The role of a counselor is to facilitate the clients, and support them in coming up with coping strategies. Counseling sessions are provided to a client for a suitable period to bring about a positive outcome or changes. With the increasing number of people requiring counseling and therapy, it has become crucial to have well-trained counselors to do the job.
Only 5 percent of the total counselors in the country have a degree in counseling and psychology while the rest 95 percent are from different background. Therefore, starting this year, counselors are to be trained for 18 months.
Head of Department (HOD) of DCCPE Department at Samtse College of Education, Wangchuk Dorji, said that there was a separate counseling lesson in the college since 2011, and an option was introduce to take it as a part time lesson in 2013.
He said, “There is full time course, while there is also an optional course, where teacher trainees can chose and that course is for one module. Those teachers who take it as optional course will not be certified as counselors. Only those who take the full course are eligible to be certified as counselors.”
The full time course used to be 9-month course, however, now it is extended to 18 months, of which for six months, the counselors will be sent for field practicals to government schools and NGOs, along with supervisors. The course is known as Post Graduate Diploma in Contemplative Counseling and Psychology (PGDCCP). In the course, they were taught on different counseling skills, like building relationship, questioning, skill reflection, paraphrase/ rephrase and many more.
“The enrollment in PGDCCP depends upon the requirement by RCSC. For three consecutive years, 30 teachers have passed out from the college with PGDCCP. And we have people coming to take up the course privately (self-financed),” he added.
There are associated challenges since the students are taking up the course right after completing their high school and without any experience, he said, and further added that they also lack the confidence in giving counseling once they are in the field initially.
An official from National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) said that their staff look after both the case management and counseling, which are two different professional services.
“We are stressing 60 to 70 percent to the case management while the remaining 30 percent to counseling. There are no specialized counseling services in other places, and there is no agent identified who would provide all the specialized services. Therefore, we try to do it ourselves,” he added.
According to NCWC, it does not give counseling as soon as they receive a case because not necessarily everyone will need the counseling, and those who need counseling may not have the will to take up.
“If there is no willingness from the client then no matter what, the counseling won’t be effective. We see if our clients just need basic counseling or if they have to be forwarded to other agencies for further support,” he added.
When it comes to professional counselors, only one session can be conducted in one week and counselors must not exceed more than an hour, however, when put into practice, it takes longer period of time, he said.
Considering manpower and human resources shortage, two sessions are conducted in one week, and having to entertain clients on a daily basis (walk-in) is challenging.
As per the professional practice, once a counselor sets up a goal, the counselor should be given some time to implement the set goal. However, it is impossible for them to monitor their clients 24/7. When anything happens to clients in between, then the blame comes on to the individual counselors, he added.
In addition, he said, “An environment has to be conducive, otherwise it becomes difficult for counselors to implement the goals set by the clients. So we are doing our best in counseling part though we have to do everything at one go.”
A counselor with NCWC, Tashi Dorji, shared that people expect that counseling will have 100 percent impact right after attending the first session of counseling. However, he said, “It does not work that way. Counseling is a lengthy process, whereby, an individual has to go through various sessions depending upon their case.”
Just one session is not recommended for a client, as everything has to go step wise to suit the needs so it can make a greater impact.
“It is challenging for us to gain the full trust from our clients, and it takes a few sessions to convince them on the confidentiality,” he added, and further said that to make counseling more effective, there should be a full support from the community, parents and relevant stakeholders to bring a positive impact.