We have much to accomplish as a profession. Over the next year, the American Counseling Association will be focused squarely on promoting professional counseling, enhancing ACA member services and improving the services our members provide to their clients and students. I am a goal- and data-driven professional counselor. As such, I want to dedicate this initial column to identifying some of the goals and initiatives we will be pursuing this year. These include 1) supporting employment and economic issues that are central to counselors’ ability to practice and receive remuneration; 2) promoting professional identity and evidence-based, outcome research; 3) enhancing graduate student services; 4) developing new professional initiatives; and 5) promoting and supporting the internationalization of counseling. Because of their time sensitivity, I want to detail two of these goals and enlist your support as we get started on several new and exciting initiatives.

Enhancing graduate student services: This past March, the ACA Governing Council finally passed a bylaw requiring election of a student member with full voting rights on the Governing Council. We also required that the student representative become a voting member of the Executive Committee. So, for the first time in the history of ACA, students will have both voice and vote on every issue of importance to our organization and the counseling profession. We are excited to implement this long overdue justice and equity initiative. The graduate student representative to the Governing Council this year is Dodie Limberg (dlimberg@knights.ucf.edu). She will be the voice of our graduate student members until the official election is conducted later this year.

We are also working closely with the Graduate Student Committee to establish an entity within the ACA governance structure that graduate students can call home — an organization that will amplify the student voice and allow full participation in the profession to which they are about to dedicate their careers and lives. This has involved a complex discussion, and I have charged the Graduate Student Committee, under the leadership of co-chairs Dr. Victoria Kress (victoriaekress@gmail.com) and Nicole Adamson (naadamso@uncg.edu), with proposing a structure for this student organization. Noting another first for ACA, Nicole is the first student member selected to chair an ACA standing committee. This new graduate student organization will help to develop students’ professional orientation, counseling skills and knowledge, and leadership skills, while supporting and promoting employment opportunities for counseling graduates.

Finally, this year we will fully implement and support the ACA Mentoring Program. At this time, I am issuing a challenge to every ACA professional member who is a practitioner or counselor educator to adopt a mentee through this program. Not surprisingly, there was an overwhelming response from students as this new program was rolled out. Unfortunately, there are about seven mentees for every mentor who has signed up for the program thus far. Please immediately send an email to mentoring@counseling.org for more information and to receive a mentor application, and become a huge part of the future of our counseling profession!

Promotion of professional identity and evidence-based, outcome research: This fall, we will open and staff the brand new ACA Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research, and we will appoint a National Institute for Counseling Research Task Force. The purpose of the center and task force will be to accumulate evidence-based practice information to disseminate to members and policymakers — evidence that will promote the legislative and practice goals of the profession. Related to this initiative will be the generation, publication and dissemination of evidence-based practice guidelines presented in the form of fact sheets and guideline documents. These user-friendly documents will allow professional counselors, counselors-in-training and faculty to stay abreast of state-of-the-art practices in treatment and intervention. I will be reaching out to many members to contribute their expertise to this initiative.

From July 25-28, the ACA Institute for Leadership Training will take place in Washington, D.C., with division, region and branch leaders from around the country convening for four days of leadership and legislative training. This leadership training will culminate in a “Day on the Hill,” when we will all visit our elected officials and advocate for the needs of professional counselors and the consumers we serve. All are welcome to attend this event, so please see counseling.org/Institute/index.aspx for details. We have also established a Leadership Development Task Force that will focus on identifying, nurturing and fostering future leaders at all levels of the profession.

This is going to be a busy year. We hope that you become involved in these and other initiatives that aim to help elevate the counseling profession to new heights!

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