Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Andrea Dixon
Interviewed by Dr. Nikki Freeburg, Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Beta Sigma Chi Chapter, Bridgewater State University
It is my honor to report on an interview conducted with Dr. Andrea Dixon; a prominent professional counseling advocate. This article highlights how she became engaged in advocating for the profession, hurdles faced, and suggestions for engagement in the effort to promote the profession and achieve personal satisfaction.
Dr. Dixon spent time as a journalist before becoming a counselor. She states that she has always had a passion for asking questions and her interviewing skills led her to the profession of counseling. She immediately became involved in advocating for the profession during her master’s degree. Dr. Dixon saw that within the schools, counselors play an advocate role for many things but people did not seem to have a clear idea of what a school counselor role was. She knew she needed to educate. Furthermore, she attributes her success to three things, 1) her education, 2) the reality of advocacy needs she saw in the field, and 3) role models that instilled in her that advocacy was a professional expectation.
Dr. Dixon believes it is important to advocate for the counseling profession because there is lack of knowledge. She finds that media and other global outlets do not represent the profession well; she sees it as critical and a professional expectation to accept the obligation to do our best to advocate and educate the masses. She noted that education must include who we are, what we do, and why what we do is important. She also shared that she believes that the more we talk, the louder our voices get, the more respect we will reap.
Currently, Dr. Dixon defines her role as an advocate through her lens as an educator and role model. She sees herself as having a responsibility to her students and clients to relentlessly advocate for the profession, and in turn hope that they too will become allies in advocacy. Dr. Dixon believes that attaining her doctorate has allowed her to reach more individuals and leadership roles. Dr. Dixon further commented a powerful message that "advocates can be quiet, but in action, rather than in an overt in-your-face advocacy mission. They just need to be doing, we simply can’t do everything, but must always be doing something.”
Dr. Dixon encourages students and new professionals to not worry that they do not know enough, or not experienced enough, to make a difference. Dr. Dixon’s simply states, "Yes, you can.” She stated that counselors must believe in their hearts they have the power to make change. She encourages everyone to find that passion, whatever it looks like, challenge the personal temptation to feel overwhelmed, and make steps no matter how large or small. She stated that individuals do not have to be focused on national leadership initiatives but can make a difference within their agency or schools. She mused that we can not do it all but can do our own part and trust that others are doing theirs.
Dr. Dixon noted that she would have liked to have known earlier in her advocacy work that it does not have to be cookie cutter, that there is no right way. She stated that it was a learning curve to realize that she did not have to do it all to be considered an advocate. If she could speak to herself as a master’s level student she would encourage slowing down, "just be,” find the personal passion, do one thing, do it well, and make a difference.
The biggest hurdle Dr. Dixon has faced while professionally advocating was being misunderstood about her job. She recalls her grandparents not understanding her master’s degree program. This challenge continues as she has observed Deans not knowing the professional identity of counselors. To battle this challenge of wanting to be understood, Dr. Dixon has relentlessly continued to educate individuals about the profession of counseling.
Dr. Dixon believes that the advocacy effort that has brought her the most professional satisfaction is her research and writing. She believes that more people have been reached and educated about the profession of counseling by her through that method than through in-person contact. She enjoys the dissemination of ideas and thoughts through writing which she finds to also be a personal creative outlet.
Her ultimate message?
"We can all make a difference. We can all make a difference.”
Originally posted April 21, 2016 at csi-net.org.