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Advocacy Interview: Mark Pope
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Advocacy Hero: Dr. Mark Pope

Interviewed by Nakpangi Thomas, CSI Leadership & Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Omega Zeta Chapter, Walden University

It was both an honor and privilege to be granted an interview with Dr. Mark Pope, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy at the University of Missouri – Saint Louis. He was president of the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues in Counseling (1976–1978), National Career Development Association (1998–1999), the American Counseling Association (2003–2004; first openly gay president), and Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues (Division 44 of the American Psychological Association) (2011–2012), founder and first chair of the Professional Counseling Fund (2004–2006), co-founded Counselors for Social Justice, and established the Institute for Leadership Training. Dr. Pope is widely recognized domestically and internationally as one of the founders of and leading authors in the field of cultural diversity issues in career counseling and career development, with special interest in gay and lesbian career development. This article documents his inspiration and satisfactions in advocating for the counseling profession.

Dr. Pope has been an advocate for the counseling profession since 1973 during his master’s program. “From that very first entry, I was always advocating for the profession. I wanted to go into student affairs. But, when I got into counseling; I thought, wow, this is very powerful.” Dr. Pope attributes his personal struggles as a gay man and the mistreatment of the LGBTQ community as the catalyst for his advocacy engagement.

Dr. Pope believes it is important to advocate for the counseling profession both externally (less fortunate) and internally (reshaping the profession). He noted that action is really important and is a corollary to words in establishing a professional identity that is recognized by other mental health professionals. Dr. Pope postulated that action is really critical, and it’s the next step. “I have always been a believer that you must take the next step.” 

On Capitol Hill, Dr. Pope has worked with legislators to ensure the inclusion of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) in veteran’s administration and TriCare reimbursement. He also participated in challenges to state laws in Indiana and Georgia that sought to limit LPCs' access to psychological tests.

Dr. Pope believes that the most urgent professional advocacy issue for counseling profession is the same one we have had for quite a while, and that is recognition and acceptance of professional counseling as a fully bodied mental health profession and provider. Dr. Pope noted that obtaining LPC licensure in all 50 states was a critical component to recognition of us at the national level.

Dr. Pope reflected on the mental health profession's role in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. He noted that being the first openly gay man to be President of ACA was an honor he wears as a badge. “I am proud that ACA is a leader in the field of sexual minorities and gender minorities." Working with them and seeing them as contributing members of our profession is an important contribution to our field and society.

Originally posted September 15, 2017 at csi-net.org.

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