Catherine Roland, ACA's 65th president
Catherine Roland, ACA’s 65th president

Dear Counseling Colleagues,

This month, I assume the presidency of the American Counseling Association, an organization I have called my professional home for 30 years. The roles I have taken on in my career as a professor, mentor and leader have all been shaped by my identity as a professional counselor. I am filled with pride at our great profession’s impact and what so many of you are doing each and every day. We are a dedicated, bright, empathic and wise community of professional counselors, in all venues where counseling takes place.

It is both very exciting and just a bit ominous to serve as the 65th president of ACA. Within that wide berth of feelings, I think humility emerges for me as the element that has always allowed me to practice, teach and mentor in what I hope some would say is an effective manner. My desire is that ACA will work with its divisions, regions and branches to continue our efforts at improving the profession and enhancing the work we do with our clients and students.

I’d like to share with you the general goals for my year as ACA president:

  • Focus on inclusion of marginalized populations and advocate for accessibility of counseling services for all those who seek counseling.
  • Through an adult development perspective, explore the diversity within each life stage of the LGBTQ population, within the lens of intersectionality.
  • Continue the good work of President Thelma Duffey (2015–-2016) in support of all members of our counseling profession.
  • Focus on mentoring toward leadership within the counseling profession to enhance various aspects of diversity at the state, regional and national levels, thus bringing a voice to all counselors.

In a future column, I will share how we can work together collectively, on various levels, toward the accomplishment of these goals.

We have a particularly challenging year ahead of us, both as ACA and as professional counselors who are dedicated to service and providing exemplary practice to constituents in clinics, schools and private practice in an entirely open and nondiscriminatory manner. A little over a year ago, I never would have dreamed that my first communication to my counseling colleagues would need to include the next sentence: We must continue to defend and protect our ACA Code of Ethics so that we remain the shining example of who professional counselors are and how we regard all people and our profession. Challenging, yes. Counselors, are we up for that challenge? You bet we are!

The concepts of my presidency are reflected in these words: positivity, hope, action and identity. I ask you to join me in embracing these actions because the challenges to marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ population are real. We remember that marginalization of certain groups has traveled through history for a number of cultures. We must speak and advocate, as we have done in the past, for nondiscriminatory and nonjudgmental counseling practice.

Advocacy, although an interesting concept to ponder, actually begs action. It’s a “doing” word. Advocacy requires us to show up, write something, join a group, and be verbal and vocal. There seems no better time to advocate for professional counselors, our constituents and the profession than right now. I want to offer my colleagues encouragement to remain positive, generate hope and stand together, with courage, confidence and an absence of fear to do the work we are here to do.

Our counseling identity and the ACA Code of Ethics are vital to the profession. Regardless of any state laws that may be discriminatory in nature and based on hate, we must stand firm in our convictions as professional counselors. No one can do it better, more fully or more skillfully than we can as professional counselors, counseling students, professors, mentors, supervisors and leaders.

I have had a long and rewarding relationship with ACA through various leadership roles. I am certain that, in concert with our excellent and innovative ACA leaders, ACA staff will continue the wonderful and sage support I’ve known for many years.

Very best,