Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling in Turkey: An Evolving Field

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling in Turkey: An Evolving Field

Article excerpt

Most people who have never visited Turkey think of it as a country located somewhere in the Middle East. In fact, Turkey has a unique geographic location that bridges Europe and Asia, sharing borders with countries in Europe (Greece and Bulgaria) andAsia (Armenia and Georgia), as well as the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, and Syria).

The modern secular republic of Turkey was established in 1923 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which had reigned for more than 600 years. The leader of the secular and progressive Turkish government, Mustafa Kemal Atatiirk, laid the groundwork for the Westernization of Turkey and its entry into the modern technological age. Some of the initial attempts at modernization included replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Latin alphabet, adopting the Western calendar, encouraging men and women to adopt a Western style of dress, replacing sharia (Islamic law) with a secular legal system adapted from Switzerland, granting equal rights to women (including the right to vote and to be elected to government) and encouraging the education of girls. According to Go1e (2004), granting rights to women and transforming them into "public citizens" (p. 12) can be considered "the backbone of Turkish modernism" (p. 12).

Today, Turkey has a population of more than 70 million. It shares many common characteristics with other developing countries, such as low per capita income; low levels of education (Raney & Cmarbas, 2005); a large urban--rural divide; a high fertility rate; and the simultaneous existence of modem and traditional economies, lifestyles, and values (Sumer, 1998).

In discussing the coexistence of modern and traditional lifestyles and values in Turkey, Surner (1998) stated, "Turkish culture ... is fundamentally collectivistic in the sense that the family retains priority, but this collectivism coexists with highly individualistic trends in the systems of education and economy, where market rules necessitate and justify competition" (p. 126). According to Mocan-Aydm (2000), differences in attitudes, values, and lifestyles among people in different geographic regions and groups make it difficult to provide an answer to the question, "Who is the average Turk?" However, Mocan-Aydln concluded, "If we consider a continuum of collectivism versus individualism, Turkish people still seem to be close to the collectivistic end while at the same time striving for individualism" (p. 282). Recent research (Karakitapoglu Aygun & Imamoglu, 2002) concerning the role of age and value orientation among Turkish university students and adults indicated that compared with university students, adults attribute more significance to traditional values (e.g., showing respect to others, following social norms, sustaining concordance in relationships).

As with many other developing countries, Turkey has quickly and readily absorbed many aspects of Western culture, adopted many modern tenets, and mirrored many of the same patterns in attempting to adopt the social sciences. As stated by Adair and Kagitcibasi (1995), "a serious problem facing many social science disciplines in developing countries is their lack of application to the local culture and to the solutions of national social problems stemming from rapid change and development" (p. 634). Thus, counseling as a field has been confronted with many of the same struggles as other social sciences in developing countries. In line with Adair and Kagitcibasi, Demir and Aydin (1996) concluded that although Turkish universities have been responsive in terms of keeping up with advances in academic fields, they have not been very responsive to the needs of society and, as a result, have turned out well-educated elites who perceive their social status to be above that of the general public. In short, many fields within the social sciences, including counseling, have had difficulties in perceiving the different social realities that exist in a country with a wide and continually changing spectrum of beliefs between the traditional and the modem. …

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