Don W. LockeAs you have been able to tell if you have been reading my columns, I strongly believe that the future of the counseling profession might be determined to a large degree by the ability of our national organization (the American Counseling Association) and each state counseling organization (branches) to present a unified front that can represent the profession and advocate for the needs of all professional counselors.

I had the privilege of seeing a great example of this unity in action recently when I visited with Louisiana Counseling Association (LCA) members at their state conference. Many of you experienced the hospitality of the Louisiana group earlier this year at the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition in New Orleans. Beyond the good times and camaraderie that is always present with Louisianans, this group shares a unified approach, both currently and historically, to matters that relate not only to their individual/personal needs as counselors, but to the needs of each and every professional counselor in the state.

The Louisiana counselors seem to thrive and grow because they use obvious differences to forge alliances. These alliances and their desire to exhibit togetherness enable them to have the platforms and the advocacy strength necessary to make things happen in a positive way for all counselors in the state. Historically, the membership has stood together to approach boards of education and the state school credentialing groups to ensure that school counselors have adequate training and the opportunity to provide appropriate services within the school setting. School counselors have joined with private practice and agency counselors to advocate for licensure for all professional counselors regardless of work setting. Work settings or passions have not separated these counselors. As a result, they have not ventured out alone. Rather, they have worked together and developed a positive environment for professional counselors throughout the state.

Louisiana doesn’t provide the only example of a state’s counselors unifying to work effectively. I am aware that there are many others. What impresses me is the ability of LCA and other strong state branches to focus not on the differences within their ranks but on how they are alike. They are conscious of the needs of all professional counselors and realize that those needs transcend the particular work settings or passions of an individual or groups of individuals. The primary focus and strategic planning in these states revolves around the profession as a whole first, followed by how they can work together to meet the specific needs of individual members or groups within the organization. LCA supports multiple divisions and interest groups by recommending that all members join a group of their choice and by providing opportunities for collaboration and cooperative activities.

In addition, LCA’s collaboration with and commitment to ACA is evident on its website, in its publications, in its conference programs and in its partnerships related to national conferences. Louisiana is positioned to join with other state branches in its region and with ACA on the national level to address broad issues that impact our profession. The professional unity this state organization exhibits is an excellent model for those branches that are attempting to grow stronger and serve a broad spectrum of professional counselors.

As professional counselors, we are a diverse group, and when we are united, we have an opportunity to address so many individual and societal needs. If we splinter into competing groups, we dilute our potential and our ultimate effectiveness as professionals. My hope is that nationally and within each state, we as professional counselors will follow models of unity
and together meet the challenges presented to us.

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