Strength, Solidarity, Strategy and Sustainability: A Counseling Psychologist’s Guide to Social Action

Rebecca L. Toporek


The roles of counseling psychologists vary by setting, population, and circumstances. Yet, social justice can be a unifying force beyond the boundaries of daily responsibilities. No matter how insightful or profound counseling psychology theories or practice are, if they are focused on individual change alone, they will never sufficiently address injustice. Injustice and the inadequacy of traditional, individually focused paradigms present tensions between counseling psychologists’ work to help individuals cope with life’s challenges and inadvertent (or intentional) support of systems that perpetuate oppression. This paper explores this dichotomy, avenues for moving to action, and personal sustainability in the face of professional fatigue. Experiences as a counselor and counseling psychologist, as well as research, shape the way I see advocacy and activism and have given rise to strategies I have found helpful. A resulting framework for developing a “personal social action plan” is represented by four pillars: Strength, Solidarity, Strategy and Sustainability (S-Quad). National and local challenges across the globe reflect enormous differences in contexts, needs, politics, and resources. Yet, sharing strategies for social action, activism, and advocacy can provide seeds for optimism and action toward justice and positive change.


advocacy; counseling; social action; solidarity; strategy; sustainability; social justice