“Can you read my mind?” and “Oh, I think I need to be careful and scared while talking to you because you’ll constantly read me” are some of the commonest sentences that psychologists still come across. Although there is massive scope for Psychology in India, the stigma with respect to the basic roles and the immense need for Psychologists in a developing country such as India is still quite a debate. The domain of Psychology has been under constant development in India. This is however fundamentally on the basis on knowledge and the ‘know-how’ borrowed foreign Euro-American traditions which is inculcated in the large-scale alteration or transposition of Western knowledge and education (Sinha, 1986). However, even though research in the domain of psychology and other related fields has been massively improving, one of the major criticisms of psychological research in India involves the debate about its simulative or ‘mimetic’ nature. Something that has been often spoken about and addressed in various forums is that psychologists who work towards or engage in replicating the Euro-American studies, sometimes ignore the Indian context and its relatable characteristic problems.
Indian Psychology was also treated as an alternative or a modified version of Universal Psychology. But, at the grassroot level, psychologists are faced with several stirring bewilderment with respect to the limitations and flexibilities of their roles. There are several myths regarding the differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, a clinical psychologist and a psychological counsellor, a school counsellor and a special educator, an admission counsellor and a psychological counsellor, and the list goes on and on. There is a repertoire of discomposure and disorganization when it comes to who a psychologist may be and the specific roles with respect to the specific work setting.
For instance, the role of a school counsellor may include the following:
Assessment of the child’s emotional and behavioural problem
Provision of counselling to help the child address their problems
Referral of the child to other professionals, as needed
Partnering with teachers and/or family members to assist the child with their problem.
However, the school counsellor’s role does not include disciplining the child and being a substitute teacher. But, in an Indian school setting, it is primarily expected for a school counsellor to discipline a child in every aspect. Sometimes, they are also expected to intervene in the child’s academic issues at school. Although there is a lack of awareness and clarity between the roles of a school counsellor and a special educator, this may result in causing extensive puzzlement in framing the exact roles of the professional. Although counselling in the Indian context is gaining recognition, especially in the urban areas and the metropolitan cities, the need for psychotherapists and counsellors is felt in several parts of the country. The need for counselling in India has transformed from the fast paced changes that occur in different settings which involve social, cultural and economic environments where several families usually tend to come in contact (Sriram, 2016).
Another appropriately common example of how roles have been unclear would be the urgent need for admission counsellors. The job profiles of admission and education counsellors is not that of a career counsellor, but more of a marketing agent to allure potential students and parents, and sometimes even clients to admit, purchase or acquire the particular course or product. As a psychological counsellor, applying for jobs that involve marketing and enticing individuals, rather than focussing on what’s best for the client is probably one of the main reasons why a Governing Body is required in the country. Since there is no governing body for licensing counsellors, there are several individuals who complete a mere 3-month Diploma Course in Counselling, without Psychological background, and become entrepreneurs where they open their own space of therapy and start practising, not realizing that they misrepresent psychologists and counsellors in the country at large.
Although Modern Psychology and Post Modernism is something that is usually focussed on in several domains, regardless of Psychology, it is rather fundamental to understand and implement what is needed at an immediate basis. Progress might be inevitable and rapid sometimes, but communicating and promoting awareness of the same with conscious sensitivity will not only help humanize or destigmatize the taboo against the domain, but also enrich and enhance a harmonious agreement with the society at large. A recent research survey was conducted by (Bedi, Thomas, Sandhu, & Jain, 2018) namely, “Survey of Counselling Psychologists in India” with the main aim to examine and investigate the practice of counselling psychology and the characteristics of counselling psychologists in India to address the lack of empirical research executed on this specific population. The study was conducted on 65 participants who identified themselves as counselling psychologists and a 56-item survey was administered to them. The results indicated that participants constituted of inexperienced individuals with inconsistent levels and types of specialty training in counselling psychology. The majority of the participants reported to practice counselling without a license and they were mostly focussed on treatment using individual counselling as their preferred treatment modality. Career counselling was noted central to the profession. They also reported an importunate need for programme accreditation and unified licensure for counselling psychologists. They also mentioned that a lack of practical training and limited public awareness posed as major challenges for the field in India today.
In developed countries like the United States of America, a doctoral degree is considered as the eligibility criteria for attaining a licence and practicing independently as a clinical psychologist. However, for licensure of a counsellor, there are several work experience requirements which usually involves 3000 hours of post-Masters’ work (Counselor-License, 2019). Keeping records in developed countries is also systematic and well maintained. Since, priests are also seen as counsellors in Western countries, the organization of records and maintaining the same is separate for Christian Counsellors and Secular Counsellors.
However, in developing countries such as India, there is no government licensing for psychologists. The Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists was founded in 1968 and deals with the informal recognition to set professional standards for practicing and offering credential to members. However, those who are members of the IACP, have better opportunities and employment prospects in mental health settings. The IACP uses the ACA Code of Ethics but, it has been difficult to attain any realistic authority for monitoring professional practice (Barnes, 2004). The task of counselling in India has been usually undertaken by both counsellors as well as clinical psychologists since the roles are quite similar in several aspects. The Rehabilitation Council of India is the only body that issues license only for clinical psychologists, but there are no licensing procedures for counsellors. The New Mental Health Care Act of 2017 does not even recognize the word ‘counsellor’ (Gladding & Batra, 2018). However, if there is a system for not only maintaining records and licensing professionals, several unethical and unprofessional people can be easily filtered out. This would not only enhance the productivity of the profession and the domain but also make research in several areas more ethical and reliable.
Barnes. (2004). Ethical Standards, Credentialing and Accountability. In M. M. Leach, M. J. Stevens, G. Lindsay, A. Ferrero, & Y. Korkut, The Oxford Handbook of International Psychological Ethics (p. 105). U.S.A.: Oxford University Press.
Bedi, R., Thomas, P., Sandhu, D., & Jain, S. (2018, May 28). Survey of counselling psychologists in India. Counselling Psychology Quarterly. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2018.1478800
Counselor-License. (2019). What Does it Take to Be a Counselor? Retrieved February 6, 2019, from Counselor-License: https://counselor-license.com/
Gladding, S. T., & Batra, P. (2018). Licensure in India. In S. T. Gladding, & P. Batra, Counselling: A Comprehensive Profession (8 ed., p. 20). Noida: Pearson India Education Services.
Sinha, D. (1986). Psychology in Modern India. In G. Misra, & A. K. Mohanty, Perspectives on Indigenous Psychology (pp. 13-14). Bhubaneshwar: Concept Publishing Company.
Sriram, S. (2016). Psychotherapy and Counselling in India. In S. Sriram, Counselling in India: Reflections on the Process (pp. 3-4). Mumbai: Springer.