There are 1.7 million students in the U.S. who attend schools with police but no counselor, according to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union. This implies that those school districts are spending more money on police and security officers than on professional school counselors. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong supporter of keeping our students safe, but I am troubled by spending more on arming school personnel with weapons than on arming students with the skills to be good, caring and compassionate human beings. To help students become the adults we want them to be, we need more professional school counselors.
This type of statement coming from the CEO of the American Counseling Association could seem self-serving, but let’s remember that a number of teachers unions have also been advocating for more professional school counselors. Why would educators do this? Because they value having trained mental health professionals working with them in school settings. Many teachers and administrators know that professional school counselors are key members of the school team and bring a special set of skills with them.
At ACA, our job is to help public policymakers and local communities understand the importance of professional school counselors. Because April is Counseling Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to start spreading the good news about what these professionals do every day for our nation’s most important asset — our children.
Of course, Counseling Awareness Month was created to celebrate all professional counselors. So, in addition to advocating for professional school counselors, let’s commit to doing what we can for those who identify as licensed professional counselors (LPCs) and clinical mental health counselors. At the federal level, ACA has been pleased to work with congressional offices over the past few months to secure introduction of a bill that would finally allow LPCs to practice independently under Medicare. This has been a multiyear effort by ACA, and we may have a better shot at seeing passage of this critical legislation now than in the past.
We need to all work together to generate important support for all professional counselors. As the world’s largest organized body of professional counselors, ACA led the charge to achieve enactment of counselor licensure in all 50 states and the U.S. territories. Licensure boards and courts of law cite the ACA Code of Ethics, and we are proud of our partnerships with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Human Rights Campaign, and federal agencies and congressional offices.
I think that the next three years will be critical for the counseling profession. Upon entering 2022, ACA will be looking back on 70 years of advocacy for and development of the profession. Let’s agree to celebrate Counseling Awareness Month this year by sharing your stories with colleagues, with community members and with those who sit in positions of legislative and regulatory authority. Let’s be “counselor proud,” not just for the profession itself but for the millions of clients and students you affect through your important work.
I also want to take a moment to thank the more than 4,000 of you who joined together in New Orleans for the ACA 2019 Conference & Expo. With all that is going on in society, and the resulting stress faced by professional counselors, it was wonderful to have so many of you under one roof. For those who attended, thank you. I hope your time in New Orleans was of great benefit and something that will sustain you in the coming year.
From the staff of ACA, we honor you, we appreciate you, and we recommit to doing
all we can for the counseling profession.