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Advocacy Interview: Victoria White Kress
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Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Victoria Kress

Interviewed by Dr. Anita A. Neuer Colburn, Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Omega Zeta Chapter, Walden University

Dr. Victoria White KressI was honored to interview Dr. Victoria Kress of Youngstown State University (YSU). Dr. Kress served as a member of the Ohio licensure board from 2005-2011, as the 2012-2013 President of CSI International, and as the 2014-2015 President of the Ohio Counseling Association. At the time of our interview, she had just been honored at the 2015 ACES conference as the recipient of the Robert O. Stripling Award for Excellence in Standards, and YSU received the Robert Frank Outstanding Counselor Education Program Award. Indeed, Dr. Kress brings a long track record of hard work, outstanding results, and well-deserved recognition. She graciously took the time to further reflect on her ongoing role as an advocate for the counseling profession.

Dr. Kress affirmed her unwavering commitment to advocating for the counseling profession throughout our interview, noting both the unique identity and training of counselors, along with the importance of being able to provide services and receive appropriate remuneration for our work, just as other helping professionals do. As counselors are, in some contexts, receiving less remuneration that some other professionals, Dr. Kress urges all counselors, from the beginning of their training, to get involved in professional advocacy. Her own advocacy roots go back to her time as a doctoral student in a program which housed both a counselor education and a counseling psychology program. She felt compelled to investigate and really understand the distinct nature of counselor professional identity. Recalling her first Counselor Education job at UNC-Greensboro, she fondly reminisced, "I wrote an advocacy article with Dr. Myers and Dr. Sweeney, and I was hooked!”  Since then, Dr. Kress has worked tirelessly to protect the strength and vitality of our discipline. While she’s been involved in many tangible forms of progress toward this goal, she is most proud of her work in helping Ohio to become the first state to require a CACREP degree for professional counseling licensure, beginning what she hopes will be a national trend and will pave the way for licensure portability and thus legislative strength for counselors.

Over the years, Dr. Kress has faced a number of challenges in advocating for counselors, including some resistance from other counseling professionals.  Working through them has left her an even stronger advocate, and even more committed to the process. Indeed, Dr. Kress has learned many lessons about how to succeed in professional advocacy.  She stated that it is important that counselors blend a strong passion for justice with a keen sense of humility, remembering that there will always be someone who knows more than you, or who knows someone else you should know: "ask for advice and support from others,” she reminds us, "none of us are in this alone.”  Dr. Kress also reminds us to be intentional: check facts before reacting, and be measured, thoughtful, and deliberate in your responses and actions. She advises other advocates to embrace a collaborative approach, understand that you may need to compromise, and to be sensitive to the individual agendas of the various players with whom you are involved. Above all, Dr. Kress stresses the importance of being genuine, acknowledging that systemic change requires political prowess, mutual respect, and artful negotiation.

Dr. Kress believes that counseling advocates should start by connecting with their own passion for the profession. She reminds those with little or no experience that their voices do count, that help is available (through CSI), and that their energy and creativity are truly inspirational for others. She urges all counselors to look for the inherent advocacy opportunities within the various roles they fill, reflecting that the seeds of excellence involve putting "love and care” into our efforts, and that good things will grow out of that love and care. For Dr. Kress, such efforts have included letter-writing campaigns, various legislative advocacy initiatives, offering conference workshops on legal advocacy matters, re-establishing a legislative advocacy day in Ohio, and developing a leadership development institute in Ohio.

Passion was a theme throughout our interview. She continues to press on, using all the skills she continues to develop and all the experiences she’s been through to help her tackle the next project. She hopes that her own passion for advocacy will be contagious – that others will "catch” the same level of dedication and commitment. There is a place for professional advocacy in the lives of all counselors, regardless of their experience level. Thank you, Dr. Kress, for being such an inspiring advocacy role model!

Originally posted January 27, 2016 at csi-net.org.

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