Richard Yep, ACA CEO
Richard Yep, ACA CEO

Of all the state legislation I have seen passed in my 30 years with the American Counseling Association, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 is by far the worst. This law directly targets the counseling profession, would deny services to those most in need and constitutes a dilemma for ACA members because it allows for violation of the ACA Code of Ethics.

Not surprisingly, ACA was never consulted about the bill’s proposed content, nor were we asked how this legislation might affect counselors and their potential clients. With only a week to react, we mounted the strongest possible initiative to fight the bill’s passage. We deployed our Government Affairs staff and arranged for Lynn Linde, senior director of the ACA Center for Counseling Practice, Policy and Research, to testify before the Tennessee House Health Subcommittee. We hired a local government affairs consultant in Tennessee, a national public affairs firm and a crisis communication team. To help get our message across, we partnered with a variety of local and national organizations, from the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Despite our best efforts, there was too much momentum in the statehouse for this so-called “religious freedom” bill. On Wednesday, April 27, Tennessee SB 1556/HB 1840 was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.

As of this writing, Tennessee is the only state in the nation to invalidate the ACA Code of Ethics, but that could change quickly, with several other states contemplating similar legislation. That is why I am calling on you to weigh in — as a counselor, as an ACA member and as a private citizen.

  • Get heard: Write to your public officials. Our Government Affairs site includes lists of local politicians and other influencers and tools to help you craft your letter. Go to
  • Get involved: Join ACA’s Government Relations Network by sending your contact information to
  • Get invested: It is thanks to ACA’s professional advocacy fund that we were able to try to stop Tennessee SB 1556/HB 1840. I urge you to donate to the Professional Counselors Support Fund, not just when you renew your membership, but right now. Go to to make a donation to support our efforts.

ACA is designed to be a resource to help you further your career, stay current in your industry and keep up with developments that could threaten your livelihood or the welfare of your clients and students. For ACA to best serve you, the communication should work both ways: We need input from counselors like you. We are committed to regularly polling our members about issues that could impact the counseling world. Be on the lookout for future surveys.

Regarding Tennessee SB 1556/HB 1840, we fought the good fight. We were able to air our concerns and make our arguments, but in the future, we need to control the dialogue for the sake of our profession. I hope I can count on your support, and your engagement, as we keep moving forward.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to call me at 800.347.6647 ext. 231 or email me at You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.

Be well.