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

The vision of the American Counseling Association is that “Every person has access to quality professional counseling to thrive.” Our organization’s mission is to “Promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for the profession, and ensure ethical, culturally inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services.” You might be interested to learn about some of the ways that we are working on carrying these ideas forward.

In late August, ACA CEO Rich Yep, ACA Chief Knowledge and Learning Officer Lynn Linde and I attended the United Nations (U.N.) Civil Society Conference in Salt Lake City. This year’s conference focus was on building inclusive and sustainable cities and communities. We were in attendance as delegates because ACA has received official nongovernmental organization status from the U.N. I was inspired to meet a number of high school and college students invested in volunteer and advocacy efforts. These students were particularly interested in volunteering their time to engage in advocacy around the issues of climate change and developing inclusive communities.

Delegates from across the globe were also in attendance to advocate for components of safe, inclusive and sustainable communities. The goal was to share knowledge and contribute to an outcome statement to affirm various elements of inclusive communities that support the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ACA participated in the conference with an eye toward advocating for the inclusion of mental and behavioral health within that plan. If you would like to read more about the conference or the outcome statement, see outreach.un.org/ngorelations/slc-conference.

ACA also continues to partner with counseling and stakeholder organizations here in the United States and across the globe. In late September, we partnered with our peers in the Australian Counselling Association and the Asia Pacific Rim Confederation of Counsellors to co-sponsor the sixth Asia Pacific Rim Confederation of Counsellors Conference in Brisbane, Australia. This month, ACA is co-sponsoring a conference with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy called Let the Voices Be Heard! An International Conversation on Counselling, Psychotherapy and Social Justice, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

To carry out ACA’s mission and vision, we rely on an army of members who serve as volunteers and leaders. Our volunteer leaders are busy working on ACA’s 16 standing committees and five current task forces. The task forces are working on climate change, the state of counseling research (its impact on the profession and the public), new professional/early career counselor concerns, sexual violence practice support, and professional advocacy training. In addition, the Governing Council will be meeting later this month to take on the business of the association, including moving our strategic plan forward by examining our priority goals for the coming year.

Given all that is happening, you may be wondering how you can invest in our organization and contribute. Easy! I would like to draw your attention to ACA’s 2020-2021 call for volunteers. This year, the call has expanded to ask for members interested in serving on committees and task forces, and in short-term or micro volunteering opportunities. President-elect Sue Pressman will be using these applications to make appointments for next year.

Volunteering can be as time-intensive or as time-limited as you desire. There are formal opportunities, such as serving on committees, but there are also other options, such as volunteering to write an ACA member blog. We need to know about your expertise, passions and interests related to the counseling profession and our organization. Our ACA members who serve as volunteers play an essential role in the organization. I hope that you will consider submitting your application to volunteer with ACA.