Engage & Amplify Your Voice

ACA curates resources and opportunities to help counselors become more effective advocates for the counseling profession and make their voice heard at state, local and federal levels. Learn more about how to engage and amplify your voice.  

Advocacy Toolkit

This Action Toolkit is designed to help you create change and make a positive impact on the world!

It provides information on how to engage your legislator, how to build a case for your issue, and how to reach out to decision-makers, as well as, include tips on how to be an effective advocate, and tips to consider when communicating with your legislature.

Advocacy can be a powerful way to create change and make a positive impact on the world. Here are some tips for effective advocacy:

  1. Identify your goal: Before you begin advocating for a cause, it's important to clearly identify your goal. What change do you want to see? What outcome are you working towards? Having a specific goal in mind will help you focus your efforts and measure your progress.
  2. Know your audience: Understanding your audience is key to effective advocacy. Who are you trying to influence? What motivates them? What are their concerns and priorities? By tailoring your message to your audience, you can make it more persuasive and compelling.
  3. Build relationships: Building relationships with key stakeholders can help you create a network of support for your cause. This might include elected officials, community leaders and other organizations working on similar issues. By working together, you can amplify your message and build momentum for change.
  4. Use multiple channels: Advocacy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different audiences may respond better to different tactics, such as social media, email campaigns, phone calls or in-person meetings. By using multiple channels, you can reach a wider audience and increase your impact.
  5. Be persistent: Advocacy can be a long and challenging process, but persistence is key to success. Don't be discouraged by setbacks or slow progress. Keep pushing forward, continue to build relationships, engage your audience and refine your message.
  6. Measure your impact: Finally, it's important to measure your impact and evaluate your advocacy efforts. This can help you identify what's working well and what areas need improvement. By tracking your progress, you can make data-driven decisions and adjust your strategy as needed to achieve your goals.

Advocating for a cause can be a powerful way to effect change, but it's important to approach it with care to avoid common mistakes. Here are some tips:

  1. Educate yourself: Make sure you have a good understanding of the issue you are advocating for. Do your research and gather facts and evidence to support your position.
  2. Know your audience: Tailor your message to your audience. Consider their values, beliefs and concerns when crafting your message.
  3. Use clear and concise language: Avoid jargon and complex language that might confuse or turn off your audience. Use simple and clear language to convey your message effectively.
  4. Focus on solutions: Offer concrete solutions to the problem you are advocating for. Explain how your proposed solutions will benefit your audience and make a positive impact.
  5. Avoid personal attacks: Stay focused on the issue and avoid attacking individuals. Personal attacks can undermine your credibility and distract from the issue at hand.
  6. Be respectful: Show respect for those who disagree with you. Listen to their perspectives and engage in constructive dialogue.
  7. Stay positive: Focus on positive outcomes and inspire others to take action. Avoid using fear or negativity to motivate others.
  8. Lead by example: Model the behavior you want others to adopt. Show that you’re committed to the cause and are willing to take action.

By following these tips, you can avoid common mistakes when advocating and increase your chances of success. 

  1. Visit the  ACA Take Action page and enter your information in "Sign Up for Alerts" to create an account.
  2. Fill out the required information, such as your name, email address and zip code. You may also be asked to provide your physical address to help identify your elected representatives.
  3. VoterVoice will then send you relevant information and Action Alerts related to these issues.
  4. Once you have completed the registration process, you should start receiving Action Alerts and other updates from ACA via email or text message.

It's that easy to become an ACA advocate. When you receive an alert, please respond, the alert may not always be geared to your specialty area. However, responding demonstrates strength in numbers and supports the entire credibility and clout of the profession in the halls of government.

There may be instances when you have a dispute with your health insurance company. For example, the insurance company may deny a claim that you believe should be covered, or you have difficulty getting approval for certain counseling services rendered. In such cases, you have the right to make a complaint.

Insurance is regulated by the states: Insurance is regulated by the states. This system of regulation stems from the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which describes state regulation and taxation of the industry as being in “the public interest” and clearly gives it preeminence over federal law. Each state has its own set of statutes and rules.

Here are the steps to take if you need to make a complaint about your health insurance in your state:

Step 1: Review Your Insurance Policy

Before filing a complaint, ensure you have a clear understanding of your client’s policy terms and conditions. You may find that the issue at hand is addressed in their policy documents. If you don't have a copy of the insurance policy, request one from the insurance company.

Step 2: Contact Your Insurance Company

The first step is usually to bring the issue to the insurance company's attention. You can do this by calling their customer service number or writing a letter. Make sure to keep a record of all communications and document the dates, times, and the content of your conversations.

Step 3: File a Formal Complaint with the Insurance Company

If the issue is not resolved after initial contact, you may need to file a formal complaint with the insurance company. This process may vary depending on the company. Some insurance companies may have an online form or a specific process for filing complaints. Make sure to include all relevant information, including policy number, claim number (if applicable), CPT Code, and a detailed description of your issue.

Step 4: Contact Your State's Department of Insurance

If your issue is still not resolved after following the insurance company's formal complaint process, you can escalate the matter to your state's Department of Insurance (DOI). The DOI regulates insurance companies and can help resolve disputes between consumers and insurers. You can find the contact information for your state's DOI online.

Though contacting the DOI is step 4, ACA recommends making the complaint to coincide with step 3 in the most extreme cases. You can find this information by checking your states government web page.

Step 5: File a Complaint with Your State's Department of Insurance

Every state DOI has a process for filing insurance-related complaints. This typically involves filling out a complaint form and providing supporting documentation. The complaint form will ask for details about your issue and what steps you have taken to resolve it. Be as detailed as possible and include copies of any communication or documentation relevant to your complaint.

Step 6: Await Investigation and Response

Once your complaint is filed, the DOI will review it and may investigate further. They may contact the insurance company for their side of the story. It may take some time for the DOI to complete their investigation, but they generally will respond with their findings.

Practice Patience When Filing a Complaint

While dealing with insurance disputes can be frustrating, remember that you have rights as a provider, and your client has rights as the policy holder. If you feel the health insurance company has treated you or your client unfairly, don't hesitate to file a complaint. Keep detailed records and be persistent. It's important to stand up for your rights and ensure you're receiving the coverage you're entitled to under your policy.

Also remember to engage with your state Counseling Branch, and Licensure Board for guidance.

Note: This document provides general steps and may not apply to all situations. It's always good to consult with a legal professional or a consumer advocate when dealing with complex insurance issues. Your state’s attorney office may be a resource to you when dealing with insurance concerns.

Engaging with legislators after the session has ended can be an important part of effective advocacy. Here are some ways to engage with legislators during the off-session period:

  1. Attend town hall meetings: Many legislators hold town hall meetings during the off-session period to hear from their constituents. Attending these meetings provides an opportunity to ask questions, share concerns and build relationships with the legislator.
  2. Schedule a meeting: Contact the legislator's office and request a meeting to discuss your concerns and priorities. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting and provide supporting materials or data to help make your case.
  3. Write a letter or email: Writing a letter or email to the legislator is another way to communicate your concerns and priorities. Be sure to be clear and concise in your communication and provide supporting evidence for your claims.
  4. Engage on social media: Legislators and their staff often monitor social media channels, so engaging with them on platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be an effective way to get their attention and raise awareness about important issues.
  5. Participate in advocacy campaigns: Joining or organizing advocacy campaigns during the off-session period can help to build momentum and support for important issues. This can include writing letters or emails, making phone calls or organizing events or rallies.
  6. Engage with legislative staff: Legislative staff play an important role in the legislative process and can be important allies in advocacy efforts. Building relationships with staff and keeping them updated on important issues can help to ensure that your concerns are heard and taken into consideration.

Remember to be respectful, clear and concise in your communication with legislators and their staff. By staying engaged and informed, you can help to ensure that important issues are addressed and that your voice is heard.

Regulatory Comments Framework

  1. Who should respond and why? An open comment period, also known as a Request for Comments, is an opportunity for all citizens — especially “stakeholders” who will be impacted — to submit feedback on the proposed rules or policies that government agencies develop and use to implement legislation. All counseling and mental health practitioners should respond during an open comment period.
  2. What should be included in my comments? Your comments don’t have to be lengthy. Just be sure to include the following components:
    • Appreciation. Start by expressing gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to provide feedback for the agency’s review. Although comment periods are mandated by law, remember that the agency will likely receive many comments, some lengthy, and that individuals will be tasked with reviewing, interpreting, and incorporating your comments.
    • Challenges. Acknowledge discrepancies and highlight areas in the proposed rule that will present challenges to implementation.
    • Your story. Take the opportunity to share how this proposed rule is likely to impact you, the clients you serve, your community and citizens overall.
  3. What format should I use? Sometimes, an agency will request that you use a form for your comments. However, you may be allowed and/or required to submit comments as an attachment. In that case, use the standard business letter format and include the following:
    • Name of person and office designated to receive the comments, as well as the address. This information will be available on the agency’s notice or Request for Comments.
    • Subject line. Use “Re: Rule/policy” as specified in the notice or request.
    • Salutation. Use the recipient’s formal title and name. If you are unable to find their title, use only their first name. Since this is a business letter, use a colon “:” after the recipient’s name.
    • Body of the comment letter. Following are some suggested guidelines:
      1. Introduction paragraph. Introduce yourself and/or your organization and explain your interest in the agency’s rule.
      2. In the following paragraphs, include summarized points of the rule along with your feedback. Where necessary, be specific and cite numbers/statistics and language included in the rule or policy, along with your comments, so that the reviewer can clearly understand your point of view. Also, share your story on how this rulemaking will impact you, your clients, and the profession.
      3. Clear recommendation(s). Use bullet points to clearly outline your asks and recommendations (for Medicare rules, see item #4). Doing so will help the reviewer to easily identify your recommendations when drafting the final rule.
      4. Complimentary close. Express appreciation for the opportunity to provide your feedback.
  4. Where should I send or submit my comments? The comment letter should be sent or submitted to the agency that is requesting the feedback. This information can be obtained from the Request for Comments notice. For more information, please visit:  https://www.regulations.gov/faq?anchor=downloadingdata and this article:  https://www.federalregister.gov/reader-aids/recent-updates/2014/07/new-submit-a-formal-comment-feature
  5. Where can I find an example of a comment letter? You can find examples of comment letters at  Federal Register :: Document Search Results for 'CY 2022 Medicare PFS '

A Few Reminders:

  1. The invitation to submit comments should not be used as an opportunity to “attack” or vent frustrations with the government. However, it is an opportunity for you to provide your professional and personal opinions on how to successfully implement the proposed rule/policy in a way that is beneficial to you, your clients, community, and the counseling profession.
  2. Your comments don’t need to be lengthy. If you can provide your comments in a few concise sentences or paragraphs … great! Just be sure that your feedback is detailed enough for the reviewer to understand and apply, if they determine that your recommendation should be included in the implementation of the rule.
  3. Your feedback and recommendations are just as important, if not more important, as your advocacy to your legislators to support the bill that has become law, which the agency will be implementing. Therefore, your comments help shape how this regulation will be applied to our daily lives.

Tracking state and federal legislation can be an overwhelming task, but with the right tools and approach, it can be manageable. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to track state and federal legislation:

Step 1: Determine the Issues of Interest Before You Begin Tracking Legislation

You need to determine the issues that are of interest to you or your organization. This will help you narrow down the bills you need to track, making the process more manageable.

Step 2: Identify the Relevant Committees

Once you've identified the issues of interest, you need to determine which committees are relevant to those issues. In Congress, bills typically go through one or more committees before they are sent to the full House or Senate. Similarly, in state legislatures, bills are typically assigned to a committee for review before they are considered by the full legislative body. By identifying the relevant committees, you can focus your attention on those bills that are most likely to move forward.

Step 3: Identify the Bill Numbers

Once you've identified the relevant committees, you need to identify the bill numbers of the legislation you want to track. In Congress, bills are assigned a number (e.g. H.R. 1234 or S. 5678) that indicates the chamber of origin (House or Senate) and the bill number. In state legislatures, bills are also assigned numbers that vary by state.

Step 4: Set up Alerts or Notifications

To stay informed about the progress of the bills you're tracking, you should set up alerts or notifications. There are many tools that can help you do this, including legislative tracking services, which will send you emails or text messages when there are updates to the bills you're tracking.

Step 5: Monitor the Progress of the Bills Once You've Set Up Alerts or Notifications

You need to monitor the progress of the bills you're tracking. This includes keeping tabs on committee hearings, markups, and votes, as well as any amendments or changes to the bills.

Step 6: Engage with Legislators

Finally, if you want to have an impact on the legislation, you should consider engaging with legislators. This could include writing letters or emails, making phone calls or meeting with legislators or their staff to discuss your concerns or support for the bills.

By following these steps, you can stay informed and engaged in the legislative process at both the state and federal levels.

There are several free systems available to track state and federal legislation. Here are some options:

  1. GovTrack.us: This website provides free tracking of federal legislation. It offers a variety of tools to help users keep tabs on bills and lawmakers, including email alerts, RSS feeds, and bill tracking.
  2. OpenStates.org: This website provides free tracking of state-level legislation. It provides information on state legislators, committee hearings, and bills that are being debated in state legislatures.
  3. LegiScan.com: This website provides free tracking of both state and federal legislation. It offers email alerts, bill tracking, and a variety of other tools to help users stay informed about the legislative process.
  4. Congress.gov: This is the official website of the U.S. Congress, and it provides free tracking of federal legislation. It offers email alerts, bill tracking, and other tools to help users stay informed about the legislative process.

All of these options provide free tracking of state and/or federal legislation, and each has its own features and benefits. You may want to explore each option to determine which one best fits your needs. You may also utilize the VoterVoice feature below to track legislation of your choice.

An op-ed, short for "opposite the editorial page," is an article written by an individual who is not affiliated with the newspaper or publication. Op-eds are intended to express the writer's viewpoint on a particular topic and they are typically published on the opinion page of a newspaper or magazine. Writing an op-ed can be a powerful way to share your ideas and perspectives with a broader audience, but it can also be challenging. Here are some tips on how to write an effective op-ed:

  1. Choose a topic: Start by selecting a topic that you are passionate about and have some knowledge or experience in. Your op-ed should focus on a specific issue or problem, and it should present a clear argument or point of view.
  2. Research: Once you have chosen your topic, do some research to gather information and evidence to support your argument. This could involve reading articles, reports or other sources of information on the subject.
  3. Write a strong opening: Your opening sentence or paragraph should grab the reader's attention and draw them into your argument. Consider using a shocking statistic, a personal anecdote or a provocative question to pique the reader's interest.
  4. Make a clear argument: Your op-ed should present a clear and compelling argument that is supported by evidence. Use facts, statistics and real-world examples to back up your claims.
  5. Keep it concise: Op-eds are typically around 700-800 words (sometimes less), so it's important to keep your writing concise and to the point. Avoid repeating yourself or going off on tangents.
  6. Use simple language: Write in a way that is easy for readers to understand. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that might confuse the reader.
  7. End with a call to action: Your op-ed should end with a clear call to action that encourages readers to act or think differently about the issue. This could involve urging readers to contact their elected officials, donate to a cause, or make changes in their own lives.

Overall, writing an op-ed requires careful planning, research and writing skills. By following these tips, you can create a compelling and persuasive piece that will engage readers and help to shape public opinion.

2022 Advocacy Year-In-Review: This PDF provides a brief overview of some of the success ACA achieved on behalf of counselors. To read a more detailed document, click here.

ACA Values and Statements: The ACA Code of Ethics guides counselor values and practice.

Advocating as a Counseling Graduate Student: This is a quick guide for any graduate student or new professional to refer to when advocating.

Advocacy Toolkit: The advocacy toolkit provides members resources on how to execute advocacy efforts and take action on a local, state, and federal level. Please continue to check this resource regularly for updates.

Counseling Compact: The Counseling Compact is an occupational licensure compact crafted for the specific occupation of “licensed professional counselors” (LPCs) only and does not cover licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) or psychologists.

Legislative Glossary: This glossary provides short definitions of legislative terms used by the American Counseling Association (ACA) Government Affairs & Public Policy team, Members of Congress, legislators, and counseling advocates while advocating on behalf of the counseling profession.

Medicare Reimbursement: Frequently Asked Questions on the passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Learn more by viewing this video.

Patient/Client Privacy: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided guidance on how federal law and regulations protect client’s medical information, and addresses which private medical information is protected on mobile devices.

Sign-Up For Action Alerts: Your voice matters and needs to be heard in the halls of government. Please sign up to receive updates on ACA Action Alerts, track legislation and find your legislators.

Please refer to this phone script when requesting a meeting with a legislator. Keep in mind the chances are likely the legislator will not have the availability to meet. In this case, you will meet with the legislative assistant in charge of your issue of concern. This is okay, this person understands the legislator’s needs and if your need supports the needs of the legislator and their constituents, the legislative assistant will become an advocate for your issue to the legislator.

------ Phone Script Sample-------

Hello, may I speak with [the legislative assistant in charge of your issue] please?

[If you are transferred to their voicemail]: Hi, my name is [your name] and I am calling to request a meeting with [name of legislator]. I believe they would be interested in hearing about an issue that is important to me and my community.

[If you are speaking directly with the legislature]: Hi, my name is [your name] and I am calling to request a meeting with [name of legislator]. I believe they would be interested in hearing about an issue that is important to me and my community.

I am hoping to discuss [briefly state the issue or topic you want to discuss – If there is a Bill, provide the name of the bill and the Bill Number]. I believe that [name of legislator] could offer valuable insights on how we can work together to address this issue.

Would it be possible to schedule a meeting with [name of legislator] at their earliest convenience? I am available [provide a few dates or times that work for you, and please be flexible, if possible, the legislator’s schedule is tight and may only have one time available. Accept the time offered.].

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Passing a congressional (or state) bill can be a long and complex process, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Introduction: The bill is introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. The member of Congress who introduces the bill becomes its sponsor.
  2. Committee Action: The bill is referred to a relevant committee, where it is analyzed, debated, and amended. The committee may hold hearings to gather input from experts, interest groups and the public.
  3. Floor Action: If the committee approves the bill, it is sent to the full House or Senate for consideration. The bill is debated, and members may propose amendments. If the bill passes one chamber, it goes to the other chamber for consideration.
  4. Conference Committee: If the House and Senate pass different versions of the bill, a conference committee is appointed to reconcile the differences and produce a single version of the bill.
  5. Final Approval: Once both the House and Senate have approved the same version of the bill, it is sent to the President for signature. If the President signs the bill, it becomes law. If the President vetoes the bill, Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.
  6. Implementation: After the bill becomes law, the relevant agencies and departments must implement its provisions.

It's important to note that the process can vary depending on the specific bill and the political climate at the time. Bills can be expedited or delayed depending on the urgency of the issue, and some bills may never make it out of committee or reach the floor for a vote. However, by following these basic steps and working to build support among members of Congress (or your State Legislature), advocates can increase the chances of successfully passing a bill.

Communicating with a legislator can be an effective way to advocate for a cause or express your opinion on a particular issue. Here are some tips on how to effectively communicate with a legislator:

  1. Identify your legislator: Before you communicate with a legislator, you need to know who they are. You can use online resources to find your representative or senator based on your address, or you can call the state capitol to get their contact information. Please review the legislator’s bio on their website, any latest news about legislative actions they’re involved in, and find out if you have anything in common with the legislator that you can share during your meeting.
  2. Be clear and concise: When communicating with a legislator, it's important to be clear and concise. State your position on the issue and provide any relevant information or evidence to support your position. Be respectful and avoid using inflammatory or derogatory language. Your time is short, so take advantage of every second. Be prepared for a meeting that can be as short as 2-3 minutes or as long as 15-30 minutes. Tip: Make the issue about the legislator’s constituents, not yourself. This will demonstrate the impact your advocacy will make on the voters.
  3. Choose the right method: Legislators can be contacted through various methods, including phone calls, letters, emails, and social media. Choose the method that you feel most comfortable with and that is most likely to reach the legislator. In person, phone calls and emails/letters are generally considered the most effective methods of communication.
  4. Be persistent: Don't be discouraged if you don't receive a response right away. Legislators receive a lot of correspondence, so it's possible that your message may get lost in the shuffle. Follow up with a phone call or email to make sure your message was received.
  5. Work with others: If you're part of a group that shares your concerns, consider working together to communicate with the legislator. A group can have more impact than an individual, and it can show the legislator that there is a significant level of support for a particular issue. (See the ACA Guidance on Starting a Coalition)
  6. Thank the legislator: Whether or not the legislator agrees with your position, it's important to thank them for their time and consideration. Showing gratitude can foster a positive relationship and make it more likely that the legislator will consider your position in the future.

By following these tips, you can effectively communicate with a legislator and potentially make a difference on an issue that is important to you. Additionally, this video offers tips to persuade your legislators to take action.

Please refer to this template when writing an e-mail or mailing a letter to your legislator. It is highly recommended that you email the legislator. Mailing letters will cause a delay in the appropriate person in the legislator’s office reviewing your request.

-------- Copy and Paste  -------

Dear [Legislator's Name],

I am writing to express my concern about [insert the issue you're concerned with]. As a constituent of [insert your city or state], I believe that it is important for our elected officials to take action to address this issue.

[Provide some background information about the issue that you're concerned with. Include facts, statistics, or personal experiences that support your position.]

I believe that this issue requires immediate attention from our legislature. I urge you to take action by [insert action you want the legislature to take].

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


[Your Name]

[Mailing Address]

[Phone Number]

[E-Mail Address]

Lift Your Voice in Support of Counseling

ACA members make a big difference in our efforts to advocate for counseling. Legislators pay attention when they hear from their constituents. If they don’t hear from constituents about issues that affect counseling, they may not act on issues that are important to our community. We use VoterVoice to simplify the process for members to contact their representatives on federal and state issues. Review and add your voice to current campaigns, legislation and calls to action; sign up to receive updates; or learn how to contact your local representatives below.

Contact Our Advocacy Team