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Coming on the heels of its successful annual conference and expo in March in Orlando, Florida, the American Counseling Association is turning its attention to another conference in a tropical locale. This one, however, will be across an ocean.

The inaugural American Counseling Association-Asia Pacific Counseling Conference 2015, or ACA-APCC 2015, will be held June 18-19 in Singapore. According to ACA President Robert L. Smith, ACA leadership organized the event to support and collaborate with professional counterparts in Asia. He calls ACA’s international conference a forum for “reciprocal learning.”

“By reaching out internationally, ACA can learn from our neighbors and provide appropriate services and resources where needed,” says Smith, a professor and chair of the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “My hope is that the conference in Singapore and future [events] across the globe will expand our thinking about counseling, while at the same time bring us all closer together as we provide services to individuals, couples and families.”

Samuel T. Gladding will be among the small contingent of ACA leaders traveling to Singapore next month for ACA-APCC 2015. Gladding, a past president of ACA and a well-known counselor educator, will deliver the conference keynote address, but he says he’s equally eager to learn from the conference’s attendees.

“Often we think of counseling as an American phenomenon. To do so is not only incorrect but also culturally insensitive,” says Gladding, a professor in the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University. “We, as American counselors, need to expand our knowledge and our sensitivity that others outside of our borders have much to teach us and that we can, in turn, teach them some things too. It is a two-way street. I am anxious to learn more from those who attend the conference as well as to share my knowledge. I hope, and I think, that this conference is the beginning of a movement for the American Counseling Association and American counselors to become more global and aware of counseling around the world and how it is practiced.”

ACA-APCC 2015 will be ACA’s first conference in Singapore. The two-day event will be held at the Suntec Conference Centre in Suntec City. In addition to Gladding and Smith, ACA CEO Richard Yep, ACA President-elect Thelma Duffey and ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan will attend on behalf of ACA.

Jeffrey Po, a counselling psychotherapist in private practice in Singapore, will be leading a session titled “Spiritual Meditative Practices by Offenders: Decreasing the Chances of Relapse.” Abigail Lee, executive director of a private counseling and consulting practice in Singapore, will lead a session titled “Establishing the Sense of Safety for Clients Through the Creative Arts.

Po is founder and past president of the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors in PoAndLeeSingapore; Lee is the association’s current vice president.

“Our core faculty, as well as professional counselors and researchers from Asia, will make this a very rich and rewarding experience for all who attend,” Yep says. “As attendees from the U.S. and Asia explore both similarities and differences, we are certain to come away with a better understanding of working cross-culturally.”

ACA members have been involved in cross-cultural experiences, such as teaching or working abroad, for decades, Smith notes. He says the Singapore conference came together this year because the ACA leadership decided the time was right to organize an international conference.

“The ACA-Asia Pacific Counseling Conference in Singapore is our first event in support of the [ACA] Governing Council’s objective to work collaboratively with their colleagues outside of the U.S.,” Yep explains. “By working with our counterparts in Singapore and being culturally respectful of the work being done by counselors in that country, we hope to enhance our relationship with those doing such important work in communities around the world.”

“One of ACA’s initiatives is to support international counseling communities, and by holding this conference, we have an opportunity to learn more about the needs and practices of counselors in the Asia Pacific area,” says Duffey, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We also have an opportunity to broaden our own understanding of counseling from an Asian Pacific perspective. I look forward to participating in a forum where counselors from different cultures share theory, methodologies and practical experiences with one another.”

The theme of ACA-APCC 2015 is “Being an Effective and Resilient Counselor.” Gladding says his keynote will focus on the qualities of competent and effective counselors, and how these qualities stretch across cultures. “What do we share in our perspectives about what a counselor should be, and what can we learn from one another that transcends cultures and helps clients?” he asks.

Gladding is hopeful the conference will start a dialogue between American and Asian counselors — a living example of multicultural and cross-cultural counseling. “Such a dialogue can only be beneficial in promoting better understanding of one another and theories that work well with different population groups,” he says. “I think, through this conference, there will be an interchange that will spark ideas that have an opportunity to enrich us all.”

Gladding has previously spent time as a Fulbright specialist in China and has spoken at conferences, led workshops and worked closely with universities in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. He notes that professional counseling is practiced and taught at the university level in more than 40 countries worldwide.

“I know counselors on each side of the world can learn much from each other,” Gladding says. “I write a lot about group work and participate in a lot of groups. What I sometimes think will happen and what actually happens in a group, such as a conference, often catches me by surprise. I am ready to be surprised, and I think everyone involved in the [ACA-APCC 2015] conference is ready too. The unfolding of the stories that come from this event are waiting to happen — and they will.”

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Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at

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