Heather Trepal, the 68th president of the American Counseling Association

On a wall in my daughter’s former elementary school is a quote that reads, “Un experto en cualquier cosa, alguna vez fue principiante” (“The expert in anything was once a beginner” — Helen Hayes). I keep a picture of this quote on my phone and am mindful of these words when I am faced with a new challenge or learning opportunity.

The month of August is all about new beginnings and new learning opportunities. Traditionally, it is the month when children and adults across the life span go back to school — elementary school, middle school, high school, trade school, college, graduate school and others. It is an important time to recognize the efforts of counselors across settings who have been preparing to work with these learners and help them transition into the new academic year.

If you are a school counselor or a college counselor, I want you to know that your work and commitment to our students is so appreciated. You are advocates for our youth and families, and their communities, as they face academic, social, relational and mental health challenges. And if you are a counselor educator, the importance of your work in preparing our next generation of counselors cannot be overstated. You are on the cutting edge of counselor preparation as we advance the profession and equip counselors to do diverse work.

The American Counseling Association offers a variety of resources to assist counselors on the “Your School Counselor Connection” webpage (see counseling.org/membership/aca-and-you/school-counselors/school-counselor). In addition, ACA divisions such as the American College Counseling Association and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision offer specialized professional resources and learning. Find out more about ACA divisions at counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches.

Speaking of new beginnings and new learning opportunities, last month more than 100 counselors came together in Washington, D.C., for ACA’s Institute for Leadership Training (ILT), which culminated in our day on Capitol Hill on July 17. ACA Director of Public Policy Brian Banks and his team did an outstanding job of preparing everyone with advocacy training and resources. We also participated in ethics training and a session from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on counselor hiring in the VA. To stay updated on what else is happening, check out ACA’s Government Affairs webpage (counseling.org/government-affairs/public-policy) and click on the link to subscribe to the ACA Government Affairs blog. 

The counselors and counseling leaders who attended ILT are well-equipped to share lessons learned from the advocacy training with their branches and divisions. In an effort to further increase our expertise, Victoria Kress is chairing a yearlong ACA task force charged with creating materials and best practices for advocacy training. We have so many professional counselors advocating nationwide on all levels to address a wide variety of professional practice concerns. Many of our state branches are mobilizing forces to bring professional counselors together for advocacy opportunities. For example, I am excited to be spending some time later this month at the fall conference of the Colorado Counseling Association (CCA) as it focuses on advocating during the state’s upcoming legislative session. CCA is preparing for the 2020 Mental Health Sunset, in which the Colorado Legislature will review all of the state’s mental health statutes. This happens in Colorado once per decade and has the potential to bring about many changes.

I encourage you to share your advocacy successes and challenges with us here at ACA so that we can celebrate you and learn from your activities. It is truly inspirational to see our profession coming together to learn more about best practices in advocacy. I hope the month of August brings you new beginnings and chances to continue to learn, grow, help and serve.