The top two national organizations that come to my mind are ASCA (American School Counselor's Association) and ACA (American Counseling Association). Aside from offering insurance benefits these organizations support school counselors with publications and a wealth of online support. Because ASCA is specific to school counseling, I get just a little more excited about it than ACA, but they are both wonderful organizations that offer much needed support. Every time I get the ASCA School Counselor magazine in the mail, I get excited and delve into every part of the publication. Another great perk to membership is the support of the online community. Through the ASCA website is a section called ASCA Scene which is a great professional discussion board.
One thing I learned as a new counselor is that ASCA is actually a more specific section of ACA. I have membership in both and plan to continue that.
Even more close to me is the MSCA or Missouri School Counselor Association. Did you know that the Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program originated in Missouri? That is something I learned in grad school and a fact I am proud to share! :) Norm Gysbers, a professor at the University of Missouri was instrumental in getting the ball rolling with the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program. He and Bragg Stanley, one of my professors from grad school, are huge advocates for school counseling. Possibly because of these connections, the MSCA annual conference is always a BIG event! I have never been to ASCA, but some say that our conference is not that much smaller. (I will have to go to ASCA soon to see if this is the case).
2012 marks the first year I attended MSCA and it was all that I hoped for and more! It was definitely a place for professional development in all aspects of the CGCP (Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Program), but it was also a fun event that included dances, socials, Zumba, 5k run/walk, and plenty of time for collaboration and sharing.
One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I have a strong need to feel like I belong. I find that for me, being a member is great, but I need more. I really enjoy being "in the know". It is for this reason, I also joined the Mid Missouri School Counselor Association. MMSCA falls under the umbrella of MSCA, but at a more local level. Our MMSCA includes Norm Gysbers and Bragg Stanley as members. How awesome is that?!!!!!!
So, how is the smaller MMSCA in comparison to MSCA? What does it offer me? Regional workshops (Guidance System of Support), meetings, and opportunities to become involved in the board of directors. It is my membership in MMSCA that has really helped support me as a counslor. My former practicum instructor is the chair of the recognition committee and asked me to help her out with that this year. This was a great place for a new counselor to start. The time committment was very low, but it afforded me the opportunity to meet other counselors in the area and collaborate with them. By becoming involved in MMSCA, I have felt like a part of the group from the first meeting! I have met many other school counselors and this just makes me feel more comfortable at the MSCA conference. I also have now developed a system of support that I can go to when I need help. I love this!!
Being involved in professional organizations is so much more than something to put on my resume. I know being a counselor is a very demanding job, but in my opinion, the time that I take to network with other professionals is time well spent! What do you think?