By Awaisha Inayat
“Miss, if you can understand what I say and go through you can really do everything in this world” said one of my teenage student coming for counseling. This response was overwhelming for me yet very satisfying that by the Grace of Allah I was able to do the job exactly in a way I am supposed to do. With this encouragement, I moved on with work for rest of the day.
Counseling in an educational setup in Pakistan is nonetheless a remarkable step taken by educational management realizing the needs and the constructive results it brings for the welfare of students. However, working as a counselor is yet another challenge for the counselors largely because of the faulty attitudes associated with counseling in our society.
Firstly, the nature of counseling relationship is inaccurate. Majority of the population finds counseling a synonym of “talking”. With this faulty notion unfortunately many qualified teachers, heads and people from management have been heard saying that we’ve counseled a child our self. When asked upon are you a counselor, comes a timid reply, “No. but all counselors does is talking so we’ve done that.” Realizing that ‘their’ counseling didn’t work then the child is referred to the counselor. Counseling as defined by American Psychological Association is “addressing the emotional, social, work, school and physical health concerns people may have at different stages in their lives, focusing on typical life stresses and more severe issues with which people may struggle as individuals and as a part of families, groups and organizations”
This definition also eliminates another misconception-counselors just sit there in their office, nod and stay silent. Often counselors are seen as the most free or “farigh” person and has no workload in an educational setup. Counselors’ image is portrayed as “touchy-feely” or the one who can read your mind to another extreme of detached or ineffective. Whereas, Counselors in a school setup is in close contact with the teacher whose child is referred to, section head, campus head, parents and school management at the same time. Counselors are active, engaged throughout the session, use questions, and interventions which helps a child to move towards the goals. Every child is different, his/her needs and point of being referred is different and requires different intervention to work with. Counselor’s work is always more than just sit, nod and talk.
Furthermore, a child who is referred is tagged or labeled for seeing a counselor. It’s not by a particular person or a teacher but in my observation it’s basically the whole environment and attitude of the educational setup. For instance, several teachers are observed who come and see me with regards to a referred child not with the intention of welfare of a child but to know and have more material to gossip around in staff rooms. As a counselor, keeping confidentiality and making sure there’s no harm to child is our first and foremost duty. Similarly, keeping it confidential until there’s a precautionary need to break confidentiality, counselors are also seen as not cooperative or favoring a “troubled” child.
Counseling in an educational setup is a significant step provided that whatever the issue is, if handled right at the beginning will be a stitch in time saves nine. However such deep rooted faulty attitudes of educational institutes and largely the society will not only lead such kids often being isolated from families or society but also causes them not to look for solution until their condition gets exacerbated. Since many of us believe that living with stress, anxiety, compulsive behaviors or a variety of other symptoms are simply what life is all about. These complaints are no different from flu, fever, high blood pressure or other problems that life sometimes throws at us for which we look out for treatment. We do not hide these symptoms, or live in shame or pretend there’s no problem.