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Op-Ed

Counselling in Naga Society: Needs and Challenges

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By EMN Updated: Nov 27, 2014 10:54 pm
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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he concept of ‘Counselling’ in Nagaland is in infancy stage. Therefore there are too many challenges and misconceptions about counselling and counselors. The term ‘Counselling’ is also being used very loosely by various groups of people as many want the title ‘Counselor’. For instance, receptionists in hotels or colleges want themselves to be called as counselors. Giving a brief instruction on values or guidelines to the candidates for admission to a technical or professional course by the Church Personals, Trainers, Managers, etc, is also loosely considered as counselling, using hardly any skills of counselling or with little knowledge about counseling. In the strict sense of ‘Professional Counselling’, getting advice or seeking prayers is not counselling. It is because Professionally Trained Counselors apply the principles/theories and strategies of counselling that addresses the wellness within the parameter of the ethical codes and guidelines of the counselors around the world, whereas the so called ‘Spiritual Counselors’ or ‘Self Style Counselors’ do not follow any of such ethical principles or guidelines. So allow me to share a few personal thoughts on the many needs and challenges of counselling in our society.
Meaning of counselling: Counselling is a type of talking therapy between clients and trained practitioners who work together over a short or a long period of time to help the clients in bringing about effective change or enhance their wellbeing in a confidential and dependable environment. So counselling is working with the people who have psychological difficulties without serious mental issues.
The American Counselors Association ACA (2010) has defined Counselling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”
Types of counselling: There are three different types of Counselling used by the professional counsellors, namely, Individual counselling, Group counselling and Family counselling, though the execution or means can vary.
1. Individual counselling: Individual counselling is a process of purposeful talking between a counselor and an individual which helps the person to gain an understanding about oneself and one’s behaviours and fosters the development of skills to be used in dealing with difficulties associated with personal, academic and social life.
2. Group Counselling: Group counselling, or group therapy as it is sometimes called, is a form of therapy where a small group of clients with similar experiences/issues approaches these issues of personal growth through the use of interpersonal interaction with a professional therapist. The therapist runs the session, but generally everyone contributes in some way, listening to others and talking themselves. It’s usually focused on a particular issue, like: addiction.
3. Family Counselling: Family Counselling looks at the individual in the context of their relationships and social milieu. Family Counselling also known as Couple Therapy or Systemic Family Therapy is a means of intervention that attempts to understand and address human beings’ pain and distress within the context of the family or relationship environment.
The need of counselling: Counseling is universally recognized as a highly specialized profession. With the change of time, the professionalism in counseling is rapidly growing. The need for professional counselling service is greater than ever due to the increasing complexities of modern day living with emotional stresses, additional workloads, stiff competitions, family problems, child abuse, peer pressures, easy exposure to social media, degradation of moral values, substance abuse and sexual abuse, to mention a few.
I do see the need of many trained counselors in our state. It is because of the gap created due to easy access and utilization of the modern gadgets and means of social communication by the younger generations, of which the older and wiser people in our villages are fully ignorant about. It is also because in the lives of the present youngsters, the rich traditional cultures and the values of our forefathers such as sincerity and honesty are being substituted with the newly invented things and ideas such as internet, mobile, face-book, pornography, gun culture, substance abuse, easy money, pleasure loving, and easy going culture etc. The very advancement of science and technology is being misused for adverse purposes and thus harming ourselves in many ways.
The challenges of Counselling in our society: While speaking about the proper counselling sessions, the clients open their entire life’s story or give their lives into hands of the counselors to be molded or shaped from the sessions. And if the counselors try to help the counselee without proper knowledge, they can be misled or make them feel much more burdensome and miserable. This is why in the developed countries Mental Health Practitioners need to get license to practice their profession. But in our state at present, there are only a handful of properly trained counselors, practicing this profession. Hence, most of our educational institutions are yet to have a trained counselor to help the people in trouble.
More alarming and disturbing fact about our society is that, the Posts of the counselors are filled by way of political appointments of people who are untrained. I have a word of caution to those who give these appointments and to those who pressurize for such appointments: i.e. to help a family monetarily is good but depriving those who need Mental Health Professionals’ help due to political appointments of non-professional counselors is unjustifiable and fatally harmful to the clients. Those who give or pressurize for such appointments will have to pay heavily or can be defenseless before the law in the event of any eventuality.
Another big challenge I see in our society is that, most of our people want quick-fix solutions to every problem in life. Many think that going just once to a counselor should solve all their problems which have been there for many years but working with the counselors takes time. Also there is a very strong tendency to take the patients to the Prayer Centers for fasting and prayer instead administering proper medication in time. All of us need God’s touch to get heal but taking the patients to the prayer centers delays the seeking of proper medication which usually worsens the conditions of the patients. When the patient’s condition become too critical, the sick persons suffer and even the medical practitioners struggle more. Here, we, the church leaders, may need to educate and instruct our people that God uses those experts to heal us instead of telling them to fast and pray alone. Besides, we consider all those who see some illusions and have hallucinations as possessed by some ‘bad spirits’ or ‘evil spirits’ even if the patient is experiencing suffering due to the result of some physical or mental sicknesses.
Everyone is born with tremendous potentialities. But these qualities have been blocked and obscured become in many people’s life as the result of the accumulated strained experiences of fear, hurt, loss, pain, anger, embarrassment, etc. So the basic purpose of counselling is to help the people in trouble to use their existing problem-solving skills more effectively or develop new and better coping skills and find solution to their problems.

Rev. Fr. George Rino
All Nagaland Counselors Association
(Catholic Cathedral, Kohima)

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By EMN Updated: Nov 27, 2014 10:54:38 pm