True confessions. Like many others, I put professional counselors on a pedestal. The work you do as practitioners, educators, researchers, supervisors and consultants reflects a commitment to addressing the human condition and how to help people make the most of their lives. In addition, I have even more respect for those counselors who choose to give back to the profession. Despite all that they do in their “day jobs,” so many also volunteer to serve on ACA committees, task forces and commissions. There are also those who serve in our divisions, regions, branches and partner organizations, and those who serve as mentors and volunteers in their communities. You can see why you are held in such high esteem.
Of course, there is also the pressures of seeing clients, building a practice, teaching the next generation and handling routine responsibilities. All of this adds a tremendous weight to professional and personal lives that are already full. But just as you are there for others, ACA can be there for you. Our actions include working to support your ability to practice across state lines and to receive reimbursement as independent providers under Medicare. In addition, we are producing resources, providing consultations related to ethical practice and exploring systemic racism. ACA is here for you and the profession. But while our core values remain the same, there is a new reality to how things will get done.
As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, everyone will be adjusting to a post-pandemic world. We know these adjustments will be easier for some than for others. The work of professional counselors will involve helping students, clients and communities as they adapt, apply lessons and adjust. Your ACA staff stands as a good example of adapting in relation to our headquarters office. If anyone had told me two years ago that all staff would be working from home for this long, I might have scoffed. However, after 24 months, we see that the association continues to be successful with all 60 employees working from home. We have learned to adapt, apply lessons and adjust.
The result of “doing things differently” is that we are relocating ACA’s headquarters to a smaller space because many staff members have expressed their desire to continue working from home for part or all of the work week. This move reduces the cost of our office space, which in turn frees up funding that we can devote to products, services and advocacy for our members. Another unanticipated benefit is that our new offices are in a LEED Gold certified building, so we are doing our part to address environmental sustainability.
Counselors have also adapted. How many of you could have predicted that online mental health services (and teaching graduate courses online) would become so predominant? When more than 32,000 counselors signed up for our free courses on utilizing telehealth, we knew that many of you had taken on the challenge to adapt.
Counselors’ ability to adapt is another reason that I keep you on a pedestal. You understood the importance of continuing to provide services in whatever way possible. Rather than simply plugging along, you “plugged in” by using technology when necessary so that you could continue helping others. I celebrate all of you.
Next month, we ask you to join us in celebrating Counseling Awareness Month. In the coming weeks at counseling.org, you will find various resources and ideas that you can use throughout April as we celebrate the profession. We will also feature information on ACA’s social media channels and, of course, observe “Teal Day,” when we wear that color to show solidarity and support for the counseling profession. In addition, counselors, counselor educators and graduate students will gather April 7-9 in Atlanta for our first in-person conference in three years. Keeping with the theme of this column, we will be “adapting” to the current reality by observing COVID-19 mitigation protocols.
Many thanks to those in the counseling profession for your continued dedication. I continue to be in awe of the marvelous things you do for so many of our fellow humans.