Engaging in Advocacy
I must confess I was wary of advocacy when I first heard about it. Coming from an initial religious orientation, I thought of advocacy as a bit like evangelism, with which I was uncomfortable. Indeed, in both evangelism and advocacy there is an outside emphasis. However, in advocacy there is a prosocial attempt to help clients and the counseling profession move forward rather than convert someone along a narrow theological line (see also Figure 10.3). Advocacy has to do with social justice in regard to clients. It also has to do with providing needed services when connected with the counseling profession itself. Counseling and counselors actually provide more mental health services to the American public than any other mental health profession. That is why it is important to advocate for the counseling profession and professional counselors.
There is a skill to advocacy that at first may not seem apparent. I have twice been to the advocacy educational sessions sponsored by the American Counseling Association in Alexandria, Virginia. The first time, I mainly absorbed how Congress and the legislative process work. The second time, I became much more aware of the need not just to educate myself on how bills become laws, but also to realize that good laws start with solid knowledge and that, in the helping profession of counseling, I could supply some of that knowledge to my elected officials. I could also help craft and raise topics that needed to be addressed. Furthermore, I could be a voice for the less fortunate. That awareness made me feel calm and able to approach local, state, regional, and national elected officials with greater ease and more clarity. Going to the D.C. area for advocacy training and walking the halls of Congress made me more energetic and dedicated to helping those without a voice. It also made me look more closely at the profession of counseling and try to figure out what was needed most in serving clients both locally and nationally.
Advocacy can take many forms. It can involve activities such as writing letters, sending emails, making phone calls, and even "tweeting” or posting messages on other social media platforms. Thus, one need not be in the foreground of a group to be an advocate. Rather, you can be in the background as far as recognition goes. The important thing is to not sit quietly
by when there is an issue that needs to be addressed in an articulate and professional way.