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Advocacy Interview: Louisa Foss-Kelly
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Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Louisa Foss-Kelly

Interviewed by John Harrichand, CSI Leadership and Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Rho Eta Chapter, Liberty University

I was honored to interview Dr. Louisa Foss-Kelly, Professor in the CMHC Program, and the founding and current Chapter Faculty Advisor for the Sigma Chi Sigma CSI Chapter at Southern Connecticut State University. This article documents her advocacy contributions and advice for current counseling advocates.

Approximately 15 years ago, Dr. Foss-Kelly’s journey into advocacy began. One of her mentors within the Ohio Counseling Association strongly encouraged her to attend the American Counseling Association Institute for Leadership Training (ACA ILT). Seizing this opportunity, she met with legislators, found her voice as an advocate for the counseling profession, and left with the desire and responsibility to “pay it forward.”

Legislative advocacy, according to Dr. Foss-Kelly, is not a selfish pursuit but an honor and a necessity due to the implications it has on counselors. Moving to Connecticut, she identified a need to ensure clients were receiving ethical and appropriate care. Her concern for client welfare, coupled with her concern for preserving the professional identity of counselors, led Dr. Foss-Kelly to begin working with state legislators. As President of the Connecticut Counseling Association, she collaborated with counseling colleagues to see that Senate Bill (SB) 903 was signed into law as Public Act No. 17-94 on October 1, 2017. This act mandates Licensed Professional Counselor candidates to complete coursework consistent with CACREP Clinical Mental Health Counseling standards, and engage in continuing education activities in ethics beginning January 2019.

Legislative advocacy at the state level describes Dr. Foss-Kelly’s current role as an advocate for the counseling profession. Her new work mantra is “to do less, better,” which she has found rewarding. She also derives meaning by having a heart for her students, and the clients they serve.

“Mistakes are part of the process,” is a message Dr. Foss-Kelly hopes students and new professional advocates are aware of when moments of self-doubt arise. If no one is taking action, then we silence ourselves, and our profession. She stresses knowing your opposition, but also finding ways to collaborate and share power in meeting a common goal, the promotion of mental health.

Dr. Foss-Kelly stated the importance of self-care; however, she is aware that in life, short-term sacrifices need to be made for long-term gains. This ebb-and-flow process involves acceptance and sacrifice of personal- vs. professional-life needs and vice versa. If you are unable to step away, she warns advocates to do some soul searching and ask, “am I harming my own well-being to serve?”

Dr. Foss-Kelly relayed that advocacy is a “labor of love” that enables us to fight injustices. It requires energy and persistence, and should not be performed for accolades. Regarding advocacy hurdles, she stated that self-confidence has been a work in process, and so is trusting her gut instinct. Her biggest lesson is to take chances.

The opportunities to advocate for the counseling profession are viewed as a privilege for Dr. Foss-Kelly, a woman filled with gratitude. She encourages all counselors to “remember that progress is slow, but continue to trust the process, … for at the end of the day, each of us in the counseling profession is called to carry the load, and not only a select few.”

Originally posted November 8, 2017 at csi-net.org.

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