Gerard Lawson, ACA’s 66th president

Many counselors do not know Carol Bobby personally, but her work has influenced the work of almost every practicing counselor today. Carol began serving as the CEO of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in 1987 and has helped guide that organization, and the counseling profession, through times of incredible growth. Carol’s steady hand on the rudder has often helped the profession navigate difficult times too. After 30 years of leadership at CACREP, Carol has recently retired, and that is worth noting for a few reasons.

National standards for preparation are one of the hallmarks of a profession, along with a professional association (e.g., ACA and its divisions, Chi Sigma Iota), its own body of research and literature, credentialing (e.g., the national certified counselor credential and licensure) and a code of ethics. Each of these parts is required to make a profession more than simply an occupation.

The national standards for counselor preparation that CACREP has established are a central part of why counselors enjoy the recognition that we do today, regardless of whether you attended a CACREP-accredited program. Our ability to describe the high standards for counselor preparation allowed us to secure licensure in all 50 states. When Carol took the reins at CACREP, only 18 states had a license for counselors to practice independently. CACREP Standards have also allowed counselors to increase their work with TRICARE, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal programs. Perhaps most impressively, the professionalization of what it means to be a counselor has evolved because of groups such as ACA, the National Board for Certified Counselors, Chi Sigma Iota and CACREP, and Carol has always been a champion for working together to represent our profession.

Carol’s humility will cause her to recognize, correctly, that she has worked with incredibly talented staff members, board members, reviewers and visiting teams over the years to accomplish the things that CACREP has achieved. Someone had to blaze the trail that would move CACREP and the counseling profession forward, however, and Carol helped us find that path. She will also tell you that she never believed, as she was completing her dissertation, that she would get this job with CACREP. But as is the case with so many of us, when we find our career calling and allow opportunities to unfold in front of us, good things usually happen. So, as much as I am compelled to stop and recognize the career of one remarkable counselor, I am also intrigued by the career journeys that are being started by other individuals every day.

In 2016, CACREP-accredited programs graduated 12,824 new counselors (according to CACREP’s annual report). Every day, new counselors join the profession, filled with passion for the work they were called to do and new knowledge about the best practices for helping people. Most have absolutely no idea where their career will ultimately take them. Sometimes that first step on their career path leads to a school, where they will change kids’ lives every day. Or to a community mental health center, where they will advocate for clients in need. Or toward helping other people find the career paths that would be most rewarding for them. Those journeys start every day, and someday when we look back on those careers, we will see how each counselor helped to make the world a better place.

Whether just beginning your career or looking back with pride on a career well spent, we would all do well to reflect on the message that Carol Bobby has shared over the years. Be proud of the work that you do and your identity as a counselor, because no one else can do what you do, and you make a difference every day.