As I reflect on the reasons why I have decided to take on the challenge of becoming a counselor and counselor educator, a number of reasons come to mind, particularly around the importance of social justice and advocacy. While my reasons for becoming an advocate are varied, I recognize as I reflect that a salient theme among all of them is that I seek to advocate to improve the wellbeing of people and to help improve the communities in which they live. Here I talk about some factors that influenced my personal pursuit of social justice and advocacy.
A Commitment to Individual and Systemic Change
One of the reasons I have taken on the challenge of becoming an advocate is to work to create both personal and systemic change in individuals and the communities in which they live. Given both my experience in belonging to minority groups as well as my personal understanding of the meaning of advocacy, my pursuit of advocacy is personal as well as professional. Having developed my understanding of advocacy through both personal and professional experience, I view advocacy as much more than a professional expectation, but as a sincere commitment to supporting and advocating on the behalf of those who are less able to do so for themselves.
An Appreciation for Cross-Cultural Contact and Relationships
My upbringing is also a main factor, as I lived in numerous states across the United States before the age of fourteen. As I think about my experiences, I recall the wide variety of individuals I met and had contact with. I lived in a spectrum of varied communities, ranging from rural to urban, and the people I encountered were as diverse as the unique regions I lived in. I met and befriended individuals who had different cultures, norms, values, and beliefs than my own, and through these experiences, I gained an understanding of the power of creating meaningful relationships with those I differ from and the importance of advocating for the equity of humankind.
Generational Stories of the “Fight” for Social Justice
Given that I am a member of more than one minority group, social justice and its principles have been communicated to me as important notions from an early age from my parents and my grandparents. Through poignant stories and moving recollections, I learned a lot from my parents and my grandparents about the human rights violations they experienced growing up in the South before and after the Civil Rights movement as Black children in a racist South. This early disillusionment of my naive and exploitable view of the world unquestionably contributed to an early awareness of the potential for human rights to be taken away.
Although my understanding of social justice and advocacy has been strengthened and expanded through my education, the greatest impact on my understanding and beliefs about social justice and advocacy has been my personal experience combined with the personal stories that have been shared with me about the lived experiences of inequity and injustice.
Amber M. Samuels is a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University working toward a PhD in Counseling and a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) in the District of Columbia. She is board-certified as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is an MBTI® Certified Practitioner. Amber takes an intersectional approach to counseling and utilizes an integrative theoretical orientation to guide her in helping the individuals she works with move toward optimum mental health. Her research centers around using research as a tool for advocacy and as a way to inform culturally sensitive clinical practice. You can learn more about Amber at https://www.linkedin.com/in/itsambersamuels/