Dec. 6, 2018

Counselling Psychologists set direction at recent conference

Practitioners focus on community engagement and needs for future of profession
Counselling Psychologists set direction at recent conference
Counselling Psychologists set direction at recent conference

Counselling Psychologists recognize that their field is at a crossroads, so charting a new course to guide the discipline for years to come was of paramount concern during the recent Canadian Counselling Psychology Conference

More than 150 counselling psychology professionals, students and academics from throughout North America came to the Werklund School of Education to advance methods for building relationships with policy makers, enhance supports for the needs of underrepresented groups and to define the role of Canadian counselling psychology in international advocacy.

“There exists an urgent demand to address the needs of Canadians as delineated in key documents issued by the Mental Health Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” explains Werklund School Assistant Professor and conference organizing committee member Dr. Kaori Wada, PhD. “In addition, with increased government regulation of related disciplines such as psychotherapy and counselling therapy, it becomes necessary to reexamine professional issues such as training, supervision, and accreditation, for the discipline to continue to have a strong voice in the field of psychology and mental health.”

During the three-day forum, seven working groups developed action plans to meet these demands. While some strategies identified are intended to be carried out on an individual level, such as individuals reflecting on ways they can personally take part in reconciliation, others require a communal effort.

“The working group that tackled international advocacy had an intense discussion around the role of counselling psychology in responding to global issues like migration and disaster response, while recognizing the risk of colonization and the need to respect local cultures,” says Werklund School Professor and conference co-chair Dr. José Domene, PhD. “The group then announced the idea of creating The Canadian Institute for Global Issues in Counselling Psychology, with a list of individuals committed to realize this plan.”

Another team explored the importance of placing renewed emphasis on advocacy in all aspects of their craft.

“There is a need for the profession to better integrate a focus on advocacy into our education programs, our professional practice, and our research. This is a core part of our professional identity, but it has received less attention in the past than other aspects of our profession,” says Wada.

Jann Tomaro, a doctoral student at McGill University, valued the attention paid to education and came away with ideas about how she could contribute to the issues identified. “The conference was incredibly influential to my sense of belonging. I was able to get more in touch with the top concerns of our field, the current state of affairs and the direction in which the field is heading.”

These are sentiments echoed by fellow McGill student Ibukunoluwa Adekoya. “Through this conference my personal and profession identity has been strengthened. It has also encouraged me to continue thinking about how I will engage with social justice as a current PhD student and a professional in the future.”
Trinity Western University’s Dr. Derrick Klaassen says he appreciated the deep discussion and community interaction he experienced.  

“We had the opportunity to present our ideas and research, to dialogue with colleagues and students, to form new relationships and deepen pre-existing ones, and to work collaboratively towards worthwhile goals of advocacy for our profession and clients.”  

To ensure members of the discipline stay true to the path established, organizers are assembling a report on the conference recommendations and plan to publish a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy.