About nine months from now, U.S. voters will have an opportunity to elect those who will represent them at local, state and national levels of government. When considering whom to vote for, professional counselors have the added responsibility of being called on to advocate for their clients, students and communities. Regardless of your political party affiliation, the role of counselor as advocate has reached a critical juncture. Elected officials will continue to grapple with issues regarding safety, mental health services, interpersonal violence, educational opportunity, career choice and tolerance for others as they begin their terms of office in 2017.
This column isn’t about encouraging you to go out and vote (although I hope each of you will exercise that right). Rather, I am asking that you take some of your very valuable time this year to learn about where your candidates stand on issues of importance to you, as a professional counselor or counselor educator, and your clients or students. Maybe you will find yourself at a candidate’s forum or have a canvasser knock on your door. Perhaps you even know someone running for office. Take advantage of the opportunity to let candidates know what is important to members of their communities and why you, as a professional counselor, feel strongly about certain issues.
To learn more about ACA’s public policy agenda, I encourage you to visit our webpage at counseling.org/government-affairs. In this section of the ACA website, you will find updates, key resources, advocacy papers and even a unique tool to help you communicate with your elected officials. We know your time is valuable, so we have tried to make this site easy to use. Your voice matters, so if there is something you want but cannot find on our webpage, let me know.
For those of you who will be attending the ACA Conference & Expo next month in Montréal (March 31-April 3, with preconference Learning Institutes March 30-31), I encourage you to visit ACA’s Government Affairs staff in the expo hall. I also urge you to attend those education sessions that will provide public policy updates and calls to action. For more information about the ACA Conference, go to counseling.org/conference.
I hope those of you who work in K-12 settings or identify as professional counselors working in schools will enjoy National School Counseling Week (Feb. 1-5), an event sponsored by our division, the American School Counselor Association. ASCA will be recognizing the School Counselor of the Year when its leadership gathers at the White House for a special ceremony. For more information, go to bit.ly/1KnNCOK.
I always enjoy hearing from many of you regarding what you have been doing on behalf of your clients or students and how you have been advocating for the counseling profession. I hope you will continue sharing your success stories with me. I am constantly amazed at your dedication and energy and your deeply embedded sense to do what is right for those who are facing life’s challenges. Just as I am lifted up by reading about and hearing your stories, I know that candidates for public office and current elected officials would likewise be amazed at your efforts. Don’t be bashful! This is definitely the year to let the media, the public and those running for office know about your good work. Let’s continue to shine light on the work of today’s professional counselor.