TCA Professional Growth Conferences: History and Future Direction
Holt, Mary Lou, DeVaney, Susan B., TCA Journal
The authors present an historical overview of what is now known as the Texas Counseling Association Professional Growth Conference, tender observations regarding its future development, and offer suggestions to increase the vigor of the institution.
In the year 1999 the Texas Counseling Association (TCA) thematically ushered in the new millennium at its professional growth conference entitled "Counselors Lighting the Way." During their two years of involvement in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the conference, the authors grew curious about its origins, permutation over time, and future direction. Contacts with TCA Headquarters in Austin revealed that the organization did not keep records of conference evaluations and attendance data prior to 1995. The authors and TCA officials agreed that a thorough perusal of conference program booklets, which had been saved beginning in 1972, might contribute to an understanding of the organization's past, present, and future. The purpose of this article is to synthesize the material gleaned from our research, illuminate the nature of the organization, and make suggestions for a strong future.
The TCA Professional Growth Conference had its origins in 1947 as the "guidance section" of the 69th annual Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA). Dr. Virginia Love led this first meeting, which concerned the establishment of guidance programs in the public schools. The group prospered, eventually creating a constitution and by-laws and becoming a TSTA affiliate. In 1957, 210 participants registered for the first independent Texas Personnel and Guidance Association (TPGA) Conference. Although little information survives from the period, the following two decades saw tremendous growth in membership and conference attendance. By 1971 the group had grown to 1,851 members with 13 chapters and 3 divisions (TCA, 1976b).
Although TPGA did not use a standard format or schedule for conferences held during the 1970s, their organization and structure were similar to present day counterparts. The "conventions," as they were denoted, were organized under the direction of a single local coordinator in conjunction with TCA's central office. A loosely organized entity, TCA did not keep convention attendance figures; however, a clue to the general size of the conventions came in a single mention in the 1979 program booklet indicating that 1,445 participants had attended the previous year's gathering (TPGA, 1972-1983).
Usually scheduled for a long weekend in October, most conventions in the seventies followed a format of pre- and post-conference workshops, sectional programs, nationally known keynote speakers, a hall for collateral exhibits, and local tours. Thursday's schedule included tours and pre-convention workshops with Friday and Saturday devoted to business meetings and sectional programs. Convention planners featured special interest sections for elementary, middle, and secondary school counselors and scheduled popular programs for multiple slots. "Rap sessions" with keynote speakers, among them William Glasser, John Krumboltz, and Gilbert Wrenn, provided opportunities to meet important figures in the profession. In 1976, Forth Worth launched the tradition of using a general conference theme with "Let's Face It-We Need to Improve Our Images" (TPGA, 1972-1983).
Establishment of the Licensed Professional Counselor credential in 1981 brought about changes in the format of the convention. As the sole provider of continuing education units for licensure, TPGA adapted conference programming to meet the needs and expectations of newly licensed participants. Offering continuing education for the Texas Education Association (TEA) further cemented the organization's tie to the public schools. In 1983, TPGA adopted the designation Professional Growth Conference for its annual meeting; and in 1985, TPGA, now affiliated with the Association for Counseling and Development, changed its name to Texas Association for Counseling and Development (TACD). …