ACPA’s Influence on Collegiate Mental Health
As part of the celebration of the ACPA – College Student Educators International 90th anniversary, a series of articles was commissioned forDevelopments to discuss the impact of the Association on key areas of student affairs. In this article, I examine the nature and history of the Association’s involvement in collegiate mental health, both in terms of the practice of college counseling and the broader practice of student affairs.
As an organization, ACPA – College Student Educators International was interested in college student mental health from the very beginning. A review of reports from early annual meetings reveals several papers and discussions on “mental hygiene,” student counseling, and diagnosis; for example, a paper from the 1932 Annual Meeting (the 9th) is titled “The relation of mental hygiene to the selection, adjustment, placement, and progress of the student” (Emery, 1932). In that paper, Emery noted that
During the last ten years Mental Hygiene has broadened its aims, scopes and purposes. Formerly it was specially interested in the treatment and prevention of mental disease, mental defect, and delinquency. In the past few years mental hygiene has shifted its emphasis so that now it includes an effort to bring about an optimum of mental adjustment for every individual, and strives to play its part towards bringing about a relative happiness, contentment, satisfaction, success, and efficiency for all (p. 36)
With some leeway allowed for the language of the day, this is a statement that many current university and college counseling staff members would endorse—the ongoing balance of attending to developmental concerns as well as more serious presenting issues.
The first university mental hygiene clinic opened at Princeton University in 1910 and, by the 1930s, several colleges had endorsed this kind of service and were figuring out how best to use it. The Emery (1932) article disseminated information about a variety of current practices, including Yale University’s policy of having the “mental hygienist” meet with all new students. The author notes that this practice did not have impact on admission practices, given that these meetings took place once classes had begun, and therefore was “used primarily to bring those students who need help in contact with the psychiatrist” (p. 39).
ACPA conference proceedings from the 1930s and 1940s reflected active work on mental health issues. In 1933, for example, a working group produced a paper that articulated the “principles, functions, and standards” for personal counseling (Cowdery et al., 1933). McClintock (1936) offered a perspective on the importance of “The religious factor in student counseling.” The 1939 conference proceedings were more extensive than in previous years and featured a collection of four papers under the heading “Diagnosis and Counseling of Students.” In 1940, a paper titled “Diagnosis and counseling: Aspects of student motivation” was presented (Feder, 1940), and a report of a similarly titled 1941 conference roundtable discussion facilitated by Lloyd-Jones stated that “Tests and other mechanical devices are useful….[but] must be interpreted wisely and used with discrimination” (p. 64). It was also noted that “…complete acceptance of the Freudian viewpoint was protested” in the discussion (p. 64).
Mental hygiene, counseling, clinical services, therapy, diagnosis, and guidance appeared to have various meanings in the early part of the 20th century. Functional areas were not as distinct as they are now, and “counseling” referred to academic advising, individual therapy, mentoring, and career counseling—individually as well as collectively. Often the same individuals in the same department would provide these services and more. One could argue, then, that through its members’ active discussion of these varied aspects of mental health, ACPA – College Student Educators International has had a broad impact on collegiate mental health from its earliest years as an organization.
Mental health issues continued to be explored at what were now called the “Annual Conventions of the Association” through the 1950s. Although attention continued to be paid to broad theoretical issues and the development of standards, the convention proceedings began to reflect an interest in specific clinical issues and in the training and supervision of counselors. Additionally, these proceedings indicated the involvement of leaders in the field who were also members of sister organizations, furthering the impact of the work of ACPA – College Student Educators International. For example, the report of a presentation from 1953 titled “Teaching aids for counselor training” noted collaboration with the Counseling Training Committee of Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (Robinson et al., 1953). The ACPA presentation attempted to take the work of Division 17 and build upon it, and the closing sentence reads “The discussion concluded with a suggestion that an ACPA committee might be established to serve as a clearing house for available teaching aids” (p. 13). The 1953 convention also featured Bordin presenting on client expectations, and a demonstration of group therapy (Seeman et al., 1953).
In 1961, ACPA began to implement a new organizational structure. It had been decided that the 1963 convention programming would stem from a series of groups called commissions, each with a particular focus on an area of student personnel work. Commission VII was formed to attend to issues of counseling, testing, and advising. In 1961, then President-elect of ACPA, Melvene Hardee, wrote letters to student affairs professionals asking them to become founding members of the new commissions. In a letter sent to Alyce Graham Pasca of Roosevelt University, Hardee wrote of the importance of the perspective of the functional areas “in higher education in the years ahead” and noted that Pasca would “ably represent” the “national constituency” of this new Commission VII (Hardee, 1961).
Commission VII provided a good opportunity for those interested in college counseling to work together, and early records of the Commission reflect attention to both internal and external matters. That is, Commission VII became a place for college counselors to come together, further their own work, and discover ways to disseminate findings from college counseling to the broader field of student affairs. In the early years of Commission VII, it was reported that members were mostly counseling center directors who explored questions such as “How can counseling centers serve as liaisons between administrators and student activists?” and “Are there roles for counseling center staff besides ‘therapist?’” (Roney, 1986). Tom Magoon was Chair of the Commission in 1965 and linked the Commission to the University of Maryland Data Bank (begun in 1962), which annually surveyed counseling center directors regarding clinical issues, challenges, and achievements in college counseling (Boyd & Kandell, 2011). The Maryland Data Bank remains a rich repository of over 50 years’ worth of data regarding the changes in university and college counseling work.
A note about terminology: Commission VII officially changed its name to the more inclusive and representative “Commission for Counseling and Psychological Services” in 1987. However, “Commission VII” continued to be used by members until the early 2000s when there was an Association push to begin to use titles of the Commissions rather than numbers, as the use of numbers was felt to be less descriptive and less welcoming to newer members of the Association. At that time the acronym “CCAPS” began to be used more frequently to describe the Commission.
As previously mentioned, Commission VII members were often leaders in other professional organizations in addition to ACPA. Individuals such as Tom Magoon, Ursula Delworth, Helen Roehlke, Jack Corazzini, Christine Courtois, and Melba Vasquez, to name just a few, were members and leaders in the first 25 years of Commission VII. The work of Commission VII members provided professional leadership to college counseling center work as well as the broader field of student affairs. A few highlights include:
- The University of Maryland Data Bank and associated Annual Convention Program, “Innovations in Counseling,” which shares innovative ideas, programs, and interventions used at counseling centers around the United States. “Innovations” has been offered at almost all of the ACPA Annual Conventions for the last 50 years, and is often presented to standing-room only audiences.
- Commission members were active in writing position papers and participating in Association discussions regarding disaffiliation from APGA and AACD/ACA.
- Commission VII members were active in the DSM-III-R revision process.
- A 1997 special interest group focusing on counseling centers and the Internet resulted in three important developments: the development of the Commission webpage, coordinated by Jonathan Kandell; a clearinghouse for online psychoeducational self-help material coordinated by Wendy Settle; and a group led by David Gilles-Thomas began work on theCounseling Center Village, which houses a wide range of resources for college counseling professionals and trainees.
- In 2001, CCAPS issued a position paper regarding the provision of online therapy services (Perez & Gaw, 2001). The paper was unanimously endorsed by the Commission Chairs group and was published inDevelopments . To this writer’s knowledge, it was the first effort by a professional association to speak to the ethical challenges of online services, making it an important milestone not only for student affairs but for mental health treatment in general. It is noteworthy that this paper was published in Developments , as this venue allowed non-mental health colleagues to be informed about the concerns regarding online services.
More on these accomplishments and additional information can be found in Lynch’s (2011) history of the Commission, which covers 1986 to 2011.
In the early 1980s, liaison relationships with Commission VII were begun. Relevant sister organizations of ACPA and Commission VII sent liaison representatives to the ACPA Conventions, and Commission VII also sent representatives to those organizations’ conventions to further collaboration and dissemination of knowledge. An incomplete list of past and current liaisons includes the American Association for Counseling and Development; the American College Health Association; the American Counseling Association; the American College Counseling Association; the American Psychological Association’s Division 17; the Society of Counseling Psychology; the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies; the Association for the Coordination of Counseling Centers Clinical Services; the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors; the Center for Collegiate Mental Health; the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance; the International Association of Counseling Services, and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
As may be obvious from the previous paragraphs, ACPA via CCAPS and other entities has been an important contributor to the professional development of generations of student affairs professionals. Convention programming, online and written information, and more recently phone-in discussions and webinars have enhanced the knowledge base of many. Beginning in 1995, continuing education credits for social workers, counselors, and psychologists have been offered for many of these events. Additionally, leadership opportunities in CCAPS have been important early experiences for individuals who have, for example, become the President of the American Psychological Association (Melba Vaquez); the founder and executive director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (Ben Locke); and the President of ACPA – College Student Educators International (Heidi Levine).
The individuals mentioned in the last paragraph were chosen intentionally, as they are people who currently hold the leadership position listed, or have done so recently. As I move into a brief discussion of what the future may hold, it is important to note that many of the previously described accomplishments have current impact on student affairs and will continue to do so. CCAPS’ current and future plans include:
- Continued membership in and collaboration with the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA), a partnership of eight organizations. Recently, HEMHA published Balancing Safety and Support on Campus: A Guide for Campus Teams. This guide provides a road map for campuses that are building and maintaining behavioral intervention teams, and is available for free online.
- Continued collaboration with the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, a research consortium using de-identified student data from over 150 university and college counseling centers. This unprecedented confluence of data has allowed population-level research (in contrast to sample research) that has in turn revealed important insights about collegiate mental health and treatment.
- Continued provision of webinars, allowing ACPA – College Student Educators International and CCAPS expertise to reach national and international audiences, in the comfort of participants’ own campuses.
- Continued response and involvement in national issues of concern, such as serving as a signatory on a School Shooting Position Paper as well as a letter of support for the re-authorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (personal communication, Bershad, 2013).
ACPA – College Student Educators International has been attending to issues of collegiate mental health since its inception. Although the job descriptions, job titles, and content of that focus have changed over the years, it is clear that student mental health is important to ACPA’s membership of student affairs professionals. It is my hope and expectation that the intertwining of college counseling and student affairs will continue for a long time in ACPA – College Student Educators International.
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Center for Archival Collections, MS-319.
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Archival Databank revisited. Retrieved from http://www.myacpa.org/comm/ccaps/maryland_databank.pdf
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About the Author
Susan R. Stock serves as the Director of the Counseling Center at Roosevelt University. She has held many volunteer and leadership roles in ACPA, including the Chair of the Commission for Psychological Services (CCAPS) from 2002-2004. In 2009 she was the recipient of the CCAPS’ Mid-Level Career Achievement Award and is a member of the 2014 class of ACPA Foundation Diamond Honorees.
Please e-mail Inquiries to Susan R. Stock.
The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.