In this unit we shall focus on how to set up a counseling program. We shall look at the stages in developing a society counseling programme and the role of a social worker in managing counseling services. We shall also look at the impact of counseling in society. At the end of this chapter you will be able to explain the process of setting up a counseling programme in the society. You should be able to discuss the role of the social worker in managing counseling services. You will also be able to sate the impact of counseling in society where you will be able to discuss the challenges and their management.
Stages in developing society counseling programme
The following are the stages in developing a counseling programme. They have been adopted from Wango and Mungai (2007) guidance and counseling programme for schools.
1. First a human resource network needs to be put in place. This is where the social worker or counselor needs to identify the people in the particular community who she/he will work with. These could be a group of other counselors or individuals or individuals in the community who are involved in community work. The counselor / social worker will coordinate the programme.
2. The second stage involves selecting a committee or team to coordinate the programme.
Members of the team could include administrative structure representatives e.g. village elders, chief, church elders etc. This team will be involved in the panning, development and coordination of counseling activities in the community. They will stock of activities or initiatives already in place and consider community aspects or areas that require counseling intervention. They are the ones who will promote the counseling programme and give orientation to the community. It will be their responsibility to monitor and evaluate progress and efficiency of the counseling activities in the community. This will be done by evaluating the counseling programme periodically.
3. Stage three identifying the community needs. This is where a needs assessment survey is conducted to identify what is needed and how it should be provided. A questionnaire is developed and completed by a representative sample population of the community. The findings of the assessment will form a basis from which to draw the counseling programme.
Area to look out for in questionnaire include problems faced by the various community groups, areas that require improvement and suggestions on how to improve. Collect views of stakeholders and their expectations. These should be aligned to the survey results and a report should then be drawn.
4. In stage four other stakeholders in the community are informed on the details about the programme such as purpose of counseling in the community, the working relationship and any other parameters. This resolves all potential areas of conflicts e.g. the counselor’s presence is not to undermine anybody in the community but rather to work together to provide the counseling services.
Areas that require counseling in the community should also be shared with the stakeholders. These will be drawn from the findings of the needs assessment survey and may be broken down into the various groups in the community.
5. Stage five involves setting clear aims and objectives for the programme. These should be practical and purposeful to the community. Some of the objectives would be to help build positive self image among members of the community, to develop necessary life skills (such as problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, assertiveness and others) among the youth, to enable community members to develop skills on how to cope with other issues or concerns e.g. HIV/AIDS drugs and substance abuse, unemployment, conflict resolution and management, disaster preparedness trauma management, health, safety and security, personal social, ethnical, emotional and psychological. Another objective would be to seek for specialized counseling services for issues beyond the counselor.
6. Stage six is about deciding on a target audience for each need. This is done by the entire team.
7. In stage seven the needs for each group of community members are prioritized eg. youth out of school, single mothers, retired mothers, young married couples etc. these could be counseled together. A counseling programme time table can then be drawn for each group. Below is a sample of such a time table that could be drawn for the youth out of school.
8. In the eighth final stage the counselor draws up a community counseling programme policy.
This one should include the counseling that is being offered and extent to which the services will be provided stated clearly and the issue of costs and how/who meets the costs.
Role of social worker in managing counseling services
- One of the roles of the social worker is to offer individual and group counseling to the Community / society.
- The social worker also provides information on the counseling services available, role of the counselor and sets boundaries of confidentiality.
- The social worker also works together with the counseling team and entire community in setting up the counseling programmes.
- He/she keeps suitable record of counseling cases safely.
- He/she continuously briefs the stakeholders and committee on status of the counseling program and reports on a regular basis on the members that use the service and gives a general overview pertaining to issues or concerns to the administrations.
- Another role of the social work is to liaise closely with stakeholders and committee on other support services to be offered in the community.
- The social worker also networks with personnel from other agencies for referrals and accessibility of specialized counseling consultancy services.
- Another role is to deice and deliver a programme of training for the counseling team as well as peer counselors to support the counseling programme.
- Finally the social worker continuously monitors, evaluates and reviews the services offered.
Impact of counseling in society
- One of the challenges is that counseling has not yet been appreciated as a profession.
- People are still looking at it as talking or discussions and do not appreciate its therapeutic or helping nature.
- Society has misconception about counseling. Many people still think it is meant for the mentally ill and depressed. This has led to stigmatization of those who seek counseling services.
- People still view counseling as guidance or advice giving. This affects their expectations even as they got to the counselor.
- People have not yet appreciated that counseling services need to be paid for, as they confuse it for a chat or discussion.
- Society is made up of many cultures which have different challenges, values and beliefs.
- Counseling has to be dynamic enough in order to meet the different cultures in their contexts.
- Counseling empowers the individual thereby encouraging individualism. This goes against the African culture and way of life where the society was valued more than the individual. This has a negative impact with most societies disapproving counseling.