In any professional discipline, it’s extremely imperative to have structure so that all the stakeholders are aware of their roles along with the consequences of deviating from their ethics. Most of the STEM professions in India have well-defined criteria for selection, roles and code of conduct of the individuals who pursue that job. However, since psychology as a profession is still in its budding stages, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding the responsibilities of counsellors and psychologists.
As we’re moving through the pandemic, mental health issues have skyrocketed in all groups of the population. From young children to the geriatric population, everyone is in a state of stress and anxiety of the present and the future. During this time, various private mental health agencies have been set up all over India to provide psychological first aid. They provide mental health awareness, reduce stigma and also provide one-on-one counselling. The intent behind setting these up is extremely altruistic and positive. However, many at times the counsellors of these organisations are neither licenced, not equipped to handle the emotional burden of help-seekers. This is extremely counterproductive to the individual, as well as the counselling profession as a whole.
Therefore, we in India are in a dire need of an autonomous or government body which regulates the counselling profession. The Rehabilitation Counsel of India (RCI) is a Statutory Body that regulates and monitors the services for Clinical Psychologists by providing them license to practice after one completes their MPhil. The RCI Act clearly states the punishment of up to one year for a person practising as a rehabilitating professional or a clinical psychologist without a licence. But, there is no such organisation which focuses on quality assurance for Counselling Psychologists. As a result, we see quacks all over the internet providing counselling at extremely high rates without any credentials.
In other parts of the world, there are various organizations which ensure adherence to code of ethics for counseling psychologists. The American Counselling Association (ACA) is a nonprofit organization in the USA representing licensed professional counselors (LPCs), counseling students, and other counseling professionals. Its stated mission is to 'enhance' the quality of life in society by promoting the development of professional counselors, advancing the counseling profession, and using the profession and practice of counseling to promote respect for human dignity and diversity. In India, there are certain small scale organizations such as Bharatiya Counseling Psychology Association 3 and Counsellor Counsel of India (CCI) 4 established very recently which try to promote the counseling disciple by enhancing the image of counselors in society and by focusing on quality and accountability of counselors. However, there is still no strict adherence to the norms.
This is the reason budding counselors and psychologists require standardized guidelines for practice, appropriate training and licensure, and lastly, some ethical code of conduct that they should follow. A National Protocol for Counsellors should be developed which will also help in sharing concerns, learning from each other, and help in giving a collective voice to the current and future counselors. It will also ensure more evidence building, research, and reduce stigma related to stress and adjustment issues.
A step like this will reiterate progress in India related to the field of mental health and will further empower more individuals to choose to counsel as a profession, as well as, to make it more accessible for diverse populations.
- RCI ACT (2017) Chapter (5), Point (3).
- American Counseling Association (2014) Code of Ethics.
- The Bharatiya Counselling Psychology Association (2017). Aims and Objectives.
- Counsellor Counsel of India (2017). About Us.