The following article addresses the lack of counsellors in educational institutions as well as the perils of untrained counselling.
Counselling isn’t a recent concept, nor is it restricted to any particular sphere of life. One may come across counsellors in hospitals, work places, sports complexes and many more fields. With time, the stigma against mental health too has been evaporating appreciably, encouraging more and more people to seek guidance and counselling. However, an area which significantly requires professional counsellors are educational institutions, be it schools or universities.
One’s personality starts developing very early during their childhood. In fact, the most formative years of a person are their childhood. With regard to academic pressure or the need for socialisation in school, every individual responds to their environment differently. Very often, as children, they tend to lack the ability to express their worries to other adults- basically parents and teachers, who may not entirely understand the gravity of their problems. A child requires a safe space to be comfortable and discuss what goes on in his or her life. With schools being the primary environment after their homes, counsellors in schools provide that safe space. It is not just young children but also particularly adolescents who require this outlet for venting their emotions.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had made it mandatory for all schools to have counsellors in faculty. However, a very small percentage of private schools actually follow this mandate. For obvious reasons, the situation in government schools is far worse. What is even more interesting is how, very often, schools appoint teachers in faculty with degrees in sociology to act like counsellors for students. Now, what they fail to recognise are the serious perils that untrained counselling can cause. Therapy or counselling is not an easy process. A counsellor’s job has a large impact on the lives of his or her patients. They may have pure intentions in mind but in practice, untrained counselling can adversely affect the mental health of vulnerable children for the worse.
Especially among adolescents of the current generation, Gen-Z, with growing impact of social media and societal expectations, the need to feel accepted and understood grows stronger. So often teenagers avoid therapy because of several reasons including lack of trust. It is in these situations where the skills of good teachers and counsellors play a vital role. Teachers in schools should be able to recognise and reach out to “troubled” students, allowing them to understand the severe need for counselling. A good counsellor establishes trust and a non-judgemental platform for venting feelings and learning to cope with them.
Moving on from schools, universities and colleges too are in a dire need for trained therapists. Most colleges, particularly government funded like the Delhi University, have student mental health societies at best. These societies work towards knowledge dissemination and often invite professionals for seminars. While the initiative is highly commendable, the lack of chronic professional help may leave the students helpless and hopeless.
While we have made efforts in establishing the seriousness of mental health among students particularly, it is high time we take action to provide spaces for these students to seek help as and when required. As famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, once quoted “in any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” Let us allow ourselves to take that step forward and not look back.
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