Organizations are not machines with precision parts. They involve all kinds of people and relationships. People with ideas, potential, insight and vision. People who follow and people who lead.

The American Counseling Association is composed of more than 40,000 members and 60 staff members, and both of these groups perform as leaders on a daily basis. Leadership is not about tenure or title, being on top or out front. By definition, leadership is the process of persuasion — how an individual influences, inspires, motivates or affects the thoughts, feelings and actions of others. In the variety of hats we wear, consciously or not, we influence others to use their potential, call on their determination, embrace change, think strategically and undertake endeavors beyond their comfort zone. Finding meaning implies finding a connection between what we do, who we are and what we consider valuable.

It is not the title of an organization’s events or the presidential theme that gets remembered, but rather the sustained presence of values that brands the organization. As the leadership values become more entrenched, they spread throughout the organization. It is neither the complexity of the changes nor the continuation of conventional standards that matter so much, but rather the innovative contributions that promote growth in the profession and the organization. It is not the number of initiatives that are ultimately appreciated, but the strategies that mobilize effective practices and services, truly meeting the needs of our members and the public we serve.

We are a multitasked, multidisciplined, multicultural and multitalented organization with innumerable accomplishments, products and services. Among the accomplishments:

  • Receiving the Summit Award for our support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina
  • Earning inclusion of licensed professional counselors as mental health providers in the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Being designated an official nongovernmental organization of the United Nations, which gives ACA greater recognition in speaking out on the needs of counseling around the world
  • Recognition of Counseling Today with multiple APEX awards for distinguished news and feature articles

ACA has also participated in several events and given sponsorship support to others in the past year to increase our presence. Among them:

  • The Voice Awards, which raised the awareness level of the stigma faced by those with mental health disorders
  • National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day
  • The PBS special Retire Smart, Retire Happy
  • The PTA’s Commitment to America’s Children Gala
  • The Educational Roundtable: Meeting the Needs of Children in Foster Care

The ACA leadership understands the meaning of call and response:

  • Whenever tragedy struck, many ACA members rallied to volunteer their services without hesitation, as demonstrated in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the shootings at Virginia Tech and the tornadoes in Kansas.
  • Collaborative efforts to attain licensure in Nevada and California have been gaining strength.
  • ACA stepped up to the plate to support counselors who were facing various testing issues related to the use of appropriate assessment tools.

From local communities to other continents, the ACA leadership is making a difference:

  • The reinstatement of “Counseling Corner,” ACA’s weekly newspaper column, currently being printed in approximately 250 local newspapers, is another example of our commitment to promoting mental wellness.
  • The Hans Z. Hoxter International Forum Fund was created to increase the participation of international speakers at ACA conferences — a step toward globalization of counseling collaborations.
  • ACA continued as the counseling profession’s designated sponsor of People to People Ambassador Programs, which foster a unique experience of exchanging cultural and professional ideas and information. ACA delegations have traveled to China, Russia and South Africa.

As technology resources expand, ACA has also invested in professional growth and development opportunities for members through online learning programs and establishing a virtual library for the retrieval of VISTAS articles, ERIC digests and ACA archives. Other online services include collaborating with to provide a counselor-specific job filter; current salary data information that matches companies, positions and job profiles of employers and employees across the globe; and the Web Idea Bank, established so the voice of the membership could be heard more readily.

There is no limit to the tireless efforts being launched by ACA to advance the profession of counseling and the organization. The ACA leadership is committed to staying alert to the challenges of the profession. Among the resources introduced to elevate professional experiences are relevant publications, ACA Interest Networks in specialty areas and an increased selection of educational academies at the ACA Conference.

Some ACA leaders work to monitor, dialogue and initiate action to ensure that we are heard on Capitol Hill and prepared to take our issues to elected officials. There is also 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling, a joint initiative with the American Association of State Counseling Boards to address seven areas that impact the future of counseling (see “20/20 delegates start reaching consensus” on p. 1).

Issues of continued focus for ACA include Medicare coverage of licensed professional counselors, independent practice authority for counselors under TRICARE and parity of insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

ACA cares very deeply about what our members value and need. The momentum from our success stories will serve as a legacy for students entering the profession. The leadership of our graduate students is evident as they demonstrate a high level of enthusiasm and commitment. They have increased their presence on ACA committees, their participation in branch and division activities and their involvement in activities during the ACA Conference.

In sharing with so many professionals what the leadership of ACA does, I am very proud to say that we represent the largest group of counseling professionals in the world. Leadership is about the opportunity to serve, conduct, grow, promote, examine, choose, connect, engage, design, build, influence, inspire, reflect, support and celebrate. As I reflect on all these accomplishments of the ACA leadership, I want to humbly express my gratitude at having been allowed to stand on the shoulders of giants in the counseling profession. It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to wear so many leadership hats. Blessings.