Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Jane Myers
CSI Executive Director
Interviewed by Dalena Dillman Taylor, CSI Leadership Fellow & Professional Advocacy Committee Member; Rho Kappa Chapter, University of North Texas
I felt privileged to interview Dr. Jane Myers; a true servant leader for both professional and client advocacy. Even though Dr. Myers is well known for her advocacy and professional work, she remained modest throughout the interview and informed me that she accomplished things because she was "getting a job done that needed to be done.” During our interview, Dr. Myers gave me an inside look into her inspiration and satisfactions in advocating for the counseling profession as well as practical advice for experienced and new professional counseling advocates.
A servant leader is an individual who works diligently towards one’s passion without wanting attention or recognition to help the community, profession, and clients at large. Dr. Myers appears to be someone who not only believes in servant leadership, but demonstrates this type of leadership wholeheartedly and passionately. In her first opportunity as an advocate, she was a rehabilitation counselor looking for a better avenue to help her clients. Upon asking for these resources and finding none, she was appointed as the liaison to create these resources. Along her journey as an advocate, she continuously found individuals that could support her in implementing new ways to follow through in her plans for advocacy.
Dr. Myers emphasized the importance of advocacy as two-pronged. Counselors are called to advocate both for the profession and for their clients. She recalled attempting to advocate for the needs of older people in a joint meeting with a panel of members of the United States House and Senate. The members informed her that the counseling profession is not a true profession; therefore, they would not even address the needs presented. From this experience, Dr. Myers learned the immense value of advocating for the counseling profession before we can successfully advocate for our clients. She further emphasized the importance of professional advocacy because other mental health professionals do not understand the level of professional preparation of counselors. She commented about another experience she had in which other mental health professionals stated that wellness is a construct that is not well-understood. Yet, in the counseling field, wellness has been researched and written about thoroughly and most counselors understand the importance of wellness.
Dr. Myers believes that her current role as a counselor educator enables her to continue her passion of professional advocacy. She provides her students with information on how to be an effective advocate and firmly believes that experience does not matter at all. One only needs to have a passion for advocacy and obtain support from those that one admires, respects, or views as a good role model. For students and new counseling professionals, Dr. Myers suggested getting involved in organizations such as CSI at the state, local, and/or national level. Another way to begin advocacy work is to interview leaders and/or mentors in the counseling field who are conducting this type of work effectively. Through interviews, counselors gain awareness of the efforts being made, what has already been accomplished, and find others with the same passions.
The biggest hurdle Dr. Myers said that she has overcome while advocating for the counseling profession was herself. She realized throughout her journey that her unbridled enthusiasm kept her from being fully focused and creating a path in which others could also join in on the efforts. In addition, she remarked that change occurs slowly and over time; therefore, it is important to be patient and learn how to handle the process along the way. When asked how she was able to focus her enthusiasm and gain patience, she stated this process occurred through "consultation with people much wiser than I am,” and through receiving feedback on her work all along the way.
Dr. Myers stated that the advocacy effort that has brought her the most personal satisfaction was attending the professionalization meeting of the American Counseling Association as ACA’s president in 1990. Representatives from different counseling licensure, accreditation, and certification bodies, and the ACA divisions met together for the first time in history to discuss and create a strategic plan to promote the counseling profession. Although this meeting was a much needed and excellent start to unifying the profession, Dr. Myers remarked that as counselors we have a long way to go. With our efforts divided among divisions and specialties, the progress towards unification is slow. Counselors need to realize that we are all counselors first and our specialties second. In order to be recognized by the general population as a true profession, we need to work jointly and combine our efforts. We each have a role to play in making that happen.
To learn more about Dr. Myers, you may read her Biography and Excellence Paper or visit her Professional Website.
Originally posted December 6, 2011 at csi-net.org.