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Dr. Walter Roberts Jr. is a professor emeritus of counselor education at Minnesota State University-Mankato with extensive experience in research and advocacy for crisis prevention and intervention, violence prevention, school safety, mental health, public policy, and legislative efforts to increase counseling services to those in need. He became one of the first ACS-credentialed Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors in Minnesota in 2004.
He has served as chair of the Minnesota Board of Teaching and co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, which resulted in the passage of Minnesota’s Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2014. He was instrumental in establishing professional counseling licensure in Minnesota and has volunteered hundreds of hours providing therapy dog work. He has also been deployed nationwide as a supervisor of disaster mental health responders with the American Red Cross since 2005. Recently he spoke with us about the benefits of the ACS credential for mental health professionals.
Why did you decide to pursue the ACS credential and how has it helped your career?
The ACS was a natural credential to add since supervision was one of my principal duties as a professor in the counselor education program at Minnesota State University-Mankato. I thought it was important as a then-member of a state licensure board to make a statement that a member of the board was doing everything possible to hold themselves accountable in the field of supervision since that specialty area was one that we regulated. I am a firm believer that credentials highlighting one’s profession and expertise are important. Those letters following your name mean something! They say to others that you believe that it’s important to reach for and maintain the higher standards and specialty areas within your profession.
What sort of work have you been doing since you retired?
In addition to continuing professional consultation and presentations, I’m extensively involved with the Missouri-Arkansas region of the American Red Cross and its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program, working with military veterans to build resilience, mental health and other psychoeducational strategies for coping with life after service. That has included working with homeless vets and those incarcerated in the Veterans Behind Bars initiative.
Tell us a little about your work with therapy dogs.
I had been interested in the human-animal bond for years prior to beginning my work with therapy dogs in 2007. While on sabbatical, my wife and I adopted a rescued Golden Retriever, Murphy, specifically for the purpose of training and certifying as a team for therapy dog work. Murphy was certified in 2009. We later adopted another rescue, Prairie, who was certified in 2011. Both had been starved and abused, so their recovery and meeting the standards to become certified therapy dogs served as an example to both children and adults overcoming their own challenges. In 2012, we added a third Golden to the family—Tchoupitoulas Rose (“Choppy” for short), again with the intent to train and utilize her as a therapy dog. All three formed the Golden Horde Therapy Dogs, who went on to serve in virtually every setting imaginable, along with serving as role models in assisting other organizations to create their own therapy dog programs. Murphy and Prairie died in 2019. We were fortunate enough to find a few months later—Minnie and Molly. Currently, we are working with the Missouri-Arkansas region of the American Red Cross to establish an animal visitation program for its SAF and other relevant programs. (For more detail on the work of the Golden Horde Therapy Dogs, please to go www.goldenhordetherapydogs.org/ and to www.facebook.com/MurphytheMagnificent.)
What would you say to others who are considering pursuing the ACS credential?
I think those who supervise future professionals have an ethical responsibility to strive for the highest standards possible. Personally, I can’t imagine a counselor educator, or those who intend to be, without it. Think for a moment about your own professional development if you were being supervised today. Wouldn’t you want to be supervised by a colleague who has both the benefit of the expertise they have learned from professional practice and the added knowledge gleaned from the latest developments in the field? That’s the beauty of the ACS credential.
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