Catherine Roland, ACA’s 65th president

Dear Counseling Colleagues,

As you know, April is Counseling Awareness Month. It is also a month associated with new growth, fresh blooms and new beginnings. Now is the time for rebirth and reenergizing as we continue to celebrate who we are as counseling professionals across all venues.

During my travels so far this year, I have keynoted and presented on various topics. One topic that has been a consistent theme for me is ethical responsibility, counselor identity and counselor advocacy. During these sessions, and afterward, many counselors have asked me how they can safely advocate if the views they hold are not popular or mainstream. Some ask if it is ethical for them to advocate at all according to the ACA Code of Ethics. My take on that is clear. There are many more things that we can do than things we cannot, or perhaps should not, do.

Each of us must sort these issues out for ourselves, however. And within a unified profession, that may be one of the most personal struggles we will face during our careers. We must ask ourselves, “Just what do I believe in? How far can I go to advocate? How far-reaching is my role as a counselor, adviser, professor or supervisor?”

My response all year — and, indeed, all of my career — has been that to advocate is to act. So our role as counselors involves more than listening empathically and accurately. In my humble opinion, that is no different today than it ever has been.

Counselors do not (and never should) have or exert power. We do, however, have influence, regardless of whether we want to accept that truth. The sooner we embrace that this influence exists, often coming as a package with the trust and faith that others place in our skills and compassion, the better we can serve all of our communities, specifically and pointedly. In our sociopolitical world, the presenting issues we see as counselors are often strongly linked to what the news is reporting each day. Counselors who step out of their offices to advocate can be important and, at times, vital.

The counseling profession is composed of a life-changing group of dedicated, well-trained, hyperethical and multiculturally competent professionals who are licensed and vetted at appropriate levels. This is the group for which we advocate and raise awareness. Understanding who counselors are, what we do and the different venues in which we work is directly related to the success of our encounters with clients or students. It requires a tremendous amount of faith and trust to even call a counselor or to talk with an adviser. The more understanding and awareness we can raise about counselors in our society and in the media, the more prevalent our outreach will be to assist in any way that we can. So step out and stand up!

In a broad and brave approach to advocacy for marginalized populations, the American Counseling Association is sponsoring an intensive and unique training symposium called Illuminate from June 8 to 10. The idea for this symposium was generated long ago, and it will serve as the culmination of my ACA presidential initiatives this year, all of which revolve around diversity and inclusion. We hope to create an intimate group of professionals and presenters at Illuminate. To that end, registration is limited. Illuminate will do what its name implies — illuminate and focus on the mental health issues of members of the marginalized LGBTQ+ community by using a life span developmental lens.

Illuminate will take place in downtown Washington, D.C., at the beautiful Grand Hyatt Hotel. For the most part, workshops will be advanced in nature and state of the art, with focus placed on intensive learning, group work and connecting. An added attraction is that the symposium will take place on Pride weekend in Washington, which is a celebration of all diversity, in every city. That is especially fitting this year. Please consider joining us at Illuminate. I would love to see you and meet you there.

Enjoy April, everyone!

Very best,