RE-INTRODUCING THE ROUND TABLE CONCEPT
The International Association for Counselling (IAC) was born as the International Round Table for the Advancement of Counselling (IRTAC) in 1966. The concept of a round table for counselling was the brainchild of IAC’s legendary founder and visionary Hans Hoxter. Hoxter had started working in favour of counselling as a force for peace and human wellbeing in the immediate aftermath of the second world war and when IRTAC was founded it gave a voice to all those counsellors and associations around the world who needed to meet, share and discuss with international colleagues.
The IAC round table concept presents us with scenarios where all counsellors and counselling associations irrespective of any kind of difference have equal opportunities to present, explain, understand and be heard and be understood. It is very important to underline that IAC is not interested in becoming a heavy dominator of counselling politics around the world. IAC is interested in becoming a vehicle for understanding, solidarity and opportunities for counsellors and their associations. During the Victoria, Canada conference, the IAC council was presented with a plan to introduce several round tables for professionals to come together and belong to. The first batch of these include an Associations' Round Table, an Ethics Round Table, A Students and Young Counsellors Round Table, a Practitioners’ Roundtable and an International Research Round Table.
The Associations' Round Table should provide opportunities for the leaders of associations to meet physically during IAC conferences to discuss and share issues that can be similar or different to each other. This round table is also invited to come up with ideas of how the equal geographical representation of counsellors and counselling associations can be achieved. It should also provide opportunities for the stronger and richer associations to support the developing, younger and smaller associations.
The Ethics Round Table should be made up by professionals, academics and students who are interested in understanding different ethical issues and dilemmas and how these are tackled in ways that make sense within particular international contexts. It should thus provide for opportunities to explore differences and similarities in what constitutes good practice in different contexts and should include windows for academic and professional exchanges within different contexts.
The Students and New Counsellors’ Round Table should be an energetic and dynamic space for all young and youngish counsellors around the world. The profession’s future and wellbeing belongs to them. This round table should become an incubator of ideas, change and solidarity and should reach out to all those counsellors who find it difficult to assert themselves. It should also ideally be the roundtable which helps IAC to rejuvenate itself and come to terms with new technologies to better communicate its messages and policies.
The Practitioners’ Round Table needs to be the natural home for practicing counsellors who can learn and share the different experiences, approaches and standards adopted in different settings and countries. Too many times the counselling debate has been dominated by academics and researchers and this round table can be the repository of practitioners’ experiences and field knowledge. The round table could also serve to create international awareness on the practitioner and help counsellors in different contexts to unite and strive for better standards and work conditions.
The Research Round Table substitutes the annual International Research Seminar held traditionally during an IAC conference. This round table gives the opportunity to counselling researchers and students to explore and research issues around counselling but particularly transcultural, contextual and social justice issues. This round table should attract top counselling researchers as well as budding researchers and students.
Through the launching of these initial five round tables we hope that counsellors can find their ‘place’ within IAC to which they can belong to and work within. The success of the round table concept depends on participation and through this article I would like to invite all counsellors to make IAC their natural home not just by becoming members but also by working within a round table according to one’s expertise of interest. Doing so will help IAC become the dynamic and courageous association we all aspire it becomes, a valuable present to celebrate its fiftieth birthday next year.
Dr Dione Mifsud
President of IAC