Tag Archives: American Counseling Association

Our most-read articles of 2020

Compiled by Bethany Bray December 28, 2020

It has been a year like no other, bringing upheaval and uncertainty to professional counselors and their clients alike. It’s no wonder that many of 2020’s most-read articles at CT Online were on topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. Other popular articles focused on helping clients with relationship issues, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health diagnoses. Pieces that put a spotlight on practitioner confidentiality, compassion fatigue and other professional issues also attracted strong reader interest.

More than 150 articles were posted at ct.counseling.org in 2020. This year marks the first time that a majority of the top 10 most-read articles were online exclusives that did not appear in Counseling Today’s print magazine.

Some of the top search terms that brought people to the site included self-care for counselors, empathy fatigue, polyvagal theory, “Self-care for the activist counselor,” trauma-informed counseling and counselor burnout.

 

What were counselors reading in 2020?

Here are the most-read articles posted in 2020 at ct.counseling.org:

  1. Uncovering the root cause of mother-daughter conflict” (Member Insights article, January magazine)
  2. Recovering from the trauma of infidelity” (feature article, April magazine)
  3. How do counselors support clients during the coronavirus pandemic?” (online exclusive posted in April)
  4. The historical roots of racial disparities in the mental health system” (online exclusive posted in May)
  5. Hey, Siri: Did you break confidentiality, or did I?” (online exclusive posted in January)
  6. Deconstructing anxiety” (Knowledge Share, January magazine)
  7. Solution-focused tools to help school counselors in a pandemic” (online exclusive posted in September)
  8. Helping clients rebuild after separation or divorce” (online exclusive posted in March)
  9. Overcoming free-time boredom during COVID-19: Combining a home-based optimal leisure lifestyle with behavioral activation” (online exclusive posted in July)
  10. Living with — and beyond — OCD” (cover story, February magazine)
  11. Black mental health matters” (cover story, August magazine)
  12. A note of encouragement for counseling students during COVID-19” (online exclusive posted in April)
  13. Counseling’s evolution under COVID-19” (cover story, June magazine)
  14. Grappling with compassion fatigue” (feature article, September magazine)
  15. The revised meaning of self-care in the wake of COVID-19” (online exclusive posted in August)
  16. Bouncing back from ‘failure’ as a counselor” (feature article, March magazine)
  17. Adjustment disorder in the time of COVID-19” (online exclusive posted in April)
  18. Can you hear me now? Ways to reduce sound transfer between rooms” (online exclusive posted in February)
  19. Engaging avoidant teens” (Knowledge Share, May magazine)
  20. Putting first responders’ mental health on the front lines” (feature article, July magazine)

 

 

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What was your favorite article of 2020? What would you like to see Counseling Today and CT Online cover in 2021?

Leave a reply in the comment section below, or email us at CT@counseling.org.

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ACA legislative briefing tackles racism, police reform and mental health issues

By Laurie Meyers October 20, 2020

The nation is poised at a historic moment in which the American people’s recognition and understanding of the injustices that happen every day in Black and brown communities is at an all-time high, said Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., one of the speakers at the American Counseling Association’s Legislative Briefing on Racism, Police Reform and Mental Health held via Zoom on Wednesday, Oct. 14. He urged legislators, policy makers and advocates to use this awareness to make truly transformational changes to police departments.

Organized by ACA’s Government Affairs and Public Policy department, the briefing consisted of a bipartisan panel of national and local legislators.

ACA CEO Richard Yep opened the session with a statement noting that the association denounces all forms of racism, police brutality, systemic violence and white supremacy. The briefing was offered to ACA’s membership, legislative staff and advocates who are working on bills currently before the 116th Congress, specifically focusing on racism, police reform and mental health.

MSNBC commentator Aisha C. Mills, a longtime political strategist and social impact advisor moderated the briefing. Before turning the discussion over to the first panelist, Brown, she took a moment to acknowledge the pain that was happening in communities all over the country as a result of interactions with police departments.

“It’s fraught—there’s a lot of tension,” Mills said. “One of the conversations that too often gets lost is that law enforcement responds and reacts in a way that is about safety, is about duty to protect communities and is not always able to be flexible and sensitive to the needs of people who are struggling with mental health issues.

“We’re hopeful that through this conversation, we will learn about a variety of solutions that policy makers are thinking about—legislation that can be moved and … that the counseling community will be able to connect with ways that you all can be in better partnership with law enforcement and legislators as we all try to seek solutions together,” she concluded.

The role of mental health in transforming community policing

Mental health professionals play a vital role in the broader public health of our communities, noted Brown. Their expertise must be a key feature in work to combat racism—particularly in police departments.

“The killing of Black Americans at the hands of the police is an epidemic in this country—one that has existed for decades and has gone largely unaddressed,” he continued. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black men and women has highlighted the need to fundamentally transform policing in this country.

“I believe we should start by changing the culture of policing by moving the officers who protect us away from a warrior cop mentality toward their proper goal as community guardians,” Brown emphasized. “We must also recognize and acknowledge that officers are often tasked to respond to certain situations where they don’t necessarily have the proper training.”

Police officers are often unable to properly understand the citizens and communities that they are confronting or engaging with and thus cannot  properly de-escalate or manage a situation, he said.

“Since 2016, nearly a quarter of the people killed by police officers have had a known mental illness,” Brown said.

He believes that calling upon the expertise of mental health professionals is a vital part of preventing such tragedies.

“I believe we can save lives by acting more with compassion and understanding rather than force,” he said. “We can save lives and livelihoods when we stop criminalizing mental illness and addiction by instead providing resources and help to those who need it. We must also provide structural reform in police departments.”

This was the intent of H.R 7120, the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June.

The George Floyd Act seeks to transform police departments by reducing their militarization by preventing the transfer of military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense to local police departments, removing bad officers and banning harmful practices such as choke holds and no-knock warrants. It also proposed training for police departments on diversity and cultural sensitivity, including how to end racial, religious and discriminatory profiling.

“We know that this legislation alone won’t be enough,” he said. To establish a more just country, we need to invest in long neglected policies and programs that meet the social needs of communities and address the structural disparities that harm Black and brown families, Brown said.

This month the House passed the Strength in Diversity Act of 2020 (H.R.2639) to address the persistent racial disparities in the education system. Brown authored an amendment to the act that would provide funds to recruit, hire and train more school counselors.

“School counselors play a vital role in students’ success,” he said.

On the other side of the aisle—and the other body of Congress—Jake Hinch, legislative assistant to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said that the senator had become interested in the intersection of mental health and policing because statistics show that approximately one in 10 police calls and one in four shootings involve someone with a mental illness.

Inhofe believes that one of the ways to address these issues is with S. 1464, the Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2019, which would provide state, local and tribal agencies with federal grant funding for behavioral crisis response training. Inhofe believes that the training would provide knowledge that would assist police officers when responding to calls that include people who are suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol; are possibly suicidal or suffering from mental illness.

A call for counselors to lend their expertise

Charlyn Stanberry, chief of staff for Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., began her portion of the panel by noting that Oct. 14, the date of the event, would have been George Floyd’s 47th birthday.

We are in a period of reckoning when it comes to systemic racism, police reform and mental illness, she said.

Rep. Clarke is the vice-chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over healthcare—including mental health, Stanberry noted. As part of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)—which was specifically tasked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with putting together the George Floyd Policing Act—Clarke was involved with the public health aspects of the bill, which included discussions on how public safety in all communities could ultimately be reimagined so that it is just and equitable. In practice, such an effort would require bringing all stakeholders, such as law enforcement, mental health professionals and constituents to the table. One of the ways the CBC sought to ensure that would happen was by including a provision within the bill for providing public safety innovation grants for community-based programs, Stanberry explained. The grants would go toward creating task forces that would examine how policing would fit into the community and contribute to public safety in an equitable way.

“That’s a big part of what we as individuals and counselors need to think about,” she said. “How can you play a role if these grants are brought into the communities and talk about what this new 21st century police, community policing or public safety looks like?”

Hinch said that discussions like the ACA briefing are essential for him and other staff to stay aware of crucial issues. Legislative teams cover a lot of different subject areas and rely upon experts to educate them.

“It’s important for counselors to come to their representatives in Congress to explain what the issues are and what they can do better,” he said, adding that Sen. Inhofe wants to hear from everyone, whether they be Democrat, Republican or Independent.

“It’s vital for the senator that we continue to have these kinds of conversations,” Hinch said.

Stanberry added that although they are entering a lame duck session, the 117th Congress will be in session in January. There will be a lot of hearings that have to do with mental health, and she is officially issuing a call for research and expertise from counselors.

The final speaker was Georgia State Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, the head of the state Republican party and chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Reform Committee, which is looking at police practices and procedures. The committee’s intent is to see if police officers are receiving sufficient training to prepare them to deal with potentially confrontational situations such as crowd control or serving warrants or any incidents in which mental health issues may come into play, Cowsert explained. They’ve only had one meeting, but what the committee found is that throughout the country, police departments seemed to be getting a lot of training in de-escalation. Cowsert said he and the committee believe that the training could be improved upon. They intend to hold a hearing with members of the local mental health community in order to gain insight on how to improve training.

As the briefing ended, Stanberry and Hinch both placed their contact information in the comment boxes and urged the audience to get in contact with them to share ideas, comments and expertise.

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Resources

Related reading, from Counseling Today:

 

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Laurie Meyers is a senior writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at lmeyers@counseling.org.

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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.

ACA online event encourages conversation about counselor stressors

By Bethany Bray September 21, 2020

“How can I to continue to hold hope for my clients while I feel like I’m drowning?”

“How can I confront colleagues who commit microaggressions in client sessions?”

“What advice do you have for students whose professors and textbooks do not address multiculturalism?”

These were among the many challenging — and honest — questions raised during “Our Community Gathers: A Conversation With Counselors About Mental Health in 2020,” an online forum the American Counseling Association held Sept. 17 to facilitate professionals connecting with one another and sharing concerns. Much of the discussion from panelists and attendees alike focused not just on the additional stress that counselors and clients have been experiencing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but also on the trauma, grief and exhaustion raised by recent social turmoil tied to systemic racism in America.

The online event, which was sponsored by the ACA Foundation, drew more than 400 attendees, including ACA members and nonmembers.

“This event is all about you,” said ACA President Sue Pressman as she opened the Zoom session. “Each day it feels like the very fabric of our society is unraveling. The work we do for clients and students is so important, [and] frankly speaking, counselors are needed more now than ever. I could never be more proud to be a counselor. At the same time, counselors are in crisis and in need of support. … Care and compassion for our colleagues is important and can be quite powerful, and this is one of the reasons for this event.”

S. Kent Butler

S. Kent Butler, ACA president-elect, served as the forum’s moderator, while Pressman gave opening and closing remarks. The event panel included several past ACA presidents and leaders from across the counseling profession, including Beverly O’Bryant, Courtland Lee, Gerald Corey, Ebony White, Mark Scholl, Anneliese Singh and Selma Yznaga.

The panelists were open and honest about how they too have been struggling recently. They urged attendees to focus on practicing self-care, taking breaks and staying aware of the body’s signals that one is becoming overwhelmed. They opened the session by talking about the necessity for counselors to seek their own counseling.

White said that counselors are “secret keepers” and noted the importance of processing the pain they carry for others in their own counseling sessions. At the same time, it can be a challenge for Black practitioners and other counselors of color to find a practitioner who looks like them because a majority of counselors are white. This is a barrier that is also shared, of course, by clients of color when they seek counseling.

“Even still in the year 2020, right now, as a Ph.D., LPC [licensed professional counselor], Black counselor who has a [professional] group of people I’m connected to, I’m having trouble finding a Black woman counselor, right now in this moment,” said White, an assistant clinical professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “This continues to be an obstacle, particularly for people of color, and it needs to be addressed.”

It is always a good idea for counselors to seek out therapy, but especially so now, agreed Lee, a professor in the counselor education program at the Washington, D.C., campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “Dealing with this [clients’] intense pain constantly is really going to get to us,” he said.

Lee, a past president of ACA and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, emphasized the importance of resting and only taking on work and tasks that are personally important to individual counselors. He said that was a lesson he learned acutely and personally after his wife, Vivian, passed away suddenly earlier this year.

“What’s not important is sitting in front of a computer all day and having my phone in my hand all the time. Tonight was important to me; that’s why I’m here,” Lee said. “Find what gives you meaning, what’s sacred to you. You’ve got to find ways to take rest.”

White suggested that counselors consider “the bare minimum” amount of time they want to devote to self-care and make sure to hit that mark. For her, that’s 1% of her day. “Dedicate that portion of your day to something that is self-care. Whether that’s for prayer, dancing, drinking wine, whatever it takes,” she said.

Corey and Scholl urged attendees to consider all facets of wellness — physical, social, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, etc. — and focus on areas they find depleted, seeking activities that rejuvenate. For Corey, that includes doing Pilates; for Scholl, it’s enjoying naps that aren’t restricted to “power naps.” Scholl also is intentional about engaging in activities to connect with his Native American heritage, including attending Native gatherings and reading works by Native authors.

“One of the things that I’ve learned is that wellness doesn’t just happen, it takes discipline,” agreed Yznaga. “I have to plan for it, be deliberate. … For anyone who is thinking, ‘I’m not well and I cannot be well,’ yes you can, but you have to work at it.”

Attendees of Our Community Gathers flooded the platform’s chat queue with questions and comments throughout the session. Many posted websites and resources they thought others might find helpful and exchanged email addresses to continue conversations offline.

Panelists stayed online for more than three hours, until 10:30 p.m. Eastern, to answer questions and share ideas with attendees. Judging by the level of engagement the event garnered, counselors found the dialogue sorely needed.

One attendee asked for guidance on how to respond when a client makes a racist statement or uses offensive language in a counseling session. The panelists stressed the importance of responding to clients with honesty in these situations.

“It’s your responsibility to manage that tension in the room,” said White, who noted that counselors are doing a disservice to the client if they let a client’s statement go by without challenging it in session even as another dialogue that disagrees with the client plays silently in their heads.

Confrontation can be a therapeutic tool, White added.

Lee emphasized the term “broaching” in his response and the importance of broaching the subject to help clients un-learn words and perspectives that may have been ingrained in their culture and upbringing.

“Counseling is supposed to be an educative process,” Lee said. “Counselors often skip by teachable moments, but you can’t let them slide by.” When a client expresses a racist view in session, “Broach it and use it as a teachable moment,” he advised.

“We can be authentic and confrontational and still be respectful, even though it’s tough,” agreed Corey, an ACA fellow and professor emeritus of human services and counseling at California State University, Fullerton.

In such an instance, Corey said he would respond to the client by saying, “What I’m hearing you say is X. Let’s talk about it.” Afterward, it would be helpful for the counselor to seek out a mentor or colleague to debrief with and find support, he said.

Several panelists noted that the United States is in the midst of a cultural shift that brings opportunity for the counseling profession.

“Let’s try and take advantage of this moment and show the country what we have to offer, to destigmatize mental health and teach people how we [counselors] can help,” said Yznaga, an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Lee remarked that he never thought he’d witness Confederate monuments taken down in his lifetime or the professional football team in Washington, D.C., change its name.

“We are at an inflection point that I have never seen,” Lee said. “This is much different than the [civil rights movement of the] 1960s. The ‘60s opened the door and made tremendous progress, but this era … It’s beyond just a teachable moment at this point; it’s an opportunity that we haven’t had before. If counselors are agents of social change and social justice, we need to get out there and fill the learning gap.”

 

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Resources

Continue the conversation

ACA will hold a virtual event on racial injustice and policy reform Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. (Eastern). The moderator for the event will be Aisha Mills, CNN and MSNBC political commentator.

Be on the lookout for registration information in ACA’s Member Minute newsletter, or email advocacy@counseling.org to share your interest in attending.

Counseling Today articles on related topics

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Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

 

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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.

Revisiting 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling

By Bethany Bray August 28, 2020

In the world of ophthalmology, having 20/20 vision means that a person can see the letters on an eye chart clearly and sharply while standing 20 feet away. It is estimated that just 35% of adults have 20/20 vision without the help of glasses or other corrective aids.

Fifteen years ago, leaders from a wide range of counseling organizations embarked on an initiative to bring the profession and its future into sharper focus. Those leaders, representing 31 counseling organizations, met regularly between 2005 and 2013 to identify and forge a vision for the direction the profession of counseling should be heading — into the year 2020 and beyond. The initiative, co-sponsored by the American Counseling Association and the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), was ultimately named 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling.

What organizers initially intended to be a two-year endeavor stretched into eight years. Not surprisingly, the participants weren’t always in agreement, but simply having delegates from 30-plus counseling organizations — representing a broad range of specialty focuses and passions — in the same room was a watershed moment for the profession.

“The adage about herding cats applies here, but these cats were all dedicated professionals passionate about consensus building; seemingly disparate cats whose visions would contribute immeasurably to the establishment of a unified profession,” says Kurt L. Kraus, who facilitated 20/20 in the latter years of the initiative, succeeding Samuel T. Gladding, a past president of ACA.

“Prior to the work of the 20/20 [initiative], I believe that all of our partner organizations had worked tirelessly to establish themselves as free-standing and supporting pillars in a warehouse of counseling and related fields. But the project asked delegates and their organizations to look at the house as a whole,” Kraus says. “It was time in our evolution to answer the question of are we a profession? And the answer was a resounding ‘yes.’”

Steps toward unity

The 20/20 initiative was born out of a conversation focused on the future of the counseling profession that leaders from ACA and AASCB had over breakfast at ACA’s 2005 Conference & Expo in Atlanta. The group, which included the presidents, presidents-elect and presidents-elect-elect of both ACA and AASCB, in addition to David Kaplan, then ACA’s chief professional officer, eventually was established as the oversight committee for the initiative.

Kaplan recalls Gladding and Kraus as “world-class” facilitators who “knew just when to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Kaplan also gives credit to Gladding for coming up with the 20/20 title for the initiative.

The initiative got into full swing at the ACA 2006 Conference & Expo in Montréal. Gladding brought the first full meeting to order with delegates attending from each of the participating organizations. Lynn Linde, who is today ACA’s chief knowledge and learning officer, remembers the energy and buzz that filled the room as delegates took their seats.

“There was a sense of excitement that we were doing something historic — and confusion on how we were going to get there. … It was overwhelming but also exciting. The counseling profession had needed this, [had] talked about this, for a long time,” recalls Linde, who initially served as a 20/20 delegate for ACA’s Southern Region before joining the oversight committee as ACA president-elect and ACA president (2009-2010).

Across years of work and countless hours of discussion, the 20/20 initiative yielded several major accomplishments, the first of which was a document titled Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession.

Created and unanimously approved by the delegates as the project’s first milestone, the principles document identified seven critical areas that needed attention from the counseling profession:

  • Strengthening identity
  • Presenting ourselves as one profession
  • Improving public perception/recognition and advocating for professional issues
  • Creating licensure portability
  • Expanding and promoting the research base of professional counseling
  • Focusing on students and prospective students
  • Promoting client welfare and advocacy

When the delegates took the document back to their respective organizations, just one declined to endorse it: the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

The creation and ratification of the principles document was historic, Kaplan says, because it marked the first time nearly all of the major stakeholders in the field recognized and acknowledged that they were part of one unified profession: the profession of counseling.

“Counseling organizations have tended to operate as a loose federation, with each tending to their specific focus. The Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession was the first time in history that professional counseling’s membership, training and certification organizations put in writing that they shared a common professional identity and are all part of a single profession,” explains Kaplan, an ACA past president (2002-2003) who retired in 2019 after 15 years on staff at the association. “The Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession acted as a catalyst for the change of status from ACA division to independent organization for both the American School Counselor Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA). While the ASCA and AMHCA affiliation status change caused disruption … it was a healthy development for both the organizations and the counseling profession, as this was an acknowledgment of an evolution that had been occurring for many years.”

Adds ACA President-Elect S. Kent Butler, who served as a 20/20 delegate for the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), “It was important to go through [the 20/20 process] so that counselors could unify and find one voice that we all could champion and use to successfully push our profession forward. The takeaway for me is the bonding that occurred, though contentious at times, because we were in this mission together. Across the 31 organizations involved, I was also able to build strong professional relationships with many of the delegates.”

Finding consensus

After participating organizations endorsed the 20/20 principles document, focused effort was put toward addressing two of the critical areas identified in the document: solidifying professional identity and forging a path toward licensure portability, or the ability for counselors to transfer their professional license when moving from one state to another.

One of the primary ways the delegates sought to strengthen professional identity was by developing a unified definition of counseling. The definition was meant to be an “elevator pitch,” something succinct that would easily explain what counselors do to the public and to other helping professionals. Ultimately, the 20/20 delegates reached consensus in 2010 on a one-sentence statement: “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”

“It was important that we define counseling and the principles on which it is built and not have outside groups try to define it for us,” Gladding says. “It was also crucial to establish that although counseling is diverse, there is a common core. As Maya Angelou writes in her poem ‘Human Family,’ ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’”

ACA Past President Bradley T. Erford counts creation of a consensus definition of counseling as being among the initiative’s most meaningful achievements. “I am fond of saying that it took 31 counseling professionals 24 months to agree on a 21-word definition of counseling. But we did,” he says. “20/20 was a coming-of-age event in the counseling profession. We needed consensus on some of the most pressing issues of the day, including licensure requirements and professional identity.”

Erford initially served for six years as a 20/20 delegate for the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC) before moving onto the oversight committee when he became ACA president-elect and president (2012-2013).

Lack of portability has been a long-standing problem in the counseling profession, in large part because license requirements vary widely. License requirements for counselors were set up state by state over a period of decades — beginning with Virginia in 1976 and ending with California in 2009 — as the profession matured and pushed to establish itself. But in the process, significant disparities arose between counselor licenses across the United States, from the number of supervision hours required to obtain a license to the license titles themselves.

The 20/20 delegates hoped to spark movement toward license portability by developing and gaining support for a single overarching scope of practice for the profession and a single preferred license title. Both ideas emerged out of a subinitiative of 20/20 called the Building Blocks to Portability Project.

“We wanted to get to the heart of who are we as a profession, our professional identity. We spent hours locked in that room talking about this,” Linde recalls. “Everyone was amazed that we got there, that we trusted the process and were actually able to [reach consensus].”

The 20/20 delegates finalized the consensus licensure title — choosing licensed professional counselor (LPC) — and scope of practice in March 2013. (See the full text of the 20/20 scope of practice, a five-paragraph job description that defines the work of professional counselors, below.) Both items were recommended for use to state licensing boards across the United States in a letter co-written by the leadership of ACA and AASCB and sent in the summer of 2015.

The 20/20 delegates also debated but ultimately weren’t able to reach consensus on a third piece of the Building Blocks to Portability Project: uniform education requirements for licensure. Even so, as a whole, the 20/20 initiative stands as a large-scale success that moved the counseling profession forward and made it much better prepared to meet subsequent challenges.

“Until 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, we allowed external forces to define what we could do,” Kaplan says. “Apart from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) training standards, this was the first time in history that the counseling profession told the world what our skill set is. As with the consensus licensure title, having one scope of practice promoted by professional counseling to licensure boards helps solidify counselor identity, leads to licensure portability, reduces confusion among the public, and facilitates needed legislation. [This initiative] was the mark of a profession that had reached maturity. Until 20/20, the counseling profession had focused on being reactive and responding to how others defined us — particularly psychology. … [The 20/20 initiative] was the first time in history that all of the two-dozen-plus stakeholders within counseling worked together for a sustained period of time to develop a road map for the advancement of our profession.”

A lasting legacy

In January 2019, ACA signed a contract with the Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, embarking on a multiyear project to develop an interstate compact focused on counselor licensure portability. The project is still in the early stages, but its ultimate goal is to create a compact that states could adopt to accept the credentials of professional counselors who are licensed in another state. Individual state licensing boards would be allowed to impose additional requirements such as a jurisprudence exam or an FBI background check, but the compact could keep counselors from having to apply for a new license — in some cases, starting over virtually from scratch — when they move across state lines.

Getting this project off the ground has been made easier by the foundation built by the 20/20 initiative, says Linde, who serves as ACA’s staff liaison to the interstate compact for portability project. She notes that the cohort is using LPC, the 20/20 consensus licensure title, in its work.

“The 20/20 project made it much easier for the compact project to come to an agreement on who we are and what we do. We didn’t have to rehash years of work. It made it easier to get started and look at other issues around portability,” Linde says.

Kaplan agrees, saying that the 20/20 initiative “provided both background and energy for ACA’s national interstate compact project. Many ACA Governing Council members referenced 20/20 when they approved the substantial amount of money needed to fund this project. If all goes as planned, the interstate compact will go a long way toward solving both our long-standing licensure portability and cybercounseling [telebehavioral health] problems.”

(For more details about the compact project, search for the article “Interstate compact plan provides hope for licensure portability” at ct.counseling.org.)

20/20: In their own words

Counseling Today reached out to some of those who participated in 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling to reflect on the lasting impact of the initiative.

 

Now that the 20/20 initiative is in the rearview mirror, what reflections would you like to share?

“The elegant premise that change begets change is so visible when we look back at where we were to where we now are. … I remember approaching my role as facilitator — not to mention how daunting that role felt following Sam Gladding and being asked by the oversight committee to bring this ‘two-year project’ to conclusion before we actually reached 2020 — as that of an orchestra conductor. The 30-plus people gathered together were each soloists, and my task was to help them coalesce into an ensemble — an apt analogy for the mission of the project actually.

“The delegates had to see themselves as a cohesive group who could practice together only briefly before the individual members would travel back to their home symphonies to play. Home, they then had to present this vision for the future of counseling to their organizations/affiliations in order to garner 90% agreement [the majority needed for consensus approval during 20/20] and adoption. Conducting was an honor for me.” — Kurt L. Kraus, LPC, 20/20 facilitator and professor and director of the doctoral program in the Department of Counseling at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

“I’d like to emphasize that everybody — all 31 organizations — had the ability to be heard, and every voice carried weight. No one voice was more important than somebody else’s.

“Sometimes I see the [20/20] definition of counseling on someone’s email signature, and it makes me feel that we really did make an impact. It’s in textbooks, and we have a whole group of counselors out there who were trained using this definition. I have had those elevator speeches with people. It’s nice to have some prepackaged words to be able to answer the question, ‘What do you do?’” — Lynn Linde, past president of ACA and current chief knowledge and learning officer

 

Why was it important to go through the process of 20/20?

“In some instances, our profession was being left out of important legislative initiatives, insurance reimbursements and recognition of the efficacy of counseling due to our fragmentation as a profession. Bringing together all the players [the 31 participating organizations] allowed us to begin to speak with one voice to the public and government. More than this, it allowed us to break down fences between us and make the connections necessary to value each other’s contributions to the profession.” — Perry C. Francis, LPC, 20/20 delegate for the American College Counseling Association and professor and counseling training clinic coordinator at Eastern Michigan University

 

Now that we’re in the year 2020, do you feel the project hit the mark?

“Yes and no. Yes: We are seeing the fruits of our labor begin to take root as licensure laws are rewritten, cooperation between organizations increases, and the counseling profession is expanding into previously denied territory. CACREP and CORE eventually merged in part due to the 20/20 process.

“No: What I hoped would be quicker progress and greater unity has not come to fruition. For example, we are still fighting for reimbursement with Medicare, and the process of getting counselors hired into the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs systems is painfully slow. By the time we got to the end of the 20/20 process, many of the leaders moved on to other issues, and the momentum lessened.” — Perry C. Francis

“We completed the tasks that were possible to complete at the time. I was proud of our decision to end the project when we did because the work truly didn’t end then. Like a therapeutic goal that can’t fully be assessed as met, or unmet, from in the office, we had to let go, be patient and watch to see how the vision of the profession of counseling would be operationalized, to fully emerge in real time. In 2020, I have smiled every time I read some reference to the work done by everyone involved in the project. It was a cast of hundreds.

“The results are visible, the references to our work are plentiful, and the process resulted in a host of next steps. Inherent in the evolution of a profession is change — the work left undone arises from the work accomplished. As our profession is rooted in humanity and all of its complexities, it is probably safe to say our work will always be undone.”
— Kurt L. Kraus

 

What do you feel was accomplished by the 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative?

“We have had several positive things happen during the last few years. First and foremost, all 50 states now have [counselor] licensure, the last one being California. Another advancement was the communication between states. There were times when states did not communicate with each other. Some states were more exclusive rather than inclusive. Now, there seems to be more acceptance between states.

“Another accomplishment is the uniformity of state requirements. More states are complying with the stricter requirements, such as requiring 60 hours in a degree program. … As one person put it, [prior to 20/20,] going from state to state was more like going from one country to another.” — Charles Gagnon, an LPC and supervisor, member of the 20/20 Oversight Committee and AASCB past president

“The project brought counseling groups together in a way that was nonpolitical and altruistic. We were all working for the good of the profession in what it could be. There were some disagreements, but there was [also] a lot of harmony, and when delegates were not together on a point, they worked constructively to reach consensus. I have never been in a better group in my life. It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it.

“I wish we could have accomplished more, but given that we met in person only once a year, we did well, and the profession of counseling is better and stronger, I believe, for 20/20.

“20/20 was a proactive project. Too often, counseling has been reactive. 20/20 changed the mindset and made efficacy even more important professionally. I think the spillover from 20/20 continues.” — Samuel T. Gladding, 20/20 facilitator, ACA past president and a professor of counseling at Wake Forest University

“The project has yielded many things. For one, the consensus definition for counseling, which has helped in our quest to unify our profession. I believe that the project was also a slowly evolving start to conversations surrounding inclusion. This may have been undergirded in our conversations about unifying the profession.

“While it is many years later, [it is] funny how in 2020 we are able to engage in conversations that actually matter as they relate to unity. I stated in the past that there was quite possibly a breakthrough in which it seemed we ‘gave ourselves permission to engage in enriching conversations that will further unify our counseling community.’ I was able to chair a task force a couple of years back that provided a template for engaging in difficult dialogues. Amazingly, the current pandemic has forced our hand, and we are courageously engaging in that process now.

“Lastly, while we are not where we want to be in the battle for portability, we are strategically making progress in bringing this concept to fruition with our pursuance of an interstate compact. The vision gave us flexibility perhaps to find alternative ways to support counselors seeking to move or start a practice in another state.” — S. Kent Butler, ACA president-elect, 20/20 delegate for AMCD, and interim chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer and a professor of counselor education at the University of Central Florida

 

What work is left undone?

“The only thing on which 90% consensus was not reached [during 20/20] was educational requirements because CACREP and CORE had not yet merged. If we had extended the task force two more years, I believe adoption of the CACREP standards would have passed by consensus.

“There are many additional counseling issues that have been percolating under the surface for a number of years that a new multiorganizational task force should tackle. And many of these issues are international in scope. I suggested creation of a multinational task group [while I was ACA president] to address international counseling issues and priorities, [but it] never got prioritized.” — Bradley T. Erford, ACA past president, 20/20 delegate for AARC and member of the 20/20 Oversight Committee; director and professor in the counseling program at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University

“The profession of counseling is always changing, and so there is more to be done. Certainly, getting counselors to be considered core mental health providers and reimbursed by the military, the government and insurance companies is a next and continuous major step.” — Samuel T. Gladding

 

What’s next? Do you think the counseling profession should begin some kind of new strategic planning project to continue this work?

“One idea that has been tossed around for future strategic planning is in the area of focusing on prospective students [one of the seven points in the Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession]: developing an undergraduate major in counseling. Unlike other helping professions such as psychology and social work, professional counseling does not have any feeder programs. As a result, our students find us by happenstance. Many undergraduates who would thoroughly enjoy a career in professional counseling and would greatly benefit the clients they serve never hear about our programs. Exactly what an undergraduate major in counseling looks like and how it is implemented is for a future planning process that focuses on the counseling profession in 2030 and beyond.” — David Kaplan, 20/20 administrative coordinator and retired ACA chief professional officer

“I believe the profession needs to really embrace the momentum that has begun around dismantling systemic racism. To be true to our code of ethics, we must consciously and consistently make sure that professional counselors do no harm. A very important addition to our next go-around at strategic planning needs to be deliberate attempts to make our profession more inclusive, especially within every level of leadership across every ACA entity.

“Each of us is accountable and should be beacons for our students and colleagues, ensuring that they are adequately trained and/or held accountable for the work that they do with their clients. … We also must be accountable to society and work to break down barriers that prevent equity for all.” — S. Kent Butler

Thirty-one counseling organizations participated in the 20/20 initiative. This photo, courtesy of Samuel T. Gladding (kneeling at center), shows some of the delegates and other stakeholders who took part in the first full meeting in 2006 in Montréal during the ACA Conference.

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Find out more

Additional details about the 20/20 initiative, its participants and accomplishments are available on the ACA website at tinyurl.com/2020InitiativeACA.

In addition, the project generated three Journal of Counseling & Development articles:

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20/20 Scope of Practice for Professional Counseling

The independent practice of counseling encompasses the provision of professional counseling services to individuals, groups, families, couples and organizations through the application of accepted and established mental health counseling principles, methods, procedures and ethics.

Counseling promotes mental health wellness, which includes the achievement of social, career and emotional development across the life span, as well as preventing and treating mental disorders and providing crisis intervention.

Counseling includes, but is not limited to, psychotherapy, diagnosis, evaluation; administration of assessments, tests and appraisals; referral; and the establishment of counseling plans for the treatment of individuals, couples, groups and families with emotional, mental, addiction and physical disorders.

Counseling encompasses consultation and program evaluation, program administration within and to schools and organizations, and training and supervision of interns, trainees and pre-licensed professional counselors through accepted and established principles, methods, procedures and ethics of counselor supervision.

The practice of counseling does not include functions or practices that are not within the professional’s training or education.

 

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Remembering J. Barry Mascari

Any mention of the 20/20 initiative would be remiss without acknowledging the important contributions of J. Barry Mascari, who passed away in May at age 71. Mascari was a part of the initiative from its start in 2005, participating in initial discussions and planning sessions as AASCB president-elect-elect. He remained closely involved throughout the entirety of the 20/20 initiative.

“Barry will always be known as the father of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling,” says David Kaplan, ACA staff administrative coordinator for 20/20. “It was his brainchild, and he willed it into existence. Barry is greatly missed, but his legacy in catalyzing the growth of the counseling profession continues on.”

At the time of Mascari’s passing, ACA CEO Richard Yep acknowledged how instrumental he had been to the 20/20 project, as well as to numerous other advances in the profession, including co-authoring the counselor licensure law in New Jersey.

“His [Mascari’s] tireless work to advance licensure portability, mentor his students, and advocate on behalf of the profession was in part what led to his 2019 selection as an ACA Fellow,” Yep said.

Mascari, a licensed professional counselor and counselor educator at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, was co-author with his wife, Jane M. Webber, of the book Disaster Mental Health Counseling: A Guide to Preparing and Responding, published by the ACA Foundation.

Read more about Mascari’s life and legacy at counseling.org/aca-community/in-memoriam

 

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Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

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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.

Sue Pressman: ACA president and practitioner-in-chief

By Bethany Bray July 1, 2020

Deirdre Magee recalls the first time she met her now-friend Sue Pressman, 18 years ago. The two professionals were facing off as adversaries on opposite sides of an intense negotiation process.

Magee, a human resources practitioner, was seeking a federal contract for a small private-industry vendor she was representing. Pressman, a Washington, D.C.-area career counselor and, as of July 1, the president of the American Counseling Association, was negotiating the contract on behalf of a federal agency. Both women had been instructed to broker a deal that would maximize the bottom line of the organization they were representing.

Magee walked into that first meeting with strict instructions from her boss not to “take any baloney” from the contract negotiator, whom he knew by reputation as “Dr. Sue.” But, Magee recalls, instead of diving head-on into negotiations, Pressman introduced herself and asked if it would be OK to first chat and get to know each other.

“I met her going into a very competitive situation. Sue had come into [our] meeting straight from meeting with her bosses,” Magee says. “In that first hour that we talked, she inspired a lot of trust in what we were going to do going forward.”

That first conversation flipped the tone of negotiations, Magee says. For a short time, the two women went back and forth between their bosses, both of whom felt they weren’t getting enough out of the deal. They eventually called a meeting between all parties in hopes of being able to see eye to eye.

“They [the bosses] then had to listen, and Sue drove that,” Magee says. “She’s an excellent facilitator and brings out the best in people. … Her preference is to get everyone’s feedback and try to understand people’s resistance to things and the emotions involved.”

Pressman was able to artfully explain the context of why she thought Magee’s company wasn’t suited to get top dollar for the contract: Although the vendor had a history of successfully executing contracts with large private companies, it didn’t have much past experience with government work.

The situation resulted in a win-win, Magee says. The company she was representing ultimately won the contract, even if not for the full amount her boss had wanted. But securing the contract allowed the company to establish a track record that paved the way for it to win other bids, including with the federal Commerce and Treasury departments.

“Sue was able to inspire and engender trust and turn a competitive situation into a collaborative situation,” Magee says. “Both clients were better off and got work that was in line with what they needed. I’m very proud of that.”

That first interaction between Pressman and Magee in a potentially contentious environment instead turned into a friendship that has remained steadfast through the years. Magee describes Pressman as a caring and genuine builder of relationships who just so happens to possess a great sense of humor and a knack for bringing out the best in people.

“She knows who she is and what she’s about, and so does everyone else,” Magee says. “There’s no hidden agenda. What you see from Sue Pressman is what you get.”

Pressman becomes ACA’s 69th president this month, succeeding Heather Trepal. S. Kent Butler, elected earlier this year by ACA members to be the association’s 70th president, will assume the role of president-elect as Pressman serves her one-year term as president.

Career trajectory

Like many professional counselors, Pressman took a circuitous route into the profession. Growing up with a father who was deaf in one ear sparked an interest for Pressman in becoming an audiologist. She completed an undergraduate degree in speech pathology and then started — and almost finished — a graduate degree in audiology.

However, Pressman’s life took a different turn when she met her future husband and moved to the Washington metro area. She began working on the campus of Gallaudet University, an institution committed to the education of those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Out of curiosity, Pressman decided to take a single class, titled Introduction to the Helping Professions, in Gallaudet’s graduate-level counseling program. Gerald Corey’s textbook Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy was the required reading for the course.

Pressman says she “fell in love” with the program after that one class and ended up enrolling to study rehabilitation counseling. Working and studying at Gallaudet also led her to learn and become fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

As a graduate student, Pressman worked as a summer job coordinator in the university’s counseling and placement center, an office that offered mental health services in addition to career and job placement counseling for students. During her first summer there, she forged a relationship with Yellowstone National Park, which recruited and hired 20 Gallaudet students to work at the federally managed park for the summer. During Pressman’s second summer at the counseling and placement center, the connection expanded to Yosemite National Park, with Pressman traveling to both parks to offer training on integrating deaf employees into the parks’ staffs.

It was a win-win, Pressman says. Visitors and staff members at the two parks were able to see the benefits of employing and working with employees who were deaf, whereas the students gained job experience while also having a cohort of peers to socialize with when they weren’t working.

Pressman’s summer successes at Gallaudet’s counseling and placement center led to full-time positions as a job placement and career counselor at the center after she graduated with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

This was in the 1980s, when a movement to uncouple mental health and career counseling on university campuses was gaining momentum across the U.S. Pressman was asked to serve on a committee formed at Gallaudet to explore the establishment of an on-campus career center, separate from the school’s mental health counseling office. When the committee was ready to present its findings to the university’s board of trustees, the school’s dean asked Pressman to make the presentation — in both spoken English and ASL. She rose to the challenge, and the trustees accepted the proposal to create a career center at Gallaudet. Ultimately, Pressman was named its director.

She worked at Gallaudet for 10 additional years, gaining career counseling certifications along the way and securing her license as a professional counselor once licensure was established and offered in Washington, D.C.

After leaving Gallaudet, Pressman did ASL interpretation work — including at ACA conferences — and began working on a doctorate in counselor education. From there, she established her career counseling business and transitioned into contract work for government agencies.

For decades, Pressman has contracted with federal agencies, including the intelligence community, to create and execute career development, assessment and training programs for their employees. One piece of her work involved designing an internal certification program that prompted employees to learn about career development, planning and assessment, in addition to communication styles and disability awareness. Magee was the lead on that project, and she hired Pressman to create the program with an eye toward improving employee retention for a particular department within a top-secret agency. Pressman’s certification program was so well received that the agency ultimately opened it up to all of its employees, and it ran for 10 years, Magee says.

Pressman strives to do her best not only for the organizations for which she is working but also for the people within those organizations, says Magee, who describes Pressman as adaptive and democratic.

“In government, it’s usually ‘do it my way,’ and that’s not Sue at all,” Magee says. “Even though she is a creative person and, I think, a visionary, authoritarian is not a style that she leans the most toward. She is collaborative and [focuses on] looking at the potential in people.”

Through the decades, Pressman has presented to, trained and consulted with countless federal employees in various positions all across the pecking order. She is comfortable leading negotiations, presenting to boardrooms, creating and analyzing reports, and talking with people across the spectrum.

“I’ve been in the trenches,” Pressman says with a chuckle. That will come in handy as she takes the helm of ACA, an organization with more than 50,000 members across the globe.

Right place, right time

Given her decades of experience running her own business, managing budgets and facilitating meetings, Pressman’s friends and colleagues believe she is well suited to lead ACA through a challenging time, as the world struggles to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn as well as issues of racial injustice.

Karol Taylor, a longtime friend of Pressman’s and a fellow career counselor, says she nominated Pressman for the ACA presidency because of her business savvy and wealth of experience. Pressman also knows the ins and outs of ACA, having served two terms on ACA Governing Council and as president of an ACA division, the National Employment Counseling Association (NECA).

“Sue seems like the perfect person to lead us through this era, with a unique vision, a unique approach and [the skills to know] how to move forward,” says Taylor, an ACA member and a past president of both the Maryland Counseling Association and the Maryland Career Development Association. “She has a vision for ACA and an idea of where she wants it to go during this time, and she will negotiate through that in a way that will help people. She understands how things need to be done and will bring her skills to the organization in a way that will be effective and valuable.”

Taylor has worked for Pressman on several contracts and says she “has a knack for finding the right people for the right fit.”

“She can discern your skills and put you in the right place where you can add value. … Sue regularly says to me, ‘There’s no one better to do this than you.’ That’s very affirming and makes me want to work with her more,” Taylor says. “She is kind, but she’s not intimated. She’s not a pushover. She has a big heart and would do anything for you, and in return, she expects you to present yourself in a way that reflects well on her. She is highly professional and expects the same of you and of others.”

Michael Lazarchick, a licensed professional counselor and career counselor in New Jersey, has worked closely with Pressman in NECA. He believes Pressman’s flexibility, down-to-earth style and collaborative focus are tailor-made for the current circumstances.

“She’s got the skills that are needed right now. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m excited about the contributions that Sue will make. She’s such a good human being. She’s smart, very capable, very experienced, and she really cares about others,” says Lazarchick, an ACA member and a past president of NECA who has known Pressman for 20 years. “We can send her, as ACA president, to anywhere or anyone, and she’ll be able to talk easily [with them]. She knows what it’s like to work with people who are at the bottom of the totem pole and those who are treated like second-class citizens, but she’s also experienced with dealing with hotshots, those at the top and people in government. She’s fluid and capable [of working] with all of those in between.”

“This is the right time to have a practitioner out there [as ACA president] who can talk to people in the field because we’re going to have to redesign the whole way we do business” in the wake of COVID-19, Lazarchick asserts. “Everything’s changing. This [pandemic] is here, and we have to deal with it, and I really like the idea that we [as counselors] have a president who will be out there and able to deal with a lot of changes.”

(Right to left) Incoming ACA President Sue Pressman is pictured with National Employment Counseling Association (NECA)’s president-elect Sujata Ives and incoming president Carolyn Greer. Photo courtesy of Sue Pressman.

The year ahead

Pressman has multiple issues on which she’d like to focus as ACA president, including enriching ACA’s international presence and “expanding the voice of the practitioner” within the association.

Pressman and Heather Trepal, ACA’s immediate past president, will collaborate on a task force to support and enhance the work of ACA’s International Committee in the coming year. Pressman says she would like to expand ACA’s reach and impact to continents and countries beyond where the association already has partnerships.

“I would love to see ACA have a bigger footprint internationally,” Pressman says. “I feel like we have such an amazing, talented membership of counselor practitioners, counselor educators and many people from sister disciplines that join us from other arenas. … I feel like we could do a broader job of expanding our pool of talent to the rest of the world that is underserved, in mental health and career development. My vision is really to look at how we could have the rest of the world take advantage of what we offer.”

As a proud practitioner herself, Pressman says she would also like to boost practitioner involvement in the association. She hopes to highlight the perspectives of counselors serving as practitioners in private practice, community agencies and other settings outside of academia.

“We need to engage and expand the abilities and capabilities of counseling to Capitol Hill and state legislatures but also expand the knowledge of the career practitioner as well,” she says. “Counseling is a broad field. It’s not just one-sided. It’s got many dimensions, and I want to get that out to people. It’s about all of us getting the word out and looking at the intersection instead of looking at turfism and fragmentation. We all need to come together to make the profession stronger, as opposed to this one [faction] going in that direction and this one going in that direction.”

Most of all, Pressman says she hopes that ACA members will see her as a collaborative and approachable leader. “It’s not always about work and what you produce, but about who you are and how you interact with people,” she says.

“From early on in my career, I’ve always tried to help people feel included,” Pressman continues. “As a leader, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and make yourself vulnerable. I’m not afraid of that, and [I] try to create environments that are open and inclusive. … I want [ACA’s] whole team to be successful, not just me. I want to put our heads together and use our collective ideas to become better. Collectively, we’re stronger than we are individually.”

All in the family

Pressman lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Allan Dosik, a doctor of optometry who practices in Northern Virginia. Their daughter, Lianna Dosik, is a professional singer-songwriter who lives and performs in California under the stage name Lele Rose. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lianna has been back in Virginia with her parents but continues to make music and perform via social media and other online platforms (see more of her work at lelerose.com).

Family is a very important part of Pressman’s life, and ACA is intertwined with that, she says. Lianna has grown up going to ACA conferences and even performed at the opening night party for attendees at the 2014 ACA Conference & Expo in Hawaii.

When Lianna was severely injured in a surfing accident several years ago, Pressman missed an ACA Governing Council meeting while she traveled to be with her daughter. The family received an overwhelming outpouring of support and well-wishes from ACA friends and colleagues as Lianna recovered, Pressman remembers.

“ACA is part of us, part of my family,” Pressman says. “My family and my career have been really important to me, and they’re interwoven. I can do what I do because I have a really supportive family. I am really fortunate.”

She is also fortunate to have supportive peers and colleagues in the counseling profession. Pressman didn’t seek to be nominated as a candidate for ACA’s presidency, so she was taken by surprise when she received a call — “out of the blue,” she says — from leaders of ACA’s Southern Region, asking if she would accept their nomination. Pressman ultimately won the election by an associationwide vote of members in 2019.

“It’s kind of like a fairy tale,” she says. “It [being ACA president] wasn’t a goal, but it’s a dream come true.”

 

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Meet Sue Pressman, ACA’s 69th president

  • Licensed professional counselor, national certified counselor, national certified career counselor, master career counselor, board-certified coach, global career development facilitator instructor
  • Lives in Arlington, Virginia, where she is president and CEO of Pressman Consulting, a provider of human resources services specializing in career management and counseling, strategic workforce planning and development, training, mentoring, disability programs and organizational development
  • Past president of the National Employment Counseling Association, a division of the American Counseling Association; also served six years on ACA Governing Council
  • Chaired ACA’s Counselors Compensation Task Force
  • Has a Ph.D. in counselor education from Virginia Tech, a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from Gallaudet University and a bachelor’s in education and speech pathology from the University of Florida
  • Fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and is a founding member of the nonprofit organization Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Government
  • When not working, likes to cook, work in her garden and sew
  • Fun fact: The first ACA Conference & Expo for which Pressman provided sign language interpretation was 1991 in Reno, Nevada — and she still has the T-shirt from that conference! She no longer does much interpretation herself but continues to coordinate ASL interpretation services for ACA conferences

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Bethany Bray is a senior writer and social media coordinator for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org.

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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.