The traditional beginning of the school year looks quite different this month. Typically, concerns revolve around how K-12 students will “get back into the swing of things” after a summer spent vacationing, working part-time jobs or going to camp, but the coronavirus pandemic is providing an entirely new backdrop as students return to school.
While some kids may still hop on a bus, millions of others will be logging into their classrooms this month through their computers. Last year at this time, could anyone have imagined this happening? In the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted multiple aspects of people’s lives. Some people may have built up immunity to the coronavirus, but no one is immune from the impact the virus has had on our social circles and communities.
The lack of clear leadership and consensus on how to battle the pandemic has resulted in conflict, aggression, bullying, anxiety and political games. While many acknowledge what science informs us to do to stem the spread of the virus, those with authority and in positions of power seem unable to understand that wisdom and guidance. Those who neglect to practice physical distancing, wear a mask or follow guidelines for proper hand-washing are putting both their own health and well-being at risk and the health and well-being of those trying to help them. This means that professional counselors, who are key providers of critical services, are put at risk. While it may be an individual’s “right” to put themselves in harm’s way, what if doing so places mental health professionals in danger? Frankly, that is not OK.
Many people in this country have different thoughts, perspectives and beliefs on myriad issues. However, the pandemic does not discriminate regarding who will be infected. Professional counselors already had challenging jobs, whether they were working in schools, private practice, community agencies, hospitals or the corporate sector. Always striving to find the best in others and working diligently to truly make others’ lives better is hard enough, personally and professionally, without having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Having to engage in telebehavioral health added yet another dimension (and challenge) to the amazing work to which counselors dedicate themselves. That is why, back in April, ACA provided a series of online education sessions to help counselors better understand exemplary telebehavioral health practices. We made those sessions available to all ACA members, as well as to nonmembers, at no cost. We felt it was one way that ACA could step up to help with what professional counselors were facing. I’m pleased to note that more than 20,000 counselors signed up for the sessions. I’m also happy to announce that we are making that offer available again, both to ACA members and nonmembers, starting this month and running through November.
So, while you do the important work of serving clients and students, we hope you will take advantage of the continuing education we are providing on telebehavioral health. I would also be very interested in hearing what else you might like to learn more about. Please contact me with your suggestions.
I say this all the time: Professional counselors are needed now more than ever. Many of us are familiar with the statistics that indicate the depth of mental health challenges facing our society. Counselors have been creative and committed in their efforts to continue providing services, even when the ways in which many of you worked have been upended. I have never been prouder of how professional counselors are helping society, and I am grateful for all you are doing.