The concept of counselling struggles to gain recognition by the masses even today. People either choose to ignore the signs and symptoms of stress and depression, or live with the belief that counselling is for the crazy ones. Both these schools of thought are detrimental to the emotional wellness of an individual. We all, at some point, wish to share our lows with somebody, because doing so helps one to get rid of our emotional buildup by allowing us to release our stresses as we talk about them.
It is not just counselling alone, but also the providers of emotional assistance who are subjected to various challenges as they go about their business. Every profession is faced with difficulties, and so mental health professionals have their own fair share of barriers to deal with and overcome from time to time. An understanding of some of these obstacles may instil a sense of sensitivity among people and also help clarify some of their assumptions about Counsellors.
Personal v/s Professional Conduct
We are humans first, and professionals later. Every individual has the basic tendency to form and develop core beliefs and value systems of their own as they experience growth through the years. As a counsellor, however, it is important the one remembers to leave their personal views and biases behind before choosing to help somebody. Maintaining a neutral perspective is always easier said than done, and as much as many may wish to claim that they are open to accepting everything, it can be quite tasking to really be that way.
Educational and Professional Setbacks
Even today, the mental health industry is yet in the process of gaining global value. Speaking of India in particular, where students of STEM i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics find it easier to source out various study programs as well as seek employment in comparison to a Psychology student or Mental Health Professional, it is a challenge for a counsellor to maintain equilibrium pertaining to their educational and professional growth. Unlike in the USA or UK, India is yet in the process of accepting the importance of psychological health of its people, as a result of which there are very limited number of available opportunities. This in turn puts the additional pressure of seeking international exposure – and those facing financial setbacks or having monetary concerns often end up changing their line of study and choice of career due to the same.
Knowing Your Boundaries
At times, it is likely for a counsellor to be faced with situations wherein they may wish to go out of their way and provide a person with concrete answers to their problems by virtue of humanity. However, as a professional, their Counsellor’s Code of Conduct would disallow them from actually doing so. A counsellor’s job is to facilitate effective thinking and help a person to take their own decisions and come up with ideas on their own, and not to give them first-hand solutions, since they can be very subjective in nature i.e., while a solution may work wonders for one, it may not be of any benefit whatsoever to another.
The Struggle with Diplomacy
Every counsellor, at multiple points in their careers are blamed for being diplomatic. They are said to be safe players – one who never has a concrete side to take. Statements like, “Please answer this as a person and not a counsellor”, or “Don’t be so diplomatic. Give me a proper answer” are things they get to hear from people. However, it may be noted that it is unethical for a counsellor to involve their personal biases and opinions while assisting somebody. Seeking approval and validation from one is therefore unfair to them, and may also make them appear cold or relatively insensitive; whereas it is just somebody providing absolute acceptance to a person, irrespective of their individual differences.
Playing roles other than that of a Counsellor
A setback of this kind is faced particularly by school counsellors. Many of them report to have been assigned tasks that fall beyond their domain of providing emotional assistance and guidance to the students. These tasks include: supervising classes, planning school events, participating in inter-school activities, as well as teaching various subjects in the absence of the concerned teacher. It is good to support your colleagues in times of their need or absence; however, the challenge here is that many-a-times that is pretty much all that a school counsellor ends up doing. Other than this, another issue that counsellors face is when a person expects to receive comfort at a personal level from them wherein they seek solace, or even affection – things that should rather be expected out of someone within a person’s personal or social group.
Being empathetic and objective despite little to no similar experience
A counsellor is one who is able to efficiently empathise with a person i.e, to put oneself in the shoes of another in order to understand their concerns to the best of their abilities. At times, depending upon the nature of the concern, it may become difficult for them to simultaneously be empathetic as well as objective, since it is all about striking a conscious balance between the two. For example: if a person wishes to seek comfort from a counsellor after having inflicted physical harm over somebody, it would be difficult for the former to cater to the person’s emotional requirements. Similarly, another challenge comes into picture with people questioning the counsellor’s ability to understand what they are going through despite not having experienced the same thing for themselves. There is no concrete proof to this, which turns this into an obstacle that may hinder the counselling process.
Burnouts due to Emotional Baggage
Most of us worry and get anxious about our own respective stressors from time to time. That said, a counsellor is responsible for the stressors of those beyond oneself, wherein they put their professional front before their personal needs in order to help others. When a person listens to the struggles and challenges of people one after another, it is natural for them to carry a part of that stress back home. Sometimes, this may further lead to burnout, wherein a counsellor would require some time off to be able to regain their emotional health and feel better before resuming work.
Counsellors are assumed to be efficient at overcoming their own Stressors
The world knows them as people who are professionals in the areas of emotional wellness and psychological well-being. This can prove to be challenging for a mental health professional when they are assumed to be skilled at solving their own problems. While undergoing stress, counsellors view their issues as an individual and not as a professional, which is why, while they may be doing great at their work front, dealing with their personal problems might be a big struggle for some and overcoming one’s worries could be extremely taxing and overwhelming at times.
Sharing how you feel is a big step towards taking care of yourself, which is why it is important that we make it a point to convey our concerns in the right manner to the right person at the right time to avoid emotional breakdown or stress. To know more about challenges in counselling or other challenges indirectly faced by emotional wellness professionals, you may go through Volume I of this article: myths about counselling