Students and parents still find it difficult to understand counseling services

Though counseling services are instituted in many schools, some of the students and parents still struggle to understand the services provided by the counselors in these schools.

Even if a student undergoes certain trauma, he/she cannot express and share with their counselors. Further, parents do not have much idea about counseling.

A school guidance counselor at the Mongar Middle Secondary School, Dechen Yangdon said people deem counseling as a sanction posed to the child.

She said it is not easy for students to open up and share their grievances even after orienting them every year.

“Going to a person who isn’t close and sharing their issue is not an easy task for them unless they have a very genuine reason; students aren’t ready to open up,” she said.

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, many schools have not been able to conduct meetings with the parents like in the past.

“I have an incident where one parent said her daughter doesn’t need counseling; not knowing the fact that she was referred by the class teacher because of behavior problems in the school,” said Dechen Yangdon, who deals with four to five students in a month.

She said the students are referred to the counselor with a proper referral procedure system and if the case is beyond the ability of the counselor, then the counselor links the client with the appropriate helping stakeholders.

She said parents need to understand that counseling isn’t a magic solution and it is not an overnight solution, adding that the society does not understand that the counselors need to figure out the person as well as an underlying issue associated with the client separately.

“Some parents feel that when their children are taken for counseling, they are being punished. However, counseling can be a source of help to some students who cannot share their matters with their parents and teachers.”

Another counselor at the Udzorong Central School, Tashi Chephey said people now understand the importance and the role of counseling, but there are still some people who are not aware of the services and their importance.

He said most of the students are not able to come forward and share their issue due to the reverence they hold for their teachers.

“The students still seem to think of counselors as teachers despite the various awareness programs,” he said.  

Tashi Chephey, on an average, gets three to four students in a month and some of the common cases are substance use, self-harm, and issues of/with family, relationship, academic, body image, and self-esteem.

A counselor at the Kunzangling Central School in Trashiyangtse, Rinzin Namgyel said people are less aware of counseling services.

He said counseling is simply judged as one area that exists for no reason.

“People comment that counseling is of no use and resorting to punishment is best for students,” he said, adding that students deem counseling as an advantage to refrain from disciplinary sanctions when they are against school norms.

“Students refuse to come for counseling sessions even after orienting them and they simply think of them as a soft punishment.”

Another counselor said since a separate room for counseling is not provided in schools, students are not showing interest to come for the session. 

Tenzin Lhamo from Trashigang