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Counseling and leading with creative spirit

by Bethany Bray, Counseling Today    |    July 01, 2015

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Heather Trepal, when asked to describe her close friend, mentor and colleague Thelma Duffey, paints a picture of passion and action. “She is not someone who shies away from things,” says Trepal, an associate professor in the department of counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). “When she does something, she does it 100 percent. … She is a visionary leader. She leads with purpose. She doesn’t just want to talk about ideas, [she wants to] make them happen.”


Duffey, a professor and chair of UTSA’s department of counseling, becomes the American Counseling Association’s 64th president on July 1, succeeding Robert Smith. Her term will run through June 30, 2016.


A counselor educator for more than two decades, Duffey also runs a private practice in San Antonio. She founded an ACA division, the Association for Creativity in Counseling (ACC), in 2004 and remains editor of the division’s journal, the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.


“She’s 24/7. Her passion exists all the time,” Trepal says. “She’s always excited about new things. She invests deeply in the profession and in the things she cares about.”


Duffey’s friends and colleagues describe her as a big thinker and hard worker who is at the same time collaborative, relational and inclusive. Perhaps that boils down to another characteristic that Trepal uses to describe her — genuineness. Duffey is the same person with her students and fellow faculty members as she is with her friends and family, Trepal says.


Above all, Duffey is a devoted mother, daughter and friend, says Marcheta Evans, a past president of ACA and the vice president of academic affairs and dean at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.


“She’s like the yin to my yang,” Evans says with a chuckle. “She helps me see the other sides [of issues and situations] that maybe I need to see. She’s one of the most giving people I know. I know that no matter what’s happening in my life, I can call her. In the good times and the bad times, I can always count on her to be there.”


“You could not ask for anyone better to serve as the ACA president,” Evans continues. “She’s been a blessing to my family and in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for her. She will be a blessing to the association too.”


From classroom to counseling


Duffey began her professional career as a public school teacher in South Texas, first as a classroom and reading teacher to migrant children at a junior high school and later as a high school language teacher of Spanish and French.


In the early 1980s, Duffey took a break from teaching to... continue reading the story HERE.


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