Monthly Archives: October 2022

Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University wins grand prize in 2022 Future School Counselor Essay Contest

October 20, 2022

The American Counseling Association’s Future School Counselor essay competition recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students.


Future School Counselor: Grand prize essay 2022

By Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University


School Counselors can Advocate for Themselves and Save Lives

A parent glances at her phone and reads the following message: “We are in lockdown. This is real Mom. Kids are getting killed” (E.C. Gerke, personal communication, November 30, 2021). This is something a parent never wants to read. It strikes terror into those involved and leaves a community grief stricken and looking to the school for answers. Invariably, if the perpetrator is a student, school counselors come under scrutiny and, at times, are outright blamed.

The blame game is often the result of parents and the community being unware of the role school counselors play within the school and the community at large. This is just one example of why it is crucial for school counselors to advocate for themselves, their programs, and their profession in order to affect social change for schools, families, and communities, especially in regard to mental health and trauma programs.

Advocacy in Action

One of the first steps to begin advocating for the profession is to develop a unified definition of a school counselor’s role. This is essential because the responsibilities of a school counselor can vary within a single school district. Parents, school board members and state legislators often assume that school counselors are responsible for academic testing and class scheduling when, in fact, they are managing those tasks in addition to trying to meet students’ mental health needs.

School counselors should develop a comprehensive advocacy plan to promote their roles and programs across all organizations that serve to potentially define, fund, or restrict the school counselor’s role. In this particular case, school counselors can lobby for funding to implement mental health programs, and trauma assessments and interventions. In addition, school counselors can promote their programs’ successes to those organizations by providing data that identifies student needs and evidence-based outcomes.

Finally, school counselors have the ability to develop advocacy action plans by joining professional organizations and attending conferences. This not only allows school counselors to learn best practices in student mental health and trauma response, but it also brings members together in order to advocate for the profession itself.

Advocacy Advances the Profession

By implementing advocacy methods, school counselors not only raise awareness of their roles within the district and community but also at the state board and government levels. This is critical to advancing the profession because it provides valuable information to support policies that increase funding and will allow for the hiring of more school counselors, which will lower student-to-school counselor ratios. Increased funding will also allow school counselors to implement mental health and trauma programs that have proven to be effective.

The increased visibility of school counselors and the promotion of their mental health and trauma programs garners publicity for the profession. This illustrates the value that school counselors bring to students, families, and the community. That value can translate into increased partnerships with community mental health programs as well as bring a greater appreciation of the school counselor’s role.



Kristy Gerke of Spring Arbor University

Kristy Gerke is an alumni of the University of Arizona and a graduate student at Spring Arbor University who is currently in her second year pursuing dual specializations in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Her professional background includes working for 20 years as a journalist before switching to education where she ran a middle school language arts mentoring program designed for students reading below grade level.

She resides in Oxford, Michigan with her husband, two teenage children and their three cats. Her vision as a school counselor is to support high school students in promoting a culture of openness while providing safe spaces for students struggling with anxiety, panic disorders, and post traumatic stress disorder.



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.

Voice of Experience: The future of mental health

By Gregory K. Moffatt October 19, 2022

I love trying to forecast how the counseling profession will be different 10 years, 20 years or 50 years in the future. I sometimes wonder if any of the fathers of psychology ever did that. After all, the field has come a long way in the past 100 or so years. Here are a few of the major developments:

  • In 1900, psychology moved away from psychoanalytic thinking and toward behaviorism, which dominated the field for 50 years.
  • In the first part of the 20th century, mental health measurements and testing as we know it today didn’t really exist. The idea began with psychologist Alfred Binet’s development of the IQ test at the turn off the 20th century, but measurements weren’t even in our jargon until the 1950s or so.
  • Cognitive psychology began to gain steam in the 1950s but was eventually overtaken by existential and humanistic theories in the 1970s.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) predominated in the 1990s, and in 2022, dialectical behavior therapy and intensive family therapy are trends.
  • Until managed care became commonplace in the late 1980s, there was no such thing as solution-focused brief therapy and almost nobody (except for CBT folks) used the language “evidence based.”
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act didn’t exist until 1996.
  • In 2013, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was the first revision of the DSM to accept input from clinicians in its construction as opposed to revisions being done exclusively by a committee.
  • And only a few years ago, we began talking about “telemental health.” Even though I didn’t have any intentions of doing telehealth counseling, I still pursued telehealth training around 2017 to ensure I was covered if I had to talk to clients on the phone. At the time, Zoom and other digital platforms were either nonexistent or brand new.

So where is the profession headed in the next 30 years? Here are my top three predictions:

1) Telehealth will expand. Prior to the pandemic, most clinicians saw clients face to face. Today, not only are more clinicians foregoing expensive offices and associated costs to work on digital platforms, but clients are expecting this option as well.

While telehealth has limitations, it can provide services for people who could otherwise not afford it. It also allows people to access mental health services in remote areas. My personal counselor’s office is over an hour from where I live. If I were to see him in person, it would require half a day. An hour up, an hour back and an hour in session — and that doesn’t consider the traffic issues that are common in Atlanta.

That means I would not be seeing clients and I would be spending money and time instead. But with telehealth, appointments with my counselor take exactly one hour and I’m done — no travel, no expense, no traffic and minimal intrusion into my own client load. This has made therapy more affordable as well as more accessible.

2) Hourly pay will decrease. Because of telehealth, the average hourly rate for the profession is going to plummet. Unless a clinician is a specialist in an area that is hard to find, what used to be an average of $150 an hour will probably sink below $50 an hour.

There are many telehealth agencies that are already paying just $30 or so an hour to licensed clinicians. I don’t think the profession will allow that to continue, but the days of $150 an hour or more are fading.

3) The focus of graduate programs will change. All CACREP programs address 10 content areas. One of them is diversity. When I was in graduate school in 1985, there were no courses on diversity, and it wasn’t required to get a license (when licensing came about in the late 1980s). Today taking a course on diversity is not only required but also assumed to be an ethical obligation.

I suspect that as telehealth continues to evolve, CACREP and graduate programs will include telehealth and related issues as part of the required training for new counselors. Before the pandemic just two years ago, my counseling interns had not received telehealth training, and no graduate programs that I know of required it or even offered it for students.

But as the pandemic greeted us in 2020, I needed my interns to have telehealth training, so I required it. Consequently, many graduate programs now required it as well because it helps students get internship placements. I predict that soon telehealth will be a requirement for graduate counseling program curriculum and for licensure.


In a previous column from two years ago, I wrote about how shifts in health care change how we do business. Even since then, times have changed, and we keep evolving. I’m interested in what you think will change with the mental health profession. Please contact me and let me know your thoughts.


Related reading: See Counseling Today‘s January 2021 cover story, “The forces that could shape counseling’s future


Gregory K. Moffatt is a veteran counselor of more than 30 years and the dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Point University. His monthly Voice of Experience column for CT Online seeks to share theory, ethics and practice lessons learned from his diverse career, as well as inspiration for today’s counseling professionals, whether they are just starting out or have been practicing for many years. His experience includes three decades of work with children, trauma and abuse, as well as a variety of other experiences, including work with schools, businesses and law enforcement. Contact him at


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.

Scurry’s opening keynote highlights the importance of intentional effort

By Samantha Cooper October 17, 2022

Briana Scurry

Briana Scurry, two-time Olympic gold medalist and the first Black woman to be inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, regaled attendees of the American Counseling Association’s 2022 Virtual Conference Experience with her journey to becoming one of the most renown female soccer players in the country. During the introductory keynote, she discussed how “intentional effort” is the key to success.

“I think the lessons I learned [in soccer] are life lessons and are lessons that are able to help anyone and everyone that hears them to do and be successful at whatever it is they choose,” she said.

Scurry also acknowledged that there is no easy or quick way to succeed; it takes time, perseverance and intentional effort. No matter what it is you want to do, she stressed, you need to be willing to put in the work. And it helps to have a clear goal, she added.

After watching the U.S. ice hockey team compete and win against the Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympics, Scurry, who was eight at the time, decided on her goal: She would be an Olympian. And as a teenager, she redefined that goal by deciding that she would compete in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

She wrote that goal down on a piece of paper and hung it in her room. That piece of paper, which read “Olympics 1996. I have a dream,” was the first thing she saw in the morning and the last thing she saw at night, she told the audience.

In middle and high school, she played several different sports, including basketball, soccer and track, but she was not sure which sport would lead her to the Olympics until the University of Massachusetts offered her a full scholarship to be the goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team.

“I knew this was a wonderful opportunity for me. And I was going to make the most of it,” Scurry said.

Throughout college, she continued to work hard and push herself to get better, which she learned is more valuable than winning. After her team lost the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship during her senior year, Scurry was invited to train at the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s training camp alongside all-stars such as Mia Hamm.

At first, Scurry didn’t understand why she had been invited. After all, her team lost. But her coach explained to her that the results of one game didn’t matter; it was everything else that she had done up until that point.

“All the things that I could control — my work rate, my attitude, my determination, my resilience — that’s what mattered,” she said.

These same ideas, she told the audience, apply to other careers and goals, including counseling. “It’s about effort, intention,” she noted. “The way you carry yourself, the way you bring yourself every day to whatever you’re doing. And all these other things have to work for your favor, for your good, but you don’t have control over all that stuff. You have control over you and how you show up.”

She advised the audience to focus on the things they can control and work to keep getting better, and then everything else will fall into place. That’s exactly what Scurry did. She kept training, kept bringing her best self to every practice and kept focusing on her goal of becoming an Olympic medalist until she eventually made the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in 1994.

Two years later, her dream was realized when she found herself competing in the first Olympic women’s soccer competition in 1996. She played the entire game, and her team won gold.

“I found myself at the exact place I wanted to be at the exact time I wanted to be there on a team that was the best in the world,” she said.

She acknowledged that other factors such as a supportive family and competitive environments also played a role in her success.

Scurry encouraged the audience to not be afraid to put themselves in situations where they may not the best or where they may not succeed at first.

“Uber, ultra-competitive environments … are the environments that shape diamonds,” Scurry explained. “Competition is a good thing. That’s how we hone skill. That’s how you sharpen your skills on the cutting edge. That’s what I did.”

But Scurry did warn against becoming complacent in successes — something she learned firsthand. After winning the Rose Bowl in 1999, she admitted she let success get to her head. She had become a celebrity and was more into her image than becoming a better athlete. And this shift in focus caused her to lose her spot on the team during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

“I lost my spot because I took my eye off the ball,” she recalled. She was angry at everyone — except herself — until she looked at a photo and realized that she was no longer in competitive shape.

“I understood in an instant why [my] coach had replaced me,” she said.

Scurry said she had to work even harder to get back to in shape and become the “best Briana Scurry” she could be.

“I got to the mountaintop, and I didn’t understand that in order to stay there, you have to be better than you were on the way up,” she said. And her hard work paid off because she did make it back to the mountaintop and competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics, where her team won gold again.

She retired from the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in 2008, but she continued competing professionally until she suffered a concussion during a game in 2010 when one of the opponent’s knees crashed into her head. This collision not only ended her professional soccer career but also left her with a traumatic brain injury. For the next three years, she struggled with memory and cognitive issues.

“I couldn’t remember where I parked my car [or] where my keys were,” she said.

Her mental health also took a downward spiral: She had terrible headaches and began suffering from depression and anxiety. And in 2013, she said she started having suicidal thoughts.

“I felt like I was a burden, so I didn’t reach out for the help from my friends and family [and] my teammates that I needed because I was ashamed,” she said. In addition, her finances were in trouble to the point she was forced to pawn her Olympic gold medals for money.

But luckily, one of her friends realized Scurry needed help and connected Scurry with someone who could help her find the medical treatment and therapy she needed.

Scurry turned this situation into something positive. Today she shares her experience with others around the country and advocates for concussion and traumatic brain injury awareness.

Scurry told the audience that they all had the potential to succeed, but first, they had to believe in themselves and then put in the maximum amount of effort into whatever they’re doing.

She reminded counselors that their dreams are just as important and relevant as hers. “You’re helping people weave through some of the most difficult events of their lives,” she said, “In my opinion? That sounds like it’s more important to me” than soccer.



The the American Counseling Association’s 2022 Virtual Conference Experience started today and runs through Friday, Oct. 21.

Registration will remain open until Dec. 31, and attendees will have access to the conference sessions and other content through Jan. 9, 2023.

Find out more at



Samantha Cooper is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at


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.

Erin Gellings of Minnesota State University wins grand prize in 2022 Tomorrow’s Counselor Essay Contest

October 14, 2022

The American Counseling Association’s Tomorrow’s Counselor essay competition recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the counseling profession and the work of professional counselors in mental health, private practice, community agency, agency, organization or related counseling settings.


Tomorrow’s Counselor: Grand prize winning essay 2022

By Erin R. Gellings of Minnesota State University, Mankato


According to the 2010 census, approximately 19% of the United States population live in rural areas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Further, almost 60% of people in rural areas reside in a mental health designated health professional shortage area (HRSA, 2022). Rural populations present as an overlooked vulnerable group. Rural areas continue to have higher suicide rates than urban areas, with the gap continuing to widen (Pettrone & Curtin, 2020). Additionally, there are ongoing concerns about the accessibility, acceptability, and availability of mental health care in rural areas (Morales et. al., 2020). As the profession considers where to focus advocacy efforts, it’s clear rural populations need greater access to mental health providers and resources. One way to advocate for greater resources in rural areas is to promote these areas to young professionals, thereby expanding the reach of the field and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the profession.

To attract counselors to rural areas, the counseling profession must turn inward. Professionals are shaped by the topics discussed in graduate programs. Increasing graduate program emphasis on rural areas may result in increased interest in rural populations. CACREP specifies that all curriculum in its accredited programs must address certain social and cultural diversity standards. Though helpful to have these broad guidelines as program guidance, rural communities should be explicitly named as a diverse group for counselor education. The counseling profession can begin its advocacy efforts by lobbying for rural communities to be named in CACREP competencies.

Multiple federal and state programs offer tuition remission or waivers for clinicians who agree to work in rural areas. These programs should be advertised to future counselors and promoted as means to pay for education. Additionally, counseling programs should recruit more from rural areas, as individuals from rural areas are more likely to return to their home communities to practice. Finally, the counseling profession can increase access to mental health care in rural areas by supporting mental health clinicians who are working there. Counseling organizations such as ACA and APA can create virtual consultation groups for rural providers to reduce feelings of isolation and encourage providers to seek consultation for ethical and clinical problems unique to rural areas.

I grew up in rural Wisconsin and, through my work at an outpatient behavioral health practice in my hometown, I saw the shortage of mental health providers firsthand. I witnessed community resources stretched to the breaking point and knew people who fell through the cracks created by limited resources. It was troubling to see individuals with low-level mental health concerns end up in the emergency room or jail because there was no inpatient mental health facility in the county. My graduate education has affirmed my belief that, as a profession, we can do better.  This cause is worthy of advocacy because it is actionable and attainable if the counseling profession is willing to first identify the resources and capabilities it already has to address how future practitioners are trained and take steps in the right direction on this issue.



Erin R. Gellings

Erin R. Gellings is a pre-independently licensed therapist who recently graduated with her master of science in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She specializes in working with rural populations and has experience in outpatient behavioral health and college settings. Erin’s research interests include rural populations and disparities in mental health service access. Erin is passionate about eliminating barriers to care and increasing awareness of how rural communities constitute a diverse population.




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.

Building resilience in children after a pandemic

By Celine Cluff October 13, 2022

A lot has changed for adults and children since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. People’s social and work lives have been turned upside down. Children had to unlearn the behavior to touch and explore the world around them, and with an overall uptick in anxiety, they have also had to learn to cope with increased stress levels in their environments. The toll that this has taken on youth remains to be explored.

Psychological resilience represents the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to the original precrisis status. According to the research of Michael Ungar, founder and director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University, and Kristin Hadfield, an assistant professor of psychology at the Trinity College Dublin, factors that improve a young person’s life change depending on whether they live in a community that is stable and safe or one that presents them with a challenging environment. This means that we have to pay attention to a child’s environment to understand what factors help them build resilience. COVID has certainly had a negative effect on peoples’ environments, and it may have even caused surroundings that were stable and safe to turn into ones that are not.

With the implementation of four simple steps, the connection and trust between children and caregivers can be strengthened, which, in turn, can lead to the mitigation of some of that angst still lingering from the pandemic.

Step 1: Have a conversation during a meal. Dinners are a great proxy for connecting. At a minimum, sharing a meal serves as a way to catch up and reconnect. Admittedly, dinners with young children don’t tend to last long, but often a quick check-in will suffice if done regularly as a part of a daily routine. For example, a family could set an egg timer for ten minutes of “family time” and then take turns talking about their “rose and thorn” of the day; the rose is something positive that happened that day, and the thorn represents something less desirable that may have occurred. This exercise works to strengthen the interpersonal connections between family members and helps them stay on top of things that require attention that may otherwise slip through the cracks.

Step 2: Teach choice-based behavior. Caregivers can boost confidence levels in children by inviting them to practice autonomy. A simply way to do this is for a caregiver to offer the child options when they want them to do their chores or help around the house. For example, if the caregiver wants the child to help with dinner, they could say, “It is your turn to set the table for dinner. You can do this now, or you can choose to clear the table after dinner instead but you’ll have to load the dishwasher too.” Caregivers can also discuss and acknowledge how important their contribution is. Praising the child for accomplishing the task and letting them know that their help is valued delivers a confidence boost and strengthens the connection to their caregiver. After all, everyone appreciates being valued for their efforts!

Step 3: Teach initiative taking. Initiative taking — completing a task or chore without being prompted to do so — is a skill that can be taught. The most effective way to encourage this independent behavior is to model it, encourage it through positive reinforcement and let it happen organically. Sometimes this means biting one’s tongue instead of telling the child to stop doing what they are doing (if what they are doing is safe). Initiative taking is a skill that can be developed in early childhood and will serve children well into their adult years. It promotes a sense of self-worth by making children feel capable to make decisions and execute tasks. Letting children explore what they are capable of in a safe environment can boost confidence and encourage independent behavior down the road.

Step 4: Be present. Children have a universal talent for demanding attention. Sometimes, it is possible to give them the attention they crave and other times it’s not. Here’s a common scenario: A child demands attention when their caregiver is in the middle of something that requires their neurons to fire at full capacity. Although it may seem daunting, taking one minute out of their busy work schedule to make eye contact with the child and hear them speak will not negatively affect productivity levels or work outcomes. But what it will do is show the child that they are valued and heard, which boosts their confidence. In addition, modeling good listening skills will strengthen the caregiver-child bond and will help to ensure continuous respectful exchanges in future interactions.


In summary, a resilient child will have at least one continuous, resilient interpersonal relationship with a parent, caregiver, close relative or even friend. Nurturing these relationships plays a pivotal role in the maturation of a child’s psychosocial development. The four steps mentioned previously are suggestions on how to nurture these connections. Research from the realm of positive psychology continues to underscore the mental health benefits of having fulfilling interpersonal relationships. According to Mark Holder, a psychological researcher and former associate professor at the University of British Columbia, nurturing interpersonal relationships also contributes to people’s happiness, and it is the quality, not the quantity, of the relationships that brings people the most joy.

The concept of increasing happiness levels by nurturing interpersonal relationships also applies when children interact with other children. It is important to let children engage with each other on their own terms (interfering only if necessary), enjoy outdoor playtime, act out different scenarios with peers (e.g., playing cops and robbers, which is a variation of tag) or simply enjoy the company of like-minded youth. Children’s social and emotional repertoires are developed during these early years. Although extracurricular activities are also valuable, they cannot replace the social/interpersonal exchange in early childhood development. It is important to keep in mind the need for both when raising resilient kids.

In their research, Ungar and Hadfield emphasize people’s social ecologies (or preservation thereof) when it comes to their development and level of resilience during times of crisis. Because creating a stable and safe environment plays a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for this development, staying open minded about ways to parent during times of crisis is also important. A simple exchange about what the caregiver’s day was like or how they are feeling (happy, sad, etc.) will often go a long way. It is always a pleasant surprise to learn how much children can give in return if they are shown that adults are vulnerable too.



Celine Cluff

Celine Cluff is a registered clinical counselor practicing in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She holds a master’s degree in psychoanalytic studies from Middlesex University in London and recently completed her doctorate in psychology at Adler University in Chicago. Her private practice focuses on family therapy, couples therapy and parenting challenges. Contact her at





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.