Tag Archives: American Counseling Association

Creating meaningful and lasting change

Counseling Today April 13, 2022

The American Counseling Association’s Antiracism Commission grew out of an action plan developed to acknowledge and address issues of racism and discrimination within the counseling profession. The commission was established approximately one year ago, and its commissioners were appointed not long after that to begin discussing, evaluating and proposing actions to help ACA dismantle systemic and institutional barriers within the association and the profession as a whole.

ACA Antiracism Commission Chair Taunya Tinsley

Counseling Today recently contacted Taunya Tinsley, who chairs the commission, and asked her to respond to a series of questions and provide ACA members with an update on the work that she and her fellow commissioners are undertaking. Tinsley, a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor, is the owner of Transitions Counseling Services LLC. She has previously served as president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development and as a board member for the Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling.  

 

For those who aren’t aware, can you briefly share some of the backstory of how and why the ACA Antiracism Commission was established?

Under the leadership of [ACA immediate past] President Sue Pressman, the Antiracism Task Force was birthed out of discussions related to an antiracism statement crafted by a team of volunteer members in the spring of 2020. After dialogue, discernment and wordsmithing, the ACA Governing Council issued a strong statement denouncing racism. The statement spoke out against the violence being experienced in Black and Brown communities. Many members who participated in the writing of the statement were dismayed by the number of police-related deaths of unarmed Black and Brown men. 

Once the motion to approve the statement was ratified, there was an immediate call for a task force to be created that would provide ACA with clear guidelines to be utilized to address this growing concern. The call to create a task force was thus realized and voted in by the Governing Council. The ACA leadership proving that they were listening to a cross section of members and volunteers set into motion a strategy geared toward creating a task force that would in return draft an action plan that would ultimately give life to the statement. 

The charge: It is our mission to develop an action plan by which counselors will 1) gain cultural self-awareness in relation to intrapersonal, interpersonal, community and global contexts, 2) enhance cultural competency and 3) provide evidence-based interventions and strategies that will empower counselors and others to facilitate action within local communities addressing racism and disparities that often lead to misunderstandings and/or violence. 

The council selected [ACA President] S. Kent Butler to chair a 31-member task force of representatives from across the ACA membership and leadership. Over the tenure of the Antiracism Task Force, members diligently provided an antiracism action plan. The ACA Antiracism Action Plan was composed of one short-term and one long-term goal from each designated work group. The action plan was provided to ACA staff to be vetted for sustainability and projected expenses. Once the staff completed that portion of the vetting process, the short- and long-term goals of the action plan were brought before the Financial Affairs Committee, followed by the Governing Council due process, for the eventual adoption of the actions. 

The action plan called for a commission to be formed to carry out the action plan and to further develop ACA’s response to systemic racism and discrimination within the association and throughout the counseling profession. The ACA’s first ever Antiracism Commission was established and formed in spring 2021 with goals to discuss, evaluate and propose actions that will guide ACA in breaking down systemic and institutional barriers that exist in the association and the counseling profession.

What is your role in chairing the commission?

My role in chairing the commission is to lead a very distinguished group of my colleagues to facilitate change around issues of racial injustice, systemic racism and how our association must address these challenges. 

As part of my role, it is important that I assist with ensuring the efficient functioning of the leadership team (i.e., commissioners) and communicating accurately and transparently the mission, vision and strategic goals of the team as well as the performance of the team. 

Furthermore, I ensure that the team members receive accurate, high-quality and timely information and reports to enable them to effectively monitor all aspects of the commission’s business as well as ACA’s Antiracism Action Plan. 

Finally, as the chair and coach of the team, it is important that I assist with ensuring that the commission and team members operate to the highest standards of integrity.

What is the commission charged with doing in the immediate future? How about over the long term?

As stated, the goal of the commission is to discuss, evaluate and propose actions that will guide ACA in breaking down systemic and institutional barriers that exist in the association and counseling profession. The commission has been charged with establishing a new organizational culture and assisting with reviewing policies and procedures that are antiracist. 

We are in an immediate and long-term position to create meaningful and lasting changes that reflect our moral integrity and values and that are consistent with [the core professional value stated in the ACA Code of Ethics of] “honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts,” specifically Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). 

As we foster ongoing, authentic conversations and dialogues about race, racism and anti-Blackness, it is our hope that we can begin to eradicate long-standing systemic racism within ACA and our profession and implement antiracist policies, procedures and trainings.

Why are you personally drawn to this work?

I am personally drawn and committed to this work! It is my core belief that I am required to act justly and to apply love, mercy and grace when providing a ministry of care and counseling. We are in a crucial period in the history of our nation and in our profession, and I am passionate about helping to acknowledge racial and ethnic disparities that impact the mental health, and add to the disparities, of BIPOC and other diverse populations. In addition to developing multiculturally and social justice-competent counselors, counselor educators and leaders, we must strategically address the historical context of systemic racism in our association, the profession and the world.

Do you expect to encounter resistance in the work you’re doing to confront racism and discrimination in the profession? If so, how will you handle that? What keeps you from getting discouraged?

Yes, the world is full of well-intentioned individuals. People with this mentality often operate from a closed-minded stance and make this crucial issue personal to them as opposed to fighting institutionalized racism, behaviors and the systemic barriers that block the pathway of those whom they claim have a right to equity and justice.

I will handle this by meeting people where they are. I will continue to assist them with increasing their self-awareness and worldview knowledge while developing antiracist skills, techniques and interventions.

Hope and faith keep me from getting discouraged!

What one thing do you want readers to walk away knowing about the ACA Antiracism Commission or racism and discrimination within the counseling profession?

The ACA board has approved an action plan to tackle issues of racism and discrimination within the association and throughout the counseling profession. In addition, the ACA Governing Council appropriated more than $200,000 to support these efforts and chart our path forward.

As [ACA CEO] Richard Yep has shared with the membership, the “Antiracism Commission is serving as a guidepost for the work to which ACA has committed. Appointed by ACA Immediate Past President Sue Pressman and current President S. Kent Butler, the commissioners were selected for their demonstrated commitment to promoting racial and social justice in every aspect of their work.” 

As the inaugural commission continues to grow, there will be opportunities for ACA members, divisions and branches to collaborate and partner to advance the counseling profession to ensure a safe, just and equitable space for our clients, colleagues and communities.

 

The 2021-2022 ACA antiracism commissioners are:

Taunya Tinsley, chair

Monica Band

LaTasha Hicks Becton

Shawn Spurgeon

Sam Steen

Ahmad Washington

Ebony White

 

Rev. Tutu delivers a message of hope and connection after crisis

By Lindsey Phillips April 8, 2022

The Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu delivers the keynote address at ACA’s 2022 Conference & Expo on Thursday, April 7. Photo by Lindsey Phillips/Counseling Today

Race and gender justice advocate Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu told the audience at the ACA 2022 Conference & Expo in Atlanta that a lot of her education stemmed from the wisdom and advice gleaned through African proverbs. Proverbs are not literal truths; they require people to consider the underlying meaning — something a literal-minded child like herself often found challenging to do, she joked.

The Rev. Tutu is the daughter of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who resisted and helped end South Africa’s apartheid. She has served as the program coordinator on topics related to race relations and gender violence in education at both the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town and the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University in Nashville.

She delivered the keynote address on Thursday, April 7 to open ACA’s annual conference, held through April 9 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

During the first in-person ACA event in three years, Tutu shared with the assembled crowd an African proverb that deals with how one reacts during a crisis: “In the time of flood, the wise build bridges and the foolish build walls.”

She said her first thought when she heard this proverb as a child, of course, was, “Why would someone take the time to build anything? Why wouldn’t they just move away from the flood?” But eventually she learned that the true message is about how we need to build alliances and find new ways of doing things when faced with a crisis or challenge, she explained. Only the foolish cut themselves off from others and simply cling to what they have.

She then proceeded to connect this proverb to the current “flood” of crises that we face, including the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. She told the audience she hoped these crises would provide us with an opportunity to do something different, to rethink how we approach situations and to forge a new path in the midst of the floods.

To successfully build these bridges, she said we must do two things. First, we have to accept and celebrate the fact that we are all different. For instance, she noted that her identities as an African, a woman and a first-generation immigrant to the United States differs from someone whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower. So, she urged those in attendance to create space for and welcome conversations around this diversity.

Second, we have to recognize one another’s humanity. “The truth of the crisis right now, our social crisis, our racial crisis, even our crisis around COVID has been truly based on some people questioning the humanity — the full humanity — of others,” she said. “In order to reach that place where we acknowledge and work from a basis of our shared humanity, we have to be willing to hear the other’s story, hear their story in their own voice, hear their story from their own perspective, hear their story in a way that makes sense to them.”

She acknowledged that recognizing this shared humanity is something that counselors are taught early in their career, but she reminded the audience that it’s also something that is so easy to forget.

She then underscored the importance of this second point by sharing a personal story about a presentation she gave at Vanderbilt University in the late 1990s on the potential dangers and opportunities of the 21st century. During her presentation, she spoke with enthusiasm about how this would be a century where women and people of color would be included and heard, which would reshape how we looked at the world.

When she finished, a white man raised his hand, and her first thought she admitted was, “Oh no, an angry white man!” And she was right: He was angry, but not for the reason she assumed, she told the audience. She discovered this man had spent a large part of his life homeless and in and out of mental health institutions, and he was a political activist. He was angry and wondered why she was having this conversation in a privileged white space, one where most of the people she was talking about would not feel welcome.

She then explained to the audience that this story illustrates how we often make up our mind about people before we allow them to share their humanity. We assume who the person is based on external factors such as what they’re wearing, where they worship or how they speak, she said.

“We decide that our knowledge of them is enough to make decisions about them and often for them. But if we allow ourselves just even for a minute to stop the tape that we have had playing in our heads, … to allow ourselves to stop and say, ‘Let me hear about you, from you,’ … then our whole process starts from a completely different setting,” she said. “We become open to actually learning something [not only] about the other but also from the other. And then we can think more about the bridges that we want to build.”

She concluded by reminding the audience that the current crises we face present an opportunity for us to listen to others and really forge connections and communities for all. “If we acknowledge that we are indeed in a time of crisis, that we are indeed facing a time of major challenge,” she said, “we could choose in this time of flood to build walls that separate us from those who think differently from us, separate ourselves from those who look differently, separate ourselves from those who speak differently.”

But “we are [also] given the opportunity in this time to build real bridges,” Rev. Tutu told the audience, “to open ourselves to sharing our stories, and hearing and taking in the stories and perspectives of those” who differ from ourselves.

Everyone in the room left that space a little wiser and filled with the hope that we can work together to build bridges, not walls.

The Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu delivers the keynote address at ACA’s 2022 Conference & Expo on Thursday, April 7. Photo by Lindsey Phillips/Counseling Today

 

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Find out more about the 2022 ACA Conference & Expo at counseling.org/conference, and follow the hashtag #Counseling2022 on social media.

See more photos from conference at flic.kr/s/aHBqjzKfUB

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Lindsey Phillips is the senior editor for Counseling Today. Contact her at lphillips@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.

Our most-read articles of 2021

Compiled by Bethany Bray December 31, 2021

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is how mental health has become part of the national conversation throughout the past two years. It’s no surprise then that some of 2021’s most-read articles at the Counseling Today website dealt with trauma, grief/loss, suicide and a range of mental health issues connected to the pandemic, including the strain it has put on children and adolescents.

More than 130 articles were posted at ct.counseling.org in 2021. Other popular articles focused on professional issues such as pro bono counseling, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, the future of the counseling profession, eating disorders, client assessment and treatment planning, and starting a career during the pandemic.

 

What were counselors reading in 2021?

Here are the most-read articles posted in 2021 at ct.counseling.org:

  1. Untangling trauma and grief after loss” (feature article, May magazine)
  2. The forces that could shape counseling’s future” (cover story, January magazine)
  3. Taking a strengths-based approach to suicide assessment and treatment” (Member Insights, July magazine)
  4. Trauma stabilization through polyvagal theory and DBT” (Member Insights, September magazine)
  5. Tapping into the benefits of EMDR” (feature article, October magazine)
  6. How COVID-19 is affecting our fears, phobias and anxieties” (feature article, March magazine)
  7. There’s nothing small about trauma” (cover story, July magazine)
  8. Pro bono counseling: How to make it work” (online exclusive posted in March)
  9. Internet gaming disorder: A real mental health issue on the rise in adolescents and young adults” (online exclusive posted in September)
  10. Perspectives on grief and loss” (cover story, November magazine)
  11. Five regrets of the counselor” (Member Insights, March magazine)
  12. Working with clients who are angry at God” (Knowledge Share, May magazine)
  13. A firsthand experience of grieving pet loss” (Member Insights, August magazine)
  14. ‘But my clients don’t get eating disorders’” (Member Insights, January magazine)
  15. Feeling the strain: The effects of COVID-19 on children and adolescents” (cover story, May magazine)
  16. Suicidality among children and adolescents” (cover story, September magazine)
  17. Four lessons in building therapeutic relationships” (Member Insights, November magazine)
  18. Assessment, diagnosis and treatment planning: A map for the journey ahead” (cover story, October magazine)
  19. The intersection of childhood trauma and addiction” (Knowledge Share, April magazine)
  20. Finding balance in counseling private practice” (cover story, April magazine)
  21. Counseling outside the box” (cover story, March magazine)
  22. The sensitivity of boundary setting in collectivist cultures” (Member Insights, October magazine)
  23. Crisis counseling: A blend of safety and compassion” (cover story, August magazine)
  24. Starting a counseling career in the time of COVID-19” (feature article, April magazine)
  25. Gone but not missed: When grief is complex” (feature article, February magazine)

 

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What was your favorite article of 2021? What would you like to see Counseling Today and CT Online cover in 2022?

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

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Counseling Today recognized with five awards

August 18, 2021

The Counseling Today staff won a total of five awards in APEX 2021, the 33rd annual awards program recognizing excellence in publishing.

Senior editor Lindsey Phillips received a Grand Award in the writing category for her July 2020 feature “Putting first responders’ mental health on the front lines.” Of nearly 1,200 entries, only 100 Grand Awards total were presented across 13 major categories.

Senior writer Laurie Meyers earned Awards of Excellence in two separate writing categories: one in COVID-19 media newspaper/magazine articles for her December 2020 feature “Facing a winter of discontent” and another in health and medical writing for her May 2020 feature “Life after cancer.”

Senior writer Bethany Bray won an Award of Excellence in the feature writing category for her October 2020 cover story, “Helping clients develop a healthy relationship with social media.”

The August 2020 issue of Counseling Today was recognized with an Award of Excellence in the category of best magazine, journal and tabloid issue over 32 pages. Among the articles featured in that issue was a cover story on racial trauma and Black mental health.

The Counseling Today staff have received a total of 58 awards for writing, design and website excellence over the past 16 years.

Supporting AAPI communities: ‘We still need to do more’

By Bethany Bray August 2, 2021

The United States has seen a significant spike in anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination in the past year. Since spring of 2020, “there was anti-Asian bigotry and misinformation spreading almost as quickly as the [corona] virus itself,” said Rep. Judy Chu at an online panel discussion hosted by the American Counseling Association last month to address the recent rise in anti-Asian sentiment and the professional counselor’s role in addressing it.

“Conversations about mental health have never been more important,” she noted. “With each new report of an innocent Asian American being attacked, many across the country worry, ‘Will I be next?’” Chu, a Democrat who has represented California’s 27th district since 2009, is a psychologist and the first Chinese American woman to be elected to Congress.

She was one of three legislators on the panel discussion held on July 21. The other speakers included Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos of Washington and Sen. Chris Lee of Hawaii as well as ACA CEO Richard Yep and ACA President S. Kent Butler.

The panelists noted that stigma and barriers, including being isolated or marginalized because of language barriers, often keep those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community from seeking mental health services. Lee and Santos also discussed how mental health, trauma and the COVID-19 pandemic intersect.

“The issues that we are seeing have a lot to do with the isolation that we’ve experienced under COVID-19 restrictions and the challenges of race that have never been resolved in our country,” said Santos, who has been a community activist for more than 40 years. “What we are seeing, in my opinion, is the exacerbation of those fault lines that have existed in our communities for many, many years. … These are challenges that will involve all of us working together at the state and national level to address.”

Butler noted that counselors are called to help all disadvantaged groups. Not only is helping people regardless of their background or immigration status an ethical mandate but it is also a part of “who we are” as counselors, Butler stressed.

Although numerous measures have been passed by local and federal legislatures to better track and address anti-Asian violence and hostility in the United States, “we still need to do more,” Chu said. “There is so much that can be done to support our communities, and counselors are on the front lines.”

 

 

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Watch the full video of the July 21 event at ACA’s YouTube page: youtu.be/PYAvqIOWEzo

Related reading from Counseling Today

Take action

Support the following initiatives and others by visiting the ACA Take Action page:

  • Teaching Asian Pacific American History Act
  • Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act
  • Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act

More from ACA

 

 

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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.