Happy New Year! I wish you a prosperous, healthy and productive 2017. My hope is that the year will be one of renewed compassion, caring and reflection. To say that we are in interesting times is an understatement. Changes in the American political landscape, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the ongoing strife in areas of the Middle East where millions of innocent people are facing unimaginable horrors are just a few examples of these unchartered waters.
Your American Counseling Association staff and the volunteer leadership begin the year with a commitment to do an even better job for you. After receiving feedback from many of you and doing research into being a more strategic organization, ACA is positioned to meet many of the needs of our membership. Here are a few of the issues we will be focusing on in the new year.
License portability: Licensed professional counselors (LPCs) who have met certain standards should be able to move to another state and begin working again without the significant burden of retaking courses or obtaining hundreds of hours of supervision. LPCs who are educated, trained and experienced and have no ethical violations on their records are already qualified. They should not face the obstacles of unneeded state regulations.
Currently, three major portability models are being considered — two that have been crafted by four major counseling organizations, and one that is being promoted by an organization composed of some state licensure board members. My hope is that consensus on a model will be reached early this year so that we will have the best chance of providing LPCs the ability to practice in whatever jurisdiction they choose to live.
State legislation: Even though Republicans control both the White House and Congress, this first year of a new administration is likely to feature growing pains as they figure out how to craft an agenda on which they all can agree. With that being the case, many regulations and laws being proposed at the state level of government may have an even bigger impact on professional counselors. ACA has doubled the size of its government affairs staff over the past five years so that we can enhance our focus on state-level issues and the development of grass-roots communications.
This past year, the state of Tennessee enacted a law allowing counselors to deny services to whomever they wish — a move that directly contradicts the ACA Code of Ethics. This year, a bill has been introduced that would prohibit Tennessee’s counselor licensure board from using any “outside” code of ethics. In fact, this bill specifically names the ACA Code of Ethics as one that the board would no longer be allowed to use. The ACA Code of Ethics has stood the test of time, having been in operation for more than five decades, and is grounded in research and exemplary practice.
Given the protections that our ethics code provides consumers of mental health services, we will continue to insist that all ACA members abide by it.
Professional development opportunities: In March, thousands of professional counselors, counselor educators and graduate students will come together in San Francisco for the 65th ACA Conference. We have designed the conference to meet the needs of today’s professional counselor, while also providing opportunities for those who will carry the profession into the latter half of the 21st century. Focusing on our coming together as a profession (and in one of the most beautiful cities in the world), the conference will feature more than 400 educational sessions, an enhanced career center and some incredibly meaningful dialogue about what it means to be a professional counselor in today’s society.
In June, we will host our first ever Illuminate conference in Washington, D.C. At this event, participants will be presented with an incredible list of workshops, keynote speakers and panel discussions about the challenges (and opportunities) of working with the LGBTQ community.