Richard Yep

Each year, many of you experience a very special passage that results in exchanging your “student” descriptor for one that reads “new professional.” Some of you will walk across a stage to accept your graduate degree in counseling. Others will simply walk off campus and begin the journey — a journey that comes as the result of hard work, dedication and self-exploration. And, of course, some of you have decided to go for yet another advanced degree.

To all of you finishing up your studies this year, I say simply, congratulations. You have earned a very special place in society as a professional counselor. You are an advocate for those seeking help for life’s challenges. You will experience exhilaration, fulfillment and, yes, at times, disappointment. But you will all be performing incredibly important work, and I am in awe of what you have chosen to do.

If you have been a student member of the American Counseling Association, you now have the opportunity to become a “new professional.” This means that, at a deeply discounted rate, you will be afforded all the rights and privileges given to those seasoned professionals who have been practicing, teaching and mentoring for several years. Why? Because we know many of you have student loans that need to be repaid or you have agreed to take a lower paying job to begin your career. Every single member of the ACA Governing Council remembers what it was like to “start out” in the profession. So even as you make the transition from student to new professional, your membership rate remains the same. Consider this our “graduation gift.”

There will be some of you who still question whether continuing your membership is really worth the expense. You might even tell yourself that once you are on your feet and established in your practice, you will “re-up” with ACA. Let me appeal to you to maintain your membership in ACA if at all possible.

For less than 25 cents per day, you, as a new professional, need the resources, information and networking opportunities that membership in ACA can provide. In addition, as you start out in your chosen career, you are bound to have questions about ethics; ACA is here to help answer all of your questions as a member of our association. There are numerous other benefits to maintaining your membership in ACA, so if you have questions, please call us at 800.347.6647, and we will be happy to respond.

And now, I address those of you who have been the support system for the newly graduated. Whether you are a partner, professor, mentor, parent, child or friend of a recent graduate, you can take pride in knowing that the student in your life will soon be helping others in their own lives. In many ways, these new professionals in counseling are doing what they are doing because of the encouragement, support, care and love you have provided.

So, graduates, don’t forget to give that extra hug or handshake to all those who helped you get through graduate school. They, like you, are very special people.

Once again, to the Class of 2009 — as well as to those who supported, nurtured and prepared this latest group entering the counseling profession — thanks and congratulations to all of you. The ACA staff and leadership look forward to being here for you and appreciate the chance to serve as your professional partner for many years to come.

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

Thanks and be well.