Are you a graduate student looking for ways to enhance your experience in the counseling field? Consider getting involved with a professional organization like the American Counseling Association (ACA)! Professional organizations can help students develop their professional identities, connect with peers and mentors, and create a sense of community. Opportunities for counseling students abound within ACA, and there are numerous ways to grow as a counselor, advocate, scholar, and professional.
With so many options, deciding on the best avenues for involvement and figuring out how to pursue these opportunities may seem daunting. So, here are a few effective ways to get involved as an ACA student member:
- Apply to serve on an ACA committee or task force. Each year ACA announces a call for volunteers, and applicants can self-nominate for committees of interest. These positions are great opportunities to develop relationships and leadership skills.
- Present, attend, or volunteer at the ACA Annual Conference. Graduate students can volunteer at the annual conference and receive a discounted rate, depending on capacity and availability.
- Join an ACA Division (s) or Organizational Affiliate (s) that resonates with your interests. Reach out to the division/affiliate leadership and let them know you are a graduate student or new professional who would like to get involved. These groups send out volunteer recruitment announcements with contact information to guide you.
- Join your Regional and/or State Branch organization. These offer myriad opportunities for committee involvement, advocacy, and conference participation. State branches also have numerous divisions that reflect the diverse interests of their membership.
- Contact your department about joining or forming a team to participate in the Ethics Competition. This annual team writing competition, which includes separate categories for master’s and doctoral students, helps students collaboratively engage with the ACA Code of Ethics while sharpening academic writing and critical thinking skills. You can also participate in the Graduate Student Essay Competition.
- Join an ACA Interest Network. These online communities cover a wide range of topics and help you connect with members with similar interests.
- ACA sends out communications to its membership advising members about opportunities for involvement. Be on the lookout for e-mail blasts, posts on social media, announcements in Counseling Today, and information disseminated by your school or student organization!
There are many ways to become an active ACA student member. Pursuing these opportunities can help students and new professionals develop as individuals and professionals in a diverse and flourishing counseling community.
Madelyn Duffey, M.S., M.A., NCC, LPC-Associate supervised by Christopher Leeth, LPC-Supervisor, is a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has served on the ACA Professional Advocacy Task Force and the ACA Awards Committee and was the Awards Co-Chair for the Sigma Alpha Chi Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota. This year, Madelyn serves on the ACA Graduate Student Committee and as Treasurer for the Sigma Alpha Chi Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota. Madelyn received the 2019-2020 Sigma Alpha Chi Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota Outstanding Entry Level Student Award, the 2020-2021 SACES Outstanding Master's Student Award, and the 2021 TCA Outstanding Graduate Student Award. A Mellon Democratizing Racial Justice Fellow through the Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UTSA, Madelyn teaches Introduction to Women's Studies to undergraduate students, in addition to serving as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Counseling. Madelyn's research interests include intersectional identity development, multicultural counselor education, historical trauma and trauma sites, feminist career counseling, and the mental health impact of political polarization.