Sue Pressman, ACA’s 69th president

This year, as Thanksgiving approaches, I am especially grateful for my family, friends, American Counseling Association colleagues and the mentors who have supported me on my career journey. As a professional counselor who has also identified as a career counselor for almost 40 years, every November is extra special to me. In addition to Thanksgiving, I (and my fellow career counselors) celebrate National Career Development Month.

The intersectionality between career and mental health has never been more significant. National Career Development Month is sponsored by the National Career Development Association (NCDA), which was established in 1913 and is one of ACA’s founding divisions, dating back to 1952. While every day is an opportunity for counselors to help clients with career exploration and personal goals, the month of November recognizes the importance of lifelong career development through an annual observance. Collaboration among counselors, teachers, students, families, communities, schools and businesses is a cornerstone throughout the month. Career poetry contests, the development of new posters and infographics, events such as “careerathons,” and topical workshops have become the norm during November. It’s all very exciting.

This year brings unique challenges and opportunities. For instance, how do counselors implement these activities while simultaneously keeping spirits high with clients and practicing self-care — all in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic? The answer is not simple, and no magic formula exists. We are finding that virtual gatherings, social media platforms, the sharing of resources, telecounseling, online handshaking, online networking and working from home are among the practical ways that everyone is coping with this “new normal.”

Resilience in the face of job loss, financial difficulty, trauma, stress and the other myriad issues that one encounters across a lifetime is a process that involves adapting as we transition to new beginnings. Resiliency is the ability to overcome setbacks and challenges and then grow from the experience. I often demonstrate the concept of resilience with the use of a rubber band. When a new rubber band is stretched, it demonstrates strong resilience by quickly bouncing back to its original shape. A worn rubber band that has no stretch demonstrates a lack of resilience. Metaphorically speaking, it indicates that change is needed. In many ways, that is what we are facing today.

The human spirit is being challenged. On the one hand, we are mourning our losses and the ways of life that once were. On the other hand, we are creating new ways to work, become productive and connect. As a global society going through a pandemic, we have learned to adapt by using technologies to conduct both small and large gatherings online. We have learned that telework actually works and that telecounseling (“distance” counseling) is not as distant as it once was. We are serving our clients — the world — in new and creative ways. We have also found that traditional programs still offer viable means for learning and to continue lifelong learning.

I am happy to report that in conjunction with National Career Development Month, ACA is launching the ACA Mentorship Program. Collaborating with me on implementation of the program is a team composed of representatives from the ACA Graduate Student Committee, Jan Gay, Reginald “Reggie” W. Holt and Alyx MacTernan; Anaid Shaver, a Virginia Tech counselor education and supervision doctoral intern/assistant; and Danielle Irving-Johnson, the content project manager at ACA.

The ACA Mentorship Program is designed with the intention of building relationships while strengthening and empowering participants. The program provides the opportunity for both graduate students who are currently enrolled in counseling programs and newer professionals to be mentored by accomplished counseling leaders. Mentors guide, support, encourage and empower mentees to further develop and enhance their professional counselor identity. This initiative supports ACA’s mission to “promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for the profession, and ensure ethical, culturally inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services.” It also supports ACA’s vision that “every person has access to quality professional counseling to thrive.”