Tag Archives: 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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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.

Spotlight on: ACA Future School Counselors Award winner

April 9, 2020

This award recognizes graduate counseling students with exceptional insight and understanding about the school counseling profession and the work of professional school counselors who interact with elementary, middle school or high school students.

Winner: Rebecca Alexandra Smith

Rebecca Alexandra Smith is currently pursuing her masters of science in counselor education with specializations in school counseling and clinical mental health counseling at East Carolina University. She plans to become a North Carolina school counselor as well as a licensed clinical mental health counselor (LCMHC). Her passion is working with children, adolescents, and families to address the various personal, relational, and systemic challenges that impact their lives.

 

 

 

Essay:

Robby Novak said, “You don’t need a cape to be a hero. You just need to care.” With the help of adults who believed in him, Robby Novak became the witty and wise “Kid President” who has inspired others since 2012. Many young people, however, go without the security of a healthy support system and their well-being is risked as a result. School counseling gives all students access to someone who supports them, advocates for them, and believes in them wholeheartedly.

To measure the effectiveness of school counseling, we should shift our focus to social and emotional outcomes rather than academic outcomes, since achievement gaps often prohibit equal access for student academic success. Considering this, healthy decision-making skills and the ability to cope with adversity are the most important non-academic outcomes. They are significant because of the long-term benefits that can potentially enhance students’ educational accomplishments and personal victories throughout their lifespan.

Informed decision making can be difficult for all students because of varying backgrounds or environments. When a counselor works with students to develop this skill through modeling, workshops, reinforcement, or goal setting, they can discover the power that healthy decision-making has on their lives. We can evaluate students’ decision-making skills by recording conduct reports, levels of engagement with peers, post-graduation planning, and parent and teacher evaluations. When students develop this skill, conduct will likely improve, relationship choices will become healthier, they will become more goal-oriented, and parents and teachers will report signs of improved behavior such as turning in homework assignments on time or showing kindness to a classmate.

Another central part of school counseling is the ability to equip our students with ways to cope with adversity. Learning these skills during brain development builds a strong foundation for managing stress, change, and negative emotions throughout students’ entire lives. One way to prepare students with tools to self-regulate is through direct instruction, but we can also help by educating families, communities, and teachers about how to integrate coping skills into everyday life. We can document this outcome through student self-reports, parent and teacher evaluations, direct observations of the use of coping skills, or an assessment of their emotional and behavioral health. Ideally, students who can cope with adversity will be able to verbally express their problems and reach out for support, engage in appropriate activities that increase their self- concept, possess a willingness to persist even when faced with setbacks, and/or show an increased mood and decreased levels of stress.

All students can increase their chances of lasting academic and personal attainment when they learn to make healthy decisions and appropriately cope with adversity. To promote these outcomes, school counselors must be willing to be teachers, coaches, liaisons, and advocates for students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being. Only then can barriers to success begin to break down, allowing us to be the heroes that produce heroes in our students. All it takes is care; no capes needed.

 

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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.

Interstate compact plan provides hope for licensure portability

By Laurie Meyers April 8, 2020

In an increasingly mobile society, it is not unusual for professionals in many fields to relocate for career or personal reasons. For those in professions such as human resources, information technology, publications and numerous other fields, moving to another area usually requires only a new employer. In fact, many professionals need not even seek a new office because they can telecommute.

But for professional counselors, moving requires obtaining licensure again in their new state. Because individual state requirements for licensure vary widely — particularly in the number of graduate semester hours, required coursework, number of hours of post-master’s supervised counseling experience, and examination requirements — it can be difficult and time-consuming for counselors to transfer their licenses. Additionally, most states also require that counselors be licensed in the same state in which their clients reside, which limits practitioners’ ability to provide therapy via telebehavioral health. Being unable to counsel from a distance doesn’t just limit counselors’ potential practice avenues but also often forces clients who move to seek a new mental health practitioner.

The American Counseling Association has long considered lack of licensure portability to be one of the most critical issues facing the counseling profession. The Building Blocks to Portability Project was one of the major initiatives to come out of 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, a yearslong strategic planning effort co-sponsored by ACA and the American Association of State Counseling Boards that involved 31 major counseling organizations. In June 2016, the ACA Governing Council passed the ACA Licensure Portability Model, which said:

“A counselor who is licensed at the independent practice level in their home state and who has no disciplinary record shall be eligible for licensure at the independent practice level in any state or U.S. jurisdiction in which they are seeking residence. The state to which the licensed counselor is moving may require a jurisprudence examination based on the rules and procedures of that state.”

However, to allow for true portability, individual state licensing boards nationwide would have needed to adopt the ACA model. Based on input received from state licensing boards, ACA eventually decided that the most effective way to achieve portability was through the creation of an interstate compact.

The compact “won’t be ACA’s plan or any other group’s [plan],” says Lynn Linde, ACA’s chief knowledge and learning officer and staff point person for the interstate compact project. “What is being proposed is what we expect the licensing boards will agree to given their input. That’s why it’s the best option.”

How an interstate compact would work

What, exactly, is being proposed? According to Linde, states that join a compact would be agreeing 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 would not change professional counselors’ scope of practice, Linde explains. Individual counselors would be required to hold a valid license from the state of their legal residence. Counselors could then apply to the compact to be licensed to practice in other states that have agreed to participate in the compact.

Although the process sounds relatively simple, implementing the interstate compact for portability is a multiyear process. In January 2019, ACA signed a contract with the Council of State Governments’ (CSG) National Center for Interstate Compacts (NCIC) to conduct the work. NCIC has divided the project into three phases:

  • Phase I: Developing the compact. This involves creation of an advisory group, drawing up a draft compact and getting feedback on the draft from all of the groups involved.
  • Phase II: Implementing the compact. During this phase, an online compact resource kit will be developed, along with a legislative strategy, including a national legislative briefing.
  • Phase III: Establishing the commission that will oversee and coordinate the compact.

(For more detailed information on the interstate compact process, access a fact sheet at tinyurl.com/vlh3gk2 on ACA’s website.)

Where are we now?

In October 2019, the advisory group, composed of ACA members, representatives from state licensing boards, state legislators, and attorneys for state licensing boards, met in person. Follow-up phone meetings were held in November, December, January and February. During these calls, the advisory group members had an opportunity to further discuss how they wanted to handle specific elements of the compact and talk with representatives of other compacts, Linde says.

A drafting team, composed primarily of lawyers who serve on the advisory group, lawyers from NCIC, and several other professionals who have specific expertise in licensure requirements, has been created and was scheduled to meet in March, Linde says. The goal is to produce a draft compact by May or June of this year. The draft will go back to the advisory group for review and then enter the formal CSG compact stakeholder review — an eight-week process for gathering feedback from state licensing boards, state legislatures, and state and national membership organizations. The drafting team will review the feedback and make any needed changes. The updated draft will then be presented to the advisory group, which will either endorse it or make further changes.

Once the advisory group endorses the final version, the plan will be presented to the states and phase II, the legislative process of implementing the compact, will begin. (Visit tinyurl.com/unav9ta for more detailed information about the drafting and implementation process.)

Phase II is expected to run from September 2020 through March 2023. Phase III is projected to take place from April 2023 to September 2023.

 

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

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Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.