Counseling Today, Online Exclusives

Jane Myers and Tom Sweeney: Servant leaders and advocates for the counseling profession

By Allen Ivey and Mary Bradford Ivey April 30, 2020

We have known Jane Myers and Tom Sweeney for over 20 years, during which time we collaborated on writing projects related to a mutual passion: helping to promote the well-being of all people.

When Jane died of cancer in 2014, it was a great loss to us personally and to the profession of counseling as a whole. Recently, we felt moved to interview Tom about Jane, as well as their substantial contributions to the evolution of the counseling profession.

Tom and Jane are the only [husband and wife] couple who have both been presidents of the American Counseling Association. They made a significant difference in their time as presidents, but they were equally influential as active members of ACA’s governmental structure.

Before turning to the interview we conducted with Tom, we’d like to touch on some of the areas in which Tom and Jane helped to shape the profession. During our interview, Tom shared some stories associated with several of these accomplishments.

The origins of ACA’s name: What we know today as the American Counseling Association began as the American Personnel and Guidance Association in 1952. The name was occasionally derided by some (“guidance is for missiles”), but it stuck until 1983, when I (Allen Ivey) introduced an alternative: the American Association of Counseling and Development (AACD). I thought the name spoke to the goals of counseling and implied a wellness/health orientation. The association thus changed its name and operated as AACD until 1992. Despite this, the concept of “development” was largely unclear to the public at that time. So, eventually, Jane and Tom helped propose our identity as simply the American Counseling Association. This three-word title succinctly defines who we are to the public.

Social justice: Jane and Tom remained social justice advocates throughout their careers. Tom, the son of Scottish immigrants, grew up in a racially and multiculturally rich community. As early as 1968 in what had been a segregated state university, he planned and directed the first in a series of fully integrated six-week-long summer institutes for 50 counselors from 13 Southern states living together in a dormitory. These and other programs were funded by the General Electric Foundation Educators in Industry program.

Jane’s brother had developmental disabilities. Her mother, a special education teacher, imbued in Jane a genuine love and respect for people with disabilities. Jane’s counseling career began as a state vocational rehabilitation counselor. By her own report, Jane’s administrator thought her too strong of a social justice advocate on behalf of her clients. So, Jane went on to earn a counseling doctorate, during which time she learned of the needs of older adults. Thus began her efforts in gerontological advocacy, research and teaching.

One of Jane’s gerontology students once told her that as this student was entering Jane’s classroom, a colleague professor of Jane’s said, “Don’t go in there. That area is irrelevant.” Finally, we are seeing these clients as central to our work as counselors.

Licensure: Tom took a first step toward counselor licensure in 1974, when he proposed licensure for counselors in an article titled “Licensure in the helping professions: Anatomy of an issue.” (More about this topic in the interview.)

Accreditation: Preparation standards are the foundation for counselors’ scope of practice and ethics. Accredited educational programs are crucial for professional creditability. The clear definition of standards directly impacts counseling curricula and staffing. Tom (1981-1987) and Jane (1994-1996) both chaired the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). In addition, Jane almost single-handedly helped to establish a gerontological curriculum, competencies and CACREP specialty through Administration on Aging grants. She also won approval from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) for a national certification in gerontological counseling. Sadly, neither of these specialties exist today within CACREP or NBCC.

Chi Sigma Iota (CSI): In 1985, Tom and Jane established the first counseling honor society chapter (Alpha) at Ohio University. Both served as president and executive director of CSI. CSI has more than 130,000 initialed members, has chartered more than 400 university-based chapters, and is the third-largest active membership organization in the counseling profession.

Since its inception in 1985, CSI has returned over $1.7 million to university chapters and members through rebates, awards and grants. Its goal is “to promote a strong professional identity through members … who contribute to the realization of a healthy society by fostering wellness and human dignity.”

CSI’s leadership style is based on Robert Greenleaf’s philosophy of servant leadership — i.e., one serves to benefit the greater good of others rather than for self-interest.

Wellness: Jane and Tom began their work related to wellness in the 1980s. Through their research, writing and teaching, they helped provide a foundation and focus that increasingly defines what it means to be a professional counselor.

A gallery of portraits of American Counseling Association presidents is featured in a hallway at the ACA headquarters office in Alexandria, Virginia. Jane Myers is visible in the middle row, second from right. Photo by Bethany Bray/Counseling Today

An excerpted interview with Tom Sweeney

Allen Ivey: Could we turn to those basic important struggles you had in the early days?

Tom Sweeney: Looking back, sadly, I had thought that we could be both collegially professional counselors and psychologists. As background, I have a minor in counseling psychology, belonged to the counseling psychology Division 17 [of the American Psychological Association until the mid-1970s], and was a licensed psychologist because we had no Ohio counselor licensure yet. I worked early on, and even as president of ACES (Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) and ACA, to build cooperation and dialogue with Division 17, AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) and other groups. Jane did as well during her term as ACA president. Cooperation was not forthcoming, and psychologists have consistently fought to stop or limit counselor practices. Many still do today.

ACA supported starting NBCC because we knew the battle would be long and hard fought. Now all states have counselor licensure, but the battles in the marketplace continue.

Mary Bradford Ivey: You and Jane have been central in leading and supporting state-by-state licensing, CACREP and Chi Sigma Iota. These are awesome contributions that have made counseling a full profession. How did all this start for you?

Tom: The short answer is I learned in my doctoral studies that counseling was an “occupation,” not a profession. From my early leadership years, I sought to bring counselors into the family of helping professions through counselor credentialing, standards of preparation, ethics and accreditation.

When I wrote the first article on “Licensure in the helping professions: Anatomy of an issue” (1974) for the APGA journal, we were far behind psychologists. The Ohio state psychological board was new and aggressive in asserting its authority. The next year, I was commissioned to write what became the APGA Governing Council-adopted position paper on counselor licensure. I chaired both the first SACES (Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) Licensure Committee (1972) and then the APGA Licensure Committee (1975-77). As a consequence, I networked with counselors all over the country who were being impacted by psychologists’ efforts to advance their members’ practices. I traveled, spoke and testified on occasion at legislative hearings.

I can still recount the aggressive actions of psychology licensing boards. The most notable case for me was the state of Ohio psychological board having an African American Ed.D. counselor arrested on felony charges for providing assessments for parents whose kids couldn’t get tested for special ed placements. I got personally involved, and we (APGA) sent a friend of the courts brief. The judge dismissed the case but made no ruling.

Another case in Virginia got a favorable review by the judge, and Virginia became the first state to have counselor licensure as a result. A member of our licensure committee, Carl Swanson, was instrumental in both of these cases. Every state attaining licensure was different thereafter, and literally hundreds of counselors made it possible.

Allen: And then there is CACREP, a necessary foundation for our profession. You and Jane were central here.

Tom: As president-elect of APGA/ACA, I knew that without accreditation, licensure efforts would be even more difficult. I am pleased to say that I made the APGA motion to adopt the ACES Standards for Counselor Education for the first time ever. Until then, there were no recognized APGA-endorsed standards.

As President, I wrote the position paper establishing CACREP. Joe Witmer was CACREP’s first executive director, and I was the first chair for CACREP’s initial, critical, formative six years. Lots of stories associated with these early years. Deans of colleges openly opposed us.

One of our most important tasks was revising standards in those early years. CACREP is accountable to the members of the profession and the public that we serve through the process of standards revision and implementation. Change in higher education moves slowly because of tradition, expense and reluctance to create unintended consequences. I don’t think we as a profession are unique in this regard. Of late, some might argue that change has gone too quickly in some regards, especially related to online education and its entrepreneurial rise to power in higher education. Not just in our field but in the medical field and others as well.

Nevertheless, the role of CACREP is critical as a foundation for helping to define our scope of practice. In some ways, CACREP helps us define what is meant by “professional counseling.”

Mary: Why was NBCC started?

Tom: NBCC was established because those of us immersed in the licensing efforts knew it would take a long time to establish professional counselor credentials in every state. The Federal Trade Commission was pursuing other professions with too closely enmeshed membership, accreditation and national credentialing bodies, so we opted to keep CACREP and NBCC apart from ACA, even though ACA (APGA) supported each startup with funding and office space.

As APGA president at the time, I remember my Governing Council subcommittee wanting to delete a budget for continuing such an effort. I intervened and got it reinstated by having the committee conduct a survey asking members what they thought. It got the largest mail survey result of anything AGPA had attempted before — and members wanted their membership association to support their accrediting and credentialing bodies.

Mary: What does NBCC do for us professionally?

Tom: When we first conceived of what then was called national “registers of service providers,” we thought it would fill in as a credential for those members who had no prospect of a state license for years to come. Once licensure was established in all jurisdictions as it is now, we thought the national credential would fade away.

I’m probably not the one to ask, as my involvement over the last decades has been limited to some collaboration between CSI and NBCC. Under the leadership of Tom Clawson, NBCC’s advocacy and outreach programs have gone far beyond whatever we could have imaged in 1982. As with Carol Bobby’s CACREP leadership, they have advanced counseling as an important partner in promoting professional counseling throughout this country and abroad.

Allen: And along with all that, you and Jane founded our profession’s honor society, Chi Sigma Iota.

Tom: Yes, Jane had started the Rho Chi Sigma rehabilitation counseling honor society. It was small, modest numbers, of course, but she made those students feel special through her style of mentoring. When I say her mentoring, a few years ago, the winter edition of the Journal of Counseling & Development (JCD) had articles by six of Jane’s graduates. Last year, five received various national awards. We all learned from the very best! This is the kind of mentoring that she helped model in CSI.

So, witnessing Jane’s honor society chapter spirit, I saw its potential for the profession as a whole. Many faculties in other programs were struggling for a professional identity, so I decided to create a way for students, faculty and graduates to claim their professional identity through an honor society dedicated to all counseling specialties, all degrees, etc. We mailed one letter of invitation to counselor educators across the country, and we never needed to send another.

Today, programs seeking CACREP accreditation also want CSI chapters since we are known to be co-curricular partners within counselor education programs. For example, the CSI Executive Council recently adopted a position of leadership and advocacy for counselor identity and wellness that will find its way into all of our chapters and beyond.

Mary: I recall clearly Jane’s 1990 presidential address on wellness over the life span. It was exciting, as I was once a physical educator in the Madison, Wisconsin, schools, where health had been central to my work. And on hearing Jane’s address, I immediately understood what needed to be done to support her direction. My work with Allen on therapeutic lifestyle changes was reinforced by her ideas.

Tom: Yes, Jane was a visionary. As president-elect (1989-1990), she got a resolution passed to state unequivocally AACD’s “support for the counseling and development profession’s position as an advocate toward a goal of optimum health and wellness within all of our society.” It was about this time that our wellness research was just getting off the ground. With our Ohio University colleague Mel Witmer, we developed the WEL inventory and began collecting data for Jane’s database.

Allen: Tell us more about your and Jane’s solid research and work on wellness and assessment instrumentation.

Tom: With substantial help of a world-renowned statistician, John Hattie, we used Jane’s database of several thousand subjects to conceptualize an empirically derived Indivisible Self Wellness Model (ISWEL) and to create the Five Factor Wellness Inventory (5F-Wel). With Jane’s help, I was able to use Adlerian theory to provide practitioners and researchers with concepts and means to advance their clinical and scholarly work based upon a practical theory and sound empirical model. The instrument has been translated into over a dozen languages.

An article in JCD (2020) with Laura Shannonhouse as senior author affirms the usefulness of the adult 5F-Wel. After a rigorous screening process of over 100 studies down to 59 that met their criteria, the authors reaffirmed that it is suitable for both research and clinical practice. There were insufficient reports as yet for teenage and elementary reading levels.

I continue to receive what had been Jane’s correspondence from individuals from all over this country and abroad in counseling, education, psychology, nursing and medicine. Our instruments and empirically based Indivisible Self Wellness Model are cited far and wide beyond our field.

Mary: The four of us had the pleasure of writing a book that brought counseling, wellness and development into an integrated package. As we conclude our discussion, it might be helpful if we talked about the “how” of a developmental/wellness-oriented counseling and therapy practice.

Tom: Like you folks, Jane and I became convinced that holistic wellness was a better construct from which to define counseling goals and outcomes.

Our Indivisible Self Model has 17 factors (e.g., positive humor, thinking, nutrition, etc.) that practitioners can incorporate into any client’s treatment plan regardless of the presenting issues. Rather than focus only on problems, we focus on client strengths and what they can do now to take steps toward optimizing the totality of their quality of life as much as possible.

Counseling has long been a wellness and positive development profession. Both developmental counseling and therapy (DCT) and Adlerian practice focus on the strengths one finds in all clients. Both are fully aware of social influences in the session. Wellness is central to both and has its own proven system to encourage demonstratable therapeutic lifestyle changes. One does not need to embrace all the tenets of Adlerian or DCT to effectively implement a wellness counseling approach, but if you do, it certainly will help.

 

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Allen and Mary Bradford Ivey have written, keynoted, and presented workshops throughout the world for nearly 40 years. Allen is distinguished university professor (emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Mary has been recognized nationally as having developed one of the top 10 guidance programs in the United States. Both have been honored as fellows of the American Counseling Association. Allen and Mary were also founders and former president and vice president of Microtraining Associates, an educational publishing firm focusing on counseling and therapy skills and the first in the nation to present educational videos on multicultural approaches to counseling and therapy. Contact them at allenivey@gmail.com.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

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