Happy New Year! According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word of the year for 2018 was toxic. What would it take for the word of the year in 2019 to be resilience? The Oxford Dictionaries define resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” How do we, as counselors, help clients and communities transform toxicity and trauma into resilience?
In a time when mass gun violence has become normalized, severe weather patterns threaten livelihoods and force migration from communities, and sociocultural and political climates are tense, the need for resilience has never been greater. On Nov. 26, the American Counseling Association Governing Council passed two statements developed by our Human Rights Committee to address the public health concerns related to gun violence and climate change. There is much we can do as a profession to advocate for preventive and mental health treatment services in schools and communities to foster resiliency related to such tragedies.
Resilience may look very different for each individual, and that’s OK. For instance, some people in recovery demonstrate resilience by serving as peer supports for others who are in the early stages of recovery. Others may decide to give back to their communities by fundraising or organizing community awareness walks that focus on particular issues. For some people, getting out of bed every day is a sign of resiliency. Choosing to not give up and to make it through the day is the ultimate indicator of resiliency for those who are in severe emotional pain.
Maya Angelou said, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” How do we as a profession assist clients and communities in shifting potentially maladaptive reactions to negative events into reactions that can lead to posttraumatic growth? We do this work with students in the schools and clients in the community all the time. If our goal is to make resilience the word of the year, we will need to advocate for systemic changes to help communities heal and become stronger through healthy interconnections, cultural dialogues and access to mental health counseling.
Of course, counselors aren’t immune to personal challenges, natural disasters, systemic barriers or other hardships. Life continues to happen to us even as we serve others. We have a responsibility to seek renewal and foster personal resilience because we are the primary tool through which we help others. Thus, my hope is that all counselors will include self-care as a New Year’s resolution for 2019.
Yes, self-care includes a good diet and regular exercise — those typical New Year’s resolutions. But for counselors, self-care of the mind, body and soul is critical. What fills your cup and brings you joy, both in your personal and your professional life? What would help you become more resilient as a counselor?
Gaining knowledge for complex client cases, recovering from a client’s death by suicide, securing an internship placement, obtaining licensure as a professional counselor, finding a job, relocating and finding another job … these are some of the professional challenges that counselors face throughout their careers. ACA has traditionally been a source of renewal for counselors who fill their cups by attending conferences, networking with colleagues and taking advantage of clinical resources. Also be sure to check out ACA’s more robust Career Center (counseling.org/careers/aca-career-central), which, among other offerings, assists students and new professionals in finding internship placements. Plus, see new online learning opportunities for counselors across settings (see counseling.org/continuing-education/overview). In the year ahead, take advantage of all that ACA has to offer, including connecting with other counselors who share a passion for advocacy, ethical and culturally sensitive practice, and the promotion of resiliency.
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