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Advocacy Interview: Richard Henriksen
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Advocacy Hero: Dr. Richard Henriksen, Jr.

Interviewed by Caroline O'Hara, CSI Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Chi Epsilon Chapter, Georgia State University

Dr. Richard Henriksen, Jr.It was a pleasure to interview Dr. Richard Henriksen, Jr., a steadfast professional counseling advocate and Life Member of Chi Sigma Iota International (CSI). This article documents Dr. Henriksen’s insights about his journey toward professional advocacy, his rationale for professional advocacy, and his advice for professional counseling advocates of all experience levels.  

Dr. Henriksen shared that the initial reason that he became involved in professional advocacy can be traced to a mentor, Dr. Jerry Trusty, who helped Dr. Henriksen learn about professional advocacy during his masters program. He discovered that since counseling is a newer profession, it is important for professional counselors to be active in defining who we are, what we do, and how we are uniquely qualified to provide services to clients. This is especially crucial since the profession of counseling is the only profession to operate from a wellness, prevention, and strengths-based perspective.  

Dr. Henriksen believes that professional advocacy is the main means by which professional counselors can educate the public about what our profession offers. He has learned that if we do not advocate for our profession, no one else will do it for us. Other professions advocate for their members and so should we. He also tied professional advocacy to client/social advocacy. He articulated that professional counselors should advocate for the profession because it strengthens our ability to serve our clients and communities. This is intricately tied to CSI’s mission and position of servant leadership.

Dr. Henriksen noted that he advocates for professional counseling in many ways – each of which allows him to be a voice for the profession. For example, he provides leadership through being a CSI Faculty Advisor. Another part of advocacy includes promoting high quality training and standardization in counselor preparation. He promotes the unified identity of professional counselors, with specialty areas included within. Dr. Henriksen also tied advocacy to leadership. He posed the question, "how do you advocate if you’re not a leader?” Thus, he encourages professional counselors to become comfortable with talking to others about counseling on a small scale and on a large scale, such as public speaking events.  

Sometimes new professional counselors or students fear that they do not have enough knowledge or experience to advocate effectively. However, Dr. Henriksen disagrees with the premise of those concerns. From his perspective, all counseling professionals – regardless of degree or years of experience – have so much to offer as advocates. He offered the following advice: Tell the story you know. This can include perspectives on the unique benefits of counseling or the more personal stories about what drew each of us to the field.  

Relatedly, when asked what he would have liked to have known earlier in his professional advocacy efforts, Dr. Henriksen shared that we should not let fear of not knowing all the answers or having all the knowledge stand in the way of sharing what we do know. He urged counselors not be afraid to let people know who we are, what we do, and why we do it. He believes that each of our stories holds tremendous value.  

For Dr. Henriksen, the biggest professional advocacy hurdle he had to overcome was the idea that being a counselor might be "less than” the other mental health professions. He noted how during his training, others constantly compared counselors with psychologists, for instance. So his biggest hurdle was his own self-doubt. To develop his confidence, he focused on the many accomplishments of the profession, he joined together with CSI, and he developed a sense of pride in his identities as a professional counselor and counselor educator.  

"The opportunity to develop as a professional in a respected profession” brings Dr. Henriksen the most personal satisfaction of all of his professional advocacy efforts. Being able to serve in formal and informal ways (e.g., elected positions, committee work, research) is rewarding for him. Dr. Henriksen greatly values human growth and development, whether it is helping clients find joy or whether it is helping to develop future advocates for the counseling profession. He especially loves CSI chapter initiations.  

As we closed our interview, Dr. Henriksen reinforced the idea that the heart of professional advocacy involves counselors sharing our stories and our love of what we do. He urged all professional counselors, regardless of where we are in our journeys, to share the story of who counselors are and why we love being counselors. "Being an advocate is to be a lover of what we do and having the desire to share that with others. To advocate is to love being a counselor.”

Originally posted October 17, 2013 at

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