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The Last Word
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By Tom J. Ferro, LCPC
AMHCA President, 2011–2011

As I get ready to lead a delegation of counselors on a trip to Cuba for AMHCA at the end of May, I am reflecting on my term as president with much pride and amazement. No one could ever have prepared me for the incredible journey I have been on as president of AMHCA. Sometimes we never know where our journey will take us until we get started, but I do know now that the rewards have far surpassed the time and energy that I have expended during my term. 

Assuming the presidency without being able to know for sure what the year would bring reminds me of a time in college when I was working on my master’s in Counseling. A couple of friends of mine were taking care of a quadriplegic artist named Cliff Potts. Cliff had had polio as a young boy and was left paralyzed from the neck down. He had taught himself how to paint using an electric “arm” that he controlled with toggle switches with his tongue. He would position his arm so that he had enough control in his hand to “hold” a paintbrush. Google Cliff; he is an amazing man. 

Well, my friends told me one day that they were leaving town and that they had “volunteered” me to get Cliff up in the morning. I was angry, shocked, and, most of all, scared. I met with Cliff and committed to getting him up four days a week. I confess that I was thinking I was going to be such a big help to this man, and how wonderful of me to do it! Well, as I was “helping” Cliff, he was teaching me about life and how precious it is—how to be positive and love all the opportunities life gives us. I always left Cliff’s house feeling that I got so much more than I gave. I feel the same way about my term as president of AMHCA; I have received so much more than I have given! 

As you probably know, the AMHCA president’s term includes a year as president-elect, a year as president, and a year as past president. At first, as president-elect, I have to admit I felt overwhelmed and a bit shocked at what I had gotten myself into. Our Annual Conference in Boston was on the agenda, and I was responsible as president-elect for leading a team to develop the theme and speakers for the Annual Conference. Thank God for all of AMHCA’s well-seasoned and devoted board members, and for the Grassley Group, all of whom supported me through the process. I am very proud of the fact that the Boston conference was one of the most successful conferences in AMHCA’s history. 

As I moved into my term as president, the challenges continued, as did the great opportunities:

  • We were successful in persuading Congress to put Licensed Mental Health Counselors on the VA’s list of providers.
  • We became very close to getting Medicare coverage; however, with the current political climate, we have come up short. We have another bill still in Congress and we will not give up that fight.
  • Our board, under the leadership of Past President Linda Barclay, PhD, LPCC/S, LICDC, NCC (AMHCA president in 2009–10), has updated our Code of Ethics.
  • We are in the final stages of updating our training standards with the leadership of Stephen Brady, PhD.
  • We have increased our membership to more than 6,000 members—that is an AMHCA record. And we have done this in a very difficult economy!
  • Our student membership has become stronger. At our last conference I was so impressed with the student leadership. They are bright and energetic and very supportive of AMHCA’s mission.
  • We are on Facebook and our FB friends are growing every week.
  • As you read my articles in the Advocate online, you know we have become more “green,” and our website is growing and changing constantly.
  • We have also developed more partners on our website. Psychology Today is one good example of AMHCA partners that will benefit our members and our organization. We will be looking into more online opportunities for our members, such as webinars and educational support to help counselors keep up with our ever-changing profession.

I want to close by thanking AMHCA Executive Director & CEO W. Mark Hamilton, PhD, the AMHCA staff, and our outstanding board members for their support and hard work. I also want to thank all of you AMHCA members for believing in our organization. 

As I write this, I am getting ready to embark on one more AMHCA journey—to Cuba. Click here for information about the trip, including the itinerary. I feel so blessed to be a licensed therapist and so thankful that I have had the honor to serve my association, which works so hard to allow us to do what we do. I will be turning over the president’s gavel to Gray Otis, PhD, LPC, CCMHC, in July. Gray and his team have put together another outstanding AMHCA Annual Conference, this year in San Francisco! I hope to see all of you in the City by the Bay. 

Also if you have ever thought of getting involved with AMHCA or our state chapters, please consider the journey—it is well worth it!