Richard Yep

It is hard to believe that I have been with the American Counseling Association for 20 years. I can honestly say I had no idea when I began that this would be my career path. All of this made me wonder if others had been as “accidental” as I was when they started their careers, which, of course, led me to think about many of you. When did you know that you were destined to be part of the counseling profession?

As my friend Sam Gladding says, if you are going to ask a group a question, you should first be willing to answer it yourself. Since I write this column, I’ll go first and tell you a little about my path.

Coming out of college, I knew a few things — I wanted to work in human services, I had a love of politics and I needed to learn more about public policy given its role in effecting change. I actually thought about working in city government, where policy, politics and seeing the results of one’s efforts were more immediately apparent than at other levels. However, part of my graduate work required that I do a stint at both the state and federal level of government. Ultimately, I found myself working on Capitol Hill.

Working on the Hill certainly exposed me to public policy and politics, but I also knew that I wanted to focus more on human services. That desire led me to ACA as a “government relations specialist.”

When I first started with ACA, it was inconceivable to me that I would still be here 20 years later — much less have the honor of serving as your executive director. Without a doubt, I am very grateful to so many who have helped me learn and grow. Because of what I have been given, I feel obligated to continue to “give back” to our members who do such important work for millions of clients, students and families throughout the world.

So while my career path may have “accidentally” resulted in me becoming your executive director, I will continue to do my best to provide what you want. That is why I often take the opportunity with this column to ask, “What can we do for you to make you a better professional counselor?”

Society is changing, the profession is changing, and you will start to see ACA changing over the next year. In fact, last month, a group of ACA leaders and members gathered to look at what the future will hold for the association and what we might want to consider in terms of developing products, services and benefits for our members. This was an exciting, invigorating and hard-working group whose work actually began last year as the Signature Product Task Force; ACA President Marie Wakefield reappointed the task force for 2006-07. Chaired by Pam Paisley, the task force included current and former members of Governing Council, branch leaders, members from various counseling specialties and a graduate student representative.

This is an exciting time to be part of ACA and, combined with the need for professional counselors throughout society, I am convinced that we need to encourage as many people as possible to join our ranks. We may not know where our career path will lead us, but being part of the counseling community through membership in ACA and participation at the annual convention is something that can provide the resources to give our members a great number of options.

Last but not least, I want to know how your career path led you to the noble profession of counseling. Visit the ACA website at and click on the graphic in the bottom right-hand corner of the home page titled “Share Your Thoughts.” This month’s topic asks readers to share the path that led them to being a professional counselor. See what your colleagues and others say, and then feel free to post your thoughts as well.

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

Thanks and be well.