Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September Letter from the President

Reposted from Suncoast Mental Health Counselors Association (SMHCA) 

Greetings, SMHCA members!

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a FMHCA planning retreat in Orlando, which really helped me to organize some of my goals and objectives for 2014-2015 as the incoming President.  Based on feedback I've collected from members of both FMHCA and SMHCA, I've developed a list of seven objectives I have for the upcoming year.  I'd like to share them with you and invite you to be part of the dialogue.  I'd love to hear any ideas, recommendations, suggestions, or criticism that members would like to share as we go forward into what I am confident will be another productive and meaningful year for our chapter.

(1) Expand training and professional development opportunities.  I love working in a profession in which one can never say, "I've learned it all."  SMHCA already offers our members quality continuing education with dynamic, informed presenters.  In addition to the three CEUs offered at every monthly meeting, we have sponsored or co-sponsored a number of special events for continuing eduction, such as the Spring Symposium, the 5th Annual Institute on Counseling the Military, Families, and Children, and the four-hour DSM-5 training we offered at the University of South Florida as a service to students and alumni.  I'd also love to see SMHCA provide live-streaming cyber training and webinars "on demand" for our members who can't travel to our training events. 

(2) Increase, inspire, and invigorate chapter membership.  There is power in numbers.  There are 2,076 LMHCs and an additional 1,991 registered mental health counselor interns in the five counties served by SMHCA.  If even a third of those professionals were members of SMHCA, our membership would expand by 1,200  professionals, and that's not including the unknown number of counseling students in our coverage area!  I'm not just interested in expanding membership; I'd also like to increase membership participation.  I know that our members have creative potential, and I'd like to see that energy in action.

(3) Foster a stronger relationship with the local Veterans Affairs (VA) programs.  LMHCs are the newest behavioral health professionals to be included in the VA's mental health treatment family.  I want to educate the VA on the many benefits of hiring LMHCs and maintain a direct line of communication between the VA hiring personnel and SMHCA members who are interested in joining the VA's workforce.  I also envision a symbiotic referral relationship between the VA and LMHCs in agency and private practice settings.

(4) Increase the public's familiarity with the specialty of clinical mental health counseling.  Understandably, the average client in need of mental health treatment is confused about the difference between LMHCs and other allied therapeutic professionals, such as LCSWs, LMFTs, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychiatric ARNPs.  Frankly speaking, many healthcare professionals know very little about LMHCs, our scope of practice, and how our services play an integral role in the healthcare industry.  I'd love for every LMHC to be able to articulate a reasonable explanation of what LMHCs bring to the table.  Last year, Past President Mary Lutzo and other SMHCA members distributed brochures they designed to facilitate this dialogue, making them available to our membership.  I'd like SMHCA to provide local LMHCs with additional tools to promote our profession.

(5) Promote and expand the Colleague Collaboration program.  Peer supervision and collaboration is a tremendous benefit, especially for our members who work in private practices that can sometimes be very isolating.  It seems as though this opportunity is under-utilized by our membership, and I'd love to see more participation.

(6) Foster a stronger relationship between SMHCA and its state and national affiliates, FMHCA and AMHCA.  The efforts of our state and federal affiliates trickle down to local practitioners.  There are tremendous disparities and threats to our profession that need to be addressed on those levels in order for us to secure our place at the table in the national healthcare industry.  LMHCs should be able to bill Medicare just as LCSWs and psychologists do.  We are dramatically under-represented in the VA system, and many branches of the armed services, such as the U.S. Air Force, hire psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and nurse practitioners as medical officers while excluding licensed professional counselors.  Psychologists have made several unsuccessful attempts to prevent LMHCs from administering tests that measure personality and pathology constructs despite our training in assessment and evaluation.  As FMHCA's "chapter of the year" for two consecutive years, I'd love to see our members take a more active role in FMHCA activities, and I'd love to increase dual membership.

(7) Revise and update chapter By-Laws.  A subcommittee consisting of Mary Lutzo, Past President Misty Fenton, Jay Schrader, and Cristina Gonzalez was formed last spring and has been working hard over the summer to develop a list of recommended changes to our by-laws.  I anticipate that we will be examining their recommendations during our September meeting.

I don'w know about you, but I'm looking forward to SMHCA being named FMHCA's "Chapter of the Year" for the third year running.  Feel free to contact me with your ideas on how to make that happen.  Cheers!


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