Counseling in Greece

Article excerpt

We will risk being called Euro- or Greco-centric and argue that the philosophical origins of counseling can be traced to the Socratic dialectic method of inquiry because Socrates is the philosopher who moved the focus of philosophical inquiry to the nature of human beings and was the first advocate of a person-centered worldview. Socrates's messages of "know thyself," "the unexamined life is not worth living" and "give me beauty in the inward soul; may the outward and the inward man be at one" have influenced modern thinking and are at the very core of the counseling identity. His message to his disciples to take care of their soul and to look at the good in them, along with his invitation for self-examination and self-analysis, rightfully grants him membership in the counseling profession.

Counseling as a specialized service offered by a trained professional did not exist in Greece until recently. Greece has been traditionally characterized as a collectivistic culture (Nezlek, Kafetsios, & Smith, 2008; Triandis, 1994), where family, friendship, and other social relationships were highly valued (Malikiosi-Loizos & Anderson, 1999). As such, counseling has been embedded traditionally within the complex support system of social relationships (Lampropoulos & Stalikas, 2009). Although some aspects of urban family life in Greece have now shifted from collectivist to individualistic (Georgas, 1989; Mylonas, Gari, Giotsa, Pavlopoulos, & Panagiotopoulou, 2006), traditional Greek culture remains more collectivist than the individualistic tradition of most Western countries from which counseling developed as a specialty. It is not surprising that parents, brothers, and sisters, as well as close friends, are still the persons to whom Greeks turn to discuss their problems and seek solutions to those problems (Kalantzi-Azizi & Malikiosi-Loizos, 1994; Malikiosi-Loizos, Christodoulidi, & Gialamas, 2010). However, it is also true that there is a shift to professional counseling seeking among people living in the large urban centers, a process that is also slowly expanding in rural areas. There is a growing demand for psychological counseling, which is pressing the need for more experts in the field.

* History of Counseling in Greece

Greece is a western European country, a member of the European Community and the Eurozone. According to its 1975 constitution, the political system of Greece is a presidential parliamentary republic. Its population is estimated to be about 11,306,183, 10% of which is immigrant, coming primarily from neighboring countries such as Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania. Education is free of charge and compulsory. Compulsory education comprises kindergarten (2 years), elementary school (6 years), and junior high school (gymnasium, 3 years). Postcompulsory secondary education, senior high school (Lyceum), lasts for 3 years and allows students to participate in state-administered examinations to enter a higher educational institution.

The Greek term for counseling is symvoulevtiki, meaning codecide, and comes from syn- (together or with another person's help) and voulevomai (making plans or thinking together with another person before reaching a decision). It is a term used to describe any process during which an individual is assisted in clarifying thoughts and feelings, overcoming difficulties, and learning more about oneself. Counseling is thought to promote goal setting and to offer positive models that can be used as a basis for building human strengths and optimal functioning. A broad definition provided by the Greek Counseling Psychology Division's website (www.counselingpsychology.gr) states that counseling is the applied branch of psychology that facilitates lifelong personal and interpersonal functioning, focusing on emotional, social, vocational, educational, developmental, and health issues. It supports people in their important life decisions or in their adjustment to new and often difficult situations. …