Each day it seems that the world becomes smaller thanks to the advent of technology, allowing us to more easily travel, communicate, interact and learn about others. From my perspective, this means we can also learn more about diverse cultures, customs, perspectives and motivations that we may not inherently understand.
I’m not speaking here about only the internet and our ability to Google or ask Siri about any topic imaginable. Long-distance travel has also improved, and although security takes a bit more planning, it is now easier to reach many destinations around the world. In addition, communications technology allows us to actually see someone living on the other side of the country or the globe when we talk via platforms such as Skype and Zoom.
In December, I was fortunate to attend the World League for Freedom and Democracy conference in Taiwan. The American Counseling Association was invited based on its work as a recognized nongovernmental organization with the United Nations. The event brought together elected officials, policy experts and key stakeholder groups to discuss opportunities with and threats to liberal democracies that support the rights of people to live in open and free societies. My presentation asked attendees to understand the impact, and challenges, to liberal democracies when mental health issues brought on by issues such as trauma, tragedy, discrimination and oppression are disregarded.
For too long, governments worldwide have failed to provide appropriate support to efforts that address behavioral health needs. Each of you does outstanding work to advocate on behalf of your clients, students and communities. Therefore, you expect a professional association that will represent your interests to those with the authority (and responsibility) to adopt and fund services and programs that impact the counseling profession and those you serve.
As we begin 2019, here is more than just a New Year’s resolution. The ACA Governing Council has been deliberate over the past 12 months in creating a vision and a strategy — supported by an actual budget — that seeks to do much more than create taglines designed to make members feel good. Although we still want you to feel good about ACA in 2019, we are doubling down on our public policy efforts as we engage with the new Congress and policymakers, as well as those serving at the state level. While the bulk of our efforts will be focused on actions in the United States, we will continue to build on our role within the U.N. and the establishment of relationships with your counterparts in Asia, Europe and other parts of the Americas.
Our Government Affairs Department and our Public Policy and Legislation Committee have done a great job positioning ACA more prominently in the public policy arena. This year, we will be bringing on more staff, and our efforts will be part of organizational collaboration across all ACA departments. We will also use technology wisely to raise awareness among public policymakers about what counselors are doing. I hope that you will join in our efforts when asked to share your opinions with public policy officials.
Shame on us if we don’t use technology, staff resources and the latest communications techniques to carry out the directive of your elected representatives on the ACA Governing Council.
With all of the divisiveness we see occurring in society, my hope in 2019 is that the counseling profession will be able to communicate a message to those in government that the rhetoric, false information and lack of financial support must end. Our top priorities this year include enhancing your practice, providing resources for the work you do and effecting real change.
The ACA staff and I wish you the best this year and want you to know how incredibly thankful we are for the work you do.
Be well. v