By LaDonna Macomber, ORCA Past President
Updated by Matt Morscheck, ORCA President,2013
In March, 2013, a nine-member joint Task Force, comprised of board members from the Oregon Counseling Association (ORCA) and the Oregon Mental Health Counselors Association (OMHCA), proposed an integration of the two associations in order to strengthen the position of Professional Counselors in Oregon, politically and otherwise. As a result of the Task Force’s efforts, a new Oregon Counseling Association was born, unifying both associations under a 501(c)(6) IRS tax-exempt trade association. In addition to combining the associations’ members, the integration brought together strategic advantages of each organization: the long-established ORCA name, and the OMHCA 501(c)(6) tax status, which fortified the new association’s ability to engage in political advocacy on behalf of the profession. The structural and organizational changes that reflect this purpose are summarized in the table below.
Ever since the Oregon Counseling Association was first organized in 1947, its purpose was to serve and support Professional Counselors in their work. ORCA was then called the Oregon Personnel and Guidance Association. For a number of years, there were no Divisions. As the organization began to evolve the leadership acknowledged the importance of recognizing the specialty areas within the Counseling Profession. In 1966 the first Division, Oregon School Counselors Association, was chartered by ORCA, and in 1969 the Oregon Employment Counselors Association was chartered as ORCA’s second Division. Later on other Divisions were added, and then subtracted, bringing us to the present with ORCA having two Divisions.
The current Divisions include the Oregon Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (OACES) and Oregon Career Development Association (OCDA).
Currently, the ORCA leadership continues to welcome new ideas for Divisions that meet the changing needs of Oregon Professional Counselors. As the Oregon Counseling Association grew within the state, it was also connected to and influenced by the then APGA, American Personnel and Guidance Association, which later became the American Counseling Association of today. ORCA was officially chartered by OPGA in 1956. The state organization adopted APGA’s Code of Ethics in 1969, and has continued over the years to expect ORCA Members to abide by them as a requirement of membership. ORCA is the official Oregon State chartered Branch of ACA. This means that while we are an autonomous organization, we are officially connected to ACA and our Bylaws are reviewed by and required to be in sync with ACA’s Bylaws.
Because of our charter, ORCA looks to ACA for counsel and direction in business matters. Additionally, ACA sponsors regional meetings of the State Branches in various sites around the country each year. ORCA’s President and President-elect traditionally attend the Western Region Branch Assembly each November, where they participate in conducting ACA regional business. It is at this meeting that State Branches are able to make their wishes known to ACA and a direct connection is made between the states and the national organization. That connection is reinforced when the State Branch Presidents attend the ACA National Conference each spring and participate in both regional and national meetings.
Through this organizational system, your ORCA officers bring back to its members valuable information from other states and from our national leaders. The importance of the above is the linkage Oregon Counseling Association members have to Counselors in other states and nationally by way of this structure. This linkage is then modeled by ORCA within Oregon via its chartered Divisions. The most important focus of ORCA is to bring together Professional Counselors as one strong voice. ORCA, with its Divisions, is the vehicle by which Counselors all over Oregon have come together through the 66 years of its existence, to make an impact on the professional recognition of Counselors in their various work settings, and in the public and political arenas.
ORCA in its early days was the first to provide certification of Oregon Counselors, with the first Certificate awarded in 1958. It was the first organization to monitor and encourage practicing Counselors’ professional development through providing a Code of Ethics for Oregon Counselors to follow. Since 1954 it has presented an educational event offering continuing education to its members and to address professional issues in the field of Counseling as a whole. Today, ORCA's educational events continue to be the only annual opportunity for all Oregon counselors to gather together within a unifying organization to find connection on common purposes and universal counseling concerns.
Through its Divisions, ORCA provides its members with the opportunity to link with other Counselors working within the same specialty areas. Offering membership in at least one Division is an important ORCA member benefit. It allows Counselors the dual prize of being a part of a large and strong entity that seeks to promote the positive image of the Counseling Profession, as well as the opportunity to connect with others on the micro level within the Divisions. Both are needs of Counselors all over the State of Oregon. Both these needs can be met by membership in ORCA.
For Counselors newly emerging into the field, membership in ORCA and its Divisions provides a stable base of common knowledge and support for you in your careers. From my own experience, I know that Counselors do not always stay with one Division for their entire careers, as career needs and directions change. Therefore, it is very important for ORCA to provide several Division options within the overall organization. Belonging to one Professional Counselor Association with movement and flexibility to grow and change within it, makes ORCA a long-term stable resource and support to its members over time.
There is much credit to be given to ORCA’s leadership for its work through the years toward providing a “safe haven” for all Oregon Professional Counselors. This role makes ORCA distinctly interested in the profession’s growth, success and welfare within the State of Oregon. ORCA is a group which truly understands this occupation from the inside out, as only we counselors can truly know and evaluate our own needs. Oregon Counseling Association is an organization by and for Professional Counselors. This is what ORCA was originally created for and what its structure reflects. It is who ORCA is now and has been since the beginning: one unifying voice for all Oregon Professional Counselors.
The Oregon Career Development Association serves career development professionals employed in schools, colleges, rehabilitation agencies, private practice and industry. This division promotes professionalism, recognition and opportunity for those interested in the theory and practice of career development over the life span. Members of OCDA serve the full range of career needs including career exploration, decision making, job search skill, transition, and life planning.
Past Presidents of the Oregon Counseling Association: