How 9/11 Changed a Profession

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This week there is a great deal of introspection occurring about the events of 9/11/01. Some retellings and analyses are meant to be helpful and cathartic while others may be presented to us with underlying agendas. The counseling profession itself examines A Day That Changed a Nation and a Profession in an article by Lynn Shallcross in the September 2011 issue of Counseling Today, the official publication of the American Counseling Association.

Shallcross interviews different counselors and these voices depict messages worth remembering. Lennis Echterling is a professor of counseling at James Madison University who served as an American Red Cross volunteer at the Pentagon. He said:

“One Pentagon staff member shared that this incident was far worse than his tours of duty as a Marine in Vietnam. In Vietnam, all his comrades were trained warriors who knew they were going to be in harm’s way. He went on to say that, as horrible as it was, Vietnam was fought in the jungles on the other side of the world. The 9/11 attack was so much worse because it was here in our home and so many of his friends and colleagues, including his secretary, were killed.”

Daniel Weigel is an associate professor of counseling at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. About six weeks after the attacks he came to New York to serve as an American Red Cross disaster mental health volunteer. He said that impact of 9/11 still lingers:

“Most clients are at least indirectly affected by 9/11 and the changes it has caused in the lives of Americans, even though 10 years have passed. It is one of those unimaginable societal moments that has changed things and continues to change things that Americans had taken for granted before the tragedy.”

Weigel believes it is important to get back to the basis of counseling: listening, empathy, and offering support: “I can’t help but go back to the importance of the generalist model of counselor training and quintessential basic counseling skills that are often brushed over in the fast-paced nature of contemporary mental health care. I believe it is the foundational counseling skills that will prove mot helpful: most importantly, the basic counseling relationship-building skills and the non-agenda-driven focus of the wellness model of counseling. How can counselors help? By listening.”

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