I can remember when we read about and had to endure smog, polluted streams and factories that contributed to a degradation of physical health. But in this day and age, especially here in the United States, the phrase “toxic environment” has taken on other contexts. The ongoing divisiveness between many groups, the bullying of others and an increase in the bias shown against women are among the factors now contributing to a toxic environment.
This column isn’t about Democrats or Republicans, nor is it meant to take sides. Rather, it is about the increased challenges that professional counselors face in this new toxic reality. As professional counselors, you have to deal with issues that are now at the forefront of our society. These issues require you to use all of your skills and training to help clients and students navigate more obstacles than ever before.
With your ability to diagnose and treat mental health disorders and your incredible dedication to being the best possible advocates for your clients, you are front and center as one of the key helping professionals we have in this country. At ACA, we continue to work with public policy officials at the federal and state levels, as well as with organizations with which we can collaborate, to provide the best resources, financial support and other opportunities to professional counselors.
Those of you who have been practicing for many years have had to dig deep to apply your considerable knowledge and experience to the issues facing today’s clients. And for those of you who are just starting out, well, there are clearly many issues you will need to address with those you serve. This is where networking with other professional counselors, counselor educators and related mental health professionals can help. I know that ACA can also help you in your practice as you come alongside clients and students to navigate issues brought on by the more toxic environment in which we live.
What we are witnessing here in the United States as we open our newspapers, turn on cable news or read the latest tweets is nothing short of horrific. The treatment, care and consideration of our fellow humans is constantly being disregarded by any individual or group that now feels they have the right to do or say whatever they want.
Although I remain hopeful for a more caring world, I know that our society can count on the important work of professional counselors. Whether you identify as a professional school counselor, a clinical mental health counselor, a counselor educator or any other specialized title, I want you to know that I think you are doing amazing work. What you do can’t be easy, and the noise contributing to our current toxicity must feel overwhelming at times, but I hope you know how grateful many of us are for what you do each and every day.
Here in the U.S., millions of citizens will go to the polls this month and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice. I encourage you to exercise that right. The ACA Government Affairs staff has created an election tool kit for you to use. Although it was released in time for this year’s elections, it features excellent pieces of information that will help you now and into the future. We all need to make sure that our elected officials are aware of the good work of professional counseling. The ACA election tool kit will help you convey that message. Find it at counseling.org/government-affairs/election-toolkit.