Merriam-Webster defines advocate as “a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy” and advocacy as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.” The American Counseling Association’s primary goal in advocacy is to empower its members by equipping them with the tools needed to successfully advocate on the federal, state and local levels and encouraging them to meet with lawmakers so their voices can be heard, which will also increase the counseling community’s presence on Capitol Hill. ACA wants to create volunteer leaders by providing them with resources that are crucial for advancing legislation that will promote the counseling profession.
In June, many of you participated in the third annual ACA Virtual Hill Day and were able to schedule meetings with legislators. Over 100 advocates from across the country met with us virtually to focus on ACA’s federal and state advocacy efforts and legislative goals. To prepare advocates for their virtual meetings with congressional representatives, we heard directly from policy experts on an array of topics, including maternal mental health, mental health policy for active-duty military and veterans, and the Counseling Compact. Letting members of Congress know the importance of critical legislation will yield resources and greater access to behavioral health services for their constituents.
As a licensed professional counselor, advocacy for your profession is mission critical. Every day, legislators make decisions on your behalf — without hearing from you. When it comes to legislation that affects licensed professional counselors and your clients, you should be shaping these policy decisions. Legislators pay attention when they hear from their constituents. And if they don’t hear from you, they may make uninformed decisions that can have an adverse effect on you and your community.
ACA is committed to advocating on behalf of the profession and advancing all counseling specialties, but we need your help. As licensed professional counselors, you have years of experience working directly with clients. People in Congress need to hear about those experiences. Please let your congressional leaders know who you are, what you do and the importance of the counseling community. In the virtual world, you don’t have to come to Washington to connect with your House or Senate representatives. You can meet virtually from wherever you are or by attending a town hall meeting or scheduling a meeting at the local in-state office.
The role of professional counselors has never been greater, whether it’s helping to defeat anti-LGBTQ+ bills in your state legislature, pushing for Medicare inclusion or running for political office. Your role in the political process is one of great importance. As a counselor, you have an obligation to uplift and empower not only your clients but also others in the mental health profession and your community.
I know that it can be intimidating to meet with lawmakers, but know that you are not in this alone. Your ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team is here to provide you with tips on how to schedule meetings with your senator or representative, offer insight into the legislative priorities on which to advocate and equip you with the resources you need to feel confident going into these meetings.
ACA makes it easy for you to contact your legislators. Visit our Take Action page, put in your information and sign up for Voter Voice alerts — all in less than two minutes. The Advocacy Action Toolkit provides additional resources you can use when engaging with legislators. If you would like to contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team or have further questions regarding ACA’s advocacy efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guila Todd is the government affairs manager for the American Counseling Association. Contact him at email@example.com.
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.