Counseling Today, From the President

From the President: Three words: Positivity, hope, courage

By Catherine Roland July 28, 2016

Catherine Roland, ACA's 65th president

Catherine Roland, ACA’s 65th president

Dear Counseling Colleagues,

The heat of August is upon us. Some families are preparing for back-to-school events, while others are still enjoying well-deserved vacations. Still others may be participating in career or business opportunities that inform career development. I have always loved the end of summer, when the light is beginning to be different. For most, there is time to just breathe, contemplate and reframe what may have been a busy past few months. For many people, however, this summer has been far from quiet. In fact, it has been fraught with sadness and disbelief.

On June 12, I was awakened before 7 a.m. by a text and a phone call alerting me to watch the news. What I saw impacted us all. Initial reports of the hate-filled massacre of individuals enjoying a night out with friends and family at Pulse, a popular gay club in Orlando, Florida, left me shocked, angry and terribly saddened. Early reports said 20 people were dead. Ultimately, that number rose to 49 individuals, the majority of whom were there to celebrate, dance and have fun because Pulse was hosting Latin Night. The deceased were also predominantly members of the LGBTQ community, along with their friends and family members. As that Sunday passed, I continued to sit and watch the news coverage, unable to turn away, unable to stop seeing the violence, the senseless tragedy and, ultimately, the massacre at Pulse.

As counselors, counselor educators and counseling students, try to imagine if that had been your community, your culture or your identity group. Consider the very first thing you might have thought — your gut reaction. Most of us might naturally have wanted to know what to do, how to help. I think we felt so much sadness collectively as a nation, and people from many other nations shared in this sadness. There was also anger — anger about gun violence and hate-generated acts of violence against a population. Accompanying that anger was frustration that at that moment, we had no power to change the outcome or strike it from our minds. And we are counselors, equipped to help in the aftermath of tragedy, of crises.

When we as counselors offer hope, act with courage and reframe negativity into a level of positivity, we are helping. We are serving. We model our skills by being able to assist in a nonjudgmental manner; we offer hope to a population and individuals who have experienced shameful discrimination for most of their lives; we act courageously as advocates and supporters.

The three words at the top of this column, and which you also saw in my first column — positivity, hope and courage — are important to the personal spirit and mental health of all of us. Counselors have influence in communities, with families, and in schools and agencies. When we know that truth internally and believe that we do make a big difference (sometimes all the difference) by courageously standing up to support and assist our clients and the communities in which they live, counselors gain strength. We are strong!

By now, you have heard that the ACA 2017 Conference & Expo will be held March 16-19 in San Francisco (with Pre-conference Learning Institutes taking place March 15-16). A colleague of mine said that was indeed a “poetic choice,” and with that, I concur. ACA will be in San Francisco, which is beautiful, welcoming to all and a wonderful conference city.

Please join us — there will be much to do, many networking opportunities and, most important, a solid offering of workshops and sessions of interest to all counselors, counselor educators and counseling students. From my viewpoint, this is a confluence of circumstance that highlights ACA’s brave and strong stand against discrimination, a celebration of diversity in its deepest and most authentic way, and the promotion of positivity, hope and courage to our great profession. They will all meet in San Francisco, and you just may leave your heart there.

I am incredibly humbled and proud to be writing to you, our ACA members, every month. Let us never lose track of who we are, what we do as counselors and the potential we have to contribute to the greater good.

Very best,



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