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From the President's Perspective
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This Next Year Is of Utmost Importance to Our Profession

By Judith Bertenthal–Smith, LPC, ALPS
AMHCA President, 2013–2014

AMHCA’s Annual Conference was once again filled with thought-provoking keynotes, cutting-edge practice information, networking opportunities, and a renewed call for advocacy. Despite the Washington, D.C., heat, attendees were able to connect with each other and learn the latest techniques and ideas in the field at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, the beautiful setting for the conference. 

Any successful conference comes about from the hard work of many individuals. It is imperative to acknowledge the exceptional job done by AMHCA’s Conference Planning Committee, the AMHCA staff, the AMHCA board of directors, and the Grassley Group, which handles AMHCA’s conference marketing and logistics. 

The theme—“Resilience, Transformation and Advocacy”—infused the conference.

  • Advocacy

We began with a day on Capitol Hill just before the conference opened. Part of our Leadership Training involved AMHCA chapter leaders meeting with their Senators to urge the inclusion of licensed professional counselors in Medicare and to increase the inroads we have made in TRICARE. 
Jim Finley, AMHCA’s associate executive director and director of public policy, along with Dan Holdinghaus, chair of our Public Policy and Legislation Committee, proved invaluable in organizing the visits to Congress and instructing AMHCA members on how to effectively lobby their Senators. (There will be more to come on this important topic in future communications.) 

We had the largest participation ever in the 2013 Leadership Training, and we urge all chapter leaders to attend in the future.

  • Transformation

The “Transformation” portion of the conference theme was evident in the multitude of keen workshops, in Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s keynote on “The Righteous Mind,” and within our own AMHCA family. (See the article about the conference by Camille A. Clay, EdD, LPC, AMHCA’s North Atlantic Region director.)

One bittersweet aspect of the conference was honoring long-term Executive Director & CEO W. Mark Hamilton, PhD, for his 15-year service to the organization, knowing that it would be his last with us as our CEO, since he is retiring at the end of August.

As I said at the Awards Lunch when we bestowed the first “Mark Hamilton Service to AMHCA Award” on Mark, he guided us through our toddlerhood, childhood, and adolescence as an organization into full-blown adulthood as a credible, professional organization. We thank Mark for his hard work, his tireless mentoring, and his guidance. 

  • Resilience

Resilience was a theme in many of the presentations, but none more so than the keynote given by William Brim, PsyD, from the Center for Deployment Psychology on “The Challenges of Reintegration Following Deployment.” His discussion on the unique challenges and needs of deployed veterans and their families, followed by a moving video about the resilience of these service personnel, was met with a standing ovation. AMHCA is pleased to announce our “Veterans Initiative Task Force,” chaired by Director-at-Large LaMarr Edgerson, PsyD, LMFT, Cht, AMHCA’s director-at-large, and a veteran himself. 

Help Us Remain a Force in Mental Healthcare

This next year is of utmost importance to our profession as we continue our efforts to be able to provide quality, professional service for those with mental health challenges. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) focuses on integration of care. Our profession has always pushed for a more inclusive and holistic approach. AMHCA will advocate ensuring that clinical mental health counselors are included in this integration so that we can be a force in mental healthcare. Our new CEO, Joel Miller, brings significant expertise about the Affordable Care Act and will spearhead our effort.

I feel sure that together we can meet the challenges of a changing landscape. We have a wonderful staff, a tremendous board, and great leadership at the chapter level. However, this is not the time to abdicate our own responsibility. Our legislators need to hear from each and every one of us, particularly about Medicare inclusion. 

Think of a small twig, easily broken, yet when large numbers of twigs are bound together, the stack becomes a force to be reckoned with. Each twig is important in its own right, yet adds strength to the stack. 

Let’s get to work!