Tag Archives: American Counseling Association

Building a kinder and braver world

By Bethany Bray March 13, 2019

When Cynthia Germanotta discusses how complicated and misunderstood mental illness can be, she speaks from a place of knowing because her family has lived the reality. Germanotta is the mother of two daughters, the oldest of which, Stefani — better known as Oscar and Grammy Award-winning artist Lady Gaga — is open about her struggles with posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

“My husband and I tried our best (and still do!) to be deeply loving and attentive parents, who made sure we had regular family dinners and spent hours talking with our children. But, for all of that communication, we still didn’t really understand exactly what they needed sometimes,” Germanotta wrote in a candid essay last year. “Like many parents, I didn’t know the difference between normal adolescent development and a mental health issue that needed to be addressed, not just waited out. I mistook the depression and anxiety my children were experiencing for the average, if unpleasant, moodiness we all associate with teenagers.”

Cynthia Germanotta

Together, Germanotta and Lady Gaga work to combat the stigma and misunderstanding that often surround mental health issues through the Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit they co-founded in 2012. Germanotta will speak about mental health and the work of the foundation during her keynote address at the American Counseling Association’s 2019 Conference & Expo in New Orleans later this month.

Through research and youth-focused outreach programs, the Born This Way Foundation works to disseminate information and resources about mental health and help-seeking. Its mission is to “support the wellness of young people and empower them to create a kinder and braver world.”

Counselors, Germanotta asserts, have an important role to play in achieving that goal. She recently shared her thoughts in an email interview with CT Online.

 

Q+A: Cynthia Germanotta, president of the Born This Way Foundation

 

Part of the mission of your foundation is to empower young people to “create a kinder and braver world.” From your perspective, what part do professional counselors have to play in that mission? What do you want them to know?

Building a kinder, braver world takes everyone — including (and especially) counselors. As adults who care about and work with young people, counselors can and do help young people understand how to be kind to themselves, how to cope with the challenges that life will throw their way, and how to take care of their own well-being while they’re busy changing the world.

To us, being brave isn’t something you just have the will to do; it’s something you have to learn how to do and be taught the skills for, and counselors can help young people do that. Counselors are a vital part of the support system that we need to foster for young people so that they are able to lead healthy lives themselves and to build the communities they hope to live and thrive in.

 

What would you share with counselors — from the perspective of a nonpractitioner — about making the decision to seek help for mental health issues or helping a loved one make that decision? How can a practitioner support parents and families in making that decision easier and less associated with shame or stigma?

When you’re struggling with your mental health, asking for help is one of the toughest, bravest and kindest things you can do and, for so many, shame and stigma make these conversations even harder. If that’s going to change (and my team works every day to ensure that it does) we have to normalize discussions of mental health, turning it from something that’s only talked about in moments of crisis to just another regular topic of conversation.

Practitioners can help the people they work with, and their loved ones, learn strategies for talking about mental health, equipping them with the skills they need to communicate about an important part of their lives.

 

What motivated you to accept this speaking engagement to address thousands of professional counselors?

My daughter would be the first one to say, we can’t do this work alone. Fostering the wellness of young people takes all of us working together.

Counselors are such a crucial part of the fabric that surrounds and supports young people, so I was honored to be invited to speak to the American Counseling Association and have the opportunity to not only share our work at Born This Way Foundation, but to hear from (and learn from) this amazing group of practitioners.

 

What can American Counseling Association members expect from your keynote? What might you talk about?

I’m so looking forward to sharing a bit about Born This Way Foundation — why my daughter and I decided to found it, what our mission is and how we’re working toward our goal of building a kinder and braver world, including a couple of new programs we’ve excited to be working on this year.

I’m also excited to share what we’re hearing from young people themselves about mental health. We invest heavily in listening to youth in formal and informal situations, in person, online and through our extensive research. We’ve learned so much through this process, and we have some important insights we’re looking forward to sharing, including the results of our latest round of research where we collected data from more than 2,000 youth about how they perceive their own mental wellness [and] their access to key resources.

 

How have you seen the mental health landscape in the U.S. change since you started the Born This Way Foundation in 2012? Are things changing for the better?

Over the past seven years, we’ve seen real momentum around both the willingness to discuss mental health and the urgency of the challenges that so many young people face. We certainly have a long way to go, but I truly believe we’re starting to move the needle.

There are so many examples of the progress being made on mental health — public figures starting to talk about it, global advocates organizing around it, governments starting to invest in it, schools starting to prioritize it, and so much more.

And, as always, I’m inspired by young people who are so much further ahead on this issue than I think we sometimes give them credit for. In the research we’ve done, about 9 out of 10 young people have consistently said mental health is an important priority. There’s still work to do, but that’s a great foundation to build on.

 

After seven years of working on mental health and the foundation’s youth-focused initiatives, what gives you hope?

Young people give me hope. The youth that we have had the privilege to meet and work with throughout the years are so inspiring, demonstrating time and time again just how innovative, brave and resilient they are.

Young people already recognize mental health as a priority and have the desire and determination to change how society views and treats this fundamental part of our lives. Their bravery and enthusiasm make me excited for the future they will build, and [we are] committed to fostering their leadership and well-being.

 

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Hear Cynthia Germanotta’s keynote talk Friday, March 29, at 9 a.m. at the 2019 ACA Conference & Expo in New Orleans. Find out more at counseling.org/conference.

 

Find out more about the Born This Way Foundation at bornthisway.foundation

 

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In her own words

Read more about Germanotta’s perspective and experience through two articles she has written:

 

 

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

 

 

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook at facebook.com/CounselingToday.

 

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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.

A counselor to the core

By Laurie Meyers June 27, 2018

When Simone Lambert was 4, she walked up to a circus elephant and tried to hug it. Lambert doesn’t wholly remember this episode, but her family tells her that she approached the majestic pachyderm fearlessly and enthusiastically. She never got close enough to complete the embrace, but the encounter marked the beginning of her lifelong love of elephants.

This encounter was also, perhaps, an early sign of Lambert’s willingness to wrap her arms around large and daunting challenges such as leading the charge for the continuing growth of the counseling profession as the 67th president of the American Counseling Association.

Lambert is drawn to elephants because they are compassionate, family oriented, protective, gentle yet strong, and natural leaders. Perhaps it is a case of like being drawn to like. Colleagues, students and mentors use many of the same words when describing Lambert.

The birth of an activist

Lambert’s commitment to others and desire to effect positive societal change began at an early age. She started volunteering with the United Way in her preteen years. She served on a teen court, in which a panel of teenagers deliberated and decided the sentences for minor and first-time offenses such as truancy and possession of marijuana. The sentences sometimes included counseling and other restorative justice strategies. She also volunteered to help out in the school counseling office and participated on student council.   

Lambert points to a defining event from the seventh grade that largely sparked her desire to help others. It began with a tragedy — the accidental shooting and death of a classmate. The boy had been at the home of another classmate who wanted to show the boy his father’s gun. When the friend took the weapon out of its case, it went off, killing the other boy.

Lambert and her classmates felt the loss keenly. Their friend had been someone who wanted to help others. He had planned to become a priest and dedicate himself to social justice work. Lambert and a few other classmates decided that although they had lost their friend, they could at least preserve a bit of his spirit by taking action and trying to do some of the good work the boy would never get the chance to do.

Lambert says that growing up on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans also shaped her, both as a person and as a counselor. “People in New Orleans are very connected, if not through family, then through experience and culture,” she says.

The people of New Orleans are also resilient and welcoming of outsiders who want to make their home in the city, says Lambert, a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor. Living in that “melting pot” in which she was exposed to many different cultures gave Lambert an early education in multiculturalism.

Lambert acknowledges that New Orleans’ darker elements influenced the path of her career as well. Seeing the negative side of the city’s party culture helped spur her interest in addictions counseling.

Indeed, Lambert possesses what one of her former professors, Harriet Glosoff, describes as a passion for working with addiction and substance abuse. “She really did find a niche,” says Glosoff, an ACA member and past president of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. She notes that Lambert considers social justice aspects such as treatment accessibility an essential part of addressing substance abuse issues. Lambert served as the president of the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors in 2007-2008 and as its representative to the ACA Governing Council from 2014 to 2017.

The call of counseling

As an undergraduate, Lambert originally intended to become a math teacher. “Then I took calculus and said, ‘No way,’” she recalls with a laugh. Early education didn’t suit her either, but when Lambert looked back at how much she enjoyed her time working in her high school counseling office, she decided to major in psychology at the University of New Orleans.

Lambert next went to graduate school for a master’s in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), where her career path would take a turn. Glosoff, who was then an assistant professor in the college of education and psychology at USM, says Lambert immediately stood out among her peers.

“She was inquisitive and had a researcher’s mind,” Glosoff says. “She didn’t want to just take the easy answer — she would dig deeper.”

Simone Lambert with her daughters, Samantha and Sabrina.

In Lambert, Glosoff saw someone who was passionate about making a difference in the world, yet humble in sharing her thoughts. Glosoff thought Lambert possessed the potential to lead future counselors, so she encouraged her to work toward a doctorate in counselor education.

Once Lambert began to consider counseling, she increasingly saw it as a good fit for her. In particular, she liked counseling’s wellness model and the profession’s emphasis on people overcoming challenges in their lives as opposed to simply focusing on their problems. So, she decided to pursue her doctorate in counselor education and supervision at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

Glosoff knew most of the faculty in the UNCG counseling program and continued to see Lambert from time to time. As Glosoff had expected, Lambert stood out as an exceptional student, researcher and leader. “I know they encouraged her to seek out leadership positions and to present at conferences,” Glosoff says. UNCG faculty also encouraged Lambert to conduct an abundance of research, which Glosoff, now a counseling professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey, considers another form of leadership.

Indeed, says Lambert, leadership, giving back and a commitment to continually growing as a counselor were stressed as responsibilities at UNCG.

Opportunities for growth come in many guises, including in the form of sudden — and sometimes painful — challenges. Lambert faced a significant challenge in the third year of her program at UNCG when her dissertation chair, Nicholas A. Vacc, a counselor and counselor educator who was instrumental in the formation of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), broke the news that he was too ill to see her through the rest of the process. Knowing Lambert would need a new dissertation chair, Vacc suggested that she approach Craig Cashwell, an ACA member who had received his doctorate at UNCG, spent time as a counselor educator at Mississippi State University and recently returned to his alma mater as an associate professor of counseling.

The situation was difficult for them both. Not only was Lambert losing a mentor, but she was also faced with selecting a new dissertation chair who could quickly get up to speed and guide her through the rest of the dissertation process. Cashwell was also processing the loss; after all, Vacc had served as his dissertation chair. Cashwell says Lambert handled the difficult transition and their shared sense of grief with grace.

Cashwell, a past chair of CACREP, was quickly impressed by Lambert. Predictably, she developed into both a great writer and a great scholar, he says. However, those accomplishments aren’t what come to mind first when Cashwell thinks of Lambert; instead, it’s what a good person she is.

“I liked Simone within three minutes of talking to her,” he says. “Within 10 minutes, I really liked her, and within three weeks, I knew I was blessed to be working with her.”

Cashwell has known and worked with Lambert for years now, and he says he is still struck by her humility. “A lot of people, when they get into leadership positions … lose the humble quality that is core to being a counselor,” Cashwell says. “Simone never lost that humility.” He adds that Lambert is a deep listener with a gift for bringing a group together, letting everyone’s voice be heard and building consensus.

Lambert considers Cashwell one of her mentors, but over time they have also become colleagues and friends who turn to each other for professional and personal support. They also have daughters of approximately the same age named Samantha, which has led to some good-natured teasing between Lambert and Cashwell over the years about “name stealing.”

When Cashwell considers all that Lambert has accomplished so far, he says he is not surprised; he knew she would do great things in her career. He also feels a kind of paternal sense of pride — not for anything he has contributed but for Lambert’s achievements.

“I feel immensely proud of her for what she’s done and what she’s going to do,” he says.

Guiding the next generation

Najah Barton became acquainted with Lambert as a doctoral student in Lambert’s counseling ethics class at Argosy University’s campus in Northern Virginia. At the beginning of the course, Barton almost missed one of the classes — a no-no for doctoral students — because her rental car broke down on her way back from attending a friend’s wedding.

Getting back on the road took eight and a half hours. As time dragged on, Barton saw her academic career flashing before her eyes. When she realized that she wouldn’t make it back in time for the start of class, Barton started frantically texting and calling Lambert with apologies and explanations. Lambert expressed concern for Barton’s situation, but all Barton could think about was making it to at least part of the class. She arrived for the last hour, which for many professors would not have been good enough. Lambert, however, allowed Barton to complete a project to make up for the lost time.

“Not all teachers would do that,” Barton says. “She truly cares. Not everyone does. She’s always been that awesome. It’s just who she is.”

Barton, now an associate professor at Northern Virginia Community College, went on to take several classes with Lambert and also asked Lambert to be her dissertation chair. In addition, Lambert, who was chair of the counseling department at Argosy University, Northern Virginia, allowed Barton to switch to the university’s CACREP-accredited doctoral program even though she was almost finished with her non-CACREP track. Barton had to take additional classes, which added an extra year to her program, but she says it was worth it.

Barton credits that switch — and Lambert’s support — with changing the course of her career. Barton initially thought she would spend her career in the federal government — she currently works at the Department of Justice, where she studies and tracks reported child maltreatment cases associated with the military population — but her CACREP-accredited degree has given her the confidence to move into private practice as a counselor.

Stephanie Dailey, who was on the Argosy faculty with Lambert, says that Lambert stands out as an educator because of her incredible ability to mentor and her passion for and knowledge of counseling. When they first met, Dailey had just become the president of the Maryland Counseling Association. Knowing that Lambert had leadership experience, Dailey, who is currently a professor of psychology and counseling at Hood College in Maryland, consulted her about some of the challenges she faced. Over time and multiple trips to Starbucks for trenta (yes, trenta — 31 ounces) iced green teas, they became friends.

Dailey, past president of the Association for Spiritual, Ethical and Religious Values in Counseling, is also familiar with Lambert’s leadership qualities and priorities. She says that although Lambert will think strategically about what ACA needs as an organization, she also genuinely cares about the needs of the average ACA member and how the association can meet those needs.

At work and at play

Lambert’s master’s internship was at Pine Belt Children’s Services in Mississippi, where she did a lot of play therapy with children and adolescents, counseled families and also helped lead an adolescent substance abuse group therapy program. She loved her work there. “I used to adore engaging in play therapy with young children, helping [them] communicate in a way that they wouldn’t normally,” she says. “Play is a way to communicate without verbal skills.”

The work also taught Lambert another valuable lesson: To help children and adolescents, counselors also need to help their parents. “I learned early on that children come with family,” she says. “If you make a change without changing the family, it doesn’t stick.”

That lesson has lingered with her throughout her career. As a private practitioner, Lambert counseled not only individual adults and children but families as well. Although her schedule no longer allows her to practice, the often intergenerational nature of mental health and substance

Simone Lambert, ACA’s 67th president

abuse problems will inform her presidential priorities.

“[Having worked] with children and adolescents, I know that early intervention can really help relieve the pain of mental illness,” Lambert says. As ACA president, Lambert is establishing a task force devoted to prevention strategies and hopes to involve ACA’s divisions in looking at prevention across the life span. “What does prevention look like on a college campus? What does it look like with older adults?” she asks.

In addition, Lambert says that one of her presidential initiatives will be promoting mental health and averting addiction through the provision of prevention services.

Lambert also plans to focus on professional issues such as licensure portability, counselor compensation and parity. “I decided to run for president of ACA to live the mission of our association, particularly in terms of advocating for counselors across settings and ensuring that clients have access to competent, ethical and culturally sensitive counselors,” she says. “We have a mental health provider shortage in the U.S. at the same time [there is] increased need for mental health and addiction counseling services. My hope is to play a small role in ensuring counselors are able to assist in meeting the mental health needs in the U.S., in part by increasing the visibility and perceived value of professional counseling.”

When not teaching at Capella University as counseling core faculty, mentoring or fulfilling her duties as ACA president, Lambert is most likely at home in the Northern Virginia area with her husband, Michael; her daughters, Samantha, 17, and Sabrina, 13; and their 4-year-old Shih Tzu, Sadie, whom Lambert calls the “boss of the family.”

“She’s also our comfort and our joy,” Lambert says. “She reminds us to take time out and celebrate, not just work.”

As befits the unofficial presidential mascot, Sadie is going to be “pimped out,” Lambert says, for the next Rainbow Walk, an annual running and walking event sponsored by the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counseling and held at the ACA Conference & Expo.

Besides bedecking her dog with rainbow gear from Party City, Lambert takes time out to enjoy several hobbies, including gardening. “I find it a grounding way to meditate,” she says.

Lambert also enjoys going to art museums with her daughter Samantha (younger daughter Sabrina is more of a National Air and Space Museum girl) and listening to all kinds of music. Lambert was a music minor in college and particularly enjoys jazz, something that she traces back to her time in New Orleans. She still loves going to the city’s annual jazz festival and eating out. As she points out, music and good food are integral parts of New Orleans’ culture.

Lambert is thrilled that the ACA 2019 Conference & Expo will be held in the Big Easy, coinciding with her year as ACA president. “New Orleans just gets in your spirit and becomes a part of it,” she says.

Lambert hopes that ACA Conference attendees will take advantage of the opportunity to get to know the city’s people, culture and food even as they network with their counseling colleagues and participate in the hundreds of available education sessions.

Who knows? They might even find Lambert at Café Du Monde with a plate of beignets or enjoying some music one night at Tipitina’s.

 

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

Letters to the editorct@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.

Cole delivers message of care and empowerment in Saturday keynote

By Jonathan Rollins April 28, 2018

Johnnetta Betsch Cole couldn’t help but chuckling at the audacity (or, as she phrased it, the “chutzpah”) of the keynote message she was about to deliver to the thousands of counselors congregated Saturday morning at the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta.

With charismatic presence — and a knowing sense of humor — Cole announced to the assembled crowd, “I’m going to give some good counsel to a bunch of counselors.”

Cole followed up by saying that she wasn’t bringing new words of wisdom. Rather, she said, “You’re going to have affirmed what you already know but what you may not be acting on.”

Johnnetta Betsch Cole gives the keynote address at the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta on April 28. (Images by Paul Sakuma Photography)

An educator, anthropologist and humanitarian, Cole was the first African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College and later served as president of Bennett College. Spelman, in Atlanta, and Bennett, in Greensboro, North Carolina, are two historically black colleges that are dedicated exclusively to educating black women. Cole was also the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. In introducing her to conference attendees, ACA President Gerard Lawson noted that Cole “has tangled with inequality in all its forms.”

Cole opened by welcoming the “sisters, brothers and siblings all” in the audience. In a nod to her training as an anthropologist, Cole said that she was purposely using “kinship terms” in her greeting. “I know that kinship is about much more than blood,” she said, explaining that it is really about how people are connected by their shared values and beliefs. Among the values she knows that counselors share, she said, is the belief that “every child deserves the right to soar to the heights of their possibilities” and the worth of the extraordinary diversity among all human beings.

Cole then proceeded to remind the counselors in the room of some truths they already know but may need to rededicate themselves to in their practice.

First, Cole said, “It is immensely important for you to truly know the folks you are working with — their struggles, their lives and their culture. … You cannot be an effective counselor unless you genuinely find a way to walk in their moccasins or roll in their wheelchair” or understand what it is like to be someone who is transitioning genders.

Second, she said, “To serve as an effective and compassionate counselor to others, you first need to really know yourselves.” This involves a significant amount of soul searching and engaging in personal therapy, Cole acknowledged, but it also requires “understanding and owning your unconscious biases.”

Every single human being possesses these unconscious biases, Cole said, and they affect how we view and evaluate others and ourselves. “We’ve got to be aware of our unconscious biases. Why?” asked Cole. “So we can mitigate against them.”

Third, as counselors work with students and clients from marginalized groups in society, Cole said, it is extremely important to help these individuals “acknowledge, own and execute their power … to become champions for themselves and for their community, their nation and the world.”

Cole recalled a middle school teacher who helped her to realize and claim this power in her own life. Cole was attending a private school where almost all of the teachers were white, including this particular Latin teacher, Miss Morris, whom Cole remembers as having “tightly permed hair with too much blue rinse in it.”

At this particular age, Cole said, she was beginning to “feel my power,” and she decided to direct it against Latin itself, organizing “her girls” to disrupt the beginning of class with a rhyme about how the rigors of Latin was killing them. After two days of this, Miss Morris stopped the girls and told them that they weren’t there to learn Latin. Using the language of the day, she told them, “You’re in this class to learn that, as negro girls, you can learn anything.”

“That is a message that we should give to every child,” Cole said.

That message should also stir up something in us to claim and use our own power to effect change in our own lives and communities, Cole said, adding that there is no shortage of issues in our society needing nonviolent action on the part of people.

When encouraging people to tap into their power, Cole likes to reference an African proverb: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference in the world, you’ve never spent the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”

In closing, Cole gave the counselors one last reminder: “Each of you is in the business of teaching your clients and students how to take better care of themselves. But in addition, dear counselors, you’ve got to take good care of yourselves.”

Cole then asked for the house lights in the ballroom to be brought up and requested each of the counselors who were able to stand. She told them to get in a comfortable stance, to bring their right arm across their body and then their left – and then to give themselves a big hug.

“I’m asking you to do better at loving and empowering yourselves,” Cole said to the attendees. She then asked them to take that message of care and empowerment to their students and clients so that they, in turn, could work to improve their communities, put a message of love and respect into action, and pursue social justice throughout society.

Cole may have been preaching to the choir, but her message unquestionably rang clear and true.

 

 

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Jonathan Rollins is the editor-in-chief of Counseling Today. Contact him at jrollins@counseling.org.

 

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The ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta began with an ACA Governing Council meeting mid-week; festivities stretch through the weekend.

Find out more, including information on live streaming, at counseling.org/conference

 

See more photos from conference on the ACA Flickr: bit.ly/1MOAysM

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Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook at facebook.com/CounselingToday.

 

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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.

‘Teach people that they have power’

By Bethany Bray April 27, 2018

Dolores Huerta can be described in many ways: labor organizer, feminist, civil rights pioneer, social justice icon, impassioned speaker and lifelong advocate for the oppressed.

On Friday, Huerta delivered a stirring keynote address to open the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo that proved the 88 year-old has lost none of her spark and drive to make change for the better.

Dolores Huerta delivers the opening keynote at the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta on April 27. (Images by Paul Sakuma Photography)

“Everything that is wrong in the United States of America ends up on your desk,” Huerta said. “Counselors, you need to be multiplied by 1,000 times because you are so needed.”

Helping professionals have a role to play in the work to dismantle oppression and create a fair and just society, Huerta said. “It’s a long road. It’s not a quick fix but if we work together we can make it happen.”

Huerta’s morning keynote kicked off the American Counseling Association’s 66th annual conference in Atlanta. Thousands of professional counselors have gathered for four days of education sessions, trainings, meetings and social events at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Huerta, who originated the “Sí, se puede” (“Yes, we can”) rallying cry,

worked as a schoolteacher in the 1950s but soon felt the pull to organize farm workers — the children of whom she had seen arrive in her classroom hungry. In 1962, Huerta and César Chávez founded a labor union that would become the United Farm Workers’ Union; She served as union vice president until 1999. A native of New Mexico and California, Huerta received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

She continues to travel throughout the U.S. for speaking engagements to advocate for social justice as president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a California-based nonprofit organization focused on advocacy, grassroots organizing and leadership development.

On Friday, Huerta thanked counselors for the important work they do — work that has a part to play in combating discrimination and inequality in the U.S.

There’s a saying in the labor movement: Every minute is an organizing moment, Huerta said. For counselors, “We can also say every moment is a healing moment that you can carry with you.”

She encouraged counselors, and in turn, their clients, to get involved in local civic life. Personal problems can diminish when you focus on the bigger picture and helping others, she noted.

“Looking around and seeing all the power in this room, we know it is enough to make a difference,” Huerta said. “You have worked so hard in our communities and schools. Now we’re asking you to do even more. We’re asking you to help us heal our country.”

If there’s a protest or picket line in your local area, join in, Huerta urged. Advocate for free college tuition, early child healthcare, equality in education, prison reform and other issues. Thinking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, Huerta called on counselors to help elect representatives to Congress who are “partners in justice” and willing to change policy.

“We’re going to be counting on you to help us with this work, and we have so much work to do. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, our democracy won’t work unless you get involved,” Huerta said. “[Change] is not going to happen unless we fight for the resources we need.”

She also called for a greater focus on diversity. America is a nation of immigrants, enriched by our differences, Huerta said.

“If you [counselors] are in an agency or school with little diversity, let’s figure out how to make that happen. The more diversity we can fill our lives with, the richer our lives will be,” she said.

This begins with our education system, and changing the content of what we teach to include the contributions of people of color and other repressed groups, Huerta said. Otherwise, “our children of color will never feel respected, and always feel like they never belong.”

There is only one human race: Homo sapiens, which originated in Africa. “It’s important that we always affirm the fact that we are Africans of different shades and colors,” Huerta said with a smile.

Drawing from her experience in labor organizing, Huerta closed with a sentiment that often rings true in professional counseling, as well: The power for change lies within.

“Teach people that they have the power,” Huerta urged. “You already have the power, you have everything you need. We just need to come together and work to make change. If we do not make the change, volunteer and do the work to make change, nothing will happen. We cannot expect that someone will come and do it for us. We have to do the work.”

 

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The ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta began with an ACA Governing Council meeting mid-week; festivities stretch through the weekend. Saturday’s keynote will feature anthropologist, educator, author and humanitarian Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director emerita of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art.

Find out more, including information on live streaming select conference sessions and Cole’s keynote, at counseling.org/conference

 

See more photos from conference on the ACA Flickr: bit.ly/1MOAysM

Dolores Huerta shakes the hand of ACA President Gerard Lawson as she takes the stage for the opening keynote at the ACA 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta on April 27.

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Find out more about the Dolores Huerta Foundation at doloreshuerta.org

 

Huerta is profiled in the documentary “Dolores,” which aired recently on PBS stations. Find out more at pbs.org/independentlens/films/dolores-huerta/

 

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Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook at facebook.com/CounselingToday.

 

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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 advocates for Medicare bill on Capitol Hill

By Bethany Bray July 20, 2017

ACA leaders gather for a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill on July 18. (Photo by Paul Sakuma)

A bill that would allow professional counselors to be reimbursed for the treatment of clients under Medicare has been introduced in the House of Representatives, and more than 100 counseling professionals added to its momentum by advocating in person on Capitol Hill earlier this week in an event organized by the American Counseling Association (ACA).

Currently, Medicare does not reimburse licensed professional counselors (LPCs) for the treatment they provide for older adults who carry this federal insurance coverage. However, ACA is advocating for a bill that would add LPCs to the list of providers who can be reimbursed under Medicare – a list that already includes clinical social workers and marriage and family therapists. H.R. 3032 was introduced last month by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) in the House of Representatives, and a companion Senate bill is expected to be introduced shortly by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

H.R. 3032 currently has three co-sponsors: Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). If passed, the measure would add an estimated 165,000 mental health providers to the Medicare network, providing much-needed access to care for older adults in the United States.

On July 18, 125 ACA members from across the United States visited the Capitol Hill offices of their senators and House representatives to ask for support for the Medicare bill. The counselors were gathered in Washington, D.C., for ACA’s annual Institute for Leadership Training (ILT), a four-day conference of education sessions, trainings and business meetings for leaders in the counseling profession.

“In the United States, exercising our First Amendment rights under the Constitution is vitally important to ensure that we have a strong and responsive government,” said ACA Director of Government Affairs Art Terrazas. “I am so happy that we were able to help ACA leaders from across the country meet and speak with their federal lawmakers about the needs of the counseling profession.”

Amanda DeDiego, an ACA member from Casper, Wyoming, talks with Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in his Capitol Hill office. (Photo by Bethany Bray)

Amanda DeDiego, an ACA member from Casper, Wyoming, met with Sen. Barrasso to thank him for his upcoming sponsorship of the Medicare bill. Barrasso expressed his support for the issue, saying “the needs are great” in Wyoming. For example, the average life expectancy on Native American reservations is 47 years – decades below that of Wyoming’s general population – and issues related to mental health are part of the cause, Barrasso said.

A delegation from the American Counseling Association of New York (ACA-NY) met with staff in the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to ask for co-sponsorship of the bill that Barrasso soon will introduce in the Senate.

ACA-NY leaders Summer Reiner, Allison Parry-Gurak and Tiphanie Gonzalez (ACA-NY president) explained that LPCs have training and graduate coursework that is equal to or exceeding that of the social workers and other mental health practitioners currently covered under Medicare. In the rural parts of New York, a dearth of mental health providers already exists, and that number shrinks further for people who rely on Medicare coverage for treatment, Reiner explained.

“There’s a huge need,” said Reiner, an associate professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Brockport and ACA-NY past president. “There are more than enough clients to go around, and we all have a different perspective for a reason.”

“We’re very much cousins in the exact same family, with different specialties,” agreed Gonzalez, an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego.

ACA members who visited legislative offices on July 18 also advocated for full funding of the Title Four block grant as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The grants, some of which goes to support school counseling programs, were funded at $400 million, or just 25 percent of the $1.6 billion that was authorized this year. President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 recommends no funding for the block grant at all.

Terrazas, in a training session held prior to the Day on the Hill event, urged the assembled ACA leaders to follow up with their legislators, stay informed and continue pushing for issues that are vital to the counseling profession.

“Advocacy doesn’t start and end with just this day [on Capitol Hill] tomorrow; it is year-round,” said Terrazas.

 

ACA members from Louisiana speak with staff in the office of Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) on July 18. (Photo by Bethany Bray)

 

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By the numbers: ACA Day on the Hill 2017

125 ACA members from 37 states, plus the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, visited 74 Senate offices and 95 House offices

ACA President Gerard Lawson also met with

  • James Paluskiewicz, staff, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • Nick Uehlecke, staff, House Committee on Ways and Means
  • Allison Steil, deputy chief of staff, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
  • Wendell Primus, office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

 

Cynthia Goehring and Sarah Shortbull, ACA members from South Dakota, met with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on July 18. (Photo by Paul Sakuma)

 

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ACA awards Murray, Lieu

ACA has recognized Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) with an Illumination Award for their work against harmful conversion therapy. Lieu and Murray have introduced bills in the House and Senate, respectively, that would classify commercial conversion therapy and advertising that claims to change sexual orientation and gender identity as fraud.

An ACA delegation met Murray on July 18 to recognize her on Capitol Hill; Lieu was previously honored at last month’s Illuminate symposium, a three-day conference in Washington, D.C., focused on the intersection of counseling and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer (LGBTQ) issues.

Sen. Patty Murray (center left, in grey suit) is given an ACA Illumination Award on July 18 by ACA Past President Catherine Roland, current ACA President Gerard Lawson and ACA President-elect Simone Lambert, along with ACA members from Washington state. (Photo by Paul Sakuma)

 

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To stay up-to-date on the Medicare bill and other current issues, sign up for updates from ACA Government Affairs at counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-government-affairs-blog

 

Search for the hashtag #ACAILT2017 for social media posts from ILT and the Day on the Hill

 

See more photos on the ACA flickr page: flickr.com/photos/23682700@N04/albums/72157686345016025

 

A delegation from the American Counseling Association of New York (left to right) Tiphanie Gonzalez (ACA-NY president), Summer Reiner and Allison Parry-Gurak met with staff in the office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to ask for cosponsorship of the Medicare bill that Sen. Barrasso will soon introduce in the Senate. (Photo by Bethany Bray)

 

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Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org

 

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