In a few weeks, we’ll be gathering in Detroit for a time of rejuvenation, collegial connections and celebrations. For many of us, convention time has played an important role in cultivating our professional growth, career development and relationship building. Within the design of our convention, it is imperative that the pipeline is flooded with events that advance our level of productivity, engagement and empowerment.

This year, I have had an opportunity to connect with many American Counseling Association members and friends through branch/division trainings and conferences, leadership meetings, e-mails, conference calls and letters. As I have made informal phone calls to members of our association, I have become cognizant of the fact that there are those who will not be able to attend the convention this year, serve in a leadership capacity or participate on a committee or task force. As an association, an immense challenge is to keep the membership well informed. But communication is a two-way process and a membership obligation.

Technological advances are a mixed blessing. We have to stop and ask, “What is happening with our ability to promote collaboration, strengthen our knowledge base and increase camaraderie within the organization?”

Multimedia venues are utilized extensively today so that people can learn interactively. The Internet opens the door to perform research, engage in projects, collaborate and network. New technologies allow us to have more control over our own learning, allowing us to think analytically and critically.

We all realize that e-mail and Listservs beat “snail mail” and provide tremendous opportunities. These communication tools allow us to gather data valuable to the effective functioning of our organization, disseminate important documents, promote meaningful dialogue for the purpose of knowledge-based decision making, announce upcoming events, close gaps that might otherwise perpetuate isolationism, mobilize our resources to help our membership and the communities we serve, and connect people around the globe. Effective use of technology helps us provide support for successful leadership transitions, build lasting partnerships, alert the membership of news that will impact the profession and participate in the mentoring process so we can sustain our future.

Although technology is making life more convenient and enjoyable — and many of us healthier, wealthier and wiser — it may also be introducing new forms of tension and distraction and posing new threats to the cohesion of our organization. As a note of caution quoted from the Principles of Technorealism, “We must not confuse the thrill of acquiring or distributing information quickly with the more daunting task of converting it into knowledge and wisdom.”

Our most valuable characteristic is our ability to connect through communication. This gift allows us to cooperate and share experiences, impressions, skills and knowledge. It empowers us to transcend our considerable physical limitations and form a “group mind” of sorts.

As counseling professionals, we are taught to value certain skills that are hallmarks of the client-counselor relationship. We teach others to communicate effectively in myriad settings and to exercise certain behaviors that will promote positive results in times of conflict.

To reach our vast ACA membership in all corners of the world, we depend on technology as our communication lifeline. For obvious reasons, those active listening practices that we normally employ to enhance the nature of counseling — personal touch supported by timely empathic statements, appropriate voice tone, eye contact and other forms of body language — may be challenged by new communication technology. What we rely on and internalize during our technology experiences are the actual words in print. The adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is absolutely erroneous, especially in our age of technology. Words by themselves are often at risk of being misinterpreted, leading to mistrust. This can undermine the strength of organizations and create barriers that set the stage for exclusivity.

There is power in our connectedness. The Internet allows us to give voice to our organization and promote transparency in many ways. As we “walk the talk,” a measure of our success includes the ways in which we demonstrate conversations that increase inclusiveness, fairness and respect. It seems to me that everything useful, good, beautiful and healing that humans have created relies on communication. As members of ACA, we have much of which to be proud. We can empower each other to achieve greater heights through communication that refreshes us, refocuses us and reinforces our high professional standards, reminding us of who we are and what we do.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will feel free to communicate with me via e-mail at or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 232.