At the end of March, thousands of professional counselors will gather in Montréal for ACA’s Conference & Expo, which is being held in partnership with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Professional counselors and counselor educators from many countries will attend to hear the latest practice and research information.
I could go on and on about our more than 400 sessions, 100-plus exhibit booths and new and improved career center, but I want to share an aspect of the conference that doesn’t often get highlighted, even though it is part and parcel of why this event continues to be so popular. I guess you could say it has been one of our best-kept secrets — until now.
As a group, counselors are already known to enjoy a good hug. The ACA Conference allows attendees to experience what it can mean to have three, four or even five days of warm, caring arms around you. I find it interesting that although this annual event is the largest gathering of professional counselors in the world, there is still such a caring and human aspect to it.
Yes, the conference features professional networking and the potential to earn all the continuing education credits you need to renew your license, but there also exists the spirit of “being with one’s own.” Your fellow attendees understand what you do professionally and, more important, can empathize with you because they are engaged in the same kind of taxing, stressful and rewarding work.
Each conference has a personality. The ACA Conference is known for a number of things. For example, being big but also maintaining the shared intimacy of what professional counseling encompasses. Increasing knowledge and expertise but doing so among those who face similar challenges at their worksites or institutions. Being professionally recognized by your peers because of your scholarship or service but also being recognized by friends whom you get to visit with only once a year.
There are times when we all get wrapped up in the task at hand, and that is true with ACA the institution as well. The staff and I are largely responsible for the logistics, organization and professional events related to the ACA Conference, but we always want to ensure that those who attend (and, this year, those who are watching via live stream) also enjoy those intangible aspects that can’t necessarily be measured with a survey. We know you work hard and that the service you provide is incredibly important for children, adolescents, young adults, individuals, couples, groups and families. We want the time you spend with us to reduce your worries and stress. Just know that we are here to take care of you.
To fully enjoy the benefits and connections of the ACA Conference, you need to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to let others take care of you. Also arrive thinking about how you are going to apply what you learn at the conference to become an even better advocate for your clients and students.
Visit the ACA Conference & Expo webpage at counseling.org/conference to see what we have in store for you and to plan how to make the most of your professional development experience. And, as noted above, think about how you will allow yourself to be cared for and how you will remain open to the connections you will make in your professional community.
The ACA staff is a hardworking bunch. They have been planning the ACA Conference & Expo with great diligence and commitment. I am indebted to each of them for their efforts. We are ready to provide an exceptional experience. I hope you will join us, either in person or via the live streaming option.