Richard Yep

This past summer, the American Counseling Association hosted its first-ever Institute for Leadership Training, sponsored by the four regions of ACA. Rather than these four entities holding their traditional fall meetings, everyone gathered in Alexandria, Va., the city that is home to ACA’s national headquarters and just across the river from Washington, D.C.

More than 130 counseling professionals, representing approximately 40 states and U.S. territories, came for three days of intensive training, networking and advocacy on Capitol Hill. Quite frankly, this group was a force to be reckoned with. With keynote speeches on leadership, social media and what it takes to succeed, along with 12 very interesting content sessions, Institute attendees were exposed to many ideas and issues that will help them as leaders in the counseling profession.

Our attendees came from many different areas of counseling and spanned various demographic groups. What I observed is that leadership is a subject that goes hand-in-hand with diversity. When we open leadership opportunities to a diverse cross section of our members, we improve the collective thinking and advocacy that can be accomplished on behalf of the profession. And when we create a climate in which people of diverse backgrounds and interests genuinely feel they are part of the community, all sorts of creative thinking and dialogue can take place.

Our Institute for Leadership Training was successful in many ways and on many levels. Because it was held concurrently with our meeting of the Council of Presidents and Region Chairs, we had the added benefit of including the thoughts, interests and opinions of those who serve as division presidents and regional chairpersons of ACA. This is yet another example of the inclusive nature of the Institute and how it fostered greater communication among the diverse interests within ACA.

When three buses full of counseling leaders from the state, region, division and national levels of our association descended on Capitol Hill, the interests of the profession and those whom counselors serve were effectively shared with public policymakers in both the House and Senate. We visited Democrats, Republicans and independents; we talked with liberals and conservatives; we talked with people who have been on the Hill for decades and those just starting out after college. No one was immune from hearing about the good work of professional counselors. The visits were not about politicking so much as they were about advocating for the needs of those who, for one reason or another, do not have a voice. It represented the essence of why many of you have responded to the call to serve as a professional counselor. You would have been proud of your colleagues who made the trip to Washington. I certainly was.

So as we look ahead, I encourage all of you to stay abreast of the many public policy developments we will witness in the coming year. As our government deals with how to address an overhaul of the U.S. health care system, we must continue to ensure that behavioral health is included. In regard to education issues, we have never had a U.S. secretary of education with as much authority and discretionary funding as the one who currently holds office. (Speaking of which, read ACA’s interview with Secretary Arne Duncan on page 38.) Funding that flows to school districts across the country must include support for professional school counselors.

While Congress and the Obama administration tackle many important domestic issues, our job is to ensure that the needs of your clients and students, as well as the needs of the counseling profession, are included. This is your right, so I encourage you to tune in to the issues being featured on the public policy section of ACA’s website ( and to let your elected and appointed officials know of your interests and concerns. If you don’t, who will?

As always, 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.