Simone Lambert, ACA’s 67th president

Happy Counseling Awareness Month! What a wonderful opportunity for us to share with the public, policymakers and stakeholders about who we are and what we do. We often talk about who we are in terms of our training, our post-degree supervision and our credentialing exams. We may even discuss our counselor identity in terms of our setting, client population or topic specialty area. Our definition of counseling and scope of practice epitomize what we do. But in addition to who we are and what we do, let’s highlight what it means to be a professional counselor.

Being a professional counselor is an honor. It is a privilege to walk with clients and communities through difficult journeys of healing. We may choose different modalities, theories and techniques to intervene and provide treatment as counselors, yet we all select the most appropriate approach for the client or student who is sitting in front of us in that moment of sadness, anger or joy. We accompany clients and students through unspeakable traumas and are humbled by the courage we witness every day in clients both young and old. We view people holistically and through a lens of intersectionality. We assist people through recovery and toward optimal wellness.

What it means to be a professional counselor is shaped by our ACA Code of Ethics and by state regulation and practice laws. Yet, we also need to consider our roles in our communities. For clients and students to feel comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their hardships with us in session, we must conduct ourselves with integrity, both in our physical and online communities. To gain public trust, we must embrace being held to a higher standard in all that we do. Does that mean that we need to be perfect? No one is perfect. However, we never know who might arrive on our doorstep as a client, so we need to strive to implement our aspirational values not just in our counseling sessions but also in our everyday lives. Professional counselors model respect, embrace diversity and engage in advocacy.

Advocating for the counseling profession during Counseling Awareness Month is critical. We need to use our collective voice to let policymakers and stakeholders know that we are an integral part of the mental health workforce in our schools and communities. We might need to obtain specialized training to address specific client issues, but legislators need to know that we are all trained to treat mental illness and promote mental health. Regardless of where we work or what age group we see, we need the public to understand that we are here and ready to help with valuable, life-saving and life-improving services. In fact, one of the American Counseling Association’s priority initiatives is “raising awareness among the public and consumers about the benefits provided by the counseling profession.” There are some amazing tools we can use during Counseling Awareness Month to help us do just that, although I encourage you to engage in such advocacy efforts year-round.

Please share these resources in your communities to increase public awareness of who we are and what we do and to collaborate with policymakers to improve access to the care provided by professional counselors in schools and communities. As you interact with legislators and community leaders, you are encouraged to share what being a professional counselor means to you. To help you in your efforts, visit the following links.