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Pam Ebert
Aug 27, 2012

Social Justice for Appalachia?

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about social justice and how the concept can be applied to our region. According to Chung & Bemak (2012) Social justice can be defined as issues that involve the individual, the family, the community, the wider society, and even the international community. It refers to unfair treatment or inequities that have resulted from racism, sexism, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, religion, ableism and other “isms” all o which affect quality of life.

This definition is particularly pertinent to the northern Appalachians now as the Shale Gas boom revs up and unfair treatment and inequities abound.

The differences between the “haves” and the “have nots” has become more pronounced as people get good or not-so-good deals from the oil and gas industry. As I wrote in my post last week, the natural gas industry does not automatically distribute the same agreements for exploration rights, mineral rights and land usage to everyone. The agreements you make with these companies depend largely on how good your attorney is, if you have access to or can afford an attorney, the deals that your neighbors have made and when you make these agreements.

I am interested not only in the micro aspects of counseling (i.e. clinical issues and my interactions with clients in session) but also the macro view (how can we use our counseling skills to better the world and create communities where the qualities of peoples’ lives are improved and they also have the right to fair treatment and equity.

The way that this works differs a lot from place to place, but in Appalachian Ohio right now, social justice counseling refers to (in my opinion) how we as counselors can help our communities to respond and adjust to the changes that are taking place, either one client at a time or by becoming advocates for our communities and our region.

This week’s post is a bit short, but I want to leave you with some questions for further thought, maybe to be answered individually, as an agency, as a classroom or as a region;

How do you believe the concept of social justice fits in with you as a person and a counselor?

How could social justice tenets be built into your agency, classroom or school setting?

How can social justice impact Appalachia?

As always, feel free to post your comments below, or contact me on Twitter @ebertpam, or by e-mail at

Then again, this is just my opinion, I may be wrong. Have a great week!

Pam Ebert is a counselor in private practice while completing her doctoral work. She has a special interest in both rural and Appalachian cultures and how they pertain to the world of counseling.

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