Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Professional Counseling in Kenya: History, Current Status, and Future Trends

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Professional Counseling in Kenya: History, Current Status, and Future Trends

Article excerpt

The counseling profession in Kenya is in its formative years. There are no national licensure or certification bodies in place, nor is there a single entity that establishes and regulates the standards of training that counselors receive. Counselor education is also quite varied in terms of curriculum, the nature of institutions that offer training, and the duration of training programs. The variation in counselor education is exemplified by the range of programs offered by various institutions, including nongraduate diplomas in counseling (i.e., certificates of advanced studies; Daystar University, 2011), undergraduate degrees (Kenyatta University, 2011), and postgraduate training that is similar to the training offered in the United Kingdom and the United States (Moi University, 2011).

The growth and development of the counseling profession in Kenya is closely associated with the evolution of traditional societal structures caused by multiple social and economic factors over the last 20 years. Although the "talking cure" is hardly new among Kenyans, the contemporary Western concept of a counselor is new and one that the wider Kenyan community has been slow to embrace. Historically, the notion of consulting with a stranger about personal or family problems was an unusual concept and even frowned upon. Social challenges that might cast a shadow on the name and reputation of the family had to be resolved privately. A person who was experiencing an interpersonal problem would seek the help of a well-respected relative or a clan elder; in more serious cases, traditional healers were consulted. A key element to the success of this process was societal structural stability that resulted from geographical location and proximity.

Despite the initial reluctance to embrace professional counseling, Kenya has experienced a rapid growth and development of the profession in the last 20 years. The rapid growth of counseling is due to several factors: (a) the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the resulting widespread establishment of voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) centers; (b) a spate of student unrest that has highlighted the need for supplemental social services in academic institutions; and (c) the government-instituted Kenya National Youth Policy, which identified a key obligation to the youth of the country as the "provision of guidance and counselling" in social and academic settings (Ministry of Home Affairs, Heritage, & Sports, 2002, Section 7.3). In this article, we explore the history and development of mental health counseling, school counseling, and counseling professional organizations separately. We highlight parallel development between school and mental health counseling and the development of professional counseling organizations.

* History

Kenya, a former British colony, gained its independence in 1963 and remained under single-party status until 1992 (Ogot & Ochieng, 1995). Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, remained in power from the time the country became independent until his death in 1978. Daniel arap Moi, who was vice president at that time, ascended to the presidency and the country continued under one-party rule until 1992 with the country's first multiparty elections (Ogot & Ochieng, 1995). Fragmentations in the opposition led to 8 more years under President Moi, who was replaced by Mwai Kibaki in the 2002 elections. With the exception of a failed military coup in 1982, Kenya has enjoyed considerable peace and stability. A recent major disruption to the stability of the country occurred in 2008 following a flawed and disputed general election (Kanyiga, 2009). This led to a period of bitter interethnic fighting, during which approximately 1,500 people were killed, more than 300,000 people were forced to flee their homes, and an estimated 100,000 children were internally displaced in Kenya, with as many as 75,000 children living in over 200 camps for displaced people (Humanitarian Policy Group, 2008). …

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