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

Happy New Year! The end of the old year and the beginning of the new one is often a time for reflection, review and goal setting. Counselors are experts at helping their clients to develop and achieve their goals. We know that the goals with the best chances for success are those that are simple, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed.

I have been thinking about the history of the American Counseling Association and how our predecessors imagined and developed their goals for the counseling profession. ACA was originally founded as the American Personnel and Guidance Association in 1952. I don’t know whether our founding members 60-plus years ago could have envisioned the counseling profession as it is today. After all, society has changed significantly during that time, and although some concerns that clients face remain constant, new trends have emerged. Regardless, over the past six decades we have built a strong profession, including achieving counselor licensure in all 50 states and having counselors work with clients and students across multiple employment and treatment settings.

In reviewing professional goal setting, one particular (and more recent) effort stands out. From 2005-2013, ACA embarked on a co-sponsored initiative with the American Association of State Counseling Boards titled 20/20: A Vision for the Future of Counseling. This historic effort brought together delegates from 31 counseling organizations to focus on strategic visioning for the profession. Through their efforts, the participants developed a consensus definition of counseling, the Building Blocks to Portability Project, and the Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession.

Although I am sure the title “20/20” was chosen to capture the idea of perfect vision, I can’t help but notice that the year 2020 has now arrived. I was curious about revisiting this group’s recommendations for the future, perhaps to serve as a source of informed inspiration as we continue to focus goal-setting efforts on advancing our profession. Upon review, I can see that we certainly have made (and continue to make) progress on some of these important ideas. These principles continue to be inspiring to me, and I list them here in hopes that you might find them useful to consider too.

The 20/20 Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession include:

  • Strengthening identity
  • Presenting ourselves as one profession
  • Improving public perception/recognition and advocating for professional issues
  • Creating licensure portability
  • Expanding and promoting the research base of professional counseling
  • Focusing on students and prospective students
  • Promoting client welfare and advocacy

For more information on the 20/20 initiative, see counseling.org/about-us/about-aca/20-20-a-vision-for-the-future-of-counseling.

What does the future hold, both for ACA and for the counseling profession as a whole? Only time will tell. However, some wonderful things are on our immediate horizon, including the ACA 2020 Conference & Expo in San Diego, April 16-19. In addition, the ACA election process is underway, and we are getting ready to welcome the next group of association leaders. We have also embarked on the interstate compact effort to support movement toward national counselor licensure portability. ACA continues to advocate for the advancement of our profession in terms of parity with other mental health professions as well as through increased counselor hiring and loan repayment opportunities. We also continue to grow as a more diverse and inclusive organization. On a final note, ACA’s 70th anniversary is coming up in 2022!

We all have a role in continuing to advance the counseling profession in 2020 and beyond. Just as we do with our clients, we must continue to develop and set goals for our profession. As we embark on this new year, I wish you the best as you continue to set and reach your personal and professional goals.