In July, nearly 200 professional counselors went to Capitol Hill in Washington as part of the American Counseling Association’s Institute for Leadership Training (ILT). Celebrating its 10th year, the ILT brought together counseling leaders serving at the state, region, division and national levels. These counseling leaders, both seasoned and emerging, gathered to learn about key issues facing the profession, engaged in networking and shared with members of Congress the concerns of the profession and the challenges confronting those served by professional counselors.
We live in a time when your voice really does matter. Taking part in public policy discussions has become critical. Advocating on behalf of clients and students has taken on new meaning. In some cases, as an advocate for your clients and students, you will need to ask elected and appointed public officials for their support.
Although your colleagues were in Washington this past month for ACA’s Day on the Hill event, you need not travel far to be an active participant; elected officials do come home and hold gatherings and town halls for their constituents. If you know when your elected officials will be back home, invite them to your work site if appropriate. Or gather some of your counseling colleagues and make an appointment to see your public officials at their offices.
Requesting that basic social services are made available to those facing life’s challenges, that children not be separated from their parents who are undocumented and that LGBTQ youth are provided the support they need to live in a bully-free environment are just a few of the examples of what professional counselors can do when communicating with their elected officials. In addition, counselors can advocate for the profession on issues such as Medicare reimbursement for licensed professional counselors; counselors being able to work with those addicted to opioids; and adequate funding being made available for federal programs that support the hiring of professional school counselors, community mental health counselors and many others in the profession. This is important work, and it will take many of us to realize the change that we envision.
If you are interested in the public policy issues ACA is working on, I encourage you to visit counseling.org/government-affairs/actioncenter. We have posted a number of issues that affect the counseling profession and those whom you serve. The VoterVoice communications platform on the ACA Government Affairs page makes it very easy to identify and communicate with your elected officials. They need to know about your concerns.
I know how busy you are in your daily work. I also realize that at the end of your day, you probably aren’t overly enthused about sitting in front of your computer and communicating with elected officials. So, here is what I would ask: How about taking this action once a month? Or even once every three months? If just half of the ACA membership took this action quarterly, we would send well over 100,000 messages to our elected officials in a year’s time. Just like the nearly 200 professional counselors who took part in our Day on the Hill this past month, you too can make a difference — but from the comfort of your own home.
Will you give this a try? I would be appreciative of your action and your time. In addition, if you would be willing to ask one of your counseling colleagues to do the same thing, we could double our messages to elected and appointed officials. In other words, over the course of a year, we could send nearly 225,000 messages. Now that is power. And who better to exercise that power than professional counselors?