Once again, the front-page headlines or the lead stories on cable news are all anyone needs to read or hear to realize the crucial role that professional counselors can play in today’s society. The news has reported on many horrific stories, from the terrible actions by a physician who sexually abused female gymnasts, to the children and young adults known as “Dreamers” who fear deportation to countries they may have little knowledge of, to cases of harassment and abuse by powerful people in entertainment and business. It is obvious that the work many of you do as counselors continues to be critically important at this time in our history.
Whether you are working in private practice, community agencies, higher education or K-12 settings, I want to thank you for the efforts you are making to help children, adolescents, adults, couples and families each and every day. Your work can be rewarding, but I know that it can take a great toll on you too. I want you to know that the American Counseling Association stands ready to be your professional partner. We are more than just a publisher and content provider that focuses specially on the needs of professional counselors. We also want to be your place to gather, to network, to renew and to reenergize for the important work you do.
In my several years with the association, I have been privileged to observe how we work to create an open and welcoming environment for professional counselors, counselor educators and emerging counselors. Next month, when we gather in Atlanta for our 66th annual conference, attendees will have the opportunity to meet up with those who are as committed to their clients and students as you are. We will create space for you to connect with one another even as you choose from more than 400 education sessions.
The beauty of an ACA gathering is the opportunities it affords for professional counselors to interact with those who work in different settings. There is an exchange of knowledge that can have immense benefits for you in your practice. During the year, to be the best at your specialty within the counseling profession, I would encourage you to join a division or two to learn about those topics that may impact you on a daily basis. Consider joining an ACA Interest Network (included at no cost with your ACA membership), which provides you with a “digital” town square to talk with your peers about issues of common concern. Remember to visit counseling.org to check out the resources and opportunities provided to you for being a proud, engaged and professional member of ACA.
Quite frankly, ACA is a home for all professional counselors. As I write this column, I notice that attendance at next month’s ACA Conference & Expo is on track to set a number of records. Participants indicate that they are in private practice, conducting research and involved in K-12 school counseling — to name just a few work settings. I’ve heard some say that ACA is like a “big tent,” where those who enter, regardless of their specific area of practice, are able to network, learn from and discuss various counseling topics that can make them even better than they already are.
I agree with that assessment. Think about all that you do and how focused you are on your specialty area. Now consider how much you could learn from a fellow professional counselor whose focus is different, yet complementary to yours. I think you get the idea.
If you are attending the ACA Conference & Expo next month in Atlanta, I hope I will get the opportunity to say thank you for the service, research, teaching and volunteering you do on behalf of the counseling profession. However, even if you can’t join us — either in person or via live streaming — I hope you will continue to share with me your concerns and ideas about how we can make “your ACA” an even stronger partner to the important work you do.
As always, I look forward to receiving your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to call me at 800-347-6647 ext. 231 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.