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

Greetings, fellow counselors! As I prepare for the American Counseling Association Conference in Montréal (being held in partnership with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association) and reflect on what I was doing this time last year, I am amazed. What a tremendous year this continues to be. I feel such pride in our profession and have such great hopes for its future.

Counselors are doing wonderful work in the world, and I have an opportunity, through my travels, to experience some of this work firsthand. I’d like to chronicle here some of my experiences thus far in 2016 so we can celebrate and shed light on some of the great things our colleagues are doing throughout the country.

This past January was particularly cold in many parts of the country, but that wasn’t the case at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In fact, the sun was shining as the school’s students engaged in creative learning activities in a “master therapist” series that provided cutting-edge opportunities for professional skill building. It was such an honor to spend time with these students and their amazing faculty. I left glorious Winter Park with a deep appreciation for the faculty’s investment in instilling pride, confidence and a strong sense of professional identity among the students. What a terrific way to start the year.

Days later, I braved an East Coast blizzard to attend a reception at the White House to recognize the national School Counselor of the Year. Our school counselors do such important work, and to have this acknowledged by our nation’s first lady, Michelle Obama, was a rich and truly memorable experience.

From there, I flew to Boise for the Idaho Counseling Association (ICA) conference. Late January brings a bit more than a chill in the air to Idaho, but the reception and camaraderie that ICA members afforded me was heartwarming, and the conference itself was action packed, productive and a whole lot of fun. ICA knocked it out of the park and held a wonderful conference.

Next stop? Dallas. I traveled to my home state of Texas, where ACA partnered with the Human Rights Campaign for this year’s Time to Thrive Conference. There are few words to express the power of this experience. I left feeling deep hope for a future that includes safety, pride and connectedness for the hundreds of participating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. I also left feeling grateful that ACA CEO Richard Yep and staff continue to find ways to promote this important ACA mission through advocacy and collaborations such as Time to Thrive.

The trip from Dallas to my hometown of San Antonio was a quick one. And that’s a good thing because I was home long enough only to pack a suitcase before I was “On the Road Again.” This time, the destination was the Windy City of Chicago. Meeting with students and faculty at Northern Illinois University (NIU) was a terrific experience. The counseling department at NIU is deeply invested in creating a training experience that will help students develop the qualities of truly great counselors. On top of that, I was literally swept off my feet on what proved to be an especially windy day.

Following Chicago, the song “Double Shot” by the Swingin’ Medallions (a beach music group from South Carolina) ran through my head as I traveled to Hilton Head for the South Carolina Counseling Association (SCCA) Conference. The conference theme, “All In: Educating, Supporting and Advocating for All Counselors,” perfectly aligned with my presidential initiative for this year on professional advocacy. Hilton Head was everything I needed after my busy travel schedule. Sharing time with my gracious and dedicated SCCA colleagues while enjoying some good old-fashioned Southern comfort was nothing short of rejuvenating.

Counselors are doing wonderful things in the world, and I appreciate the opportunity to share some of my impressions of these great works with you. Next stop, Montréal! All aboard!

All my best,