The President of the Botswana Counselling Association (BCA), Dr. Jabulani Muchado, says the absence of regulation and control over who qualifies to offer counselling services does not only “water down” the profession but is harmful to clients.
To this end, the BCA is piecing together a draft Bill that could see the country having legislation to govern, control and regulate the provision of counselling services in the country.
Muchado was one of the several participants who spoke to the Sunday Standard at the just ended first International Conference of the Botswana Counselling Association at the Gaborone International Convention Centre, which attracted professionals from the United States of America, Nigeria, Malawi and Namibia.
Muchado, a professional councillor and educator, says the counselling services must be supervised and coordinated by BCA as the competent authority with a pool of 189 professionals with different speciality areas.
“We have seen many adverts from the government recruiting counsellors with secondary education, coupled with a certificate in counselling but who supervises them? This is disturbing. Supervision is critical to ensure the safety of clients so that they are not abused in the name of counselling,” said Muchado.
He says BCA can assume the role of providing guidance to ministries’ social call services. He is particularly worried that the Ministry of Health alone (against the background of the HIV pandemic) has thousands of counsellors trained for one or two weeks hence the need to regulate those who offer such services.
“There are structures in place at BCA. Ministries must refer policy issues relating to social call services to us before they are implemented. BCA will provide training either on the basis of consultancy or simply going out to provide counselling workshops,” says the University of Botswana lecturer. With an Act in place, Muchado says counsellors would be required to meet certain standards, such as sitting prescribed examinations, for them to practice.
Chairman of the National Board for Certified Counsellors ÔÇô United States (NBCC) Dr. James Benshoff says his organization is mindful to the cultural differences that exist from country to country .This notwithstanding he says the NBCC has been working with the BCA for several years.
“We are here to offer help to the BCA in their draft Bill that seeks regulation of counselling services and how they may sell the idea to parliament and the public. Gatherings like these give one an opportunity to interact and share ideas. Setting standards does not solve the problem, it’s a process,” says Benshoff.
From the Counselling Association of Nigeria, its secretary general, Dr. Charles Ugwuegbulam, says there is a policy on guidance and counselling in his country but no Act to regulate.
Similarly, the CAN has a draft Bill in place which it intends to present to parliament for consideration.
He says since its inception in 1976, conferences have been held on a yearly basis with no year skipped to date. He says each year a journal of the association is produced and a book of proceedings on counselling from the conference.
“A certificate and a licensing policy have been adopted by members. The country has a long history of guidance and counselling. Nigeria began a bit of formal career guidance in 1959 by a set of Reverend Sisters at a place called St. Theresa’s College at Ake-Ado Ibadan town,” says Ugwuegbulam.
The Assistant Minister of Education, Keletso Rakhudu, acknowledged the existence of BCA in its “attempts to address and capture a wide range of concepts that form a basis for its future development”.
“As mental health providers, your contributions towards the realization of the Protocol on Education are critical and I encourage you to strive for excellence,” the Minister said.