Carol Bobby’s Remarks to Governing Council

Remarks to ACA Governing Council – New Orleans

March 23, 2011

Most of you know me.  But if you were to tell someone who I am, I am guessing you would tell them that I am the CACREP CEO.  This would not be a wrong answer, but it would not be the full answer.

Who else am I?  Where did I come from?  And no, I am not going to tell you where I was born or other more personal aspects of my life.  But I want you to know that before I was the CEO of CACREP, I was an ACA member.

Well, alright… technically I was a member of the American Personnel and Guidance Association.  I believe I joined in 1980 as a student member.  I have maintained my membership ever since.

I joined because I was told to join.  I was told that APGA was my future profession’s home base, so to speak.  I was told this by my professors in the counselor education department at the University of Florida.  I was told that I should be proud of being part of the counseling profession.  I had to learn the history of the profession.  I had to study the ethics of the profession.  I had to learn about this new thing called CACREP accreditation (and by the way, I did graduate from two CACREP programs-  a master’s in Community Agency Counseling and a doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision).  But one of the most important aspects of my preparation as a counselor was that I had faculty members with strong counselor identities as professors and supervisors.  I was taught by Joe Wittmer, Larry Loesch, Bob Myrick, Robert Stripling, Gary Seiler, E.L.Tolbert, Jim Pitts, Rod McDavis and others.

This was in the 1980s. I graduated knowing who I was as a professional.  I graduated moved  my ACA membership from student status to professional status, I took the NCE so that I could be certififed, received my LPC in Virginia, was inducted into CSI, and became an advocate for the profession.

Folks, this was over 25 years ago.  So the fact that I feel compelled to ask you some very hard questions this morning befuddles me as much as it will befuddle you when you hear me ask them.   Why?  Because they are not new questions.  They are questions you  have heard before.  So why are we still asking them?  Well, here goes…

  1. Is counseling a separate and distinct profession?
  2. If so, how do we know this? What defines a profession?
  3. If counseling is a separate and unique profession, then what is the agreed upon entry-level training that a student must complete before entering the profession?
  4. If counseling is a separate and unique profession, then what qualifications should individuals hold who are responsible for the key elements of educating and training future counseling professionals?
  5. If counseling is a separate and unique profession, then who should be eligible to be licensed or certified as a professional counselor?
  6. If counseling is a separate and unique profession, then why are these questions so hard to answer?

Folks, I am slightly embarrassed to be putting these questions out there this morning, because the answers seem so obvious to me.  But unfortunately the answers are not clear to everyone, which is why there isn’t agreement on the educational standards, faculty qualifications, and who can practice and use the title of Licensed Professional Counselor.  After 30 years in the profession, I am deeply and profoundly saddened by this, because I believe today’s counseling students – our professionals of tomorrow – deserve better from us.

They deserve to be taught and mentored by faculty who are counselors with strong counselor identities.  They deserve to know that when they graduate, they will have completed requirements that will be accepted in another state if they move. They deserve to understand who they are as counselors and that they have a professional home in ACA and credentials that are only provided to those individuals that have the same identity that they have.

This is not the world we have created for our future professionals.  Instead, many of today’s graduates have what Barry Mascari and Jane Webber have called “multiple professional identity disorder.”   This occurs because there are programs out there that are not true counseling programs training individuals to get licensed and credentialed as counselors.  The faculty are not counselors and quite honestly they don’t even like counselors.  They don’t think we are well trained, but they want our license.  And they want CACREP accreditation.  And they are angry when they can’t get it.

CACREP has taken a bold step with the 2009 Standards and if it weren’t for the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations with regard to TRICARE and the VA’s independent decision to recognize the value of graduating from a CACREP program, I think it would be fair to state that CACREP has felt sort of like the lone ranger on the professional identity issue.   Even these external groups have recognized that the license alone isn’t enough to identify a qualified counselors, since our licensing boards are licensing graduates from a wide array of other professions as LPCs – art therapists, master’s level psychologists, and

Personally, I think it is the most important issue of today and I implore Governing Council to act boldly on behalf of all of its loyal members, who are  bona fide counselors, including me who just happens to be the CEO of CACREP.  I want ACA to take a stand on what needs to happen to protect the profession.  I want  ACA to support the accrediting body it created back in 1981 and to state that the counseling profession recognizes the CACREP’s standards as the appropriate entry-level requirements for preparing tomorrow’s counselors (why else did you create CACREP?).  Furthermore, I want ACA to assist in developing a grass roots effort to get licensing boards to license only counselors and not persons trained in other professions by other professions.  You owe this to your members, and especially to your student members, which today make up almost half of ACA’s membership.   If you go to bat for them today, they will remember it when it is time for them to renew their membership as a full-fledged professional.

With the recent announcement that the creation of another accrediting body is being formed by a group of psychologists to accredit master’s degree programs in counseling precisely  because they are unhappy with CACREP’s 2009 professional identity requirements, I ask everyone of you…. isn’t it time we stand up and claim our professional identity?

I am afraid that if we don’t take this stand now, we will give our profession away.