Last month, Governing Council convened to discuss the American Counseling Association’s current strategic plan. Now in its second year, this road map helps to chart our direction for both the association and the profession. More than just an academic exercise, ACA’s plan is a living, breathing, evolving guide for ACA. I was impressed with the engagement, energy and discussion that took place.
The current challenges to the counseling profession take place at many levels, and the strategic plan helps us make decisions about deploying the finite resources we have. In the “old days,” one or two state-level issues might have come across our desk each year. So far this year, what has come across our “desktop” is no less than a dozen active issues, at least four of which could have a significant impact on those of you in practice.
The need for qualified, appropriately trained, and committed professional counselors is critical. Yet during this time, some of the most drastic challenges faced by the profession involve your ability to diagnose and treat, your ability to provide services to all who are in need, and, of course, your ability to be reimbursed for the important roles you play in society.
ACA must stand strong against the forces that would seek to limit your scope of work and ability to practice. Some of these challenges arise out of a simple lack of understanding on the part of others about the education, preparation, credentials and research base that are part of the counseling profession. Unfortunately, some of these challenges also originate from those who belong to the mental health profession.
How in the world can this happen? We live in a society where children are forced to grow up so much faster, when seniors in need of counseling are denied those services simply because of an out-of-date government regulation, and when hate crimes and persecution of people are on the rise. Despite the shortage of mental health providers for those in need, there are some in the mental health profession who are more interested in limiting the work of professional counselors. I am not sure if this is simply a sign of being ignorant of the exemplary work you do or if there might be a deeper strategy to totally emasculate the counseling profession.
ACA understands what it needs to do for its members, for the profession, and, ultimately, for those who benefit from the services you provide. Many of you may be aware of the decision by the ACA Governing Council to appropriate up to $600,000 to pursue the portability of counselor licenses across state lines through interstate compacts. Phase one of that project launched last month. In addition, we have deployed ACA’s public policy team to various states this year and asked them to establish stronger alliances with those who share common public policy interests. We simply must advance and protect the counseling profession.
There are some outstanding mental health providers in social work, psychology, and marriage and family therapy who operate outside of a counseling framework but understand the professional ecosystem. They know how each of you plays a special role in delivering critical and important services. In fact, most of those in the sister professions walk that path with ACA. Unfortunately, there are a select few who cause unwarranted havoc, resulting in damage to the reputation of the entire mental health profession.
I am proud of the path that ACA leaders and staff have practiced for decades. ACA prides itself on taking the proverbial high road. Our leadership understands that if we are to provide for clients and students, all aspects of the helping community need to work together. Staying true to our principles reflects the foundations of the counseling profession.