Greetings, fellow counselors! Can you recall a time when you so looked forward to an experience — a time when you felt hope, energy, a definite sense of humility and anticipation — and, finally, the time arrived? This is how I feel today. I could not be more pleased to begin my tenure as the 64th

Thelma Duffey, ACA's 64th president
Thelma Duffey, ACA’s 64th president

president of the American Counseling Association and to embark with you on the next step in the wonderful work of our association and our profession.

Our work has been paved by the efforts of so many people, and I am grateful for these efforts. I am grateful to Robert Smith, the immediate past president of ACA, for his tireless leadership and timely focus on intentional collaboration. Robert is a truly dedicated counselor, counselor educator and leader who cares deeply about our profession. It has been my privilege to work alongside him and to witness his many contributions to ACA. Rich Yep and the ACA staff, it is amazing to work with you. You are wonderful stewards for the profession of counseling, and I am grateful for every one of you. And to the ACA membership, let me just say how much I appreciate the trust you have afforded me. Please know that I will do my very best to serve you well.

As we begin our time together, I’d like to tell you a few things about myself that may give context to my hopes for the year. For one thing, I am a bit of a dreamer. I always have been. But I am a realist too. I like pragmatic action. And I like taking action with others who will enrich the dream — those who will bring their creativity and resourcefulness to the table and join in taking the dream places that no one person could ever do alone. Yes, I love a great dream, but what ultimately makes a dream meaningful to me is making it real.

I believe part of realizing our dreams involves working together and bringing positive energy and ideas to the table. It involves naming a challenge and finding ways of tackling that challenge constructively, collaboratively and creatively. The alternative creates fragmentation and disempowers everyone involved.

Today, I am pleased to share a dream that involves all of us, so I hope you will join me in working toward it. My dream is that from July 2015 to June 2016, we, as counselors, will come together to make a notable difference with two important causes:

1) Advocacy for the counseling profession

2) Action around a pressing social issue — namely, the act of bullying and interpersonal violence

Both causes align with the strategic plan for the association. They also provide us with opportunities to educate the public, legislators and other mental health professionals about who counselors are — not just by what we say about ourselves but by what we do together.

I look forward to deepening partnerships between ACA and its branches, divisions and regions; publicizing our good works; and encouraging our members to participate. I believe that in coming together this way, we not only partner in advocacy and service but also have an opportunity to foster an increased sense of unity, collaboration and mutual respect across and within ACA. I believe it is vital to our professional health that we do this.

So, here is my proposal. I am offering an organized platform for cohesive and constructive opportunities for advocacy, both for the profession of counseling and for our communities. Heather Trepal will chair the professional advocacy effort. She can be reached at Jen Curry will chair the social action bullying and interpersonal violence task force, which will have a focus on fostering dignity and empowerment. Jen can be reached at I invite you to contact them to participate. Here are three reasons to do so.

1) Working together is important to our health and to our future. I believe that we must find common ground and represent ourselves to the public and to one another in ways that make us proud to be counselors and to promote our professional standing within the mental health arena. When we work together within an organized framework, in support of the framework and the cause, we not only strengthen our organization and professional standing within mental health but also make a difference in our larger communities.

2) This dream is doable. Our membership has a diversity of strengths, skills and talents. Imagine what could happen if a good percentage of our 55,000-plus ACA members mobilized to promote public perception of counseling, thus expanding access for clients and opportunities for counselors. Imagine coming together and forging a campaign to address bullying and interpersonal violence in all the settings in which counselors work. With campaigns that are well thought out, we can make a difference in the lives of women, men and children, while simultaneously strengthening our organization by uniting in service. We can demonstrate the strength of our diversity and the unique range of our discipline while collectively making a difference.

3) We practice creativity with a purpose. We can approach the problem of bullying and interpersonal violence from different perspectives, embarking on research and developing products and resources that will be useful across settings and throughout the life span. We can also focus on empathy development in our campaign. You can’t bully and hurt others and feel empathy at the same time. We can be a vocal and visible force, educating others through our actions and collaborations. This would be creativity with a purpose and a goal that could make a difference.

There are so many ways for you to participate. You can address one or both advocacy efforts. You can join participating divisions, branches and regions to launch community campaigns that educate the public, provide interventions or serve as resources. You can contribute to professional newsletters, special issues of ACA journals, conferences and outreach strategies. You can conduct research and identify new ways of fostering compassion and empathy or strategies for furthering professional identity development and advocacy.

Given the range of interests and work settings represented in the ACA membership, we are optimally positioned to reach people in vast and profound ways. Please join me in what I hope will be a powerful and rewarding shared experience.

Many thanks,