Monthly Archives: December 2021

Three steps to rediscover hope during the holidays

By Esther Scott December 8, 2021

As the seasons change from fall to winter, the rollercoaster of emotions we’ve experienced in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past two years continues to affect us. Some people are planning holiday celebrations that will make up for the ones they missed last year, whereas others are still dealing with a range of emotions triggered by the pandemic and the state of our global community. But this time of the year also presents a great opportunity to fortify our mental health by rediscovering the hope this season brings.

We saw our lives change rapidly during the holidays last year: We canceled plans, put relationships on hold, moved celebrations to later in the year and modified our traditional celebrations to uphold new social-distancing guidelines. In addition, we experienced a great deal of emotional pain caused by the death of friends and relatives from COVID-19. We also witnessed social problems, relationship struggles, and the loss of jobs and important plans. These experiences are not trivial, and they have had a real impact on our mental health.

In fact, studies show that our experience with this pandemic is already shaping behavior, and some project it will have lasting effects on the basic ways in which we interact with each other and the world. If people are socializing less often, for example, it could affect how they view themselves and how they relate to their community.

Just as nature plans for difficult times — with trees letting go of leaves to conserve energy and ants and squirrels gathering resources to sustain them through the winter — we must also prepare emotionally as we enter this holiday season. For us, planning ahead could mean organizing our thoughts and emotions, which not only allows us to grow in our ability to overcome the emotional and psychological effects of post-COVID-19 changes but also helps us prevent situational depression and be ready to face unexpected turns confidently.

The following mental health plan, which consists of three steps, serves as a valuable resource for emotional protection as we face both the physical and emotional change of seasons, and it can help us turn these experiences into opportunities for growth and rediscovering hope.

Anshu A/Unsplash.com

 Step 1: Understand your emotions.

Our emotions, even the uncomfortable ones, are always telling us something. The Pixar movie Inside Out does a great job at highlighting some of the emotions that help keep us safe: Disgust motivates us to stay away from germs. Anger helps us react to something we consider unjust or threatening. Fear and anxiety increase and prompt us to fight or escape something dangerous. Sadness encourages us to withdraw for a while to rest and heal, and tears signals to others that we need care.

Understanding our emotions helps us realize that what we are currently experiencing is a natural and expected reaction to the present situation. We have lost many things during the pandemic: social skills, connection, income, relationships and loved ones. Our emotions are, therefore, natural responses that appear when we lose something of value to us.

The pandemic has caused many people to reevaluate what is really important in their lives and to make changes. In psychology, this is called posttraumatic growth — a phenomenon in which positive change occurs as a result of struggling with challenging and stressful lives events. Studies have shown that a happy life starts with emotional well-being, and emotional well-being is a result of a healthy mind. That is why it is important to learn to be aware of our emotions, listen to them, take care of them and accept them.

Step 2: Focus on your resilience.

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, about 41% of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, including difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%) and an increase in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%).

Although these statistics can be discouraging, it is also important to remember that you can focus on your resiliency and ability to overcome difficult situations. In fact, resilience is a psychological trait that can help keep you safe. Resilience can boost your immune response by providing you with an optimistic and hopeful view of the future; you believe your future will be better than your present and that you have the capacity to make that happen.

Psychological studies have found that our physiological immune system can help us not only detect and fight infectious disease but also detect and defend against “emotional infections.” In a similar way to how our body produces serotonin to help us heal from infections, our body can release dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, to help us heal emotionally.

Throughout the pandemic, counselors, psychologists, pastors and community leaders have all offered advice on how to handle stressful situations and reduce cortisol levels. The most important ones to remember during the holiday season are

  • Have self-compassion and avoid demanding so much out of yourself
  • Stop constantly reading and watching news
  • Keep your internal emotions in check

Step 3: Use a rationalization technique.

Studies have shown that people are prone to overestimate or underestimate situations based on their emotions. For instance, people who are anxious about flying tend to overestimate the risks of flying when compared to driving, even though statistically flying is safer.

But just as fear can spread, hope can also be spread. Be a holder of hope. Make sure you remind yourself of your strengths, confidence and abilities. Crises are usually viewed as negative or dangerous, but they can also bring opportunities for improvement. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, allowed individuals to find innovative ways to work from home and celebrate birthdays and weddings under social-distancing guidelines. And infidelity may cause a couple to reassess how much they value their relationship, which leads them to form a stronger bond and develop better boundaries.

After the difficult holiday season, we experienced last year in quarantine and isolation, you may feel relief this year because you can celebrate with your family and friends again, or maybe you feel you have personally grown and have a renewed perspective and appreciation for what matters most. This renewed perspective, along with realistic expectations, can be helpful as you move forward. Expect that you will miss the things, experiences and people you have lost during the pandemic. Expect to be emotional as you continue to adjust to the “new normal.” But you can also expect that you can overcome and improve your situation.

Remember that the beauty of the diamond comes from the extreme pressure and heat it experienced. The same is true for us. Just like diamonds, we may have gone through extreme conditions of pressure and heat last year. But we can emerge stronger from this crisis if we focus our energy on finding the positive lessons it gave us and hold on to one another this holiday season.

 

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Esther Scott, LPC

Esther Scott is a licensed professional counselor and solution-focused therapist in Arlington, Texas. Her specialties include relationship counseling, grief, depression, anxiety and teaching coping skills. Contact her at positiveactionsinternational.com.

 

 

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Play (in) therapy: Approaches to working with young children

By Maureen Bissen Neuville December 3, 2021

I do play therapy, but I am not certified nor am I a registered play therapist — although I wanted to be! 

My early counselor training and mentorship was mostly behavioral, but early on I moved to a less didactic and more interactive approach. That, combined with my interest in working with children, drew me to explore play therapy. 

After earning my master’s degree in counseling, I entered a play therapy certificate program. I’d completed most of the classroom credits when the university decided to end the program. I felt such disappointment. This was in the years well before virtual coursework, and it was not possible for me to travel to get internship or supervision elsewhere. Thus, my goal of attaining certification in play therapy was squelched. Instead, I worked for years as a general counselor and developed an expertise in serving youth and families.

cmp55/Shutterstock.com

Cultivating skills with youth

Given the lack of opportunity to complete my formal education and certification in play therapy, I moved forward with developing more intentional activities (e.g., drawings, games with therapeutic content) in my counseling work. My sessions with youth of all ages affirmed the value of interactive play and hands-on exercises. Keeping their hands busy and minds engaged enhanced the therapy experience for them. Yet I realized the importance of making sure I was not just offering fun tasks or gimmicks but rather genuine and intentional therapeutic purpose and process. 

For example, playing Uno with school-age clients can help with building rapport, but to make it therapeutic, one could have certain cards associated with directives to share an experience or emotion that is relevant to their treatment goals. There is an abundance of workbooks to use with youth of varying ages to supplement and engage them directly in their therapeutic work. I used many of these workbooks, often adapting tasks and visuals to my therapeutic style and my clients’ needs and preferences, and I also designed my own visuals and interactive work. To make the work more their own, I began having the youth draw or make their own charts and scaling graphs (“Show me however you want to”) rather than doing it for them and just filling in their answers. 

These techniques were certainly not play therapy, but they were part of my evolution as a counselor of youth. Throughout the years, I independently reviewed my earlier play therapy coursework and read additional materials, primarily by Terry Kottman and Garry Landreth, building my sense of professional self within their theoretical constructs.

‘Play in therapy’ or play therapy?

In my years teaching Counseling Children and Adolescents courses in a local CACREP-accredited master’s in mental health counseling program, I encouraged my students to include playful and hand-on activities in their sessions with youth — even with teens. Somewhere along the way, I felt a need to delineate the difference between this approach and true play therapy, so I coined the phrase “play in therapy.”

When the few play therapists in our small city retired, they, familiar with my work, began to send their referrals to me. I took on these young clients, informing their caregivers of my partial training in play therapy (although at the time, almost no other options existed nearby). I added more representational tools (e.g., puppets, a dollhouse) to my work with youth. To provide more continuity for these youth and to deepen my own work, I intentionally moved to a fuller play therapy mindset and approach. 

At that time, I had opportunity to work independently within a certified mental health clinic, and I made the decision to create a separate play therapy room. The importance of having a sizable array of figures became clear to me, as too few tended to limit the children’s expressions. I had read that a minimum of 100 figures was needed and that a few hundred would offer fuller opportunity for expression. This initially surprised me, but I found it to be true. Almost never has a child been overwhelmed by the volume of figures in my room; in those rare instances when they were, I would guide them in a more focused, yet still varied, selection. 

As I expanded my therapy office, I became nearly obsessed with scouring secondhand stores and rummage sales to find miniature figures — a common malady for aspiring play therapists. Miniature figures, when carefully chosen and made easily accessible, offer a world of expression for children, who often create their own metaphors and meaning with them.

I continued to immerse myself in play therapy, reading professional articles and books by both traditional and contemporary authors. My goal was to put play therapy theory and skills fully into practice. One of the big changing points for me was when I consciously began to play less with the child and instead sat with clients while they played. I’m naturally a talker and somewhat directive, but I learned to watch, to listen, to be silent. I observed, reflected and encouraged my young clients. 

More and more, I allowed the child to be in charge, enhancing Eriksonian tasks of autonomy, initiative and industry. I learned to curb my inclination to speak to, move toward and invite the child; instead, I let them come to me. 

Certainly there are times when we as counselors need to be in charge, to have rules and boundaries, and to take the lead to move therapy forward, but I emphasize here Kottman’s Adlerian value (also recommended by Landreth and others) of returning responsibility to the child and empowering them. This helps build a secure relationship in which children can choose to play (or not to play), be themselves and know that you will accept them and meet their needs.

Counseling young children 

Research for my Guided Drawing technique (published in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health in December 2019) led me to a deeper understanding of early child development and approaches for that population. Familiarizing myself with DC:0-5 Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood and reviewing literature on developmental tasks and trajectories were helpful in assessing, diagnosing and treating my youngest clients. I strongly recommend that child therapists at least view the DC:0-5. Its biopsychosocial focus, which highlights early caregiving, informs us of early developmental inclinations and experiences that affect youth who eventually present to us for counseling.  

While Landreth does not endorse posing questions to children in sessions, many counselors do query their young clients. Adaptations to standard counseling microskills have proved helpful and become central to my work with youngsters. I now reframe my questions into curious statements. For example, rather than asking, “What were you feeling when that happened?” I might say, “I wonder what you felt” (with an emphasis on “wonder” and a clear closure at the end.) This subtle change helps youngsters feel less intimidated, less forced to answer in a prescribed way and gives implicit permission not to answer at all. This question-as-statement approach can also be helpful when wanting to gather information from older youth. 

When I do ask questions, especially of the very young, I typically use cued invitations with a three-choice format: “Were you really scared, kind of scared or not scared?” “Are you worried more, less or the same as you were when Papa was here?” Numerous professional articles support this cued invitation approach as being better than either forced-choice or open-ended questions for young children still in the concrete thinking stage. I suggest this as a starting point at least, with deeper or more specific inquiries coming only after rapport has been established or a need for more specific information becomes evident. These cued invitations, if presented conversationally, generally do not disrupt the flow in a free-play environment.

Play speaks, and we are to listen

My academic preparation included awareness of how patterns and themes emerge and are revealed in children’s play. Patterns of play might include (but are not limited to) orderly, tentative, chaotic or focused (maybe on a certain category of figures) or the acting out of scenes over and over. 

Likewise, the identification of themes can be essential in understanding child clients. Some common themes revealed in ongoing play sessions include family-oriented expressions, nurturing, loss and aggression. Fantasy and make-believe are also common. The counselor’s task is to consider whether this is typical child’s play (for this child at this time) or symbolic of wishful thinking connected to distress in the child’s life situation. Patterns and themes are critical factors to watch and listen for in child’s play because this is the way that children reveal what is in their hearts and minds.

As sessions proceed, it is important to note if there are changes in a child’s play and to consider what those changes might indicate. I have learned to recognize some common themes and to form hypotheses about what those might mean to or about the child (e.g., the child is experiencing anxiety or fear of abandonment). Yet I’ve also learned to give the child time to reveal whether my hypothesis is a fit for them. 

I have been surprised at what children reveal as they engage in representational or metaphoric play. Sometimes their play serves as a disclosure of abuse or distressing events; other times it provides a picture of their worldview and self-concept. 

There is a danger in interpreting every action as projective, however. Sometimes the child’s play is just that — play. Knowing the difference can be challenging. My advice is to keep your hypotheses in mind and to see if patterns support them, while remaining very open to what else might surface in sessions. 

As is the case with all counselor development, skills will improve with experience, especially when we engage in supervision or peer review and as we self-reflect and recalibrate our approaches.

Play therapy

The play therapy space is both literal (the room, child-sized furniture, sand tray, miniatures, etc.) and figurative (the emotional and verbal space created by the counselor). Such a space offers opportunity for children to establish and express their own dominant and recurring ideas. It no longer surprises me, but it still amazes me how children (consciously or not) express their inner selves and make meaning of their life as they process through their play.

Although a counselor can be culturally sensitive while engaging a child with “play in therapy,” I believe that play therapy has the added advantage of being more culturally open because the child sets the stage, selects the figures and, thus, tells their own story. During “play in therapy,” a counselor might choose a particular worksheet or set of figures to demonstrate a concept, but these visuals might not fit a world that is familiar or preferred by the child. 

From the start, I was intentional about including miniature human figures of varying skin tones, but I later added numerous other items to give children the opportunity to represent their own religious, cultural and family traditions and values in their play. Offering myriad toys and miniatures from which children may choose diminishes the inferred bias (even if unintentional) that may occur when a counselor chooses the visual or hands-on tools. 

I have learned to scaffold and support, to delight with clients’ successes, yet also allow them to struggle. I empathize with, even normalize, what they might perceive as failures. Here’s a simple example: A few children have had trouble opening the cover to my sand tray. Resisting the urge to bail them out, I sit and wait, saying, “You are trying to figure out how to open that.” Even as the children’s eyes plead for help, they keep on trying and eventually get it open. I delight aloud in their competence. (I could remove the cover completely, but what opportunity for discovery and mastery.)

I learn much from my young clients by being watchful and responsive. Mirroring can be a powerful technique and happens naturally when the counselor is fully attentive and responsive to the child. I’ve come to realize the value of simple reflections, tracking and restating children’s phrases word for word. 

I also learn from my interns. One amazed and delighted me in her very first play therapy setting. A child arranging animal figures said, “I’m playing a zoo.” The intern responded, “You are playing a zoo.” This literal tracking — word for word, even when not grammatically correct — can sound and feel awkward for many professionals, but this intern got it right away. 

I often explain to parents why I respond in this curious-sounding, almost mechanical way. It’s so the child will know I am listening carefully and that I accept their telling and their verbiage. Children are generally comforted by this. Even so, one child asked me, “Why do you talk that way?” 

My response to the child’s question was, “So you know I’m listening.”

Grasping the difference

Despite play seeming inconsequential, it is an important developmental task and thus highly facilitative when included in a child’s counseling. “Play in therapy” is a valid and effective way to work with youth. Yet true play therapy is not a technique but an integrated way of being with and for the child and has particular purpose. 

Many counselors do not realize the difference between “play in therapy” and play therapy, nor do they know that the latter is systematic and grounded in theory, whether client-centered, Adlerian or other. I encourage all counselor educators to enlighten students about this, even if only to highlight that adding a playful manner or activity to a session does not in itself constitute play therapy. In either approach, as with all therapy modalities, the client-counselor relationship is central to the work. In play therapy especially, the child’s growth comes from the counselor being fully present.

Seeing young children might be within any licensed professional counselor’s scope of practice, but it is not a competency for most. I remind my supervisees, and here my readers, to honestly know and ethically reveal their level of competence. “I use play in therapy” is, I believe, accurate for most counselors who work with youth. 

For me, “I use play in therapy” has evolved into “While I am not certified, I do play therapy.”

 

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Maureen Bissen Neuville is a licensed professional counselor. She has been a therapist, counselor educator and clinical supervisor in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for more than 20 years. She is grateful to be able to continue in the counseling field even as she moves toward retirement. Maureen envies and respects those who have completed play therapy certification or achieved registered play therapist status. Contact her at mneuville@pomcounselingllc.com.

 

Counseling Today reviews unsolicited articles written by American Counseling Association members. To access writing guidelines and tips for having an article accepted for publication, visit ct.counseling.org/feedback.

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

Growing percentage of American adults are living single

By Bethany Bray December 1, 2021

A growing share of American adults are living the single life.

The Pew Research Center found that in 2019, 38% of American adults between the ages of 25 and 54 were not married or living with a romantic partner. This number has increased significantly in the past two decades, with only 29% being unpartnered in 1990. While this population includes individuals who are divorced, separated or widowed, an increasing portion have never been married.

The number of married adults fell from 67% to 53% between 1990 and 2019, and the percentage of people who were cohabitating with a partner rose slightly from 4% to 9%. Also, the share of adults who have never been married jumped from 17% to 33% during that time period.

Men are more likely to be unpartnered than women, Pew reports. However, the one exception to this rule is among Black women, with 62% of Black women and 55% of Black men living without a spouse or romantic partner.

Overall, the race and ethnicity breakdown for Americans ages 25 to 54 who were unpartnered in 2019 was as follows:

  • 59% of Black adults
  • 38% of Hispanics
  • 33% of whites
  • 29% of Asians

This evolution of Americans’ living arrangements has also laid bare the financial and other disparities that exist between coupled and single adults. Pew found that adults who live without a partner earn less (on average) than coupled adults, are less likely to finish a bachelor’s degree and are more likely to be financially unstable or unemployed. Single adults’ median salary is $14,000 less than coupled adults, Pew reports.

These statistics create many questions for the counseling profession, including the emotional and relational needs that might arise among single individuals, says Katherine M. Hermann-Turner, an associate professor in the Department of Counseling & Psychology at Tennessee Technological University whose doctoral cognate was in couples and family counseling.

“Many counselors are likely seeing unpartnered clients or family members of unpartnered individuals for services, but what do we know about the stressors of this demographic? … The first step is [for counselors to have an] awareness that this is a growing demographic,” says Hermann-Turner, a past president of the Association for Adult Development and Aging, a division of ACA. “My antenna as a counselor, particularly someone who operates from a systems perspective and relational-cultural theory framework, goes to the potential increased need for emotional connection for unpartnered individuals rather than the economic stressors faced by this demographic.”

In addition to the financial and economic disparities, Pew also found that unpartnered adults were more likely to be living with their parents than adults who are married or cohabitating. Thirty-one percent of unpartnered men and 24% of unpartnered women lived with at least one parent in 2019, which is much higher than that statistic for partnered adults (2% for both men and women).

Hermann-Turner notes that this information raises further questions about what clients who fall into this demographic might need when working with a professional counselor.

“Are these individuals substituting the support of their family of origin for partnership or reliance on external systems of support (i.e., romantic partnership)?,” she asks. “If so, why is this the route for many individuals given the typical complexity of a family system? Is this evidence of an earlier lack of career guidance? Underdeveloped relational skills? If so, how can we as counselors begin to intervene earlier and develop these skills in a younger population? Should we be reconceptualizing family counseling to include an emphasis on adult children and their parents? … I am intentionally avoiding the ‘chicken or egg’ argument and pondering the possibility that enmeshed family systems have intentionally stunted one child’s ability for emotional independence as a way to serve the needs of the parents.”

Olga Strelnikova/Shutterstock.com

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What do you think? How might these demographic shifts affect the work counselors do with clients? How should the profession adapt to help clients and meet their needs?

Add your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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Read more from the Pew Research Center: https://pewrsr.ch/3DeLtrm

 

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.

From the President: Who holds you accountable?

S. Kent Butler

S. Kent Butler, ACA’s 70th president

In the Black community, we have folks who will check us and keep us informed, not only about what we say but also about what we do. Truth be told, it starts out in the homes where we are raised. For Black kids, more often than not, this is done to keep us safe from harm. It was done by our mothers and grandmothers, our fathers and grandfathers — whoever raised us. Even our siblings took on this role at times. Because, believe me, everyone needs a person in their life who will tell them that the outfit they are attempting to wear ain’t the one. “Go back in the house and change! You are not going out in public with me like that!”

I wonder at times who checks the other intersectionalities among us, especially for bad behavior, mistreatment of people, lack of self-awareness — a whole host of things. Who’s checking you, boo? And if they are, are you listening? Does it make you consider changing your thoughts and actions?

Let me tell you about “The Talk” that Black caregivers have with their children, especially their sons, regarding interactions with law enforcement. And before you open your mouth to say, “We have that talk too,” just let me tell you, it ain’t the same talk. Far from it in most cases. Our talks are directly linked to life and death. It’s about the Black mother having to lay her son to rest and how excruciating that reality is for the rest of her life. It’s about enslaved children being sold away from their parents. Our talks are weighed down and rooted in a whole lot of history.

In leadership, I often wonder who’s holding whom accountable. Especially when I see outrageously bad behavior enacted within the ivory tower, in the business world and even inside of our counseling associations. Who is pulling folks aside for that heart-to-heart that speaks directly to the impact of their actions on others? Who is dismantling efforts to conspire and collude and helping to halt negative talk going on behind someone’s back? “Yes, we see YOU, and YOU really need to STOP!”

My goal here is twofold: to bring some perspective and expose bad behavior, and to speak for the many who have felt pressured or bullied by the actions of mission-filled individuals. Sometimes this borders on — or surpasses — unethical behavior. Often it involves a campaign of destruction motivated by self-gain. 

So, I ask again, who’s checking you? If the answer is “no one,” find a mentor or close confidant who will be brutally open and honest with you. Perhaps ask a Black mom or dad, but be forewarned and prepared for the lesson. They are gonna teach you some things.

Here are some questions to consider when you think you might be going off the rails.

Who is in my accountability group? Will they tell me the truth when my verbal communications and actions harm others? Do I trust them to hold me accountable with love, compassion and guidance? 

How do others experience my use of power? Am I open to feedback and change (the same way we hope our clients are)? How might I listen more intently and take time to solicit constructive feedback from others?

How can I demonstrate more cultural humility in my relationships? Whom am I failing? Where and why do I fall short along my journey? What might I do to improve?

Our counselor education programs are designed to gatekeep and ward off such bad behaviors, to help ensure that future practitioners, counselor educators and leaders never do any harm. So, some questions beg to be asked: Where did we go wrong? Who are the adults in the room, and who is doing the actual checking? Why are inappropriate behaviors still so pervasive in the world? 

It’s time to take back that narrative and begin to “call folks in.” A very wise mentor of mine would say that some among us need to be reeled in and lured right into a “tough love” conversation to help set them straight. These are important dialogues. I definitely have a few folks I need to put in check from time to time. #ShakeItUp and #TapSomeoneIn.

 

CEO’s Message: Achievements in spite of challenges

Richard Yep

Richard Yep, ACA CEO

So much has been written about change over the past 12 months that it seems it is the one constant we can recognize. There is no need to drill down to specific geographic or demographic data; these changes affect everyone.

Among the things we have witnessed are the following:

  • We have lived more than a full year with the COVID-19 pandemic, which means that many of you continue adapting to provide critical services in new ways.
  • Despite a single political party controlling the House of Representatives, Senate and White House, progress on campaign promises has been slow. This appears to be less the result of challenges from the opposing party and more from some internecine strife within the majority party.
  • Efforts continue to gain momentum at the state level to roll back previous groundbreaking legislation regarding the freedoms and rights of citizens.
  • More than 40 million people in the United States, including 13 million children, are food insecure.
  • The impact of COVID-19 has pushed more than 119 million people worldwide into extreme poverty.
  • Climate crises around the globe continue to deepen.

Yet, even in the face of such challenges, there are accomplishments over the past year to acknowledge. At the American Counseling Association, our work for members and others in the counseling profession has included:

  • Continued progress on Medicare legislation that would recognize licensed professional counselors as independent practitioners eligible for reimbursement.
  • Our signature effort, the Counseling Compact, would allow counselors licensed in one state to practice in another if that state is part of the compact. To become operational, we need 10 states to approve the compact. The progress of our campaign has moved at a faster pace than expected, with two states already enacting the legislation and another 24 in various phases of development. (For more information, go to counselingcompact.org.)
  • The ACA Governing Council approved more than $200,000 as a down payment on the association’s anti-racism action plan. The nine-point plan covers many aspects of systemic and institutional racism in counseling, development of resources for counselors, and creation of training materials that explore racism.
  • Despite working from home “offices” for all of 2021, the ACA staff continued to deliver on member services, product development and counselor advocacy. In fact, membership grew by almost 10%, publications sales were at an all-time high, and the association continued to build its financial reserves.
  • The ACA Governing Council worked on significant revisions to the association’s strategic plan, which will be key to determining what drives the organization forward to mid-2026.

Any column referencing the good news of 2021 would not be complete without mentioning the great work being done by the members of ACA. You learned how to adapt so that you could continue serving as valuable resources and advocates for your clients and students.

You have much to be proud of as we close out 2021. I know many of you are reluctant to toot your own horn. That just isn’t your way. So, let me brag about the amazing work you did over the past 12 months despite some incredible obstacles.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to reflect on the past year as well. By engaging in this type of reflection, my hope is that your energy, commitment and dedication as a professional counselor will be renewed as we enter 2022.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to call me at 800-347-6647 ext. 231 or to email me at ryep@counseling.org. You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.

Be well.