U.S. Counselors Travel to Russia; Goal is to Learn, Share, Form Professional Bonds Between Nations

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Delegation of American counselors goes to Russia to teach, learn and form international professional bonds

Twelve counselors with specialties in mental health, career counseling and school counseling are leaving today on an intense professional journey to learn more about how counseling is practiced throughout the world. Their destination: Russia.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, interest in counseling and therapy are on the rise in Russia. Russian bookstores offer a broad selection of self-help psychology guides and Russian television even includes shows in which a therapist offers counseling to real patients.

The American Counseling Association (ACA), the world's largest membership association representing professional counselors, continues its initiative to expand international understanding as part of its dedication to professional development of its 43,000 members. Other ACA groups traveled to China in 2005 and a group is forming now that will visit South Africa this fall.

Led by David Kaplan, PhD, chief professional officer of ACA, the group of ACA members will visit schools and counseling centers as well as meet with members of the Russian Psychology Society.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is to learn from our Russian counterparts, share professional techniques and strategies, and form long-lasting relationships,” Kaplan says.

The 10-day trip is part of ACA’s international outreach effort through President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s People to People Ambassador Program. “The People to People Ambassador program was started back in the days of the Cold War, when countries were talking about bombing each other,” Kaplan says. “The thinking behind the program was that if individuals are able to meet face-to-face they might not fight. Today, we live in a global society. ACA recognizes that and wants to learn from counselors around the globe.”

One of the most notable features of present day Russia is a renewed celebration of the wealth of its past and its potential for the future. Throwing off the blanket of communist uniformity, Russia is now a nation of enormous diversity and tremendous vitality.

Kaplan says he remains open-minded about what the group will find. They have been asked to present the U.S. approaches to marriage and family counseling, substance abuse, as well as general counseling strategies and interventions.

“We are honored that People to People has selected ACA to be their exclusive partner in the counseling profession for this outreach program,” said Patricia Arredondo, EdD, ACA president.

The ACA group’s itinerary includes varied mental health service venues, including a counseling center, the Russian Psychology Society, the Bekhterev Psycho Neurological Research Institute and a high school of 800 students in St. Petersburg. At the school, delegates will observe firsthand the school counseling structure that is in place and learn about the approaches and techniques utilized in the Russian education system.

This is the fourth ACA People-to-People trip in the last two years. This fall, ACA Past President Samuel T. Gladding, PhD, will lead the next delegation to South Africa.

The American Counseling Association is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization that is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. Founded in 1952, ACA is the world's largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings. By providing leadership training, publications, continuing education opportunities, and advocacy services to nearly 43,000 members, ACA helps counseling professionals develop their skills and expand their knowledge base.

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Brandt Heatherington
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