Advocacy Hero: Dr. Thomas Clawson
Interviewed by Gina E. Major, Chi Sigma Iota Member, Alpha Upsilon Chapter, The University of Akron; &
Jessica A. Headley, Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Alpha Upsilon Chapter, The University of Akron
It was an honor to interview Dr. Thomas Clawson, an esteemed pioneer whose leadership and advocacy efforts have had a powerful impact on the continued advancement of our profession. Dr. Clawson is currently the President and CEO of the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. and Affiliates (NBCC) and its division, NBCC International. Early in his career, he earned the 33rd counseling license in the United States at a time when the counseling profession was not well recognized. Today, Dr. Clawson continues to raise public awareness about the important roles that professional counselors play in promoting wellness.
Dr. Clawson was one of the first counseling advocates to help educate the public and legislators about the benefits of the counseling profession. He has been at the forefront of this endeavor since its inception. During his time as CEO of NBCC, one of the tasks that he worked on was pushing for the Yellow Pages, a telephone directory of businesses, to recognize professional counselors. It is hard to imagine a time when professional counselors could not advertise in the Yellow Pages because their profession was deemed nonexistent.
Without the efforts of Dr. Clawson, the counseling profession would not be where it is today. As the leader of the NBCC, Dr. Clawson is responsible for showing society that we are a sound profession — that we are self-regulating and standard-setting. The advancement of the counseling profession is of the utmost importance to him and the NBCC. Among the many contributions of the NBCC, an important one is the development of counselor examinations which serve to ensure that counselor training remains rigorous and up-to-date. Dr. Clawson asserted that the creation of such examinations is "an integral part of the profession that deals with certification and licensure. This is one of the ultimate ways that we advocate…through licensure and certification.”
Dr. Clawson shared that engagement in advocacy has been a lifelong progression for him, and that effective advocacy is critical to the advancement of our profession. He stated that "true professionals learn all the time” and that both students and new professionals have the potential to be great advocates. He emphasized that professional counselors already advocate for clients and in order to continue being good counselors, we must also advocate for the profession. According to Dr. Clawson, "counseling tends to draw people who are loving and caring, and that sometimes in advocacy we need to be more hard-nosed and pragmatic in getting the issues heard and understanding that there are other forces, whether professionals or policy makers, that would like for us to go away.” Dr. Clawson, as our pioneering advocates, experienced this first-hand.
An especially satisfying advocacy effort that Dr. Clawson reported taking part in was being able to promote the global advancement of the counseling profession. He shared that he was inspired to learn that counseling programs successfully exist in other nations such as Nigeria, Venezuela, and Malaysia, and the he was keen to learn from them: "it is so refreshing to watch the growth occurring.” As a result of his learnings, and under his leadership, the NBCC continues to be strategic in realizing that the U.S. counseling profession will be stronger if counseling is stronger outside its borders.
Dr. Clawson noted that he sees the development of a clear definition of the counseling profession as the biggest advocacy task for the field. He holds that CSI is a pre-eminent organization dealing with counselor identity, and NBCC supports this vision. Therefore, the NBCC continues to partner with CSI to do more advocacy for the profession, and those it serves. Dr. Clawson advises CSI members to celebrate and utilize their expert positions as professional advocates to train future advocates. Further, he encourages CSI members to keep listening to the experts that are formulating creative ideas about advocacy.
Dr. Clawson, throughout the interview, pushed the importance of advocacy within our field. Dr. Clawson’s achievements and passion for advocacy of the counseling profession are inspiring to all. He stated that by "sharing his expertise, he can give back to the profession” and he called for "leaders who have it in their hearts to lead.” It is clear that Dr. Clawson is such a leader, for he stated: "I am lucky to be advocating for something that my heart is behind.”
Originally posted March 4, 2016 at csi-net.org.