Tag Archives: 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.

ACA anti-racism statement

June 22, 2020

 

After discussion and discernment, the ACA Governing Council has issued the following statement on anti-racism. The ACA leadership is listening to a cross section of members and volunteers in order to develop an action plan that will give life to this statement.

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ACA Anti-Racism Statement

Racism, police brutality, systemic violence, and the dehumanizing forces of oppression, powerlessness, and White supremacy have eroded the very fabric of humanity which ideally binds our society together. Macrolevel systemic racism extends to disparities in institutional policies and procedures in physical and mental healthcare, education, the judicial system, employment, sports and entertainment, and the brutal violence of law enforcement. These larger societal oppressions lead to inaccessibility to resources and social marginalization, which descend finally to individual racist attitudes, implicit biases, stereotypes, microaggressions, and even death. The ongoing and historical injustices are not acknowledged by those who want to be in power or protect their entitlements. Some who do acknowledge, do so reactively, temporarily, or superficially and thus, no meaningful change occurs. Anti-Black racism is often reframed as accidental, an unfortunate incident, or as the criminality of the victim.

Words cannot truly capture our feelings. We are angry, exhausted, grieving, suffering, furious, and in despair. The American Counseling Association is pained by the murders of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and countless other Black/African Americans who unfortunately remain nameless. We stand in solidarity with our Black siblings in denouncing the historical legacy and destruction caused by institutionalized racism and violence against Black people, perpetuated at the hands of law enforcement, the hatred bred of White supremacy, the deafening silence of dehumanizing and complicit inaction to address these systemic ills within our society. As counselors, we listen, we empathize, and agree with protestors that when absolute justice is established, peace will follow. Enough is enough, we cannot continue to watch fellow Black Americans being murdered, as the very life force is suffocated out of them.

The American Counseling Association is built on enduring values and a mission that promotes: human dignity and diversity, respect, the attainment of a quality of life for all, empowerment, integrity, social justice advocacy, equity, and inclusion. If we remain silent, and do not promote racial justice, these words become harmful and meaningless for our members and the counseling community. Given the rapidly evolving double pandemic of COVID-19 and the continued exposure of Black people to institutionalized racism, ACA wants to be clear about where we stand and the ongoing actions we will take. As proactive leaders, counselors, mentors, supervisors, scholars, and trainers we will break away from this structure of racism trauma, and the violence born on the necks of Black people.

Our stance is: Black Lives Matter. We have a moral and professional obligation to deconstruct institutions which have historically been designed to benefit White America. These systems must be dismantled in order to level the playing field for Black communities. Allyship is not enough. We strive to create liberated spaces in the fight against White supremacy and the dehumanization of Black people. The burden of transgenerational trauma should not be shouldered by Black Americans even though they have remained resilient.

All ACA members must be willing to challenge these systems, but also confront one’s own biases, stereotypes, and racial worldview. Moving forward, our actions will be based on input from our members and the voices of others. We are committed to change.

 

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Learn more

ACA has compiled a number of resources focused on cultural competencies and combating racism: https://bit.ly/2BuNZ1Y

 

Jane Myers and Tom Sweeney: Servant leaders and advocates for the counseling profession

By Allen Ivey and Mary Bradford Ivey April 30, 2020

We have known Jane Myers and Tom Sweeney for over 20 years, during which time we collaborated on writing projects related to a mutual passion: helping to promote the well-being of all people.

When Jane died of cancer in 2014, it was a great loss to us personally and to the profession of counseling as a whole. Recently, we felt moved to interview Tom about Jane, as well as their substantial contributions to the evolution of the counseling profession.

Tom and Jane are the only [husband and wife] couple who have both been presidents of the American Counseling Association. They made a significant difference in their time as presidents, but they were equally influential as active members of ACA’s governmental structure.

Before turning to the interview we conducted with Tom, we’d like to touch on some of the areas in which Tom and Jane helped to shape the profession. During our interview, Tom shared some stories associated with several of these accomplishments.

The origins of ACA’s name: What we know today as the American Counseling Association began as the American Personnel and Guidance Association in 1952. The name was occasionally derided by some (“guidance is for missiles”), but it stuck until 1983, when I (Allen Ivey) introduced an alternative: the American Association of Counseling and Development (AACD). I thought the name spoke to the goals of counseling and implied a wellness/health orientation. The association thus changed its name and operated as AACD until 1992. Despite this, the concept of “development” was largely unclear to the public at that time. So, eventually, Jane and Tom helped propose our identity as simply the American Counseling Association. This three-word title succinctly defines who we are to the public.

Social justice: Jane and Tom remained social justice advocates throughout their careers. Tom, the son of Scottish immigrants, grew up in a racially and multiculturally rich community. As early as 1968 in what had been a segregated state university, he planned and directed the first in a series of fully integrated six-week-long summer institutes for 50 counselors from 13 Southern states living together in a dormitory. These and other programs were funded by the General Electric Foundation Educators in Industry program.

Jane’s brother had developmental disabilities. Her mother, a special education teacher, imbued in Jane a genuine love and respect for people with disabilities. Jane’s counseling career began as a state vocational rehabilitation counselor. By her own report, Jane’s administrator thought her too strong of a social justice advocate on behalf of her clients. So, Jane went on to earn a counseling doctorate, during which time she learned of the needs of older adults. Thus began her efforts in gerontological advocacy, research and teaching.

One of Jane’s gerontology students once told her that as this student was entering Jane’s classroom, a colleague professor of Jane’s said, “Don’t go in there. That area is irrelevant.” Finally, we are seeing these clients as central to our work as counselors.

Licensure: Tom took a first step toward counselor licensure in 1974, when he proposed licensure for counselors in an article titled “Licensure in the helping professions: Anatomy of an issue.” (More about this topic in the interview.)

Accreditation: Preparation standards are the foundation for counselors’ scope of practice and ethics. Accredited educational programs are crucial for professional creditability. The clear definition of standards directly impacts counseling curricula and staffing. Tom (1981-1987) and Jane (1994-1996) both chaired the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). In addition, Jane almost single-handedly helped to establish a gerontological curriculum, competencies and CACREP specialty through Administration on Aging grants. She also won approval from the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) for a national certification in gerontological counseling. Sadly, neither of these specialties exist today within CACREP or NBCC.

Chi Sigma Iota (CSI): In 1985, Tom and Jane established the first counseling honor society chapter (Alpha) at Ohio University. Both served as president and executive director of CSI. CSI has more than 130,000 initialed members, has chartered more than 400 university-based chapters, and is the third-largest active membership organization in the counseling profession.

Since its inception in 1985, CSI has returned over $1.7 million to university chapters and members through rebates, awards and grants. Its goal is “to promote a strong professional identity through members … who contribute to the realization of a healthy society by fostering wellness and human dignity.”

CSI’s leadership style is based on Robert Greenleaf’s philosophy of servant leadership — i.e., one serves to benefit the greater good of others rather than for self-interest.

Wellness: Jane and Tom began their work related to wellness in the 1980s. Through their research, writing and teaching, they helped provide a foundation and focus that increasingly defines what it means to be a professional counselor.

A gallery of portraits of American Counseling Association presidents is featured in a hallway at the ACA headquarters office in Alexandria, Virginia. Jane Myers is visible in the middle row, second from right. Photo by Bethany Bray/Counseling Today

An excerpted interview with Tom Sweeney

Allen Ivey: Could we turn to those basic important struggles you had in the early days?

Tom Sweeney: Looking back, sadly, I had thought that we could be both collegially professional counselors and psychologists. As background, I have a minor in counseling psychology, belonged to the counseling psychology Division 17 [of the American Psychological Association until the mid-1970s], and was a licensed psychologist because we had no Ohio counselor licensure yet. I worked early on, and even as president of ACES (Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) and ACA, to build cooperation and dialogue with Division 17, AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) and other groups. Jane did as well during her term as ACA president. Cooperation was not forthcoming, and psychologists have consistently fought to stop or limit counselor practices. Many still do today.

ACA supported starting NBCC because we knew the battle would be long and hard fought. Now all states have counselor licensure, but the battles in the marketplace continue.

Mary Bradford Ivey: You and Jane have been central in leading and supporting state-by-state licensing, CACREP and Chi Sigma Iota. These are awesome contributions that have made counseling a full profession. How did all this start for you?

Tom: The short answer is I learned in my doctoral studies that counseling was an “occupation,” not a profession. From my early leadership years, I sought to bring counselors into the family of helping professions through counselor credentialing, standards of preparation, ethics and accreditation.

When I wrote the first article on “Licensure in the helping professions: Anatomy of an issue” (1974) for the APGA journal, we were far behind psychologists. The Ohio state psychological board was new and aggressive in asserting its authority. The next year, I was commissioned to write what became the APGA Governing Council-adopted position paper on counselor licensure. I chaired both the first SACES (Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) Licensure Committee (1972) and then the APGA Licensure Committee (1975-77). As a consequence, I networked with counselors all over the country who were being impacted by psychologists’ efforts to advance their members’ practices. I traveled, spoke and testified on occasion at legislative hearings.

I can still recount the aggressive actions of psychology licensing boards. The most notable case for me was the state of Ohio psychological board having an African American Ed.D. counselor arrested on felony charges for providing assessments for parents whose kids couldn’t get tested for special ed placements. I got personally involved, and we (APGA) sent a friend of the courts brief. The judge dismissed the case but made no ruling.

Another case in Virginia got a favorable review by the judge, and Virginia became the first state to have counselor licensure as a result. A member of our licensure committee, Carl Swanson, was instrumental in both of these cases. Every state attaining licensure was different thereafter, and literally hundreds of counselors made it possible.

Allen: And then there is CACREP, a necessary foundation for our profession. You and Jane were central here.

Tom: As president-elect of APGA/ACA, I knew that without accreditation, licensure efforts would be even more difficult. I am pleased to say that I made the APGA motion to adopt the ACES Standards for Counselor Education for the first time ever. Until then, there were no recognized APGA-endorsed standards.

As President, I wrote the position paper establishing CACREP. Joe Witmer was CACREP’s first executive director, and I was the first chair for CACREP’s initial, critical, formative six years. Lots of stories associated with these early years. Deans of colleges openly opposed us.

One of our most important tasks was revising standards in those early years. CACREP is accountable to the members of the profession and the public that we serve through the process of standards revision and implementation. Change in higher education moves slowly because of tradition, expense and reluctance to create unintended consequences. I don’t think we as a profession are unique in this regard. Of late, some might argue that change has gone too quickly in some regards, especially related to online education and its entrepreneurial rise to power in higher education. Not just in our field but in the medical field and others as well.

Nevertheless, the role of CACREP is critical as a foundation for helping to define our scope of practice. In some ways, CACREP helps us define what is meant by “professional counseling.”

Mary: Why was NBCC started?

Tom: NBCC was established because those of us immersed in the licensing efforts knew it would take a long time to establish professional counselor credentials in every state. The Federal Trade Commission was pursuing other professions with too closely enmeshed membership, accreditation and national credentialing bodies, so we opted to keep CACREP and NBCC apart from ACA, even though ACA (APGA) supported each startup with funding and office space.

As APGA president at the time, I remember my Governing Council subcommittee wanting to delete a budget for continuing such an effort. I intervened and got it reinstated by having the committee conduct a survey asking members what they thought. It got the largest mail survey result of anything AGPA had attempted before — and members wanted their membership association to support their accrediting and credentialing bodies.

Mary: What does NBCC do for us professionally?

Tom: When we first conceived of what then was called national “registers of service providers,” we thought it would fill in as a credential for those members who had no prospect of a state license for years to come. Once licensure was established in all jurisdictions as it is now, we thought the national credential would fade away.

I’m probably not the one to ask, as my involvement over the last decades has been limited to some collaboration between CSI and NBCC. Under the leadership of Tom Clawson, NBCC’s advocacy and outreach programs have gone far beyond whatever we could have imaged in 1982. As with Carol Bobby’s CACREP leadership, they have advanced counseling as an important partner in promoting professional counseling throughout this country and abroad.

Allen: And along with all that, you and Jane founded our profession’s honor society, Chi Sigma Iota.

Tom: Yes, Jane had started the Rho Chi Sigma rehabilitation counseling honor society. It was small, modest numbers, of course, but she made those students feel special through her style of mentoring. When I say her mentoring, a few years ago, the winter edition of the Journal of Counseling & Development (JCD) had articles by six of Jane’s graduates. Last year, five received various national awards. We all learned from the very best! This is the kind of mentoring that she helped model in CSI.

So, witnessing Jane’s honor society chapter spirit, I saw its potential for the profession as a whole. Many faculties in other programs were struggling for a professional identity, so I decided to create a way for students, faculty and graduates to claim their professional identity through an honor society dedicated to all counseling specialties, all degrees, etc. We mailed one letter of invitation to counselor educators across the country, and we never needed to send another.

Today, programs seeking CACREP accreditation also want CSI chapters since we are known to be co-curricular partners within counselor education programs. For example, the CSI Executive Council recently adopted a position of leadership and advocacy for counselor identity and wellness that will find its way into all of our chapters and beyond.

Mary: I recall clearly Jane’s 1990 presidential address on wellness over the life span. It was exciting, as I was once a physical educator in the Madison, Wisconsin, schools, where health had been central to my work. And on hearing Jane’s address, I immediately understood what needed to be done to support her direction. My work with Allen on therapeutic lifestyle changes was reinforced by her ideas.

Tom: Yes, Jane was a visionary. As president-elect (1989-1990), she got a resolution passed to state unequivocally AACD’s “support for the counseling and development profession’s position as an advocate toward a goal of optimum health and wellness within all of our society.” It was about this time that our wellness research was just getting off the ground. With our Ohio University colleague Mel Witmer, we developed the WEL inventory and began collecting data for Jane’s database.

Allen: Tell us more about your and Jane’s solid research and work on wellness and assessment instrumentation.

Tom: With substantial help of a world-renowned statistician, John Hattie, we used Jane’s database of several thousand subjects to conceptualize an empirically derived Indivisible Self Wellness Model (ISWEL) and to create the Five Factor Wellness Inventory (5F-Wel). With Jane’s help, I was able to use Adlerian theory to provide practitioners and researchers with concepts and means to advance their clinical and scholarly work based upon a practical theory and sound empirical model. The instrument has been translated into over a dozen languages.

An article in JCD (2020) with Laura Shannonhouse as senior author affirms the usefulness of the adult 5F-Wel. After a rigorous screening process of over 100 studies down to 59 that met their criteria, the authors reaffirmed that it is suitable for both research and clinical practice. There were insufficient reports as yet for teenage and elementary reading levels.

I continue to receive what had been Jane’s correspondence from individuals from all over this country and abroad in counseling, education, psychology, nursing and medicine. Our instruments and empirically based Indivisible Self Wellness Model are cited far and wide beyond our field.

Mary: The four of us had the pleasure of writing a book that brought counseling, wellness and development into an integrated package. As we conclude our discussion, it might be helpful if we talked about the “how” of a developmental/wellness-oriented counseling and therapy practice.

Tom: Like you folks, Jane and I became convinced that holistic wellness was a better construct from which to define counseling goals and outcomes.

Our Indivisible Self Model has 17 factors (e.g., positive humor, thinking, nutrition, etc.) that practitioners can incorporate into any client’s treatment plan regardless of the presenting issues. Rather than focus only on problems, we focus on client strengths and what they can do now to take steps toward optimizing the totality of their quality of life as much as possible.

Counseling has long been a wellness and positive development profession. Both developmental counseling and therapy (DCT) and Adlerian practice focus on the strengths one finds in all clients. Both are fully aware of social influences in the session. Wellness is central to both and has its own proven system to encourage demonstratable therapeutic lifestyle changes. One does not need to embrace all the tenets of Adlerian or DCT to effectively implement a wellness counseling approach, but if you do, it certainly will help.

 

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Allen and Mary Bradford Ivey have written, keynoted, and presented workshops throughout the world for nearly 40 years. Allen is distinguished university professor (emeritus) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Mary has been recognized nationally as having developed one of the top 10 guidance programs in the United States. Both have been honored as fellows of the American Counseling Association. Allen and Mary were also founders and former president and vice president of Microtraining Associates, an educational publishing firm focusing on counseling and therapy skills and the first in the nation to present educational videos on multicultural approaches to counseling and therapy. Contact them at allenivey@gmail.com.

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