Duane France’s association with the NBCC Foundation began in 2014 when he first applied for a military scholarship. Though not selected that year, once the 2015 scholarship period opened, he applied again and was awarded the scholarship. “I would not take no for an answer,” he says, with a chuckle. This was the start of a relationship in which France has volunteered countless hours of his time and numerous resources to the NBCC Foundation.
When asked why he chose the NBCC Foundation from an extensive list of potential organizations, he says the entrance was an opportunity to be a part of an organization that at the time, was one of the few providing support specifically for military-affiliated counselors. When he reflects on the support he received during his time as a scholar, France is grateful for the funds received and holds strong to his belief of encouraging and promoting the opportunity of mentorship and volunteerism.
France believes professional counselors should give back to the profession and industry, and much of his volunteerism stems from his time in the military. He frames this by sharing that “One aspect of military service is mentorship—we develop our subordinates to replace us.” He says he knows few servicemembers who are professional counselors, leaving a small number to carry on mentoring in post-military life. He is transparent about the needs of mentees and recognizes everyone comes into the relationship searching for several different things. “They present with different personal challenges, and veteran counselors can improve in the area of providing support to those new to the profession."
He credits his NBCC Foundation scholarship mentor, Dr. Danette Berksteiner, for his success during his first few years as a counselor and says she especially impressed the need to pass mentorship along. He also stresses the importance of and the need for counselors in the mental health profession by sharing, “People think mentoring is too big a thing. We are not supposed to work harder than our clients, nor are mentors supposed to work harder than their mentees.” However, he believes a motivated mentee with an excellent work ethic will yield a more positive outcome.
France spent 22 years in the U.S. Army and credits his active-duty time in conjunction with clinical expertise as the reason behind his satisfaction with his post-military career. He is cognizant of the trends in mental health, specifically reciprocity and interstate practice, and is currently advocating within the profession as a member of an advisory board for interstate licensure. He has also observed an unexpected effect from the COVID-19 pandemic—the use of telemental health has validated the argument for reciprocity and interstate practice.
His first-hand knowledge has allowed him to passionately advocate for those who are forced to find new mental health providers or travel long distances to maintain their existing counseling relationship because of the pandemic. When asked about other trends in counseling, France notes that from the completion of his program to present, he has also observed an increase in the number of professional counselors in the Veterans Administration in addition to Tricare approval for professional counseling services.
At the end of 2019, France made the intentional decision to implement self-care measures. Recalling a conversation with a peer, he realized he had no less than nine projects he was working on simultaneously. “It is important to have people around who will awaken us to the fact that our plate is too full.” He had three podcasts in development, released one book per year for the past three years, worked in private practice, and volunteered. “Personally, filling up my free time is self-care, especially due to the space left after retirement; if not, those holes can be filled with things that are not beneficial.”
Though he has taken a step back from some commitments, France still has several projects in progress as 2020 ends. His third podcast, “Seeking the Military Suicide Solution,” and resulting book are in development. He is also producing a podcast for the PsychArmor Institute and will continue to consult with the Veterans Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Governor’s Challenge, see clients in private practice, and work in the local community to develop a military/veteran suicide prevention task force.
In addition to the years of volunteer time committed to the Foundation and its scholars and fellows, France has developed and presented a variety of workshops and webinars focusing on veteran’s mental health and has been a sustaining donor to the NBCC Foundation Scholarship Program.
If you are interested in volunteering with the NBCC Foundation as a mentor, volunteer reviewer, or in other capacities, please visit our volunteer page for a list of opportunities or contact us at Foundation@nbcc.org.