March 1, 2012
As ACA celebrates its 60th year as an organization, a variety of leaders do their best to peer into the future and predict the direction counseling will take in the next decade
The future might be anyone’s guess, but David Pearce Snyder has spent his career making calculated predictions about what looms ahead. Snyder, a Bethesda, Md.-based consulting futurist who says he consults on the long-term future of anyone and anything, has a few ideas about what’s in store for the counseling profession throughout the next decade.
Snyder, who is also a contributing editor to The Futurist, the bimonthly magazine of the World Future Society, predicts that by 2020, everyone will be chatting with — not just through — their computers. The significance for counselors, he says, is that computers will be loaded with software enabling the machines to answer their owners’ questions — including questions that people today often go to see a counselor to discuss.
Instead of a live counselor being the first stop for someone with mental health, career, relationship or other issues, Snyder believes that person will initially ask the personal avatar “counselor” on his or her computer for feedback and advice. The personal avatar counselor will be stocked full of good health information, so it will offer constructive and helpful advice, according to Snyder. If the artificial counselor assesses that the person has a problem beyond the scope of assistance the computer can offer, it will recommend that the person see a real counselor. “The artificial counselor becomes the first line of defense,” Snyder says.
On the surface, that prediction sounds disturbing, as if advancing technology might threaten to make the counseling profession obsolete. But Snyder contends that artificial counselors will become crucial to the profession because there simply won’t be enough human counselors to meet the growing demand as the world becomes more complex and everyday life is filled with increasingly challenging problems and decisions. “More people will need help in making decisions about their lives,” he says. “Therefore, I believe the function of counseling will become increasingly important.”