The Foundation of Counseling in the Republic of Ecuador

By Smith, Robert L.; Valarezo, Maria Alexandra | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, January 2013 | Go to article overview

The Foundation of Counseling in the Republic of Ecuador


Smith, Robert L., Valarezo, Maria Alexandra, Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


The Republic of Ecuador, approximately the size of the state of Nevada, is located in South America between Peru and Columbia. Its name, Ecuador, comes from the fact that it is on the equator. The Inca and Spanish cultures, history of governmental instability, and economic conditions have influenced what is now the Republic of Ecuador. Ecuador was established in 1809 as an independent democracy with the help of Simon Bolivar. The history of the people of Ecuador, often caught in a conflict between traditional indigenous healing practices and modern medicine, has greatly influenced the development of mental health services and the practice of counseling.

Although the term counselor is not readily used or established in Ecuador, the activity of counseling takes place in schools, hospitals, private practice, business settings, and universities. Currently, the designation of psychologist, psicologo, is most often used, and it includes individuals with far less training than licensed professional counselors or psychologists that have been educated in the United States. Therefore, specific counseling practices used are often reflective of subject matter emphasized in one's undergraduate psychology courses, the influence of one's 2-year internship supervisor(s), or special workshops attended. Despite modest developments in the training of mental health professionals, there remains a significant sector of the population, particularly in rural areas, that seeks out and strongly adheres to the healing services of the curandero. The curandero or shaman is a folk healer found in many Latin America countries. In the Republic of Ecuador, the curandero is sought to cure physical and spiritual problems. There are a number of different approaches to healing illness/disorders among folk healers in Ecuador and other Latin American countries. However, it is believed that most curanderos treat illnesses at three levels of healing: material, spiritual, and mental (Trotter & Chavira, 1997). The material level includes card readers, masseurs, midwives, and herbalists who use herbs and lotions. At the spiritual level, rituals impel evil spirits from the body. Sometimes hallucinogens are used to eliminate spirits or retrieve lost souls. At the mental level, healers use their psychic energy as a major part of the healing process. One activity involves having those seeking help write their problem on a piece of paper. One's handwriting is analyzed, and a prescription is provided.

The practice of folk healing, the shaman's craft, is handed down by word of mouth over many generations. In addition, the use of this knowledge in one's practice is influenced by geography, culture, and religion. Because of these reasons, it is hard to generalize the healing practices of curanderos.

* History

In Ecuador, the main language spoken is Spanish, and the nationality of individuals residing there is Ecuadorian. The estimated population is 14,790,608 (Global Partners in Education, 2011). The rich history of Ecuador, including turbulent times, governmental changes, and issues of poverty, has shaped its educational system, current status of counseling, and future of counseling, along with counselor training. The pre-Inca indigenous history of Ecuador, rich in culture and politics, lasted about 50 years beginning in 1480 and ending with the Spanish conquest led by Francisco Pizarro and Diego Almagro (Global Partners in Education, 2011). The Inca indigenous history of Ecuador included the use of religious beliefs and healing practices performed by the curandero.

The Spanish conquest created the beginning of the Spanish language in Ecuador. The Spanish settled in the major city of Quito and established Pacific ports. In the northwest rainforest region known as Esmeraldas, Blacks began to settle and established the Zambo Republic (Zambo refers to an intermixture of African and Native peoples; Global Partners in Education, 2011). …

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