Richard Yep, ACA CEO

For many in the U.S., this month’s celebration of Thanksgiving launches the winter holiday season. The spirit of the holiday, bringing an appreciation of the bounty in our lives, offers an opportunity to think about the many ways that the tireless work of every American Counseling Association member makes the world a better place.

Professional counselors are generous individuals. Your work is focused on helping others — on helping clients grow, thrive, achieve their full potential and find their own authentic selves. Our approximately 55,000 ACA members spread this open-hearted approach throughout the world, each in their own special way, enhancing and improving every life they touch — as well as the lives of the countless others who interact with their clients. We are grateful for the work being done by each and every one of you.

Professional counselors are among the first to step up and volunteer when disaster strikes. More than 5,000 mental health professionals, many of them professional counselors, volunteered through the American Red Cross to provide disaster mental health services to individuals affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Some ACA members worked in Texas, some in Florida and some in other states. ACA President Gerard Lawson was among them, deploying as a volunteer in Florida.

Many professional counselors have been — and will continue to be — involved in this huge humanitarian effort. Thank you to all who volunteered. You are showing the world how willing professional counselors are to help others — at any time, in any place and in any circumstance.

ACA is an American Red Cross disaster mental health partner. We meet quarterly with the Red Cross to help the organization plan and improve its mental health deployments. Over the years, Red Cross partners have helped the Red Cross make many upgrades to its disaster mental health program. Following a disaster, ACA assists the Red Cross with its call to deploy professional counselors to affected areas.

Many of you may have received training to become a certified Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer at an ACA Conference between 1999 and 2016. The ACA is no longer able to offer this training because of a Red Cross rule change. Now, professional counselors who are interested in becoming disaster mental health volunteers partner with their local Red Cross chapters to take the Disaster Mental Health Fundamentals course. This connects professional counselors directly with the unit that will contact them with deployment opportunities. You can learn more and apply to become a part of the Red Cross volunteer disaster relief program at On behalf of those who will one day need your help, thank you for having the vision to make the time for this training.

If you are interested in learning more about mental health and disaster relief, ACA offers a number of resources online at These include:

  • A link to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline
  • Links to 15 fact sheets compiled bythe ACA Traumatology Interest Network offering information on the skills needed for dealing with disaster mental health
  • Links to 15 resources for identifying, reporting and treating childhood sexual abuse
  • Guidelines for sheltering in place

In addition, ACA members may join the ACA Traumatology Interest Network. The network offers access to a community of professional counselors interested in traumatology and trauma therapy. Information about the group is online at

As always, I look forward to receiving your comments, questions and thoughts. Feel free to contact me by phone at 800-347-6647 ext. 231 or via email at You can also follow me on Twitter: @Richyep.

Be well.