April is Counseling Awareness Month (CAM). That means we want to do whatever we can at the national, state and local levels to let your colleagues, communities and constituencies know about the positive impact professional counselors make on the lives of millions of people. Given what society has experienced over the past few years, I truly believe that the work of those who identify as professional counselors has made things much better than what might have been. I know it isn’t always easy to see that, especially if you listen to the news, but your work does matter, and you are making a difference.
So, dear counselors, do not let up! Continue doing your good work. And if you need permission to “toot your own horn,” consider CAM the vehicle for doing so. CAM isn’t about bragging; it is about celebrating your education, your experience and your ability to literally change the trajectory of the lives of children, adolescents, adults, couples and families.
Call me an eternal optimist, but I think the counseling profession has achieved even greater status over the past few years. The public and the media are recognizing that the services counselors provide should not be seen as an “addition” to the priority applied to one’s physical health. Rather, social-emotional well-being and mental health are part and parcel of a person’s overall health maintenance. I was so pleased to hear President Joe Biden reference mental and physical health parity during his State of the Union address last month. ACA has advocated for this type of parity for decades, so having ostensibly the “most powerful person in the world” make that statement was yet another milestone for the counseling profession.
This month, approximately 1,700 people will gather for ACA’s first in-person conference since 2019. The event will look quite different from what previous conference attendees experienced, but there will still be more than 150 education sessions, an inspirational opening keynote speaker, and numerous networking and social gatherings. All of this will be done while we strive to keep attendees, staff and vendors as safe as possible by observing post-pandemic meeting protocols. Although I wish we could be back in “full force” with the thousands who previously attended the ACA Conference & Expo, this will be a first step toward that realization. In addition, ACA will be holding its second annual Virtual Conference Experience in the fall, during which additional education sessions and presentations will be featured.
In the same way that your clients and students face challenges, we must all learn to deal with obstacles, adapt to new situations and then work toward results that bring fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. I implore you to stay focused on why you chose to be a professional counselor. As I have said many times, given the increases in strife, violence, brutality, racial injustice and inequity over the years, our society needs counselors now more than ever. But with all that you do for your clients and students, I will continue to encourage you to build self-care into your week. We cannot afford to lose even one counselor to burnout. You deserve to be recognized.
April is when we celebrate your work, your commitment and your role as an advocate for clients and students. Think about the power that 58,000 ACA members harbor, especially if they come together and focus on a message that lets the world know about what they do. In addition to checking out the CAM resources we have made available at counseling.org, get together with your colleagues and plan how you will celebrate this special month.
Many of you are very creative, and I have loved seeing and reading about what you did during previous CAMs. I hope you will again share with me what you and your colleagues decide to do to celebrate CAM this year.