Counseling Today, From the President

From the president: Counselor advocacy strategies

Catherine B. Roland April 26, 2017

Catherine Roland, ACA’s 65th president

Dear Counseling Colleagues,

What’s next for continuing our advocacy for the profession and for the work of counselors as we move forward after the inspiring and energizing ACA 2017 Conference & Expo in San Francisco? That list includes our ongoing work on licensure portability and staying acutely and accurately apprised of new and returning laws and legal initiatives that have the potential to marginalize counselors, the ACA Code of Ethics and our ability to offer the very highest level of counseling practice to all constituents.

Let’s look at both of those items. The majority of counselors want licensure portability. Portability will allow licensed counselors from any state to relocate to a different state and be licensed there either immediately or upon completion of a swift and easy process. The ability of counselors to move freely throughout the United States and retain their licensure seems logical; some might even assume it to be a “right.” And in an aspirational sense, it can be viewed that way. As a concept, it makes good sense.

The glitch may come from the state counseling boards. Each state has its own board that approves the issuance of counseling licenses. These individual boards must make the decision to embrace a recommended policy, or “portability of licensure” plan, and then use the parameters within that plan to determine whether to grant someone a license as a professional counselor. This issue continues to be on the forefront of the advocacy agenda for counselors.

As for the second issue, all counseling professionals should be keeping up with the sociopolitical climate, including new laws across the country that threaten to further marginalize populations that have already experienced consistent marginalization. I know we are busy with life, career, family and (I hope) some leisure time, so the daily news may not be a priority, but we need to stay aware. Advocacy in this world requires knowledge, and given the technological advances shaping today’s news reporting, staying up-to-date no longer requires sitting and watching a 30-minute nightly news broadcast (even though I still do because I’m a news junkie).

I recently gave a workshop on sexual abuse trauma, and a major component of counseling around all trauma is to be trauma aware and trauma knowledgeable. Awareness and knowledge allow us to be vigilant in our advocacy. Our current challenges as counselors are different than ever before. They include reacting to tweets, news briefs, announcements and photos, all of which are potential triggers for trauma on a large or small scale. Our curiosity and awareness will assist us in becoming as savvy as possible, for the good of clients, students, supervisees and our own self-care.

As we heighten our awareness of the world’s challenges, we also have a mandate to act, to advocate and to ask hard questions as counselors. To whom should we pose these hard questions? For me, the strategic answer is legislators, sitting elected officials on every level, celebrated athletes and celebrities, educators and anyone who is perceived to have influence. To advocate is to act. So stand in front of these people — literally, philosophically or spiritually.

One such act would be to attend Illuminate, being held June 8-10 in Washington, D.C. This new and innovative symposium from ACA will focus on the mental health issues of members of the LGBTQ+ community as seen through a life span development lens.

Think about it: advanced training, June in Washington, the beautiful Grand Hyatt Hotel, renewing commitment to best practices for the LGBTQ+ community, 45 workshop sessions, keynotes, camaraderie, networking, bonding and working together for a common and worthwhile cause. And it takes place on Pride Festival weekend, which is a celebration of all diversity. Access the ACA webpage at counseling.org/continuing-education/illuminate for more information. Join us!

Very best,

Catherine

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