The ACA conference: What it’s like & why you should go

ACAorlandoI’ve noticed that there aren’t too many reviews of the ACA Conference out there.  Pretty much everything you find on the web comes directly from the ACA itself and probably most people would like to hear about it from another counselor.  Well, you’re in luck!  Just keep in mind that this review is in regards to the 2015 conference that took place in Orlando.  I can’t speak for past or future conferences.

For me, the big draw was the continuing education credits.  In Massachusetts, more than half of our CEs need to be “live” (i.e. not from the web).  With 17 live CEs, the conference accomplished that goal.  Sure you can attend in-person seminars in your home city, but since I’m in private practice, I find it’s too disruptive to my business to do a bunch of little seminars here and there and take all that time off from work.  For me, it’s easier to just take a week off, get all my live CEs at once, and combine it with a vacation.  That was the major draw for me of going to the conference.

Okay, practical considerations aside, the conference was also really cool.  We therapists spend so much time in isolation that it was almost a surreal experience to be surrounded by thousands of other therapists.  Sometimes when you go to a large conference, convention, event, you find that people are really rude and crabby.  I was afraid that that would happen, especially when we all lined up to get the free lunches.  But actually, everyone was really great.  I didn’t encounter a single negative person.  Everyone was in very good spirits.

Speaking of the people you’ll meet…. I got to attend seminars led by the leaders in our field.  The speakers were very distinguished and honestly it was an honor to be in the presence of such amazing people.  Remember those people you learned about in graduate school?  Well, a lot of them were there giving the education sessions.  There were also raising stars in the field as well as the usual ACA favorites.  And not only did I get to attend seminars being taught by amazing people, there were also amazing people sitting in the audience with me.  You know that favorite therapist blogger of yours?  Odds are good that they were there too.  I met a lot of them and I have to say that yes, they are all really nice in real life.

There was also an expo hall that had lots of freebies as well as therapeutic tools that you could buy.  As you know, therapy books, games, and other stuff is usually really expensive. However, at the conference it was all discounted so it’s also an opportunity to get some good deals.

So, why should you go?  Well, you’ll easily get 17 CEs taught by the best people in the country.  You’ll also meet a lot of cool people.  Lastly, it’s a great experience.  The ACA does a lot of pomp and showmanship.  It really feels like a celebration of counselors, which is not something we usually get to experience.

Now, it wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t talk about the negatives.  The conference is big and I didn’t feel like the ACA did a good job of letting people know about some of the big events going on.  I met a lot of counselors that didn’t know that there were parties and receptions being held and who also thought that the “waiting list status only” seminars meant that you had to register ahead of time to attend them.  I think it would have been great if they included a list of “highlights” for each day.  A sort of “not to be missed” list.  Or if they made announcements or something.  Also, I would have liked vegan options in the free lunch.

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My name is Marina Williams and I am a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in Jamaica Plain, MA. This website is my professional website devoted to my activities as a therapist. If you are interested in finding out more about my private practice, please visit my other website


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