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

Dear Counseling Colleagues,

One of the privileges of serving as American Counseling Association president is the opportunity to create initiatives based on our passions for outreach to the counseling profession and those we serve. I want to take this opportunity to introduce two of my presidential initiatives, or targeted task groups (TTGs).

The first TTG is titled LGBT Adult Life Span Development: Counseling. Each adult life stage of young, midlife and older adulthood will be considered through a developmental lens, or a continuum of counseling and mental health issues, as examined for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adult population. Through the lens of intersectionality, aspects of identity (to include culture, sexual orientation/identity, minority status, physical ability and gender) will be examined for risk factors in various counseling settings. The TTG will be isolating particular mental health concerns such as low self-esteem, depression, loss of hope, isolation and anger. Each concern may have a unique set of behaviors and perceptions of self attached to it, along with suggested strategies for assisting clients that take into account the person’s stage of life and the associated “tasks” or expectations pertinent to the LGBT adult population.

One example is the issue of self-esteem related to career choice and life satisfaction. We might work in a college counseling center and see a 20-year-old Latino male student who is gay. He may be experiencing isolation related to harassment or bullying that could influence his major, self-confidence and levels of anger or depression. Now shift this same man to midlife and the setting to a community counseling agency. He could present as unable to keep a job and confused about why he has not maintained a satisfying relationship with a man or why he feels suicidal. We have the same person, with similar basic counseling needs throughout the life span and particular counseling strategies that are necessary to help most effectively. But we also have the important addition of the client’s multiple identities and how those identities intersect throughout his life.

The expected culmination or outcome of this TTG will be the creation of a training guide on the intersectionality of counseling LGBT adults within a life span perspective in different counseling settings. This guide will be used in a training institute called Illuminate 2017.

The second TTG is titled Division/Region Partnerships: Focus on Leader Development Toward Diversity. In the spirit of targeted inclusion of various diversities, this group will devise a plan to enhance the “pipeline” to higher level professional leadership at the branch, region and division levels.

To increase communication and advocacy between divisions and regions, this group will explore sponsorships with ACA for sharing activities, growing membership and engaging in broader outreach to new and diverse counselors who may have an interest in leadership. This will be done through mentoring, inviting the participation of newer people who possess the potential and willingness to lead, and assisting these individuals as they begin assuming leadership responsibilities.

As an example, I’ll shine a light on what often happens naturally in any career position. A colleague with whom you work or a graduate student whom you teach or supervise may show special promise or atypical energy or simply ask to help. Does this scenario sound familiar? Right after the ACA Conference, a student or colleague asks how he or she can get involved at the leadership level. The difference we’re looking for is extending an invitation for that person to join you, shadow you or take on some small responsibility. That is one of the most effective ways to tap early leaders and to broaden the inclusivity and diversity of our ranks.

If you have held any type of leadership position in your job or graduate program, recall the exact time when you sensed that you were needed or were being tapped for something that you hadn’t previously assumed you would do. For me, that moment felt awesome, surprising and empowering. That initial bit of encouragement led to me being right here with you.

Many counseling professionals — leaders on multiple levels within ACA — are steering both of these TTGs. I thank all those who agreed to help and trusted me when I asked them to serve. They said yes. And, for a leader, that is the biggest gift: people’s time, energy and commitment.

Very best,