Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Promoting Systemic Change through the ACA Advocacy Competencies

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Promoting Systemic Change through the ACA Advocacy Competencies

Article excerpt

Counselors have always been change agents and advocates (Kiselica & Robinson, 2001; Lewis & Bradley, 2000; Toporek, Gerstein, Found, Roysircar, & Israel, 2006). They have recognized that their clients and students often needed more than what face-to-face counseling could provide. They have felt a responsibility to make the environment more conducive to positive human development. In most cases, however, these courageous counselors have had to act on their own, without professional resources and without guidance for ethical and effective implementation of the advocacy role. In 2003, the Governing Council of the American Counseling Association (ACA) moved to mend this gap, adopting a set of competencies to provide practitioners and counselor educators with guidelines for the competent practice of client/student advocacy (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2002). These competencies are grounded in the often unrecognized legacy of advocacy within the counseling profession. This article highlights some key advocacy movements within counseling and describes the development of the ACA Advocacy Competencies (Lewis et al., 2002) more specifically. We elaborate on the model that forms the foundation for the Advocacy Competencies, providing specific descriptions, examples, and case studies to illustrate the real-life practice of the advocacy role.

The History of Advocacy in Counseling

When embarking on writing a history of any kind, one needs to remember that beneath the public story that is portrayed in official documents and conventional publications there is always a people's history (Zinn, 2001). It is when one attends to the people's version that one hears for the first time the narratives of heroes who are never named in the authorized version of History 101.

If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion. (Zinn, 2001, p. 11)

The counseling profession has its own people's history, especially when it comes to the role of advocacy in counselors' work. Through the years that the profession has existed, there have always been career and employment counselors who fought against racism and sexism in the workplace, family counselors who brought hidden violence and abuse into the open, school counselors who sought to eliminate school-based barriers to learning, and community counselors who participated in social action on behalf of their clients. As long as there have been counselors, there have been counselor-advocates.

Unfortunately, people's history is "the most difficult kind of history to recapture" (Zinn, 2001, p. 645). We counselors will not be able to retrieve the names of all the quiet heroes of our profession. We honor them, however, by continuing their work.

Although advocacy has always been a part of the real-life practice of counselors, it is only in recent years that it has been widely accepted as being at the core of their professional identity. The fact that the Advocacy Competencies have been created and disseminated by ACA solidifies this professional recognition. Counselors must acknowledge, however, that the acceptance of advocacy as central to competent practice represents not a single event but rather the culmination of a process that gained energy in the last few decades of the 20th century. Several seemingly separate trends have converged in a nonlinear fashion to bring the counseling profession to where it is today. In particular, we highlight the development and implementation of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies (MCCs; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992), the rise of the Transforming School Counseling Initiative (TSCI), the progress of the counseling licensure movement, the creation of Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ), and the implementation of advocacy initiatives within ACA. …

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