lived incredibly simply, received a most modest annual salary, and his commitment to the work and his institute was such that most of his earnings went into the institute. He rejected luxuries that were offered to him, saving money on what he considered unnecessary spending. For example, he refused to fly business/first class when offered.

In response to actions being carried out by some in the institute against his goals, he felt the deepest sadness he had ever experienced. He worked hard to change what was happening and fought to regain his roles and to bring about justice. He and I continued to see clients and give workshops in a large space that we rented in the building next door. Unfortunately, he did not achieve his goals, although a Supreme Court judge did reinstate him to the board. Unfortunately, this happened too late and, weeks later, he succumbed to pneumonia — the beginning of his most serious health decline, culminating in his death 15 months later. Doctors agreed that his illness was most probably a result of his exhaustion and fatigue from his strenuous efforts to regain his place and influence in his own institute.

Al hated what had been done, but he did not hate the people who carried out the actions. He felt compassion for them, truly practicing what REBT teaches: unconditional other acceptance. The “master” was put to the test and passed with honors. Up until his final weeks, he continued to help people who would visit him in the hospital, including groups of students. Al also showed compassion and gave help to various medical staff in the hospital, all while he himself was a patient in great physical pain, fighting hard to recover. He not only helped people through his words to them but also by modeling his principles. I often say that he practiced what he preached and preached what he practiced.

So, Al was passionate about and driven to help as many people as possible. He had faced and overcome many hardships and had experienced firsthand the fruit of stubbornly refusing to create or dwell in unhealthy emotions. He experienced the consequential joy of minimizing emotional suffering, which liberated energy to enhance effectiveness and enjoyment of life. He wanted others to know and experience that they too could create more productive, colorful and enjoyable lives by applying his philosophy. He was a remarkable, one-of-a-kind individual — a visionary.

AI: I’d like you to focus on the “E” in REBT. Cognitive psychologists all too often miss out on that. To me, backed by neuroscience research, it is clear that unless a client is emotionally satisfied, the decision or action will never be sufficient. Albert was also ahead of the game with his inclusion of homework in the therapeutic process.

DJE: One of the misconceptions that some people hold about REBT is that it is about feeling less emotion, or less unpleasant emotion, or that it mainly focuses on the cognition and behavior
of an individual and less on the emotions. These ideas and any like them are truly false.

One of the gifts that REBT offers is clearly distinguishing between healthy emotions felt in response to adverse circumstances — such as grief, sadness and concern — and the unhealthy emotions in response to adversity which we create when we think in irrational ways — such as depression, anxiety and rage. REBT encourages us to experience and accept those healthy emotions as enriching parts of this tapestry of life and its variety of events, disappointments and losses. REBT reminds us that we can choose to prevent changing healthy emotions into debilitating, unhealthy emotions. We encourage and embrace the experiencing of all healthy emotions in REBT, not only the “happy” ones. REBT teaches the difference between irrational and rational thinking, and its methods and techniques present the how-tos of doing so in clear and simple ways.

Al was likely one of the first, if not the first, to strongly emphasize the benefit of ongoing effort and homework for helping individuals maintain therapeutic and other gains. Even if a person feels comforted by empathy from another and regains hope, he or she will only maintain that comfort and hope and maintain lasting changes by persistently remembering the wise tenets of REBT and continuing to take appropriate actions after sessions to create the healthy emotions. That involves doing homework using REBT tools and techniques.

AI: How has REBT continued to evolve since Albert’s passing in 2007? I have attended your presentations and even participated in a workshop. It is clear that you understand REBT fully as well as he did — perhaps even better. It is exciting to see you continuing and expanding his work.

DJE: Al liked my way of communicating and wanted me to continue his work in my style and way, which I love to do. It is a part of me, in my blood.

In Al’s final years, we worked together in every aspect of his work. We were presenting and writing more on REBT and Buddhism than he had in earlier decades. I look forward to completing a manuscript on that topic that he and I started working on prior to his passing. As more people experience greater stress in these challenging times, many suffer from increasing anxiety and depression. Many people seeking relief turn to one form or another of spirituality. I talk and write about the commonalities and differences of Buddhism, other spiritual approaches and REBT. The “spiritual” components of adopting compassion, acceptance and kindness are actually not new parts of REBT, but as time goes on, I give stronger emphasis to such REBT aspects as unconditional acceptance, compassion and kindness, mindfulness, awareness and gratitude. In addition to their life-enhancing potential, these aspects can be basic to the therapeutic relationship and working alliance. Encouraging and emphasizing the benefits of practicing greater mindfulness, compassion and gratitude has become ever more important as the theory continues to develop.

In my work, I do my best to set the historical record straight in terms of Al’s place in the evolution of psychology, counseling and psychotherapy. I feel dismayed that since his passing, fewer of the main teachers of psychology and counseling practice are acknowledging Al and REBT’s pioneering place and role in their own work. I have met a number of students who think REBT came after CBT instead of realizing that cognitive therapy and CBT were first presented around 14 years following Al’s early works. A few letters of correspondence between Aaron T. Beck and Al can be read in Al’s autobiography, and Beck often respectfully acknowledges that Al’s work was significant as he developed his approach.

Aspects of Al’s work were also very influential in the development of positive psychology — a fact which Martin P. Seligman has respectfully acknowledged — and yet I have met people who embrace positive psychology who have no idea of that fact. Elements of REBT can be recognized in ACT, DBT, coaching and even heard in the preaching of certain popular television evangelists. Al would continually acknowledge in his talks and writings the works of Adler, Horney, Korzybski, ancient and contemporary philosophers and others who had influenced or contributed to
his work.

I do my best when I present, teach and write to keep REBT relevant to current times and issues — and to give credit where credit is due.

AI: I am aware that Albert’s influence lives on, as cognitive therapy rests on his shoulders. At the same time, I see you as a solid innovator, continuing and taking his ideas further. Mary and I have heard you talk and have participated in your excellent workshop. We love your energy and appreciate your scholarship. Let’s turn the topic to you, your accomplishments and what you visualize for the future.

DJE: I make a point of including live demonstrations of the application of REBT with volunteers whenever possible when I teach and in my many presentations. These live demonstrations are unrehearsed, authentic and in no way role-playing. Al entrusted me to carry on his ideas and work further, and it is my joy, my passion, my mission. I love presenting both to helping professionals and to members of the general public. There is a real need to present a full picture of REBT and its promise when it is applied for continuing to change and improve our work and daily lives.

As part of this, I present and conduct live workshops in New York, my home-base city, and in other places throughout the United States and the world. I am an adjunct professor at Columbia University. In the past 18 months, I have presented in India, Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, Jerusalem, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Toronto and San Francisco. I love these opportunities to share REBT and its continually expanding dimensions and to witness its relevance to people of the variety of cultures and religions to whom I present.

I trust that more research will be done to add to that which already exists on REBT. The excellent and voluminous published CBT research by Aaron T. Beck and colleagues supports REBT principles. However, there is need for more research that focuses on specific and unique REBT tenets, especially on the impact of the “musts,” the importance of the “E,” REBT’s philosophical assertions and the benefits of REBT’s vigorous mode of disputation of irrational ideas. I look forward very much to seeing findings from the ever-growing field of neuropsychology and neurophysiology incorporated and applied as appropriate to the existing REBT theory.

APA produced a DVD as part of its “Systems of Psychotherapy” DVD series in which I demonstrate the REBT approach with a client. APA also published the book Al and I wrote about REBT. Transcripts of 12 real sessions with a client that show the therapeutic progress have been made available by Alexander Street Press (2015), which also filmed three DVDs of me talking about various aspects of REBT. I continue to attend and present at major conferences on psychology/therapy and to write books, chapters, articles and reviews for various books and journals.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I do my best to live my life incorporating the REBT philosophy. I make effort to not only teach, talk and write about REBT and use it with clients and others I care about, but also to contribute in positive ways to as many other people as I can. I feel immense joy when doing so.

I do my best to remember to apply the tenets of compassion, acceptance and kindness. And I feel most fortunate and grateful each day as I do so.




Allen Ivey, distinguished university professor (emeritus), University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology and a life member of the American Counseling Association. He is the author or co-author of more than 45 books and 200 articles, translated into 25 languages. Many of these publications have been co-authored with Mary Bradford Ivey. The couple present around the nation and world on original work in microcounseling, developmental counseling and therapy, multicultural and social justice issues, and how to implement neuroscience into daily counseling practice.

Letters to the editor:

CEO’s Message: Hope, potential and the opportunity to meet needs

By Richard Yep December 22, 2015

Richard Yep, ACA CEO

Richard Yep, ACA CEO

Here it is the 16th year of the “new” millennium. Looking back at our entry into the 21st century, we have seen many advances in technology, health care and, in some cases, tolerance of others. However, there is still so much work for professional counselors related to the services they provide to children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, organizations and communities.

As we begin 2016, the ACA staff and I look forward to how we will be your partners in professionalism this year. Our goals continue to include providing the services, resources and advocacy to help you in your incredibly important work.

In terms of advocating on your behalf, the facts speak for themselves. The ACA Governing Council has reiterated its commitment to supporting all of our members, and many of you know that President Obama recently signed into law an amendment that we championed allowing licensed professional counselors (LPCs) to practice independently under TRICARE through 2021. With a “stroke of the pen,” TRICARE’s 4.8 million beneficiaries, consisting of active-duty military members, military families and veterans, instantly gained greater access to the services of LPCs. Given that 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day, bringing LPCs to the table to practice independently was timely, responsible and compassionate.

Another issue that has been discussed over the past few months involves accreditation and the association’s position on the future pathway to professionalism and state licensure. To provide some facts and to respond to questions you might have, ACA launched a webpage on accreditation issues last month (accessible through In addition to using the resources available in this information center, you can call our toll-free phone number to leave a question or make a comment.

ACA also believes in partnering with groups that share common interests and concerns with us. For instance, our work with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation will continue next month when ACA once again stands as a co-sponsor of Time to Thrive, a conference that looks at issues facing LGBTQ teens. This event is unique because it brings together national organizations, community practitioners and advocates, and LGBTQ teens.

ACA also continues responding to member needs. Why? Because despite our many months of membership growth, the record-breaking sign-ups for this year’s ACA Conference & Expo in Montréal (March 31-April 3) and a truly strong group of new webinars we are offering to members and nonmembers alike, I know we cannot rest on our past victories. Practicing “business as usual” will not sustain ACA into the future. We know that as your practice, your clients and your students are changing, we have to produce resources and conduct advocacy that will keep you current in your work.

Frankly, we can’t meet your needs unless you share your thoughts, concerns and questions with us. So, as we begin a new year, I will continue to suggest that you let us know what you need as a professional counselor, a counselor educator or a graduate student. We want to hear from you. Although we can’t realistically be everything to everyone, you do have my commitment that the ACA staff and I will consider, explore, research and look at the impact of your requests.

Along with wishes for a more peaceful and compassionate world in 2016, the staff and I hope the best for each of you and appreciate your good work.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to call me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or email me at You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.

Be well.


From the president: Making room for the new

By Thelma Duffey

Thelma Duffey, ACA's 64th president

Thelma Duffey, ACA’s 64th president

Every now and then, I like to clean out my closets. There is something exciting (yes, I know how that sounds) about the chance to reorganize, take stock of and appreciate what I have. I have to admit that it’s also nice when my hard work makes room for something new!

At the same time, I enjoy preserving some things that connect me to my history. For example, I have one closet that stores little treasures such as my children’s old pajamas that I remember them toddling around in so many years ago. I’ve also held on to some clothes that I can still visualize them wearing when I remember them walking in the front door, eating at the breakfast table or playing in the yard. I even have dresses that my mother hand sewed for me when I was a young girl. And on my top shelf, I have a record player and some of my favorite records. Much like my heart, my closet stores so many memories of a life I love.

So when it comes to closets, I have my system down. I clean them out, make room for the new and hold on to those things I treasure.

The new year offers a similar opportunity. It provides a concrete demarcation between the past of the previous year and the present of today. It also provides us with a context from which to envision our futures. Vision is a wonderful catalyst for the good things to come.

When I think of what our professional closets hold, I imagine our rich history as counselors, including those things we continue to preserve and honor. Among these I visualize our hard-won accomplishments such as licensure in every state, our definition of counseling and our focus on diversity, wellness and creativity. We cherish these things and allow them to inform our futures.

We also have things we could well leave behind. As I consider these, I imagine a collective cleaning out of any unproductive dynamics that entrench us in no-win conversations, misinformation or self-limiting narratives. I imagine cleaning out barriers that keep us from listening or responding in ways that foster solutions.

And when I think of my hopes for the new, I imagine so much! I imagine parity and licensure portability in every state; clarity of identity and standards; well-earned opportunities for all professional counselors, including within TRICARE, Medicare and the Department of
Veterans Affairs; and a deep sense of professional pride and connectedness. Each of these things remains on my professional wish list.

As the new year launches, I will try to get to my closets at home, although my travel schedule makes that a bit tricky these days. What I can pledge is to work with you to make room in our professional closets for the good things to come. There are great things on the horizon for the profession of counseling. I view this year as a time for us to continue taking stock of our needs, coming together to address them and enjoying the good that can result when we join together as counselors invested in making a positive difference in our profession and our communities. I say let’s make room for the new!

Many thanks, and sincere wishes for a terrific new year.