Richard Yep

Happy New Year. I wish all of you a peaceful, healthy, rewarding and transformative year. While this is my first column of 2009, it also concludes a three-part effort that began with what I shared in November. My previous two columns focused on “change” and “giving,” respectively. This column addresses “belonging.”

I believe most people would acknowledge that they “belong” to something — a family, a professional organization, a service group, a school. I am of course interested in what you and your colleagues value in your professional organizations. My sense is that you would belong to an organization that promotes your profession, provides resources to the profession, teaches about the profession’s ethical standards and advocates on behalf of the profession.

Belonging to the American Counseling Association is all of those things — and much, much more. Belonging to ACA creates a community of like-minded, well-intentioned, dedicated professionals who come together to enhance, improve and professionalize the art and science of professional counseling. Think about it. For an investment of about 43 cents per day, professional counselors receive the full benefit package offered by ACA (it is only 25 cents per day for students and retirees). And for just a few more pennies per day, one can also increase the value of membership by joining any of our 19 divisions (which many thousands of you have already done!).

However, it is my belief that you will only want to belong to an organization in which you see value. With the changes in the world economy, many people are cutting back on what they spend. My observation is that this cutting back is done to preserve the ability to purchase services or make donations that have a special place in the life of the individual. Once again, we see that change (in this case relative to the economy) affects what we give (to those organizations with which we feel a special affinity), with the result being that we belong to those organizations that resonate with who we are as caring and professional people.

When we embrace change and give of our time and limited resources, we also receive the benefit of belonging. ACA continues to look at what we need to do to change in the current environment, but we also try to look five, 10, even 20 years into the future. We will only be a vital, useful, beneficial organization to our members if we change to meet needs, provide the best possible services and benefits, and nurture a community that welcomes those who wish to belong.

I encourage you to bring your colleagues and students to our table. Let others know of the good things ACA has done, is doing and will be doing as we transition into the second decade of the 21st century. Quite simply, those who identify as professional counselors need to belong to ACA. While we are 40,000 strong, we have not even engaged one-quarter of those who identify as professional counselors in the United States, and when you think about counselors around the world, the percentage is even smaller.

We have been changing things in “our house” and refocusing our efforts to provide the best services and benefits possible. Now what we need to do (with your help) is to let others know that we would be honored to have them belong to our organization. So, as we begin a new year, I ask that every ACA member bring at least one or two new people to our table. If you need information about ACA membership, services and benefits, contact us; we will be happy to provide you with these materials or even send them directly to a colleague, student or friend.

Let’s make this a banner year for those who will say, “I BELONG to the American Counseling Association.”

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.