Help The Kashmir Monitor sustain so that we continue to be editorially independent. Remember, your contributions, however small they may be, matter to us.

Flawed teaching! Kashmir’s psychologists carry degrees but counseling not their cup of tea

Srinagar, Oct 9: In absence of a practical-based approach, the educational institutes in Kashmir produce psychologists who are unfit to counsel the region’s rising population of mental-health cases.

According to a study by the Government Medical College Srinagar, nearly 11 per cent of Kashmir’s population suffer mental-health disorders, which is more than the national average in India.

Every year, around 62 students pass Kashmir University (KU) and hundreds more the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) with Masters in psychology.

Yet the valley is short of psychologists, as the degree holders find themselves incompetent in a clinical setup.

Ashfaq Qureshi, a counselor at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS), said, “I did my masters from KU, but before joining the training programme, I was completely blank. I knew the theoretical part, but couldn’t deliver it in the field.”

“Our institutions lack training in trauma-focused counselling. There is no teaching of skills of working with children and the emotionally overwhelming nature of the work. Sadly so, neither the curriculum for psychiatrists, psychologists or counsellors, doesn’t include training of self-care, which is critical to continuing work with trauma clients.”

Another counselor at CMHS, Tabinda Tariq, said, “I did my postgraduation from IGNOU. Whatever I learnt, it is because of the training programme. Few lectures on Sundays and very less practical work is what the course offered, and I am afraid it wasn’t much helpful.”

Joziya Khan, who is pursuing her M Phil in child and adolescence from Amity University, said, “Mental illness in the Valley remains neglected and invisible, associated with shame and stigma. Millions suffer in silence without access to basic medicines and health care.”

Khan said that the lack of training to manage common psychiatric conditions in the institutions is a major lacuna in curriculum. “It has spawned many short courses, which transfer knowledge, rather than skill and confidence, to physicians.”

Ishrat, who works as counselor at District hospital Shopain said, “The emphasis on theoretical part has resulted in a transmission of knowledge without proficiency and confidence during basic medical training. “

She said, “It results in a lack of acquisition of skills required for independent practice.”

Doctor Muzzfar, who is Consultant at Help Foundation and Director of Police Drug De-Addiction Centre, said, “Medical education needs to be skill-based to produce competent practitioners. The strengthening of the general health infrastructure, to improve primary health care delivery, is mandatory for the effective integration of mental health into primary care practice is the need of the hour.”

He said, “Educating the population about mental illness using the mass media will erase stigma and increase the demand for services.”

Nighat Shafi, Chairperson Help Foundation, echoed similar views, saying, “The students who attend our training sessions always complain they have only been taught the theoretical part. Practical training should be worked upon, so that we have better counselors to deal with the mental health problems.”