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Chi Sigma Iota Wellness Position Paper

Wellness Counseling Identity:
A Defining Characteristic of Professional Counselors

Introduction

Executive Council formally approves the Wellness Counseling Practice and Research Committee proposal for the Society to adopt a position of leadership and advocacy for wellness to be recognized, promoted and practiced as a defining attribute of professional counselor identity. The long-term goal of the adoption of this formal position is to secure counselor identity with wellness practice and research. This position is predicated on decades of recognition that wellness is a defining philosophical orientation of professional counselors, as well as research and professional activity associated with both wellness counseling and counselor identity. However, the broad recognition of wellness as a defining characteristic of professional counseling and the value of wellness in counseling clinical practice and research are being lost in the absence of a deliberate, articulated plan and advocates for wellness counseling by counselors per se.  We believe that CSI has unique capabilities and assets within its membership, chapters and professional contacts through which it can assert its leadership to advocate effectively. The following propositions provide the historical and philosophical basis for this position.

Basis for Counseling Wellness Identity Position Proposal

Proposition #1:  Three and half decades ago, CSI, the counseling profession’s honor society was established to provide all counselors serving individuals, couples, families, and groups a clear professional identity. From its inception, its Bylaws, mission, vision, and strategic plans have remained true to this purpose. Unlike most membership organizations, once a member of CSI, always a member. Those who are invited to membership pledge: “…to publicly declare your commitment to striving for high standards of scholarship and clinical practice.” Over 130,000 initiated members are now or have been serving in various capacities and settings in the United States and abroad. Every specialty in counseling is represented in the Society’s membership. Chi Sigma Iota has an earned reputation as a mentor of leaders and advocates for professional counselors and those that they serve.

Proposition #2:  There were clear historical connections between the origins of professional counseling as a life span, developmental, holistically focused practice long before it earned “professional” status in the United States. Wellness counseling per se spans more than four decades (Myers & Sweeney, 2005). Desire for improving the quality of life and longevity of all persons evolved throughout the twentieth century. Social justice advocacy sharpened the focus on the need to ensure that all persons may have access to the education, health care, housing and resources of an equalitarian society. It follows that the counseling profession and our Society will continue evolving. Wellness interventions can be an essential part of optimizing the quality of life for all citizens. Professional counselors should help lead in this evolution.

Proposition #3:  Wellness as an essential practice for professional counseling has institutional roots as well.  Thirty years ago (1989) and under the leadership of Dr. Jane E. Myers, President of the American Association for Counseling and Development (currently the American Counseling Association), the Governing Council unanimously passed the following resolution.

The Counseling Profession as Advocates for Optimum Health and Wellness

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Governing Council of AACD (ACA) declare a position for the profession as advocates for policies and programs in all segments of our society which promote and support optimum health and wellness, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that AACD (ACA) supports the counseling and development professions’ position as an advocate toward a goal of optimum health and wellness within our society.

Note:  Adopted by the Governing Council of the American Association for Counseling and Development (AACD), now the American Counseling Association (ACA), July 13, 1989.

More recently, as leaders in the profession have sought to define the practice of counseling, wellness emerged as an essential pillar of our work (Kaplan & Gladding, 2011; Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014). In fact, the key representatives from 30 counseling organizations contributing to the Delphi process to create this definition selected the words “wellness” and “empower” as the most commonly terms found across all first-round definitions, and thus essential to the final version (Kaplan et al., 2014).

Evidence of CSI’s influence on wellness as a key indicator of professional counselor identity may be observed through the leadership of one CSI Chapter Faculty Advisor as well as by the aforementioned coalition effort resulting in the 2018 Strategic Plan Vision statement of the American Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB):

“As the national organization for counseling regulatory matters, AASCB strives to achieve a world where the counseling profession is recognized as a central change agent for mental health and wellness, enabling all people to achieve wellness and reach their full potential.”

In fact, AASCB leaders invited CSI representatives to address its members in a plenary session that emphasized our mutual commitment to wellness counseling.  This included sharing CSI’s mission to “…  promote a strong professional identity through members who contribute to the realization of a healthy society by fostering wellness and human dignity.

It is notable that the 2018 CSI Executive Council acted to transition the Society’s Wellness Task Force into the permanent Wellness Counseling Practice and Research Committee.  This committee has been responding to the Executive Council’s charge to address: “What has been missing, …  a cohesive, deliberate initiative to promote systematic, scholarly research, training, competency development or practitioner resources.”

Proposition #4:  Despite declarations of support throughout the profession, wellness counseling remains largely absent and underdeveloped in our preparation standards, research, training and clinical practices (Brubaker, personal correspondence, March, 2019). As a consequence, wellness counseling as a defining characteristic of professional counselors is given only lip service, i.e., mentioned in passing.

For example, an examination of the 2014 ACA Code of Ethics shows that wellness is minimally addressed, most often using the term well-being, which is not an equal term as it commonly denotes life satisfaction (Cooke, Melchert, & Connor, 2016) rather than the holistic, mind-body-spirit conceptualization of self, suggested by the term wellness. The 2016 Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Program (CACREP) Standards uses “wellness” as the preferred term, but it is also scantly found within the standards. In fact, it is noted only once in the eight common core areas of Professional Counseling Identity (Section 2) and only twice in the specialty standards (Section 5). Wellness counseling is not identified in either of these primary counseling standards of practice.

Proposition #5:  CSI is uniquely positioned to provide leadership and advocacy for wellness counseling practice and research.  For example, as it has done so in the past, it can collaborate and participate with the organizations (e.g., ACA, ACES, AADA), universities and agencies that are stewards of our educational standards (CACREP, CORE), preparation programs, and credentials (NBCC, AASCB). With almost 300 active CSI chapters, hundreds of counselor educator members, thousands of new aspiring counseling student members who are initiated yearly, and its practitioner members, CSI is uniquely positioned to support leadership, mentoring and advocacy for wellness counseling.

CSI already has affirmed its position that wellness counseling is a defining characteristic of professional counselors. What the committee proposes is a position statement of intentionality with respect to leadership and advocacy such as the following:

“Chi Sigma Iota adopts a position of leadership and advocacy within the profession for promoting professional counselor identity with wellness counseling in keeping with our Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan.”

Following the adopt of this position statement, CSI, especially via the work of the Wellness Counseling Practice and Research Committee, will continue its present work with a mind toward creating a cadre of interested members knowledgeable in areas related to codifying wellness counseling identity, practice and research. Much like all other important professional initiative such as credentialing, accreditation, etc. this will require patience and a long-term view. This is proverbially not a commitment to a foot race dash but to a long-distance run.

References

American Counseling Association. (2014). 2014 ACA Code of Ethics. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Cooke, P. J., Melchert, T. P., & Connor, K. (2016). Measuring well-being: A review of instruments. The Counseling Psychologist, 44, 730-757. doi:10.1177/0011000016633507

Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). (2015). 2016 CACREP Standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Kaplan, D. M., & Gladding, S. T. (2011). A vision for the future of counseling: The 20/20 Principles for Unifying and Strengthening the Profession. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89, 367–372. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2011.tb00101.x

Kaplan, D. M., Tarvydas, V. M., & Gladding, S. T. (2014). 20/20: A vision for the future of counseling: The new consensus definition of counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92, 366-372. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00164.x

Myers, J. E. & Sweeney, T. J. (2005). Counseling for wellness: Theory, research, and practice. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

 

Endorsed by the CSI Wellness Counseling Practice and Research Committee on November 1, 2019;
Adopted by the CSI Executive Council on December 17, 2019.

 

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