Chair's Report 2016, AAPC SE

Regional Chair's Report to AAPC SE 2016 Annual Conference

I’d like to begin by saying I am incredibly hopeful about where we are as a region and

incredibly pleased about the things we’ve accomplished this year. Hopeful, but not naïve. Pleased, but not content. We are Year One into what we expect to be a five-year transition – everything about us right now, think of it as an interim – but at year one, for an organization in a somewhat predictable developmental transition – some might say developmental crisis -- we’re doing really well. We want to tell you about that. We also want tell you what we’re envisioning for the next few years and how you can help.

But before we get to some of those details, I’d like to take a few minutes to frame for you how I see where we are as an organization and what I think the most important question is that you, we, will be answering at the meeting this year.

One of the themes of this conference is Generativity. Remember Erik Erikson?

Now, organizations aren’t people, but I think this is interesting. AAPC is 52 years old – right in that generativity vs. stagnation phase -- and what we’re trying to figure out is: what does it mean to be generative? What will it take for us, at age 52, to bring the gifts of our self, our corporate self, to the world?

Psychologically and theologically, we know that transitions can be anxious and painful times. Between one place and another there’s often a wilderness. And being born again, at least in the story we have on that topic, involves renegotiating our relationship with the community that birthed us.

So, speaking of wilderness and the one that birthed us, Zeke DeLozier, one of the saints in our community, once told this story. “You know how bears do it? When the young bear reaches the age that it’s time for him to separate from his mother, the mother takes him to a tree and tells him to climb it. And then she tells him, ‘Don’t come down until I come back and tell you it’s ok.’ And then she leaves and never comes back. So to become an adult, the young bear has to make a decision to disobey his mother.”

Transitions can involve making some fearful decisions.

Or not.

Because Zeke goes on, “The beauty is that if the bear can’t get brave enough to come down of his own volition, he eventually gets so weak from not eating that he falls out of the tree.”

We might be falling out the tree. Here’s some information about our membership that I want you to see.

First, as of September 30, AAPC has 1477 members, of whom 976 had renewed. In the Southeast, we have 330 members, 222 of whom have renewed.

(A word of explanation to newcomers: the association is organized by regions. There are currently eight. We’re the Southeast Region, and you can see: 20-25% of the membership is in the Southeast.)

In the years 2012-2015 (so this does not include 2016), AAPC experienced a net loss of 719 members. In those 3 years, 516 new people joined AAPC. 27 of these joined through the certification process. 489 joined as members in some other category. So that means that in those 3 years, over 1200 members left the organization. It’s looking like it’ll be another 400 this year. You might call that an exodus.

The average age of AAPC members, including Student Members and Retired Members, is 64. In the Southeast, our average age is 62.5.

Here’s the distribution of our membership by age demographics.

First, association-wide:

Under 40 73

40-49 108

50-59 311

60-69 655

70-79 393

80 & above 120

And now the Southeast:

Under 40 20 (5.4%)

40-49 26 (7.0%)

50-59 67 (18.2%)

60-69 160 (43.4%)

70-79 79 (21.4%)

80 & above 17 (4.6%)

This means we have 46 members under age 50 (12.4%), and 113 are under 60 (30.6%). A lot of us – 70% of us -- in the “generativity” window between ages 40 and 70. And how cool is it that we’ve got 17 members over the age of 80!

The 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s – years 1-25 in our life cycle – these were our Glory Days. 4000-something members? Graduate programs. An amazing body of literature. But in the world post-licensure – 1990 and forward on the calendar – so far anyway, in the post-licensure world, this organization has not adjusted to the learning needs of people coming into the counseling profession. Some of our members have. But the organization has not. And I don’t know why.

Maybe Momma told us not to.

But then last year, the AAPC Board of Directors came to us and said, “Hey, get down out of that tree!”

“This isn’t working. Let’s try something different.”

And “let’s something different” – the short version is: the associational board gave regions the responsibility and freedom to do the work of the association.

Three of the people from that Board are in the room today – Pam Holliman, Kathryn Summers, Renato Santos – and I want to thank you for the work you did and the brave decision you made. In some ways it was not a shock and in some ways it was, but I can tell you, from where I stand, it was the best thing that ever happened to is. You’ve gotten us un-stagnated and moving towards generativity.

I have a friend who’s an Episcopal priest. A few years ago she told me about being at a big Episcopal meeting – actually right here at Kanuga, in this very room – and the big topic was “the church is dying, what are we gonna do?” “We’re in decline, our numbers are dropping, our members are dying out, we’re losing ground,” – lots of worry and anxiety – “we’re dying, what are we gonna do?” And she said, “I wanted to stand up and scream: ‘People! We have a model for this!’”

And we do. We have a model for this. “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

The thing I’m most proud of our region for is that we’ve been using the model: We’re not trying to survive. We’re not trying to save our life. We’ve been asking this one, big question: “Is there anything the world needs that we have the resources to provide?”

The answer, for me, is a great big YES. We have tremendous gifts that the world needs.

And now it’s time for another question, and this is one we need you to answer for us at this meeting: “These gifts we have: Do we want to share them? Are we willing to be generative?”

And when I say share, I mean … you know … actually ... share. Give it away.

Do we want to do that? Do we want to connect our gifts with the world? Do we want to connect with professionals – mostly therapists, but probably some others – who aren’t here yet, who don’t even know about us, but who will resonate with the unique practices of this community?

“Do we want to be generative?” And if the answer is “Yes,” then we probably need to face the demographic truth that the next generation of therapists is not been beating down the door to sit at our feet.

Are we willing to find out why? Are we willing to learn who they are? What their needs are? How to engage them? What language they speak? What models of training and professional formation might work for them? What barriers are we placing in the way that keep them from finding us? And what attachments do we have to any of those barriers that will be hard for us to surrender?

The Executive Committee doesn’t have all the answers to those questions. I don’t have them. But do we want to find out? Do we want to pass this on? Do we want to be generative? And knowing, spiritually, what being generative requires, are we willing to be?

One thing for sure: we have gifts.

We have wisdom.

We have people who know how to get things done: This past year in Tennessee, the state pastoral counseling association got a major change to their licensure law through their legislature.

We’ve got creativity: Ron McDonald, just this Wednesday, received approval from the faculty to begin a D.Min. program in pastoral counseling at Memphis Theological Seminary. Tom Knowles-Bagwell has launched the first cohort in a new masters program at Belmont that will give people the best of the pastoral counseling tradition in a CACREP-accredited degree program.

We have members willing to help: 5 out 6 people who completed SOAR Survey said they’re willing to volunteer.

We have money.

We know how to do great conferences.

We have a secret weapon. His name is David Harris. You’ll meet him in a few minutes, and there seems to be nothing he can’t do.

We’ve got these gifts. But our greatest gift, in my opinion, is: we have a unique and powerful practice. Here’s how I’d name the unique practice of our community. I’m not trying to impose this on you, not trying to make it our tagline, it’s just how I think of it:

We do theologically-grounded, spiritually-integrated psychotherapy.

The phrase “spiritually-integrated psychotherapy” is everywhere – it’s hot -- and some of us are wary of the phrase. But if “spiritually-integrated psychotherapy” means that therapists are paying attention to their clients’ spiritual lives and helping them draw upon spiritual resources, which I think is what it means, then we do that.

But....So do the folks from Division 36 of the American Psychological Association; and the folks from the ASERVIC division of the American Counseling Association. And they do it really well. So if this is all we bring, we’re bringing nothing unique, and the world will be just fine without us.

What we add, and what makes us distinctive, and what I believe is our greatest gift to offer the world, is this: We believe that therapists do spiritually-integrated psychotherapy best by going deep ourselves in a spiritual tradition, deep in a faith tradition, deep in a theological tradition, deep in a wisdom tradition.

In AAPC, we seek to be shaped and formed by spiritual communities and spiritual practices so that our lives and our work become different. We do not impose our beliefs and values and spiritual practices on our clients, but our beliefs and values and spiritual practices affect the way we work. We do not have a creed in AAPC – we are a spiritually and religiously diverse community – but we help each other explore and reflect and grow in how our faith -- in ways that are ethically sound -- how our faith informs our practice.

So again, our greatest gift, our genius, in my opinion: we do theologically-grounded, spiritually-integrated psychotherapy.

For 52 years, the heart of our work has been creating communities where people learn to do psychotherapy in this way. And the question before us today and tomorrow is: do we want to keep doing that? Are we willing to? And how are willing to change to do that?

Do we want to be generative? Do we want to be missional? And you retired people, who may be listening to this and thinking, “I don’t have the energy for all that,” can you bless generativity?

I’ve done some reading and consulting this past year about organizations in transition – what works, what helps, what doesn’t. (One thing I’ve learned is that organizations whose vision and mission are internally focused live as long as the people already on the inside live. Organizations that live beyond the life-span of their current members are externally focused.)

The reading that’s helped me most has been reading the book of Acts and the New Testament Epistles. Talk about an organization in transition, an organization trying to figure out what to do with its gift. And one of the big conversations they were having was whether this good news was for the Jews alone? Or also for the Greeks? We know how that story went – they did become externally focused -- but it was a struggle.

I’ve thought a lot about what it was like to be in that early Christian-Jewish community in Jerusalem. You’re trying to be open to the new thing and you believe that your Jewish identity is still important, and then Peter comes and tells you he had a dream about it being ok to eat animals that aren’t clean, and Paul says you don’t have to be circumcised. And the center of things is moving from Jerusalem to Rome. The transition to generativity is hard.

But one of the beautiful parts of that story, to me, is that the churches on the edge take up an offering for the church in Jerusalem. The transition to generativity is also filled with love and kindness and connection and grace.

I’m counting on that being true for us, too.


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We are a welcoming community of therapists and other professionals grounded in diverse spiritual traditions and communities of faith. Informed by research and science, we offer education, connection, and support for those engaged in vocations of compassion, transformation, and healing.

We invite all healing practitioners – pastoral counselors, psychotherapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, ministers, coaches, physicians, nurses, public health workers, students in training in these professions, and others – to join us in this good work. ​ ~Adopted 2016

© 2016 by AAPC SE REGION