Signature Assignment 2: Advocacy
Counselors understand that an important aspect of a professional, ethical counseling practice is to recognize areas in which advocacy is needed to address forms of injustice that the people we serve may face within society. Further, there are times in which we must advocate for the profession itself so that the role of counselors is understood and respected adequately. Developing a plan for how you will address needs for advocacy is an integral part of developing a professional counseling identity.
To explore your understanding of the different levels and applications of advocacy, including individual client advocacy (called case advocacy in your book), systemic advocacy (called class advocacy in your book), and professional advocacy, you will write a 2-5 page paper using APA 7th edition format, with at least 2 scholarly sources submitted as a blog
Needs and Advocacy Opportunities
*Remember to think realistically about what is attainable based on your own and your populations resources and consider the challenges needed to overcome from multiple stakeholder perspectives.
(Pro-tip: It may be helpful to use the format above as the outline and headers for your paper)
Grounded in ecological theory, clinical mental health counselors recognize that the problems clients face are embedded in an ecological context. Unfortunately, too many persons in our society are subjected to forms of injustice, inequity, and stigmatization. Although counselors encourage clients to take appropriate responsibility for their wellness, they also recognize that barriers inhibiting wellness are sometimes institutionalized. Thus, it is necessary for counselors to work for change not only in the behavior of clients but also in the attitudes and actions of the larger systems.
Advocacy is an indirect approach to helping clients by actively engaging in the process of “arguing or pleading for a cause or proposal” (Lee, 1998, p. 8). Advocacy activities can include lobbying, writing, speaking, petitioning, or politicking (Gladding, 2011). Generally, there are three types of advocacy: case advocacy, class advocacy, and professional advocacy. In case advocacy, counselors represent the interests of the clients they serve. For example, a counselor may confer with school administrators to gain access for a client to specific services available to persons with special needs. Or counselors may advocate on behalf of a young client who, because of her family’s practice of religion, is forced by the school to participate in holiday rituals at school that go against the teachings of her faith. Mental health professionals sometimes work indirectly by intervening at a higher level in the system to bring about client empowerment.
In class advocacy, counselors represent the interests and rights of an entire group. March (1999), for example, documents the inaccurate images of mental illness that are depicted across the mass media and suggests how counselors as advocates can act as agents of social action by calling attention to how these distorted depictions are a source of oppression. In this way, counselors intervene on behalf of clients by being agents of change at the ecological levels of the mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. Advocacy can take place with and on behalf of individuals and their communities (Ratts, 2011). Such efforts often foster sociocultural change to meet the needs of clients and communities (AMHCA, 2015).
The legitimacy of such advocacy efforts by clinical mental health counselors rests on ethical principles that guide professional behavior. The primary ethical principle obligates counselors to respect the worth and dignity of all clients, as mandated by the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA, 2015). This respect is apparent when counselors:
In addition to being directly involved in advocacy efforts, mental health counselors can help consumers of mental health services become advocates for change. The trend in which mental health consumers help themselves as advocates has been termed the quiet revolution (Carling, 1995). A number of consumer mental health advocacy groups exist at the national, state, and local levels. Among these are the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, where the family members of the mentally ill have become sophisticated advocates for change to improve the lives of the mentally ill (Citron, Solomon, & Draine, 1999). The National Mental Health Consumers Association is a network of more than 500 self-help groups that focuses on the protection of human rights, the promotion of consumer-run professionally operated community mental health services, the elimination of stigma and discrimination, and improvement in the responsiveness and accountability of mental health services (Carling, 1995). Indeed, the advocacy efforts of clients have their foundation in the philosophy of recovery in mental illness, which intertwines hope, empowerment, and social connection (Sowbel
& Starnes, 2006).
In order to produce effective advocates on behalf of those served, the profession of mental health counseling must be understood, well received, and respected by both the general public and the other mental health professions. Thus, professional advocacy, or advocacy on behalf of the profession itself, is imperative (Myers, Sweeney, & White, 2002). It can be defined as thoughtful and deliberate actions to inform specific constituencies (e.g., legislators and policymakers, third-party reimbursers, employers, potential consumers, and the general public) about the knowledge, skills, and competencies of mental health counselors and the benefits of their services to individuals, groups, families, organizations, and communities (Sweeney, 2012). The ACA, AMHCA, National
Board for Certified Counselors, and their members have put forth significant advocacy efforts to promote the counseling profession. The fruits of these efforts include the attainment of professional credentialing in all 50 states, increased recognition as mental health service providers by the Veterans’ Administration, and greater parity among mental health service providers.
Advocacy, then, is best viewed as an indirect, multidimensional effort in which mental health counselors seek to promote the well-being of others. The effectiveness of this approach requires a strong, highly respected profession whose voice draws the attention of relevant power holders to the needs and concerns of the mentally ill and other consumers of mental health services. The benefits to the client and the profession are interactive and reciprocal when case, class, and professional advocacy efforts are interconnected and well integrated into professional practice.
Gerig, M. (2017, January 8). Foundations for Clinical Mental Health Counseling: An Introduction to the Profession (3rd ed.). Advocacy (pp. 164-165). Pearson.
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