Tag Archives: American Counseling Association

Counseling Today recognized with four awards

September 6, 2022

The Counseling Today staff won a total of four awards in APEX 2022, the 34th annual awards program recognizing excellence in publishing.

Editor-in-chief Lindsey Phillips received a Grand Award in the COVID-19 media category for her March 2021 feature “How COVID-19 is affecting our fears, phobias and anxieties.” Of the 1,213 entries, only 100 Grand Awards total were presented across 14 major categories.

Senior writer Bethany Bray earned Awards of Excellence in two separate writing categories: one in feature writing for her February 2021 feature “Gone but not missed: When grief is complex” and another in health and medical writing for her August 2021 cover story “Crisis counseling: A blend of safety and compassion.”

The September 2021 issue of Counseling Today was recognized with an Award of Excellence in the category of best magazine, journal and tabloid issue over 32 pages. Among the articles featured in that issue was a cover story on suicidality in children and adolescents.

Counseling Today has been published by the American Counseling Association since 1958. CT staff have received 62 awards for writing, design and website excellence over the past 17 years.

Shawn E. Boynes: The right leader at the right time

Counseling Today August 29, 2022

ACA CEO Shawn E. Boynes

The American Counseling Association welcomed Shawn E. Boynes as the new chief executive officer on July 20. Boynes comes to ACA with more than 25 years of experience as an association executive. He spoke with Counseling Today and shared his leadership style, his vision for ACA and his excitement about the future of the counseling profession. 


What do you want ACA members to know about you?

I’m openly gay, approachable, easy going, authentic, transparent and a great listener who is solutions oriented. I also appreciate feedback because many years ago, I learned from a former manager that feedback is a gift. I’m open to it and I welcome it. We are embarking on creating the next life cycle for ACA, and in order to do that, I want members to fully engage in charting the course. This is your organization; I, along with staff, am a steward of it. 

What is your leadership style?

My leadership style and philosophy are best summarized as embracing innovation, creating positive change, being open to calculated risks, inspiring others to achieve the best outcomes and being transparent — all while exuding humility, sincerity and authenticity.

What skills do you bring to the CEO role?

I’ve spent over 25 years in the association management profession working for a broad variety of mission-driven organizations. Given my rich and diverse leadership experience, I’ve honed skills to identify opportunities for maximum impact. In my CEO role, that translates to listening more and using data to make informed decisions. Associations collect so much data from members, but unfortunately, they don’t often do a good job of applying that data across the organization, from the volunteer leadership to the staff levels, to help advance their goals. 

Another area I’m passionate about is amplifying the voice and great work of people who represent an industry or profession. It’s important to be bolder, louder and unrelenting in this current turbulent environment filled with noise and disruption. Why should anyone care about the work of an association and the members who belong to it if they don’t fully understand the impact both have on society. 

But the most important skill that I will bring to this role is support for the people who do the work on behalf of the members. I know how to create a collaborative environment and build teams that thrive. 

What will your first six months at ACA look like?

I plan to acknowledge the past, celebrate the present and prepare for the future. Specifically, my first six months at ACA will focus on immersion and discovery. I have already started my meet-and-greet “listening tour” to learn as much as I possibly can about ACA from Governing Council leaders, staff, stakeholders and other key partners. This also includes an organizational assessment to get up to speed on operations, financials, contracts, governance, and the overall portfolio of program and service offerings. 

What do you think is important in a successful organization?

Without question, transparency! People belong to associations because of shared interests and a strong belief in the mission. Meeting the myriad needs of people who choose to belong can be daunting but listening to and keeping your finger on the pulse of what those needs are will help the organization maintain a strong value proposition. Likewise, successful organizations must unequivocally embrace change. We all navigate change in different ways, but to remain relevant, you can’t keep doing the same things expecting different results, especially now. 

What does work-life balance look like for you?

This has taken me a really long time to figure out and I’m still a work in progress, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is to set and maintain boundaries. I work hard and give 100% because I enjoy what I do; however, I know there’s a point of diminishing returns. Working more doesn’t necessarily give you greater output. 

People are always shocked when I tell them that I’m an introvert because I project something different professionally. I am more talkative and outgoing at work. It’s a learned behavior that I leverage for career success and maximum effectiveness as a leader. But because it isn’t my natural disposition, I retreat at the end of too much social interaction.

I’m still learning how to adequately rest. In our “hustle” culture here in the United States, I don’t think we embrace rest enough. Being busy or always on the go has become normalized. It seems odd to say but I still struggle with moments when I don’t have obligations or anything to do. But if I’m not my best, recharged self, then I can’t give my best to my work and to those I support and serve. 

Exercise and travel are two ways that I maintain a work-life balance. Physical fitness is important because it helps relieve stress and keeps me healthy. Plus, I enjoy it. I’m also intentional about taking vacation. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I would always take two weeks off during summers and travel internationally to a different country with friends. Quality time and shared experiences are unmatched when you’re with people you enjoy being around. 

What is something you learned on the job that you will take with you in this new role? 

Professional patience and empathy are both critical leadership skills that can’t be undervalued. Good leadership is knowing how to influence decisions and actions but that means meeting people where they are and sometimes it takes a while to move the needle and see progress. I’ve worked on significant projects that took years to come to fruition. The impact was still powerful; it just took longer than I wanted it to. But if I had not been patient, many of those projects would have stalled to the detriment of the organization and those who engage with it. 

Empathy became a necessary power skill for all leaders in 2020 when George Floyd was murdered and many of us were still struggling with the pandemic’s disruption to everyday life. Leaders also needed to be more vulnerable and many struggled to do so. But those who took the extra step to connect with their colleagues on a basic human level are better for it. As leaders, we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and leading with more emotion than what we’re used to. 

What are you most excited and nervous about in this new role? 

I’m most excited about leading a mental health organization in this moment when the world desperately needs the expertise of licensed professional counselors. Unlike any other time in modern history, mental health is at the forefront of overall human wellness. That’s a powerful statement but I know that ACA is primed to rise to this monumental challenge. To do so, we must create strategies, build capacity and foster collaborative relationships with the other mental health organizations in the community. 

I’m not really nervous about anything because I firmly believe that I’m the right leader for ACA at the right time. However, I know that following a long-tenured CEO is a tall order, but I’m ready!


Breaking barriers

By Jonathan Rollins June 30, 2022

Summer break is something of a foreign concept to Kimberly Frazier. Growing up in New Orleans, Frazier and her siblings spent a large portion of their “lazy” days of summer drilling with flashcards and doing workbook pages at the prompting of their mother, a teacher who spent 51 years in education before retiring. “She did that every year until we were old enough to work and then go to college,” Frazier says. 

As friends were counting down the days to the end of the school year and dreaming of the carefree weeks ahead, Frazier would exclaim, “I don’t know what you all are talking about with this summer vacation thing.”

Still, Frazier didn’t consider learning a labor. It was something she enjoyed engaging in — even in her supposed “free” time. “I was the child who was reading a hundred-plus books every summer to get the free pizza. I didn’t care about the pizza, but I loved the books,” she says. 

Given her passion for learning and the work ethic instilled in her by her parents, it’s not surprising that Frazier graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), went straight into the master’s in community counseling program, also at XULA, and then was recruited to the University of New Orleans (UNO), where she earned her doctorate in counselor education in 2003. And then she finally took a long and well-deserved summer break to celebrate her accomplishments.

Just kidding. Frazier graduated from UNO’s doctoral program on a Saturday, drove to Indianapolis on a Sunday and started her first job as a postgraduate that Monday.

In the ensuing 19 years, Frazier has worked as an assistant professor at Clemson University, as a contributing faculty member at Northwestern University’s Family Institute, as a contributing faculty member at UNO and as an assistant professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She moved back to New Orleans six years ago, where today she is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans. She is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a family and divorce mediator.

Predictably, “relaxing” doesn’t top Frazier’s list of summer plans this year either. On July 1, she will begin her term as the 71st president of the American Counseling Association. As the sixth Black female president in the association’s history (and the first since one of Frazier’s mentors, Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, held the office in 2013-2014), Frazier plans to shine a spotlight on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Her mother, Sheryl Frazier, was a special education teacher who worked with children who had severe delays. “She took me to work with her when I was little, so I had exposure to people with differences,” Frazier says. “I think that shaped me. Seeing how she worked with her students and taught them basic living skills, that left an impression on me.”

Another area of focus during Frazier’s presidency will be mentoring, in large part because of the central role it has played in her own counseling journey. Among other initiatives, she hopes to hold a mentoring summit in the coming year.

Given Frazier’s seemingly boundless energy and drive, a third focus of her presidency might surprise some people; she puts a premium on wellness and self-care and wants to encourage other counseling professionals to do the same.

Finding her path

Growing up, Frazier was particularly interested in science and was always putting stuff together because she wanted to know how things worked. Her mother routinely drafted her to assemble her brothers’ Christmas toys because she could get the toys in working order without relying on the instruction manuals.

Frazier had some thought of becoming a medical doctor, but a high school civics teacher told her that she should consider going into law. “I was always the one asking, ‘Why do we do it this way?’ I guess challenging the teachers all the time, challenging the thought,” Frazier says.

That mindset of questioning others to gain a clearer understanding of how things work — or how they might work better — remains a core component of Frazier’s makeup.

“Frankly … when Dr. Frazier was elected upon running for the office [of ACA president], I never felt better about ACA,” says Zarus E. P. Watson, associate professor and coordinator of counseling and counselor education graduate programs in the UNO Department of Educational Leadership, Counseling and Foundations. “Kim can be an element that some organizations, no matter how well meaning, might view as difficult since she can often challenge the status quo. Perhaps the ACA membership has decided, with the election of Dr. Frazier as an example, to step up its level of engagement and evolution. Our society community needs us. Perhaps now we can more effectively show all of them why.”

Taunya Marie Tinsley, one of Frazier’s closest friends in the profession, says Frazier uses her habit of questioning to help others, not to stroke her own ego. “She loves people. Will she challenge you in your thoughts and perspectives? Yes, but it’s only to make you better as a person and to benefit the clients we serve in our society,” says Tinsley, an LPC who chairs ACA’s Antiracism Commission and is the owner of Transitions Counseling Services LLC.

When it finally came time to determine what route she would take in college, Frazier decided to study psychology, but she didn’t like the emphasis on diagnosing as part of the clinical psychology piece because “everyone doesn’t have a diagnosis. … I decided, ‘There must be something else out there.’ That’s what really got me into counseling,” she says.

Frazier continued her education at XULA, pursuing her master’s in community counseling. While there, she was actively involved in a research center collaboration between XULA and UNO that centered on trauma work with children 5 and younger. West-Olatunji headed the XULA section of the center, and Watson headed the UNO section.

Frazier assumed that after graduating with her master’s, she would work toward licensure, hang up her shingle and start a private practice. But that’s when fate — and mentoring — intervened.

West-Olatunji regularly attended and participated in professional conferences. “Being her graduate assistant and graduate research assistant, every conference she went to, I was there too,” Frazier recalls. “I was introduced to all these icons and reading their work.” Not long before Frazier graduated with her master’s, she accompanied West-Olatunji to a conference of the Association of Black Psychologists, where she met Asa Hilliard, a scholar and psychologist renowned for his work on African culture. “To me,” Frazier says, “this was like the equivalent of meeting the president of the United States.”

Hilliard asked Frazier what she was thinking of doing after graduating with her master’s and then offered a little advice. “I think you should get your doctorate,” Frazier remembers Hilliard telling her. “We need more Black people in the field.” 

Hilliard challenged her to come back the next day and tell him if she could think of one good reason not to follow that path.

“The next day he found me, and he goes, ‘So Kimberly, what did you come up with?’” Frazier recalls.

Her response: “I guess I’m going to get my Ph.D.”

Soon thereafter, Frazier started looking for doctoral programs and was considering the University of Nebraska, which would have meant leaving her family and home city of New Orleans behind for the first time. But her work with the XULA/UNO research collaborative had caught Watson’s eye. 

“Her ability to link community need issues within a research paradigm impressed me,” remembers Watson, an LPC and national certified counselor. “I was so impressed that I persuaded the UNO provost at the time [Louis Paradise] to find scholarship money to enable her to continue her doctoral studies with us rather than heading off to the Midwest. … I’ve always looked back on that being one of my better student-centered decisions.”

Mentorship, friendship and a counseling ‘home’

Frazier praises Watson for the valuable mentorship he provided, including helping her navigate microaggressions in the higher education landscape and preparing her for some of the challenges she would face based on her intersectionalities, both in higher education and, later, in counseling leadership. 

She notes that almost everywhere she has taught, she has been “one of one or one of two” women or women of color on faculty. “It’s very hard to be in an environment where it’s [bias/discrimination] coming at you from all directions — students, faculty, administration,” Frazier says.

She acknowledges that the emotional and psychological load has been heavy at times, especially when feeling like she was “always being the one breaking the barrier in some way.” Frazier says her mother has even cautioned her, “You don’t always have to be the first.” 

But her mother also planted other seeds that continue to guide Frazier and drive her forward. “I’m always questioning why things are the way they are and asking myself, ‘What can I do to make it better? What can I do to change it in some way?’” she says. “And always just showing up. My mom taught me that. If nothing else, just show up. I always want to show up for my students and others.” 

“I want to be one of those people who dismantles that for other students,” Frazier continues. “If my speaking up, if my experience opens the door for someone else to have an easier experience, then I’m OK with that.”

Frazier understands the importance of having trailblazers in the counseling profession to look to for inspiration and encouragement. When she was in school at XULA, Frazier read about Thelma Daley, who was the first Black president of ACA (1975-1976) and also served in the top leadership position at several other organizations. Frazier remembers Daley’s track record sparking a thought in her head: “This is possible; you could do this.”

While going through her doctoral program, Frazier began interacting with another ACA past president, Beverly O’Bryant (1993-1994), whose experiences she could relate to as a Black woman. That relationship helped solidify for Frazier that there was a path forward for her in counselor educator and counseling leadership. “She [O’Bryant] was so authentic in being herself and let me know that I could be myself,” Frazier says. “She gave me confirmation: Just be who you are.”

Frazier found further confirmation and mentoring through her involvement in the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), a division of ACA. Frazier says AMCD served as her “oasis” as a young professional when she was trying to make sense of the relative lack of diversity in ACA and the counseling profession. “In AMCD, we were caring about the same issues, speaking the same language,” she says.

Beyond that, Frazier says, she felt nurtured in AMCD. The leaders and fellow members checked in on her. And she felt safe approaching many of them and saying, “This is not working. What should I do differently?”

“Soaking up their knowledge was just amazing to do,” she says, “and they were all very open. If you had that desire [to get involved], they put you in the right place. … It really is a testimony not only to mentorship but [also] to seeing yourself reflected back in so many ways. The path can be so different for everyone, but you can get there. That’s what AMCD did for me.”

Tinsley and Frazier met at an AMCD event being held at the ACA Conference and quickly developed what Tinsley calls a “natural friendship” that includes supporting each other professionally. The connection is born out of their “mutual passion for helping people, making a difference in students’ lives and infusing a multicultural perspective,” says Tinsley, who will serve as parliamentarian during Frazier’s ACA presidency.

Tinsley refers to Frazier as “big little sis,” and Frazier calls Tinsley “little big sis” because, as Tinsley explains, “she’s my big sister at AMCD, but she’s my little sister in age.” 

“We kind of grew up in counseling together, especially in AMCD,” Frazier says. “We just really clung to each other. It’s been a friendship of close to 20 years.”

In many ways, Tinsley notes, their experiences at AMCD were parallel, with Frazier eventually serving as AMCD president in 2016-2017 and Tinsley taking the lead as association president in 2019-2020.

“One of my favorite Scriptures is ‘Iron sharpens iron; so do two people sharpen each other’ [Proverbs 27:17]. That’s what mentoring is,” Tinsley says, “but it also describes my relationship with Kim.”

With Frazier now taking the reins as ACA president, Tinsley believes it will serve to inspire a new generation of counselors who have felt underrepresented in the profession. “The message it represents is that ‘I can also get involved in my professional organizations and make a difference. I can be seen and be heard,’” Tinsley says.

“She will be giving a diverse group of people a seat at the table,” Tinsley continues, “adding chairs to the table and giving people opportunities. … I think she brings Black Girl Magic to the organization and the profession.”

“What legacy do I want?” Frazier asks. “I want to be remembered for paying homage to the ancestors and paying it forward.”

Lessons in self-care

Today, Frazier describes herself as “fanatical” about pursuing work-life balance and prioritizing wellness and self-care. But that wasn’t always the case, especially as she was starting out in the profession.

As Watson recalls, “Even external to the [XULA/UNO] collaborative, Kimberly set herself apart from a talented doctoral cohort group by being able to maintain a research-centered focus without sacrificing her passion for the practice of counseling. There was rarely a class taken that did not result in her developing several items to pursue, either as a presentation or publication. I admit that I became spoiled during Kimberly’s time within the program because I rarely had to think up my own research topics since we were interested in similar phenomena, yet Kim often had different ways of looking at them. … The main thing I had to do in working with Kim was getting her to pace herself for fear of her becoming burned out.”

A disaster famously and tragically associated with Frazier’s home city ultimately pushed her to reassess how she was approaching her career and overall wellness. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Frazier was trying to settle in at her new job in South Carolina. In the aftermath of the hurricane, she didn’t know where her father, Zirece Frazier, or grandmother were for two weeks or what had happened to them. Although they were eventually found safe, Frazier says the family “ended up losing my grandmother from the stress of it all.”

Frazier recalls the first time she drove home to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and witnessing the devastation from Mississippi onward. “I was coming back in the city [roughly four months after the hurricane] and not really knowing what I was coming back to,” she says.

Upon seeing her mother, Frazier exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her mother replied, “I didn’t know how.”

“People who are not from here can’t understand the trauma involved,” Frazier says today, her voice still breaking with emotion. Frazier says she knows that she was experiencing secondary trauma at the time, but she tried to cope by throwing herself back into her new job. “That was so very hard to not necessarily have the support in place,” she says. “I produced, produced, produced, but I didn’t process.”

Over time, however, the experience became a “catalyst for me to do more things and see family and not just be focused on my career all the time.”

Today, Frazier says she has an “inner circle” that recognizes when she might be fading and holds her accountable to practice good self-care. That inner circle includes Tinsley and Michele Kerulis, an associate professor with the Family Institute at Northwestern University and chair of the ACA Midwest Region. 

Frazier met Kerulis, who will serve as her treasurer, at the ACA Institute for Leadership Training (ILT) in Washington, D.C., a little over a decade ago. “Kimberly knew I was new to ILT and introduced herself to me and showed me the ropes,” recounts Kerulis, a licensed clinical professional counselor and a mental performance consultant certified by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. “She was very welcoming, and after a few conversations, we both knew we would become very good friends. We had so much in common, especially our commitment to counselor self-care. We continued to stay connected after that first ILT and got to know each other professionally and personally. One of the strongest parts of our friendship is supporting each other professionally and encouraging each other’s personal goals, including our fitness goals.” 

Through the years, Frazier, Kerulis and Tinsley typically made a point of getting together at the ILT, the ACA Conference and the AMCD Conference. But with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, they started connecting more frequently via Zoom, phone and text. They also regularly participate together in remote Peloton workouts.

“It’s just a wonderful friendship and, really, a sisterhood with both of them,” Frazier says. “They’re equally passionate about the profession, and with them, the façade is off. It’s really genuine with them.”

In addition to working out, Frazier enjoys crafting. “That gives me some solace and helps me even myself out,” she says. She also labels herself a diehard New Orleans Saints fan, an all-around fan of college basketball, a lover of music and a Star Wars fanatic. She has been learning American Sign Language during the pandemic and wants to begin learning a third language soon.

“I do a lot of self-care in terms of not answering emails after a certain time, turning stuff off. I try to schedule myself and not bring work home. I see my mom often, spend time with my brothers and look at what’s important to me, [asking myself] how am I living that quality of life?” she says. “And I give my mentees the message that work-life balance is a real thing.”

She says that encouraging ACA members to participate in a wellness and self-care routine with her throughout the year will be an important part of her presidency. “We cannot pour from an empty cup as counselors,” she notes. “We can’t keep doing the social justice work and multicultural work without prioritizing wellness and self-care.”

“Kimberly’s ACA presidency,” Kerulis adds, “will inspire counselors to remember to focus on their well-being as they focus on the well-being of others.”

Kimberly Frazier hanging out with her brother Marc and nephew Zach during the ACA 2022 Conference & Expo in Atlanta.

Inspirational leadership

Kerulis knew soon after meeting Frazier at the ILT that she would grow into a visionary leader for the counseling profession. “Kimberly has countless honorable traits that stand out to me,” Kerulis says, “and I can identify her kindness, integrity and intelligence as the top three traits that continue to be at the core of her presence. [Her] kindness is clear in the way she interacts with different types of people. She is respectful in situations where others are not kind, and she uses her mental health knowledge to share kindness with those who need it the most, even in situations where I believe others would not be as graceful. … [Her] intelligence shines brightly as she navigates situations in ways that help individuals and groups manage concerns, issues and goals in ways that are creative and effective.”

“The traits I found in Kim will also stand well for all of us as she goes into the ACA presidency,” Watson adds. “Her ability to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that is mental health as a whole in the U.S. will greatly assist counseling as we continue to fight to find our place within the mental health community. Kim also has a never-give-up mentality and dogged determination for what she believes in, especially as it relates to counseling and the field’s relationship to people of color and other marginalized groups in America. Though fairly quick to act on measures, Kim’s quickness does not sacrifice a thoughtfulness protocol to ensure that all of her decisions will be truly measured and not reactionary.”  

“Find your niche and your doors will open. I think that’s how Kimberly is,” Tinsley says. “She’s a team player, but she’s going to take a different perspective and a different path than others might have done. She’s visualizing, ‘How can we make this work for the future?’”

Tinsley describes Frazier as being “her true, genuine, authentic self. … I think we have a phenomenal madam president with Kimberly Frazier, and I’m excited to see all of the things that she’ll do this year.”



Read Kimberly Frazier’s first column as ACA president in Counseling Today‘s July magazine.



Jonathan Rollins is the former editor-in-chief of Counseling Today. 


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.

Creating meaningful and lasting change

Counseling Today April 13, 2022

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

ACA Antiracism Commission Chair Taunya Tinsley

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your role in chairing the commission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are you personally drawn to this work?

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

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

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

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

Hope and faith keep me from getting discouraged!

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

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

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

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


The 2021-2022 ACA antiracism commissioners are:

Taunya Tinsley, chair

Monica Band

LaTasha Hicks Becton

Shawn Spurgeon

Sam Steen

Ahmad Washington

Ebony White


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

By Lindsey Phillips April 8, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


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.