Christine Bhat elected president of the American Counseling Association
Christine Suniti Bhat, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education in Ohio University's Patton College of Education, was recently elected to serve as the 73rd president of the American Counseling Association (ACA).
Dr. Bhat, who received her doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision from Ohio University in 2003, will begin her terms as president on July 1, 2024.
“Being the 73rd President of ACA is such an honor, and it is a responsibility that I will honor. Dr. Tom Sweeney, Professor Emeritus, Ohio University, paved the way for me to serve in this role as he was the ACA president in 1980-1981 – the first ACA president from Ohio University. I would be the second. I am grateful to have had outstanding mentors when I was a doctoral student at Ohio University – Dr. Tom Sweeney, Dr. Tom Davis and Dr. Richard Hazler. These professors emphasized the importance of leadership, and this is a legacy that my colleagues and I continue today in the Ohio University Counselor Education program,” Bhat said.
Born in Bengaluru, India, Dr. Bhat has acquired a diverse range of experiences across different environments in India and Australia. Her previous roles include working in the Australian military, counseling agencies, and educational institutions. Additionally, she holds a license as a professional counselor and school counselor in Ohio.
“As a first-generation immigrant to the USA and as an Asian Indian (both firsts for an ACA president), I hope that being elected to this role will inspire other BIPOC counselors and counselor educators to step forward to lead in ACA, and in its divisions and state branches. I believe that mentoring and empowering future counseling leaders is the best way to pay it forward. My focus will be on inviting, training, supporting, and encouraging new and diverse leaders to help ACA and the counseling profession progress domestically and globally,” Bhat said.
Founded in 1952, the ACA is a not-for-profit membership professional organization that serves to grow the counseling profession in various practices settings. As the world’s largest association solely representing professional counselors, its stated mission is to “promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for the profession, and ensure ethical, culturally-inclusive practices that protect those using counseling services.”
During her tenure as president, Dr. Bhat plans on leveraging her leadership experience and utilizing the ACA’s government affairs and public policy resources to continue to dismantle barriers that prevent counselors from serving where they are needed.
“Counselors are needed now more than ever with large numbers of people of all ages struggling with mental health issues related to COVID-19, racism, poverty, and other societal challenges. These challenges are experienced at higher rates in diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged communities. I unequivocally support ACA’s strategic focus on anti-racism and anti-oppression, and on inclusion and justice in training, research, and publications,” Bhat said.
Before joining Ohio University, Dr. Bhat held a tenure-track position as a professor at California State University in Long Beach, California. She has served as the president of both the Ohio Counseling Association and the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW). Currently, Dr. Bhat represents ASGW on the ACA Governing Council, and she has previously served as Treasurer for Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International.
Dr. Bhat’s research, engagement, and outreach interest have been focused on leadership, group counseling, school counseling, cyberbullying prevention, and positive strengths-based counseling interventions for nearly two decades. She has a varied publication record, including recent research published in the “Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling,” “The Journal for Specialists in Group Work,” and the “Journal of Counselor Leadership & Advocacy.”