In May and December of 1998, an invited group of leaders in the profession met in Greensboro, NC, to share, discuss, and compare perceptions on a common vision for the advocacy of counselors and the services that they provide to others.
Representatives at the first conference agreed on a number of vital points. Among the agreements were those about common themes on advocacy, the desirability of collaboration in the definition of those themes, and a commitment to follow through with their implementation. There were six themes identified for further definition: marketplace recognition, inter-professional issues, intra-professional issues, counselor education, research, and client/constituency wellness.
The purpose of the December meeting was to revisit the themes, the goals and objectives for achieving each theme, time lines, and the identification of resources in their implementation and follow through. As with the first conference, there was agreement on a number of important general points.
First, the participants agreed that advocacy is necessarily two pronged in nature. Without advocacy for both counselors and their clients, neither is meaningful. Because "counseling" as an activity is practiced by other service providers, advocacy for clients alone could result in other service providers being the sole source of such counseling services. Likewise, to advocate only for "guild" issues wins neither support nor respect from those whose assistance counselors need.
Second, another agreement among the participants was the need to seek broad based, active support for the goals, objectives, and strategies of the overall plan. While much good work is already underway, as evidenced by our several successes of recent months and years, a collaborative, comprehensive approach holds the greatest promise for the best use of our mutual resources.
Philosophically, the participants also agreed that counseling as a profession is unique among service providers because of its historical focus upon facilitating optimum human development across the life span. While no less concerned with the results of human tragedy nor its repair in the process of helping, counselors are members of the one discipline for which prevention and the facilitation of optimum wellness are fundamental goals.
What follows is the outcome of the two conferences. The recommendations of these task forces, each of which dealt with two themes, are presented. Although divided by task force, it should be noted that each report was approved by the conference participants as a whole. It is based upon the insight of experienced, totally dedicated advocates for the profession and our clients. As with all such documents, it can only reflect some of what actually can and should be done to realize our goals.
Likewise, the form of the report cannot do justice to the real work that is and needs to be done. Themes are identified as though they are discrete, but in practice they are not discrete and often cannot be separated. Advocacy, for example, by its very nature must include client as well as counselor concerns and needs. As a consequence, suggestions and comments in order to help us move forward effectively in this initiative are always welcome.