Dr. Anna Flores Locke is an assistant professor in mental health counseling and the director of clinical internship and field placement at Nyack College in New York City. She is a licensed professional counselor with more than 13 years of experience as a mental health community counselor and supervisor. Dr. Anna identifies as a multicultural, social justice counselor and advocate for inclusion and acceptance of diversity. She is the president of the Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ) division of the American Counseling Association (ACA), and has been in professional leadership for more than five years. Dr. Anna owns a private practice in New Jersey and prides herself on being able to collaborate and motivate others to be social change agents.
photographer: Andres Valenzuela
The 5 Questions:
1)You are currently serving as president of Counselors for Social Justice. How did you come to be passionate about social justice?
As a child of Puerto Rican parents, I remember hearing stories of racism and experiencing sexism growing up. These early experiences coupled with my Catholic education that emphasized serving others fueled my passion for social justice. During my college years and into my graduate education, this passion continued to thrive. I have this passion because I believe in the human right to live free of any type of harm, including those perpetrated by oppressive systems and ways of thinking. I have an eternal flame that fires up when I witness injustice and I must heed its call to take action.
2)What does it mean to you to be a leader in your current role as president of CSJ, and then more broadly within the counseling profession?
Being a leader as CSJ president means that I make decisions that reflect the division’s mission which is to confront oppressive systems of power and privilege, and to assist in positive change. I do this by ensuring that all board members have a voice in the decision making process and that we have a majority vote. I also value relationship building and have courageous discussions related to oppression within our organization and externally. CSJ prides itself as the “conscience” of the American Counseling Association, and as such my role as leader within the counseling profession is to be the voice that confronts oppressive practices and promote inter-divisional collaboration. So my leadership within the counseling profession has involved connecting with other divisional leaders to promote and support social justice, informing the profession about the role of CSJ, and advocating for continued positive social change. To that end, my presidential goals include: 1.) creating an advocacy training certification, 2.) revitalizing the organization’s mission statement and purpose, and 3.) supporting inter-divisional webinars and conferences that promote social justice.
3)What do you see as the current strengths of the counseling profession? What has got you excited?
The current strengths of the counseling profession are the graduate students. They are passionate about social justice and naturally can advocate. The use of social media to promote social justice and advocacy makes me excited and the counseling profession is at the forefront.
4)What do you see as the current challenges of the counseling profession? What has got you concerned?
The current challenges of the counseling profession involve maintaining unity not only within us but across disciplines, as well. Because of the lack of licensure portability across States, the profession struggles with maintaining a clear and separate identity from other helping professions. What concerns me is the potential for further alienation from other helping professions that denies collaborative efforts for the common good, and instead creates divisions and negative feelings.
5)What are your hopes for the profession as it continues to grow and mature in the next 5/10/20 years?
My hopes for the profession are that it continues to promote a unified identity and purpose. My hope is that social justice will be infused into all aspects of the profession, and that the profession forms strong alliances with other professions to promote social change.