Last month, a young lady died by suicide. Her father had paid a ‘counselor’ to counsel his daughter, having recognized that the young lady was suicidal. Yet, the daughter took her life while under the care of the counselor. As it turned out the person doing the counseling possessed neither requisite qualifications nor clinical experience.
However, this is not a one-off situation. The Caribbean Voice (TCV) knows of a number of individuals who also paid for counseling that failed to help them and who then came to TCV where they obtained the requisite counseling, free of charge. We had previously pointed out that there are a number of individuals engaging in counseling others even though they are not bona fide counselors. We had even queried a few, who as it as it turned out, considered themselves counselors either because they had undergone counseling themselves or attended short training sessions of a day or a few days duration. In fact TCV has found that some persons who have a certain public status, feel that even they are qualified to counsel others. There is even an entertainer who once counseled students in a secondary school with the permission of the administration.
Given this reality and the consequential dangers, which TCV has also pointed out many times over, we once again call on the government to set up a mechanism to license counselors so that all practising counselors must possess both academic credentials and supervised clinical experience. As we previously pointed out, we have among our Diaspora members, a mental health consultant who has experience in licensing protocols, having worked with the International Registry of Counselor Education Programs (IRCEP). She not only indicated a willingness to help set up such a licensing mechanism in Guyana but has spoken to IRCEP which expressed a willingness to accredit her towards this end.
Meanwhile we beseech the Ministries of Public Health and Social Protection to police the counseling landscape and ensure that those who ply the trade have the requisite qualifications and professional experience to do so. Counseling save lives but quacks parading as counselors can and do lead to more suicide.