On March 12, the ACA staff and I will have worked from our “home offices” for one full year. Initially, given growing concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, we had planned to have staff work remotely for two days (March 12-13 of last year) so that we could test our technology in case we might need to work from home for an extended period of time in the future. On March 12, the United States recorded 1,323 cases of the new coronavirus and 38 confirmed deaths.
Two days of working remotely turned into two weeks, then two months, and soon it will have been one full year. As I write this, those 1,323 cases in the U.S. have grown to more than 26.5 million, and the 38 deaths have expanded to more than 460,000. I know each of you also experienced incredible changes that seemed unimaginable 12 months ago. As we see a slowdown in the number of new cases, a ramping up of vaccinations, and a phased-in return to school and work, we need to ask ourselves, “What will counseling look like in a post-traditional world?”
We know that our world has changed. What we have experienced and learned informs us about how we see the world, how we interact with others and how, in the blink of an eye, things can change dramatically. Pre-pandemic, I applied the phrase “post-traditional” mainly in relation to adult students — those who went back to school to learn a new occupation or embark on a second career. In other words, they were not the “traditional” college students who came straight out of secondary school. They were adults who possessed life experience but sought to gain additional knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a new world of work.
I hope you can see the connection I am making between post-traditional students and my description of a post-traditional world. We have entered a new environment, one in which we will still depend on our life experiences but also need to embrace how we will operate with those whom we interact. For all of you, this encompasses clients and students who have been affected and shaped by the pandemic.
I have full confidence in the work of professional counselors as you navigate this new world. You have your own experiences with COVID-19 that may influence the way you practice and the manner in which you determine how best to meet the needs of those you serve.
I started this column by telling you about our ACA staff. I want to conclude by letting you know how proud I am of their work this past year. Within a two-day period last March, they were literally upended from their place of work and asked to turn their kitchen tables and bedrooms into their ACA “home offices.” They are a dedicated bunch. Calls from ACA members continue to be answered from our staff members’ home offices. This magazine was produced by a talented group of staff from their home offices. And the ACA Virtual Conference Experience, which launches April 5 and will run through the end of May (find more information at counseling.org/conference), was created and will be produced from our staff members’ home offices. I am grateful to all of them and to all of you for the good work being done now and for what will be done as we transition into our post-traditional world.