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The President's Say
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By Tom Ferro, LCPC
AMHCA President, 2010–11

My term as president of AMHCA is more than half over, and I recently finished my last official AMHCA board meeting at our national office for two intense yet exciting days. I think you’ll be interested in some of the upcoming activities discussed by the board.

If you have been following our website or AMHCA’s Facebook, you know that ourtrip to Cuba is confirmed in May. I don’t think it has sunk in yet that I am actually going to Cuba with other AMHCA mental health professionals and exploring Cuba’s mental health and the culture of Havana! I plan to keep you all informed about the trip through Facebook. Speaking of which, if you haven’t signed up yet, check it out. Following AMHCA on Facebook has been a wonderful way to keep in touch with other AMHCA members and friends. 

We are counting down the weeks to our Annual Conference in July, having confirmed all our fabulous speakers and presenters for our San Francisco gathering. We are really excited that we’ll have two keynote addresses, one to start each day, given by Scott Miller, PhD (on achieving clinical excellence), and Rick Hanson, PhD (on self-directed neuroplasticity). In anticipation of the conference, I have been reading Rick Hanson’s book, “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” and have started using some of his techniques in my therapy sessions with some amazing results. The men in my anger-management group have really picked up on some of the techniques as they apply to managing emotions. 

President-Elect Gray Otis, PhD, LPC, CCMHC, chair of AMHCA’s Conference Planning Committee, and his team have done a fantastic job putting together our conference. We are especially excited that it is in California since we will be celebrating the state’s big win in getting mental health counselor licensure passed last year. California also has an active AMHCA chapter; check it out at .

Gray Otis presented the final draft of the AMHCA Diplomate Specialist Program for mental health counseling, which should be available later this year. Gray and his team have worked very hard over the last couple of years to put together this Diplomate program, and it should offer a great opportunity for those of us who want acknowl-edgment of our specialties. Keep checking our website for further information. 

AMHCA Past President Linda Barclay, PhD, LPCC–S, LICDC, NCC, presented on AMHCA’s professional standards. AMHCA’s Professional Development Committee is making great gains developing professional standards that we can aspire to so that we can keep our license strong and viable. More on the AMHCA professional standards in the months to come.

We welcomed to our board our newest two members. Keith Mobely, PhD, LPC, NCC, ACS, AMHCA’s new Southern Region director, wasted no time in stepping in and getting involved in the meeting and in our board activities. Hopefully all of you (or should I say, “you all”!) in the Southern Region will get to know Keith and continue to strengthen our Southern Region. Our new treasurer, Gale Macke from Georgia, has hit the road running, and if any of you know Gale, she goes 110 miles an hour and is going to do a great job helping us keep financially strong. 

And finally, our Executive Director & CEO W. Mark Hamilton, PhD, continues to do an incredible job orchestrating AMHCA. I have seen firsthand Mark’s ability to bring in topnotch consultants—such as auditors, lawyers, marketing agencies, and financial brokers—to make AMHCA the very best professional organization it can be. Mark shared at the board meeting that AMHCA is 6,000 members strong and building every day.

The Tragedy in Japan Was a Frequent Topic of Discussion Among AMHCA Board Members

While we are going through our daily lives and trying to run our professional and personal business, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention tragedies in our world, especially the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. It was a frequent topic of discussion among us board members during our time together at dinner and during breaks. Watching the videos of the devastation on the news channels was heartbreaking. I hope everyone has an opportunity to donate to the charity of your choice to help our fellow Japanese recover from their trauma and loss. 

I believe we can all learn such valuable lessons from the Japanese as they show the whole world how they recover from this horrendous tragedy. I have already heard a couple of amazing recovery stories. One I saw on the news was about an elderly Japanese couple who were starting to clean up the rubble of their home. They explained to the interviewer that they badly wanted to clean up and fix their home … so they could go out to help others. Such humble empathy! Another story that continues to emerge is that there has been no looting, no need for a night curfew, no police needed to fight off vandals. This is another example of how the Japanese people are so selfless in a time of tragedy.

For the reaction to the events in Japan by an AMHCA member who lived there for three years until last August, see the article in this issue.

Our keynote speaker Rick Hanson, in his free weekly newsletter, Just One Thing, wrote following the tsunami on fragility. In fact, the subject line of the email was “Embrace Fragility”! He relates what is going on around us in our world to our personal, everyday fragility. As mental health counselors, we see this every day with our clients. Death of a loved one, divorce, sudden loss of a job in a difficult economy, the cancer of a loved one, and the unpredictability of nature. So how do we “embrace fragility”? Rick Hanson suggest simply being mindful of fragility, both actual and potential. 

I think we would all benefit by being at peace with our humanness. My wife and I have lost four wonderful friends to cancer this year, and my wife is a grief specialist for a hospice house. We have become acutely aware of how fragile our lives are and have really paid close attention to being in the moment with each other, our friends, and our family. How fortunate we are to be in the careers we have; how fortunate we are to have our health, friends, and family. Yet we know that at any time we could be facing tragedy and heartbreak. So as Dr. Hanson so eloquently states, we choose to “embrace fragility.”