When those in the optometry profession refer to 20/20, they’re referring to good visual acuity — from 20 feet away, you can clearly read the eye chart. So, when we think about the year 2020, it is ironic that so much of what we have “seen” are things that were anything but clear when we started out 12 months ago. Professionally and personally, the impact of COVID-19, racial tension, police brutality against people of color, and a very tumultuous national election here in the U.S. has resulted in disruption, divisiveness and societal fractures in the very fabric of what makes us members of the global community.
In addition, rising levels of food insecurity, the loss of jobs and an economy in peril contribute to increasing concerns about the mental health of adults, teens, couples, families and children. From anxiety to much more serious issues, we have a global community in crisis.
As we close out the year and reflect on what we have experienced in 2020, I wonder if people will react by choosing to be vicious or virtuous. Professional counselors have an incredibly important role to play in cultivating what I hope will be a path toward a community that embraces virtue. Our local communities, our nation and, in fact, our global peers can emerge from all that we have experienced with a renewed strength to address the ills of our society. Not to place too much pressure on the counseling profession, but I think that your efforts, whether you impact one person or one thousand people, can make an incredible contribution to the healing that is necessary.
The past year exposed many areas of darkness that exist in society. My hope for 2021 is that we will all come together to discuss, discern and find solutions to the insidious destruction of civility and common concern for one another that we have witnessed. I want to note that these comments are not about any political party, ideology or movement. I am referring to finding a way forward that can address the problems that were discovered and presented in 2020. We need to have respectful conversations that include agreeing to disagree on certain things, as long as we figure out a way to create an environment that fosters solutions. Our collective goal is to lift up and improve the lives of all.
Professional counselors have a key role in working with clients, groups, families, communities and public policy officials. In addition, there is a whole cadre of graduate students currently enrolled in counselor education programs who need the advice, consultation and support of those who have been practicing and those who teach.
I guess I am an optimist at heart. I believe there is a bright future ahead for professional counseling. The American Counseling Association continues in its desire to be your professional partner. We need to know what we can provide to help you meet the challenges, and exceed the expectations, of those you serve. I’m serious when I say, let me know what you want from ACA!
Last month in this column, I encouraged you to practice self-care. This month, I’ve shared why such energy and renewal will be necessary in the year ahead. Each of you can contribute to making this world better. As we begin to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, take a moment to reflect on how you overcame challenges this year, and then know that the resilience you possess truly makes you an even better professional counselor.