Monthly Archives: February 2016

Nonprofit News: Considerations for therapeutic gardens

By “Doc Warren” Corson III February 25, 2016

Therapeutic gardens are far from new, but they fell out of favor for at least 30 years or so due to several factors. These included society’s reduced focus on gardening and nature in general, skyrocketing property values that saw much of the open space in any given town sold for development and the urbanization of society.

In the past few years, a resurgence of gardening has taken place, as evidenced by the growth of pocket parks and the reclamation of abandoned lots in even the most urban areas to be transformed into community gardens. Few folks could ever argue that “regular” gardening isn’t therapeutic in Gardenitself, but gardening programs specially designated as “therapeutic” need to consider many issues.

Recent research has shown that certain bacteria and other nutrients found in soil can, if absorbed in sufficient levels, potentially work with chemicals in the body to help reduce anxiety and depression and, in some cases, increase the strength of the immune system. Demonstrated with the use of lab mice, these interactions have been shown to have measurable benefits. This, combined with a resurgent emphasis on nature-based programming and lifestyles, has led to a growing interest in gardening.

As a result, therapeutic gardens have begun to appear on the landscape. My therapeutic farm program in Wolcott, Connecticut, has focused on this type of programming since before we built our first office there.

In this column, I’d like to help nonprofit clinicians by covering some of the issues that are typically encountered when setting up therapeutic gardening programs. Though far from exhaustive, this information should provide the necessary foundation to implement a program in your community.

Before setting up a program, you need to see if there is interest in your area for such a program. Once that need and interest are established, be realistic about the abilities of your client base. Can they physically perform the work required, including bending and lifting? If not, can you make the required accommodations to help them be successful? Are your clients emotionally and psychologically stable enough to use the equipment for daily gardening, or would you need to have skilled staff? Do you have enough staff to cover the duties that clients and volunteers cannot? Are there accessibility issues in and around your garden that need to be addressed? Can clients get from the parking area to the garden area safely? Can a person in a wheelchair or with limited mobility participate? If not, what can be done to overcome this issue?

We used crushed stone in areas where people come into the garden. This stone, which doesn’t have a weed barrier underneath, allowed grass to grow. This returned the entry area to a natural look while still providing a packed surface that is suitable to walkers and wheelchairs. Most of the garden is in the ground using slightly raised beds. However, we consulted an engineer who designed and built (donating the labor) four large raised beds that meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The raised beds provide enough room for a wheelchair to get under them so that folks of all abilities can participate without concern.

Sometimes you need to be more creative than normal. For instance, some of our clients were restricted from working in the sun because of medical or medication-related reasons, but they still wanted to participate in therapeutic gardening. We had lighting installed so they could come in the evening to garden. The expense for such lighting can vary greatly (from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars) depending on the types of lighting used and the distance between existing electricity and the garden areas. We had two areas done for about $3,000, including parts and labor and electrical outlets as well.

Not every clinical nonprofit program is going to have an infrastructure that includes talentedGarden_Kitty gardeners and farmers, and many programs may lack the resources to hire people skilled in these areas. But this needn’t stop you from your goal of opening a therapeutic garden.

Contact your local extension service, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, farmers and other programs and ask for some guidance. Many will be more than happy to assist, especially once they know that you have no plans to commercially market your produce. Internet searches (including YouTube) and your local library can be valuable resources as well. Many times, retirees are looking for projects to work on, and a therapeutic gardening program may be exactly what they’re looking for. Contact local retirement centers and related programs. Veterans groups may also offer assistance.

After identifying a safe spot for your therapeutic garden, you may find yourself in over your head in terms of prepping the area. This aspect can take a season or two to complete, so don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. You likely will have a few failed attempts before establishing a garden area that will work.

When we started, we found that we had a bumper crop of large rocks and poorly drained soil, as well as no running water in the area. In fact, since 1860, the only watering that had happened took place via buckets from a local brook. Moving rocks and amending the soil was the first priority; finding a way to water was the second. Amending took the form of adding compost, working on drainage ditches and adding soil as needed. We also hooked up a pump from the brook to fill large containers for watering. Every year, we try to add a feature such as a seasonal high tunnel (greenhouse), well water and electricity.

Many federal programs can assist existing therapeutic gardens via grants that cover part or most of the cost of certain upgrades. The key to most of these grants is that you must show that you are currently using this area. It need not be pretty or overly productive, but it needs to show that it is an “established” area that could use some improvement. This can be as simple as establishing a makeshift garden one year prior to applying for the assistance. Don’t let red tape discourage you. Read the requirements and find a way to meet the requirements.

Don’t let the challenges prevent you from opening a therapeutic garden in your area. Set a goal, formulate the plan and implement it in stages. Soon you will find that more than vegetables are sprouting from the soil; a growing community often will follow.




Dr. Warren Corson III

Dr. Warren Corson III

“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, and clinical and executive director of Community Counseling Centers of Central CT Inc. ( and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm ( Contact him at


Counselor licensing board to be established in U.S. Virgin Islands

By Bethany Bray February 23, 2016

Counselor licensure is coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

A bill to establish the Board of Virgin Islands Licensed Counselors and Examiners was passed by the Caribbean territory’s Senate and signed into law by Gov. Kenneth Mapp on Jan. 26.

The news comes after decades of advocacy by counselors who live in the USVI. Until now, USVI counselors could obtain a business license to practice and treat clients but not a professional license, explains Edward Browne, a member of the American Counseling Association of the Virgin Islands (ACAVI) who was involved in advocating for the bill.

“I’m very excited about the fact that we were able to accomplish this milestone. It’s been a long time coming,” says Berlina Wallace, ACAVI president. “This will bring more opportunities for counselors Flag of the US Virgin Islandsand greater regulation for the wider community.”

Browne and Wallace agree that the establishment of counselor licensure in the USVI is a welcome change. Not only will it create regulation and legitimacy for the profession, they say, but it will also institute a true system of checks and balances for consumers.

“I’m really excited about having the [licensure] board in place from many different standpoints, but especially from an ethical standpoint,” says Browne, a national certified counselor (NCC) and chair of ACAVI’s licensure and government relations committee. “Our success here in the Virgin Islands will be a springboard for other places around the Caribbean, other nations and territories in the region.”

The USVI Legislature unanimously passed a bill to establish a counselor licensure board this past December. The document’s language requires the governor to appoint at least five of the board’s seven members within two years of the bill’s passage. After the board is established, its rules and policies are determined, and its members are trained, the body can begin licensing professional counselors, says Browne, an elementary school counselor who also runs a private practice.

Once established, the board will issue three types of licenses: licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and licensed substance abuse counselor.

Counselors on the USVI have been pushing for licensure and regulation for more than 20 years, Browne says. The issue gained momentum in recent years as a draft bill was polished, finalized and given to Sen. Sammuel Sanes of St. Croix, who sponsored the bill and advocated for its passage.

Five members of ACAVI testified in a hearing with the Committee on Health, Hospital and Human Services as the bill made its way through Senate committees last year. In December, staff from the American Counseling Association’s Department of Government Affairs met with Sanes and Browne to lend support.

Passage of the bill will pave the way for USVI counselors to finally be licensed, ultimately eliminating many of the headaches that currently plague them — most notably the inability to be reimbursed through client health insurance, Browne says.

Wallace, who has a background in school counseling and is finishing her master’s degree in substance abuse and mental health counseling, knows this headache firsthand, as she was passed over for a job at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Without a professional license, Wallace was deemed ineligible for the job, she explains.

It is estimated that there are roughly 200 counselors in the USVI, Wallace says. The American Counseling Association currently has 22 members living in the territory, a group of Caribbean islands that includes St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.

On the U.S. mainland, counselor licensure was established state by state over a period of decades, beginning with Virginia in 1976 and ending with California in 2009.

According to Wallace, counselors in the USVI see a lot of substance abuse issues and gambling addiction (there is one casino in the USVI and another on the way, she says). Browne adds that counselors often help with trauma from domestic violence, issues around youth education and challenges related to the island’s recent economic downturn.

At the same time, USVI residents often struggle with the island’s colonial history and modern-day dual identity, split between its American and Caribbean heritages, Browne says. USVI residents are considered American citizens, and many serve in the U.S. armed forces, but they still can’t cast votes in the U.S. presidential election.

“We’re in two worlds, but not in any one fully,” Browne comments.

However, as USVI counselors become professionally licensed in the coming years, they will set an example for other nations and cultures, Browne says.

“Our success can open people’s hearts and minds up to the idea that we [counselors] are here to provide care,” he says. “They can look at what we’ve accomplished, and we can support other counselors in the [Caribbean] region and around the world.”





Find out more

To view the full bill and learn more about how the USVI’s new licensure board will operate, click here.


To view Gov. Mapp’s letter authenticating approval of the bill, click here.


Trunk Bay on St. John Island, USVI

Trunk Bay on St. John Island, USVI





Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at


Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook:

Singalong with Richard Watts: Teaching REBT through song

By Bethany Bray February 16, 2016

When Richard Watts’ counseling graduate students arrive to class for a unit on Albert Ellis and rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), they’re in for something a little different.

Watts, a professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, pulls out his guitar and sings songs he’s written to illustrate the irrational beliefs that Ellis in part developed REBT to combat.

Set to familiar tunes such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Oh Suzanna,” Watts’ song lyrics paint a picture of some of the self-sabotaging feelings and behaviors that REBT addresses, such as perfectionism, obsessive relationships, defeatism, victimhood and so on.

Ellis referred to such beliefs as “stinking thinking,” Watts says. REBT works to reverse negative, often paralyzing thoughts into rational beliefs, such as an acceptance that we are not perfect and that life won’t always go our way, but that is OK.

Through the years, Watts has written a slate of songs to highlight the self-defeating beliefs with which many people struggle. In most causes, the songs feature a good dose of humor. For example, the “Rejected Lover’s Refrain,” sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey,” ends with the lines: “Oh

Richard Watts with his guitar.

Richard Watts with his guitar.

why did you leave me? What’s that all about? I guess that I’m worthless and you figured it out. I really deserve this, I know that it’s true. If I only could dear, why, I’d leave me too!”

Watts distributes the lyrics in class and encourages his students to sing along. He’s been singing about REBT in his classroom — as well as in group therapy settings and, occasionally, at professional conferences and events — for two decades.

“We sing the songs and they make us laugh, but many times humor also makes us think,” says Watts, a professor of counseling and director of Sam Houston State University’s Ph.D. program in counselor education. “[As] I’m teaching students, I’m trying to get them to think about their own irrational beliefs as well as their clients’.”

Watts is following in the tradition of Ellis, who wrote songs to illustrate irrational beliefs decades ago. Ellis led workshops every Friday night at his New York City institute for many years. Known for his big personality, wit and sometimes-irreverent style, Ellis would pull members of the audience on stage for live therapy sessions. He used the songs as a therapy tool, often encouraging the audience to sing along. In 1987, Ellis penned a chapter “The use of rational humorous songs in psychotherapy” in ‪William Fry and Waleed Salameh’s book ‪Handbook of Humor and Psychotherapy: Advances in the Clinical Use of Humor.

Watts decided to write songs of his own after discovering that today’s college students aren’t as familiar with many of the older tunes that Ellis’ songs are set to. At first, Watts says, his students are a little startled by seeing their professor in a new context — similar to seeing your teacher in the grocery store as a kid. But they soon warm up, he says, even laughing and singing along.

“I’m not [Eric] Clapton, but I can play pretty well,” Watts says with a chuckle. “I thought it’d be a clever way of introducing the material.”

When used in group therapy, especially in groups with men, the songs often get clients to open up, he says.

“Many times [in group settings], clients are reticent to share ideas that might be inhibiting their progress,” says Watts, a licensed professional counselor supervisor, American Counseling Association fellow and immediate past president of the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology. “But we’ll sing these songs, and I’ll see them laugh and whisper to their neighbor, ‘This is so me!’ … After they’ve sung and laughed together using those songs, they feel more at liberty to talk about and unpack the meaning that they saw in those songs for themselves.”

Similarly, the songs serve as an icebreaker in the classroom. They are also an effective, if nontraditional, way of helping students learn and remember Ellis’ points. The lessons stick with students much more so than if they were to simply read about the concepts in a textbook, Watts says.

In one case, a student who struggled with perfectionism printed out Watts’ song about the issue (the “Perfectionist’s Refrain”) and attached it to the visor of her car as a reminder. Other students have asked for recordings of the songs to use in sessions with their own clients.

“They sing about it, they laugh about it and then we talk about it,” he says. “It’s an application exercise. They’re not merely reading about the different [cognitive] distortions. In a sense, the songs are fun case studies. They learn to listen for the irrational belief theme underpinning [each] song. It sets them up for having an ear and an eye for the mistaken beliefs.”

After singing his songs, Watts urges students to start looking for irrational beliefs elsewhere, including in popular culture. Students are often surprised to discover how often irrational beliefs – from love lost to feelings of worthlessness – are embedded in their favorite music, he says.

Given Watts’ penchant for using clever lyrics as both a teaching and therapy tool, it perhaps comes as no surprise that he has a musical background. He came to the counseling profession after earning an undergraduate degree in music (choral conducting) and working as a church choir director. As an undergrad, he put himself through college by singing in piano bars.

Watts’ irrational belief songs proved so popular that some of his colleagues encouraged him to submit the songs for publication in the Texas Counseling Association’s academic journal. They were published in academic journals several times in the 1990s, including in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling.

Watts sent a copy of his song lyrics to Ellis prior to the influential psychotherapist’s death in 2007. Ellis responded with a letter, written on the letterhead of his Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy, and said that Watts’ songs were “right on the ball and can be very useful.”





Richard Watts’ REBT song lyrics and recordings are available online at

Contact Watts at





Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis

Interested in learning more about Albert Ellis and REBT? See “Getting to know (and love) Albert Ellis and his theory,” Allen Ivey’s recent Q+A with Ellis’ widow, Debbie Joffe Ellis, that appeared in Counseling Today.








Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at


Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook:

Gut health and healthy brain function in children with ADHD and ASD

By Michelle Harrell February 8, 2016

With the awareness being brought forward regarding gut health and neurocounseling, the future looks bright for our children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although all the tools that are available for neurocounseling are excellent for improving cognitive, emotional and social skills, we now have additional research to support the addition of nutritional therapy to our toolboxes as counselors.

Although I am a new counselor, I have spent more than 25 years researching and applying nutritional therapy in my own life after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome in my early 20s. I have WatermelonTummyseen firsthand the benefits of nutritional therapy and how it affects emotional, mental and physical well-being, especially as I reversed the symptoms of ADHD with both of my two children. As a teacher, I have also witnessed the increase in children with ADHD, ASD, and other mood and anxiety disorders that could be greatly combatted with supportive counseling and nutritional therapy protocols. As I begin my journey as a counselor in the schools and private practice, I can’t imagine not grasping the opportunity to add nutritional therapy for my clients.

Improving gut health can have a dramatic effect upon mood and cognitive functioning because of its healing nature within the immune and nervous systems. The use of nutritional therapy to support gut health in children and adults builds resilience and supports the bottom-up aspect of neurocounseling that understands and recognizes the bidirectional connection between our gut and our brain, as discussed by Allen Ivey and Mary Bradford Ivey.


Current statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD currently affects approximately 11 percent of children ages 4-17. ADHD is a chronic mental health and neurological condition that has been increasing at a rate of 5 percent per year since 2006.

ASD is also on the rise. According to the CDC, ASD affects approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States. That rate is expected to increase to an estimated 1 in 25 children by 2025. ASD is currently five times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.

The fact that both of these conditions are on the rise at these current rates in our children should be cause for serious concern. As a parent and a teacher, I have observed the increasing demand that these chronic health conditions are putting on caregivers and professionals. Many counselors are responding by offering neurocounseling and other proven therapies to assist with behavioral issues, emotional regulation and cognitive needs. Neurofeedback, along with cognitive behavior therapy, is also proving to offer improved brain function that is sustained after treatment ends. Because nutritional therapy supports brain function, the two work in synchronicity for a client’s well-being.

Much has been discussed and debated about the issue of diet with children who have ADHD or ASD. Many parents have noted that removing certain foods appears to reduce symptoms of the disorders, and there is general recognition that gluten, sugar and other allergens have had a negative effect on these children. Even though these irritants seem to cause increased symptoms in many children, the underlying gut health situation might be the actual culprit here.

The gut ecosystem is a system that needs to be in balance. The gut is balanced when good bacteria and yeast exist in a healthy ratio within the digestive tract. When this balance is disturbed, food sensitivities and allergies can be noticed. According to Donna Gates (the author of The Body Ecology Diet) and Natasha Campbell-McBride (a medical doctor who wrote Gut and Psychology Syndrome), when gut health is restored, it results in a reduction in food allergens, allowing children to once again consume gluten and other supposed no-nos in a moderate amount.

Children with ADHD and ASD have shown remarkable improvement and overall symptom reversal by using food-healing protocols that increase healthy gut microbes, according to Gates and McBride. This can be a great relief and blessing for families that have been following a strict gluten- and casein-free diet. Imagine the joy of parents who can once again allow their child to attend birthday parties to enjoy cake and ice cream.


Basic knowledge

ADHD and ASD are just two of the many mental and developmental disorders that can benefit from the application of nutritional therapy to improve gut health. Gut health is important for brain health and directly affects mood and emotions. A growing number of researchers are interested in the relationship between gut microbes and brain function. According to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), approximately 90 percent of serotonin is made in the gut. Researchers at Caltech are also studying the benefits of gut flora and its direct contribution to reducing autism symptoms in mice and humans.

According to Lisa E. Goehler, an expert in psychoneuroimmunology and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Nursing, gut microbes are responsible for creating most of our serotonin and numerous other neurotransmitters that are essential for healthy brain function. Serotonin is necessary for the brain to experience a positive mood and be resilient to stress. Microbes in the gut also have the essential task of supporting digestion by synthesizing vitamins, fermenting things we can’t digest and producing hormones that influence our immune, endocrine and nervous systems, according to Goehler.

Not just quantity, but diversity of gut microbes is important for overall health, Goehler says. She states that lean individuals have greater diversity in their gut microbes. But even a heavy person who has a diverse and abundant good microbe count is shown to be in better health than those with limited amounts of microbes, she says. According to Goehler, heavy individuals with a greater diversity of microbes experience fewer problems with metabolic syndrome and cardio and neurovascular disorders. This can even be a factor in the health of children who are overweight.

In general, Goehler reports, when good gut microbes are limited and displaced by toxins and yeast, digestion is impaired, resulting in leaky gut syndrome. In leaky-gut syndrome, yeast begins to take over when good bacteria have been reduced due to antibiotic use and unhealthy food choices. Yeast overgrowth causes leakage in the wall of the small intestine, allowing contaminants and undigested food into the bloodstream that would otherwise not have been able to cross the intestinal wall barrier. Yeast and other pathogens can then travel to the organs and cause additional health issues.

Nutritional therapy to restore balance begins with reintroducing additional healthy gut microbes back into the system. Probiotics and cultured foods seem to be a foundational piece to any effective gut-healing protocol. More of the science that goes with this essential piece of the puzzle is outlined in programs of leading practitioners. The results of restoring healthy flora back into the gut for healing has yielded many positive results for some families with ADHD and ASD.

I was pleased to find the work of two professionals who have been having similar results with the reversal of ADHD and ASD symptoms with a diet based on consuming probiotics and cultured foods. Gates’The Body Ecology Diet and Campbell-McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome were remarkably similar, even though the two developed their works separately on opposite sides of the world. Gates, of California, and Campbell-McBride, of the United Kingdom, collaborated in a video to share the similarities between their results and the importance of balancing the body’s digestive ecosystem. I highly recommend their video as a source of valuable information for anyone seeking to learn more about the advantages of cultured foods (see

Gates and Campbell-McBride both offer straightforward steps for balancing digestion, and they both have documented multiple cases of reversal or, in some cases, complete healing of ADHD and ASD in children when their methods are combined with additional holistic therapies. They both recommend the use of coconut kefir and fermented vegetables as foundational pieces of their plan. They both also mention that, historically, all cultures had some sort of cultured food that supported gut health, but during the latter half of the 20th century, this knowledge seemed to be disregarded for our current modern diet. Introducing these foods back into people’s diets has resulted in tremendous health restorative qualities for many of their clients. Having valuable resources that are in layman’s terms for clients to use can help support clients’ wellness plans.


Overcoming barriers

Counselors will come up against a variety of barriers if they choose to integrate food healing into their practice.

First is the issue of counselor training and understanding. Clearly we as counselors did not set out to be certified in nutrition, and many counselors may not want to pursue the additional certification. I have found it worth the time and energy to learn because I can apply it in my own life and experience improved personal health in addition to supporting my clients’ needs. Clients may also feel more inclined to see if food-healing protocols might work for them if their counselor is applying them as well. Regardless of whether you align yourself with another professional who possesses the credentials to offer nutritional therapy or you decide to jump in and educate yourself, your clients will benefit. But the choice is obviously the counselor’s to make.

As a recent counseling program graduate who wants to move forward into practice as a neurocounselor and offer nutritional therapies, it is important to educate myself on current research-based approaches that are demonstrating positive results. Current scientific research shared by Goehler in her workshop titled “Understanding the Gut Brain: Stress Appetite Digestion and Mood” offers one such professional learning opportunity for counselors. Of course, other researchers offer additional workshops. I make it a point to include these types of workshops in my professional development plan.

Although I am knowledgeable about food therapy and plan to constantly improve my skills, I also know my limits and will refer my clients as needed to those who are experienced experts in nutritional therapy. I also know that one size does not fit all. Clients require individualized plans that are suitable for their health needs.

Even if clients begin eating a healthier diet that is right for them, barriers such as cultural resistance at school, work or home can discourage them from continuing a positive habit. Counseling strategies might include encouraging clients to build healthy communication and confrontation skills when responding to those who question their dietary preferences. These skills can especially benefit teenagers who have to address their peers at a time when peer influence is of great importance in their lives.

Barriers of child taste preferences can be a serious problem for parents who have children with ADHD or ASD. Oftentimes, these children resist the foods that will restore their gut health. In his book Conquering Any Disease (2014), Jeff Primack shares the ingenious strategy of introducing delicious fruit smoothies into a child’s diet to restore gut health in children who have health issues. His research and books on food healing and smoothies have resulted in positive outcomes for Foodchildren with ASD and ADHD. These children were soon demanding more healthy smoothies as their tastes slowly changed toward a diet that would support their goal for improved health.

Within private practice, counselors can overcome barriers by educating clients through workshops and seminars. Clients can also benefit from support groups if they feel alone or don’t receive support from their immediate family or community system. Free online forums such as the one that Gates created (see can offer testimonials and encouragement for parents who hope to help their children by integrating nutritional therapy along with other holistic protocols and counseling services.

School counselors might experience the most challenging barriers within a system that does not quite understand the role they play as mental health supporters. It would be interesting to see how administrators respond to data indicating that instances of ADHD and ASD are increasing and information about the current solutions available for parents and teachers to offer. The current demand to address the needs of ADHD and ASD students is enormous and requires a significant amount of time and resource planning for all school personnel. School counselors are being called on to assist with the increasing numbers of behavior issues and learning needs related to ADHD and ASD diagnoses. In addition to their current workloads that may include extra administrative duties that keep them from being available for these students’ counseling needs, school counselors are still trying to establish their identities as counselors in schools. This is where advocating for a comprehensive school counseling program as outlined by the American School Counselor Association, a division of the American Counseling Association, can be useful. Comprehensive school counseling programs encourage school counselors to be change agents, which could include mental health efforts that integrate nutritional support for these students.

School counselors can bring this information to light in a variety of ways, including offering a professional development class on mental health for school staff, administrators and school board representatives. As a teacher, I would have appreciated learning more about many of the diagnoses that I was designing 504 plans, individualized education programs and response to intervention frameworks around. Teachers are in the trenches daily dealing with stress and anxiety issues related to ADHD, ASD and other mental health disorders but don’t know the details behind these diagnoses. They will truly need the support of school counselors and administrators in the years ahead given the projected increases for ADHD and ASD.

There are many other creative ways that school counselors could address wellness. Counselors educated on nutritional research could advocate with their school boards and county nutritionists to suggest healthy food options that would be tasty for students. According to Luise Light, the former director of dietary guidance and nutrition education research for the Department of Agriculture, the food pyramid that emerged in the early 1990s was a product of business corporations and not true science. In 2006, Light stated that all of her research was overlooked in favor of corporate interests. In her book What to Eat, she explained how this development has directly affected our society’s health and particularly our most valuable natural resource — our children. Clarifying that the food pyramid is both outdated and not based on the best scientific data could help our society understand nutrition differently.

Another opportunity for counselor advocacy is to work collaboratively with health and science teachers to design lessons that align with current research. I knew of one health teacher who taught children in an impoverished neighborhood the benefits of micronutrients by bringing in a blender and creating fruit smoothies. This exposure to practical solutions that tasted good paid off. The students couldn’t stop talking about their lessons on food and nutrition from this progressive teacher, and I even heard them discussing how they were teaching their parents about healthier food options.

With food therapy and neurocounseling working together, the future looks hopeful for children and families dealing with ADHD and ASD. Obviously, each child is his or her own unique being and will require an individualized protocol that is specific to that child. Professional counselors have been trained to offer amazing tools for improved mental health, and I believe we now have a critical missing link to add to our toolbox. We are at an exciting time in our work, with science and counseling validating the relationship between the mind and body as never before.




Michelle Harrell, an educator working in the Columbia County school system, lives in Evans, Georgia. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and both a Master of Arts in Teaching MichelleHarrelland a Master of Education (school counseling) degree from Augusta University. She is currently working on her specialist degree in counseling education and supervision. Michelle is also a qigong and meditation teacher in her spare time. Contact her at

From the President: Honoring positive impact

By Thelma Duffey February 1, 2016

Thelma Duffey, ACA's 64th president

Thelma Duffey, ACA’s 64th president

I was sitting at the boarding lounge not long ago preparing for a very early morning flight when the gentleman who issued my ticket came running to the gate where I was seated. With a big smile, he handed me something I had left on the counter and gave me a nice compliment as he did so. The distance from the curbside baggage check to my gate was considerable, but this gentleman had sprinted through the airport and tracked down my boarding gate in a very generous act of kindness.

It is interesting how one person’s random act of kindness can set the mood and brighten another person’s day. In this case, it certainly brightened mine. It also punctuated the consistently enjoyable week that I experienced in Louisville with my most gracious and hospitable counseling colleagues at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Counseling Association.

Feb. 14-20 is Random Acts of Kindness Week (see I am delighted to hear that in celebration of this event, and as a response to the American Counseling Association’s presidential initiative on anti-bullying and interpersonal violence, all 14 school districts in San Antonio (the seventh-largest city in the U.S.) and rural districts in the surrounding area will be participating in a weeklong Take the Challenge campaign to “build cool, caring and inclusive communities.”

In tandem with ACA’s anti-bullying initiative, school communities will dispense a unified menu of activities to counselors on K-12 campuses, culminating in a citywide signature event. Children of all ages throughout each of the districts will be immersed in a weeklong focus on the value of being yourself, on every person’s role in advocacy and the long-lasting positive impact of respect for diversity.

It is a wonderful thing for children to be socialized in the ways of empathy, empowerment and respect. These are qualities that bring communities together, help relationships thrive and promote peer resistance to injurious acts. They are also the qualities that make it easier for us to respond to others with good cheer and kindness, as the gentleman at the airport did with me.

As I have traveled throughout the country, it has warmed my heart to see our counseling communities respond to this call and engage in initiatives that support a happier, healthier and more productive culture. And I couldn’t be more pleased to report that ACA’s own response to this call will be to launch a nationwide campaign, the Impact Project, beginning Feb. 1.

The Impact Project brings into focus how our thoughts, words and deeds impact one another. It provides a forum for us to publicly honor people, both face to face and through social media, whose actions have made a difference in our lives. There are many ways to participate, and counselors in every work setting are invited to join in.

The Take the Challenge campaign and the Impact Project are but two examples of the work counselors are doing to support anti-bullying and interpersonal violence prevention and intervention. Both efforts bring attention to what is truly important: recognizing our impact on others and honoring the positive impact of those who touch us.

Is there a person whose actions have had a considerable impact on your life? Will you answer the call by recognizing someone who shared a random act of kindness with you or substantially affected your life in a positive way? It is wonderful to know that we have the power to make an impact on one another. It is equally wonderful to recognize those whose impact has made a difference to us. I believe that when we do this together — collectively and with gratitude — we are filling the world with something good. So I ask you, as counselors, what could be better?

All my best,

Thelma Duffey