Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed changes in our lives, our work and our play. During this period, the actions of those who govern, the media, our colleagues and our communities have sometimes taken unexpected or surprising turns. We know that change happens, but the rapid acceleration we are currently seeing might be unprecedented.
Now consider a membership organization that is steeped in tradition, has been a pillar of reporting on research, and maintains a code of ethics that is critical to the practice of working with clients and students. The American Counseling Association has been around for almost 70 years. We haven’t always been seen as a “speedboat” when it comes to making changes. Some would say we are more comparable to a giant steamship in that changes in direction (i.e., the status quo) are not made in haste. Sometimes, taking time to chart a new course is both prudent and advisable. However, there are also situations that call for a much faster response so that an organization can maintain its viability and demonstrate its vitality.
ACA is changing. This year, under the leadership of President Kent Butler, the Governing Council has already discussed issues that will have a major impact on the organization and, ultimately, on the profession itself. During the first quarter of this fiscal year (July through September), the leadership and our incredible volunteers and hardworking staff have been involved in determining how ACA will move forward on its anti-racism action plan; have provided increased support for the counseling compact that will allow licensed professional counselors to offer services in multiple states; have discussed how to meet the needs of a cadre of professional counselors who want more professional development via a digital environment; and have looked at the changing needs of members through a revision of ACA’s strategic plan and priorities.
At the staff level, to meet the needs, aspirations and interests of leaders and members, we are making changes on both an operational and professional advocacy level. For example, this fiscal year, we will be looking at both an in-person ACA conference and an enhanced digital learning experience. With the 2021 ACA Virtual Conference Experience (where everything was presented in a digital environment), we set a modern-day attendance record. In addition, we learned that more than 70% of registrants had never been to an ACA conference before. Clearly, a need exists for those who wish to learn online, and we want to meet that need.
We also found out this past year that many of our staff members would welcome the continued option of working from home. This led to the realization that we no longer needed an office large enough for 60 staff members to physically be in the same location. In relocating to an office with a smaller footprint, I am confident that we can maintain productivity for ACA while also saving money. The move to our new downsized office will occur at the beginning of 2022. During my 30-plus years with ACA, I have worked out of four different office locations. This newest one has been planned from the ground up for meeting the needs of a 21st-century workforce. As a bonus, it will also be the most energy-efficient headquarters in our history.
One word that is clearly overused in management is “nimble.” Regardless of whether you use that word or prefer “agile,” “swift” or “lively,” your ACA is on the move. We have been learning to adapt to the changing needs of professional counselors, counselor educators and graduate students. We do this by asking you what you want. We also do this by hearing directly from you. That is something that will not change. We want to know how we can meet the professional needs that you have.
Embrace the change and continue to do your amazing work.