What is the American Counselling Association?

Introduction

The American Counselling Association (ACA) is a membership organisation representing licensed professional counsellors (LPCs), counselling students, and other counselling professionals in the United States. It is the world’s largest association exclusively representing professional counsellors.

The non-profit organisation serves more than 55,000 members from various practice settings, including mental health counselling, marriage and family counselling, addictions and substance use disorder counselling, school counselling, rehabilitation counselling, and career and employment counselling. Counselling professors and students are also represented.

Its stated mission is to “enhance the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counsellors, advancing the counselling profession, and using the profession and practice of counselling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity”.

The association headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia.

Brief History

The group was founded in 1952 as the American Personnel and Guidance Association (APGA), formed by the merger of the National Vocational Guidance Association (NVGA), the National Association of Guidance and Counselor Trainers (NAGCT), the Student Personnel Association for Teacher Education (SPATE), and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA).

The American Personnel and Guidance Association changed its name to the American Association of Counselling and Development (AACD) in 1983. On 01 July 1992, the association adopted its current name.

ACA presidents are elected by association membership for a one-year term.

Branches & Divisions

There are 20 chartered divisions within the American Counselling Association. These divisions provide leadership, resources and information unique to specialised areas and/or principles of counselling. Divisions are chartered by ACA elect division officers who govern their activities independently and carry a voice in national ACA governance. Members enhance their professional identity and practice by joining one or more divisions. ACA has 56 chartered branches in the US, Europe and Latin America.

Publications

ACA publishes books, journals and other educational materials on counselling topics. The organisation’s flagship magazine, Counselling Today, is published once a month and sent to all ACA members via US mail.

ACA Takes a Stand

In 2016, ACA moved its 2017 San Francisco Conference & Expo from Nashville, Tennessee to San Francisco, California after Tennessee’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill, HB 1840/SB 1556, targeting members of the LGBTQ community and others. The bill allowed counsellors in Tennessee to turn clients away based on “strongly held principles.'” “The legislation ‘denies services to those most in need, targets the counseling profession’ and violates the ACA’s code of ethics, the group said.”

“Tennessee’s governor, Republican Bill Haslam signed the bill into law on April 27, insisting it was not meant to be discriminatory. But opponents said the law permits therapists and counselors to deny treatment to gay, lesbian, transgender and other patients. After Haslam signed the bill, ACA members debated the issue and decided not to hold the meeting in Tennessee. Officials said the association received bids from 13 cities after deciding to nix Nashville, but chose San Francisco as ‘the best choice and … an inclusive and inviting city’ for its members.”

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