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ACA's Response to Senator Sasse's Graduation Remarks

May 19, 2020
The American Counseling Association releases an official response to Senator Ben Sasse's graduation remarks about the mental health profession.

Following is an official letter from Richard Yep, chief executive officer of the American Counseling Association, in response to remarks made by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse during an online graduation speech:

"On behalf of the 53,000 members of the American Counseling Association, I wanted to provide information regarding the thousands of mental health professionals who have been working to address the impact of COVID-19 on millions of Americans. There is a clear impact from the pandemic resulting in social isolation, domestic abuse, PTSD of frontline healthcare workers, and the trauma brought on by a lack of food, shelter, and job security.

We understand that in your commencement address to Fremont High School that some of your remarks were shared as jokes to the graduating class. While we understand the need to inject humor in speeches, we did want to bring to your attention the excellent work of all mental health professionals in the state of Nebraska—where 88 of the 93 counties are designated mental health shortage areas by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. In addition to the work that professional counselors do in urban areas of the state, we also provide services in rural areas where the most significant shortages exist.

Licensed Professional Counselors have a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, with a number holding doctoral degrees. In addition to their academic preparation, licensed professional counselors must attain thousands of hours of service before earning their license from the state. Licensed Professional Counselors work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, and senior citizens. These dedicated individuals do their work within private practice settings, community agencies, hospitals, schools, universities, and most recently, of course, via telebehavioral health platforms so that their clients can continue to receive services.

Prior to entering graduate school to earn their advanced degrees in counseling, many of our members earned their bachelor’s degree in psychology. It is for that reason that we wanted to make sure that while we understand that your remarks about avoiding a degree in psychology may have been made in jest, that a person such as yourself holding such a high office in government could be misunderstood by those in your audience. Our hope is that you understand and appreciate the critical work by the mental health profession, especially licensed professional counselors.

Should you or your staff wish to obtain more information about the preparation of professional counselors, their work settings, or what they currently are doing for the people of Nebraska, we hope you will reach out to us. For more information, please contact Dr. Lynn Linde, ACA Chief Knowledge and Learning Officer at 703-823-9800, ext. 324."

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