Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., ACA 63rd President
Robert L. Smith, Ph.D., ACA 63rd President

Meeting with emerging leaders of the American Counseling Association is one of the most rewarding experiences for any ACA president. I have had the opportunity on several occasions to meet with emerging leaders, including at the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, in October.

The energy and enthusiasm of our emerging leaders is always amazing. Meeting with future and current leaders in the counseling profession at these events provides numerous opportunities to share how one can successfully move into a leadership role. In addition, there is always plenty of time to recognize mentors and discuss leadership styles.

During several of these meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the importance of intentional collaboration and how it works with individuals, groups of individuals and organizations. When thinking about collaboration, intentionality is important. Intentionality means acting with purpose, thoughtfulness, respect and openness.

When individuals and organizations are challenged, it is important to collaborate. Collaboration involves looking at the “why,” “how” and “what” factors of any situation. The “why” factor provides a historical picture of the challenge that is in front of us, including significant events that led to the problem. The “how” factor helps us identify and understand what it is that keeps a problematic situation alive. This factor can include individuals, events and circumstances that give life to a problematic situation. The “what” factor involves a search for solutions. That process can be time consuming and frustrating. However, by using intentional collaboration while examining the “what” factor, there are many opportunities for creativity and solutions to surface.

I observed emerging leaders using the approach of solution-focused thinking. When emerging leaders, ACA members, professional officers and staff at ACA, and elected leaders of ACA work together to find solutions, it is exciting. Emphasizing a solution-focused approach during intentional collaboration will move the counseling profession forward. By focusing on solutions, I am sure we will solve current issues such as:

  • Licensure specifics and portability of licensure
  • Recognition of all counselors to gainfully practice in areas in which they have demonstrated expertise and training
  • Counseling veterans
  • Opportunities with TRICARE and Medicare
  • Inclusion of new counseling interest groups within the ACA structure
  • Nationwide recognition of professional counselors as the major provider of mental health services
  • Resources for addressing social justice issues and demonstrating efficacy of treatment for a wide range of mental health problems
  • Worldwide recognition of ACA as the “center for research dissemination” of evidence-based mental health treatment approaches
  • Recognition of ACA and its divisions, branches and regions as examples of effective collaboration

I am optimistic about our future. So, many thanks to our emerging leaders — because you are our future.

All the best,

Robert L. Smith, Ph.D.

Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.