In 1952, Mother Teresa opened a free hospice in the city of Calcutta, Elizabeth II began her reign as queen of the United Kingdom and Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for the first time (for nine months) as punishment for nonviolent civil disobedience for his role as volunteer-in-chief of the Defiance Campaign. That year also included the birth of the American Counseling Association, known at that time as the American Personnel and Guidance Association. Over the past nearly seven decades, the counseling profession has grown and developed amid global conflict, challenges and enormous change. Professional counselors have played a vital role in helping people to thrive throughout the history of our association, and now more than ever, counselors are needed to advocate and provide services to those experiencing individual hardships and systemic adversities within families, schools, workplaces and communities.
Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” The work of counselors is significant in what we accomplish individually and awe-inspiring in what we accomplish collectively. As the 67th president of the American Counseling Association, it is my honor to work collaboratively with ACA staff, leaders, members and stakeholders to carry out the vision and mission of the association.
Over the past year, the ACA Governing Council has worked diligently to develop and approve a comprehensive strategic plan, providing a road map for the future. Given that framework, ACA committees and task forces will address critical issues in the year ahead. My sincerest gratitude to Dee Ray for agreeing to serve as chair of the Promoting Mental Health and Averting Addiction Through Prevention Strategies Task Force, which will focus on prevention best practices across counseling settings and throughout the life span. In addition, three task forces will attend to professional issues: the Counselor Compensation Task Force, chaired by Sue Pressman; the Parity Task Force, co-chaired by Gray Otis and Rita Westermann-Bolton; and the Portability Task Force, chaired by Shane Haberstroh. Furthermore, the Cultural Encounters Task Force, chaired by Kent Butler, and the Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Counseling Task Force, co-chaired by Stephanie Dailey and Casey Barrio Minton, will continue and expand their efforts. Much appreciation is extended to those who have agreed to serve on these task forces and on ACA’s standing committees. Likewise, my heartfelt thanks to an amazing group of ACA volunteer leaders, including Judy Daniels (parliamentarian), Thelma Duffey (treasurer) and Niloufer Merchant (process observer); our Governing Council members; and our dedicated ACA region, branch and division leaders.
There are many opportunities to make a difference in others’ lives through leadership in the counseling profession, and you are encouraged and invited to participate. Ready for leadership? Email email@example.com. Together, we can advocate for the clients we serve and the counseling profession, affording us the opportunity to make meaningful and significant contributions.
You can engage in leadership and advocacy efforts in a way that is compatible with your time availability and congruent with your strengths. For example, you could call public policymakers, provide mental health and addiction screenings in your community, research evidence-based practices related to prevention of mental disorders and addiction, present at counseling conferences at the state and national levels, or serve as an ACA committee member. In July, consider centering your leadership and advocacy efforts on National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (#MinorityMentalHealth). Together, we can increase awareness about and access to the extensive services that counselors provide in schools and communities across our nation.