Traditionally, August is a time when students at all levels prepare to enter their fall semester of education. The phrase “back to school” takes on even greater importance in 2021 because for many students, this will be their first time returning to in-person instruction in well over a year. Parents who have dealt with at-home and online education of their children will begin to see somewhat of a return to the way things were prior to the pandemic.
Let’s be very clear though. This will not be a “getting back to normal” situation, even with students going back in schools, adults returning to their offices, traffic picking up on our streets, and an absence of the need to hoard sanitizing wipes. For all the comfort of being able to live in a more open, perhaps maskless way, there will be new challenges and situations that professional counselors will face with their clients and students.
In some ways, students in counselor education programs have the “benefit” of taking what they are learning and then applying it to our rapidly changing society. Today’s graduate students will be able to adapt what they are studying to clients and students who bring up issues such as the pandemic, vaccinations, racial injustice, systemic racism and climate change.
We are entering a renaissance of counselor education, preparation and training. Today’s graduate students in counselor education will clearly make up a cadre that works well into the middle of the 21st century. At ACA, our goals include ensuring that counselors can work for a decent wage and are provided with responsibilities that are commensurate with the education and training they possess. I am a true believer that many of the challenges we face as citizens of the world could be overcome if more people took advantage of the good work of professional counselors.
For those of you who serve as counselor educators, advisers, supervisors or mentors, what is the message you want to share with today’s graduate students? How can you take what you have experienced in your career and help tomorrow’s counselors apply your advice to increase their success with clients and students?
I believe we are on the cusp of even greater acceptance of professional counseling by the public. Our ACA public policy agenda, as adopted by our volunteer leadership, has directed us to ensure that elected officials at the national and state levels have a clearer understanding of who professional counselors are and what they do. Our communications unit continues to be active in promotion of the profession in mainstream publications and on social media. The combination of a very talented ACA staff and the technology to get our message out means that we can do more in terms of outreach than some thought possible even a few years ago.
In some ways, we are all “going back to school” because there is so much to learn about life in today’s society. Regardless of your age or level of training, I encourage you to be aware of the changes taking place and how professional counseling will be part of this new age of tackling critical problems.
I have said this several times over the many years I have worked for ACA: I am so appreciative of what all of you do (and, for our graduate students, what you will be doing). Counselors really are making the world a better place. Knowing about the amazing work you do propels me to come to work and do what I do for ACA each and every day.