Richard Yep

Why be involved with a professional association? I recently posed this question to the staff of the American Counseling Association, and it’s something I constantly ask our leaders and other groups of professional counselors. It’s my attempt to “drill down” and see what leads people to make the decision to participate and engage with groups for which they have an affinity.

I ask this question, of course, because I want to make sure I can tell my successor that I did what I could to keep things moving forward during my watch as your executive director. Before any of you write to ask if I am leaving, I am not at this moment. I only use this example to illustrate that each of us is one person along a continuum of others (past and future) who works to sustain and build the profession of counseling and ACA.

When I ask why people choose to be involved or choose to be a member, I have never heard anyone answer, “Because I have lots of disposable income and wish to keep my ‘continuous membership’ record intact.” Nor have I ever heard someone respond, “I don’t know why I belong. I just keep sending the money every year out of habit.”

As we all know, people don’t join a group just because it is “something to do.” For those who join, there has to be a valid reason. That reason may be based on many factors, such as access to resources, networking opportunities, career advancement, like-minded interests, commitment to a chosen profession, advocacy for the profession with public policy-makers, to demonstrate pride, to let the public know that they go above and beyond when it comes to their profession or to show support for a code of ethics.

Our goal here on staff is to build upon the reasons people have for belonging to ACA: for instance, our recent victory at the federal level that will allow licensed professional counselors to qualify for various jobs within the Department of Veterans Affairs, or our recognition by the United Nations as one of its nongovernmental organizations, or something a bit more local such as the introduction of a counselor licensure bill in Nevada. It is our hope that you and your colleagues will recognize our efforts on your behalf.

I do have one request, and it involves one of the most powerful ways to get our message out to professional counselors around the globe. It isn’t through blast e-mails or fancy, four-color glossy brochures. I am talking about that three-letter word spelled “Y-O-U.” That’s right, the tried-and-true “word of mouth” campaign continues to be one of the very best ways to bring new people into an organization. My friends, I am confident that the many positive things ACA has achieved on behalf of the profession during the past few years can and must continue. But we can only accomplish this with as large a base of support as possible. Think about what it would mean if even 10 percent of ACA members were able to bring one new person into the organization this year — that would be more than 4,000 new members for our community!

There is “strength in numbers.” We know many professional counselors are out there working in schools, community agencies, private practice, hospitals, industries and religious institutions, to name just a few settings where their membership in ACA could be critical as we move toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

I would be honored if you would consider being part of that “10 percent” of the membership who commits to bringing just one new member into our community this year (although more than one would certainly be welcomed as well!). Let’s build off our more than 50-year tradition of being the world’s largest organization specifically representing professional counselors so we can provide a home to even greater numbers of individuals who are looking to be part of our community.

I hope to keep you updated with our progress in building our membership, and I encourage you to let me know when you have succeeded at joining the 10 percent of members I referenced. If you need information to share with your colleagues, just let me know that as well.

As always, I hope you will contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have. Please contact me via e-mail at or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.