OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaders from various branches, regions and divisions of the American Counseling Association are convening in Washington, D.C. July 24-27 for the ACA Institute for Leadership Training.

 The institute gives attendees the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills and dedication to the counseling profession through workshops, learning sessions, visits with elected officials and a keynote presentation. This year’s keynote speaker is author, speaker, licensed professional counselor and ACA member Sherene McHenry.

 McHenry runs a company called Fully Engaged, which focuses on helping professionals, including counselors, avoid burnout, reduce stress, reach goals and more.  “I am thrilled to be a part of the Institute for Leadership Training,” McHenry says. “It’s an honor to join the American Counseling Association in serving and empowering our leaders to create even stronger branches, regions and divisions.”

For more information, visit counseling.org/institute.

What will your keynote address entail?

It’s a heartwarming, humorous invitation for counselors and leaders to decrease their self-inflicted stress while increasing their emotional and physical reserves so that they can best meet the needs of those they serve.

Why do you think it’s important for counselors to focus on self-care?

Counselors are on the front line, and they tend to be extremely caring. If they aren’t strategic, they are at high risk for compassion fatigue and burnout, which impair counselors and can harm the very people they are striving to serve.

 How did you become interested in this subject?

As a classic over-functioner who cares deeply about the pain and suffering of others, I’ve flirted with burnout myself. Then, as a counselor educator, I noticed the same patterns of over-functioning and the lack of boundaries in many of my students. What counselors do is far too important to risk being sidelined, and I simply couldn’t stomach seeing well-trained, previously passionate and highly caring counselors leave the field.

In the past two decades that you’ve focused on this subject, do you think counselors have gotten better or worse at taking care of themselves?

While it depends on the individual, counselors are confronted with ever increasing needs and severity of mental health issues. It’s a tough and stressful time to be a counselor, and it often feels like we’re trying to bail out a boat with a spoon. We tell counselors they need to engage in self-care, then turn right around and ask them to give more and more.

When did you found Fully Engaged? What prompted you to start this endeavor?

I started speaking in 1993 and immediately fell in love with making people laugh while sharing life-enhancing information. The scariest decision I ever made was leaving my full professorship in December of 2011 to fully pursue my passion of empowering, equipping and inspiring audiences around the world.

Tell us about your new book, Pick: Choose to Create a Life You Love.

Pick: Choose to Create a Life You Love centers on developing the mind and skillsets needed to live life to the fullest. It helps readers identify their hopes and dreams, live their passion and overcome what holds them back from living a life they truly love. It’s full of stories from my life and what I learned along the way, it helps the reader identify where they are and want to be, and it offers quick tips for things they can immediately implement to enhance their life. 

What do you hope attendees get out of your keynote address?

That what they [are] as counselors and leaders is ever so critical and appreciated. We need them to strategically take care of themselves and those who volunteer under their leadership so that they can meet the ever-increasing needs of those they serve.

Why do you think the Institute For Leadership Training is important for counselors to attend?

It’s a complex time in our nation and in our field, and leaders need to be able to hit the ground running. The more skilled they are as leaders and the more they know, the more effectively they’ll serve their constituents. Unfortunately, being a great counselor doesn’t necessarily translate into being a great leader. It’s an entirely different skillset, often like herding cats, to lead a volunteer organization. The Institute for Leadership Training is designed to equip leaders to significantly impact the world. How cool is that?

 Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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