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Advocacy Interview: Gerard Lawson
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Advocacy Hero: Dr. Gerard Lawson

Interviewed by Dr. Jonathan Ricks, CSI Leadership & Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Phi Sigma Chapter, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Dr. Gerard LawsonIt was an honor to be granted an interview with Dr. Gerard Lawson, Associate Professor of Counselor Education at Virginia Tech and President-Elect of the American Counseling Association (ACA). He is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) with eight years of mental health counseling experience.

Dr. Lawson began advocating for the profession at the beginning of his career as a member of the Virginia Counselors Association (VCA). “My early experiences helped me see the importance of relationships in advocacy.” Dr. Lawson built a working relationship with legislators at their local offices during times when the assembly was not in session.

Dr. Lawson strongly believes the counselor’s primary role includes professional advocacy and social justice issues. Advocacy includes helping clients brainstorm solutions to overcome obstacles as well as addressing gaps in services in the community. He believes advocacy for individual clients at the social change level helps improve their mental health.

While president of the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), Dr. Lawson was inspired by the 2020 Initiative that established a common definition, title, and scope of practice for counselors. He co-chaired an ACES committee to suggest universal educational standards for professional counseling to include graduation from a CACREP program. In addition to this national advocacy work, Dr. Lawson coordinated with other counselor educators in Virginia to petition the licensing board to require these standards for licensure. This is an ongoing advocacy effort for him. The goal of standardizing the educational requirements is to provide counselors with state to state licensure portability.

Dr. Lawson believes current issues facing the profession are clarifying the roles of school counselors so they can engage in threat assessments and crisis prevention and ensuring appropriate counselor to student ratios in all schools. He also believes we need to continue to work on standardizing the meaning of counseling and he feels licensure portability remains a critical professional issue in the field. Medicare acceptance of professional counseling is critical to respond to the growing need for mental health for older people.

Dr. Lawson is proud of the counseling profession’s establishment of licensure requirements in all 50 states. Also, he is very proud of the requirement for elementary schools to have counselors. Through a class project, Dr. Lawson mentored students who envisioned a Good Samaritan Law to protect people who report possible overdoses to emergency personal from being arrested for possession or use of illegal substances. Ultimately, he and his students presented their idea to a Virginia senator who introduced a bill. Dr. Lawson and his students continued to advocate by talking to the press and even testified at the General Assembly. The bill passed and he and his students attended the bill signing with the governor.  “The project taught students that while it may take time, individual counselors can make a difference.”

Dr. Lawson is a true example of a Professional Advocacy Hero.

Originally posted May 31, 2017 at csi-net.org.

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