“What excites me most about Counselling Psychology is the focus on the promotion of mental health and well being of clients as well as others.”
Mental health challenges affect millions of people globally. According to the Kenya Mental Health Policy (2015-2030), mental disorder cases in Kenya continue to rise rapidly. Government statistics indicate that at least 1 in every 4 Kenyans suffer from a mental illness at one point in their lives.
According to (Masambia, 2014) most Kenyans would frown on the notion of approaching a stranger to talk about personal issues. Their approach to addressing individual and family problems has always been to seek assistance from a respected relative, village elder, or pastor. In very extreme cases, a family would seek the intervention of a traditional healer.
Unfortunately, misconceptions about therapy often discourage people from seeking help and contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. This has been a contributing factor to the preventing people from learning more about or utilising the services of trained mental health professionals. Talking to a stranger about our most personal, scary and painful thoughts and feelings can be incredibly frightening for a number of reasons.
In my experience consulting with clients who are considering whether or not to pursue therapy/counselling has brought me to the realization that the path to this decision is as diverse as the people who seek help. Misguided notions about what really goes on in therapy often come from lack of information or knowledge on what it entails.
Counselling and techniques developed in the Western world may not be appropriate for many African countries, where cultural influences, availability of resources can also have significant implications for service delivery. Cultural sensitivity is therefore necessary for the counselling relationship to be established.
By being a culturally sensitive counsellor my understanding of a client’s background, ethnicity, and belief system will be more highlighted. As a therapist it is essential for me to incorporate cultural sensitivity into my work. Doing this will help me be more accommodating and respect differences in opinions, values, and attitudes of various cultures and different types of people. This will help me gain and maintain cultural skills, which is the ability to first recognize and understand my own culture/values and how it influences my relationship with a client, then understand and respond to the culture that is different from my own. The need for this understanding may be based on attributes such as age, beliefs, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
Once a client feels, sees and hears that the therapist has captured these important characteristics a rapport will be formed, and therapy process can begin. It is important for the client to be aware that they do not have to “click” with the first counsellor they you meet as everyone does not respond the same way to the counselling process or counsellor. Counsellors and counselling treatments are no different and not every counsellor will be a perfect fit for you.
Counselling is often successful when the client is willing to work together with the counsellor, be honest and open to discuss about their issues in the safe and secure environment provided. It is the client’s responsibility to make a conscious decision if they want to change their life and make better and informed choices and resolutions. As a counsellor I cannot force or give advice to the client except in any situations that may harm the client or others.
It is common to feel uneasy when talking about your personal issues to a counsellor during your first meeting. However, it takes time and the uneasiness feeling will slowly fade away once you are familiar and comfortable with the counselling process and with the counsellor only then can the healing process finally begin!