Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Counseling Profession in Russia: Historical Roots, Current Trends, and Future Perspectives

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Counseling Profession in Russia: Historical Roots, Current Trends, and Future Perspectives

Article excerpt

The Russian Federation, a vast nation that spans 11 time zones across the continents of Europe and Asia, has a profound 1,000-year intellectual and spiritual tradition. The Russian nation has weathered the cataclysms of its history and, today, finds itself facing an array of political, economic, and social challenges that call for the development of adequate mental health services. The counseling profession is one of the more recent innovations. To understand the position of counseling among the present trends and future perspectives of the mental health professions in Russia, one needs to understand Russia's current situation, as well as the historical forces that have shaped its culture.

Russia is home to 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous people, living in a land that borders on 14 different countries. An important unifying aspect of this diverse nation of cities, however, is its common official language. Although its 141.9 million people speak more than 140 languages and dialects, almost all of them also speak Russian. Despite its ethnic diversity and massive size, the Russian educational system has achieved a 99.4% literacy rate, higher than that of the United States. Approximately 7 million students attend the country's 1,090 higher education institutions, almost all of which are state supported (Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], n.d.; U.S. Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, n.d.). Russia places a high value on education, and directives from the Russian government form the basis of curriculum development.

In addition, Russia is a nation of urban centers. It is the largest country in the world, with a land mass almost twice that of the United States, even though Russia's population is only half as large (141.9 million vs. 308.7 million; CIA, n.d.; U.S. Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, n.d.). However, to compare Russia's population density (22 people per square mile) with that of the United States (76 people per square mile) is entirely misleading. Russia has 13 cities of more than a million people, compared with nine such cities in the United States ("List of Cities and Towns in Russia," n.d.; "List of United States Cities," n.d.). Moreover, approximately 20% of Russia's entire population lives in these massive urban centers, compared with a mere 8% of the United States' population living in its nine largest cities. By this key measure, Russia is more urban than the United States, and this urbanization has a significant impact on its social problems, the delivery of its social services, and the type of training programs that may prove effective in meeting its social needs.

To meet the needs of a rapidly changing society following the fall of the Communist regime in 1991, the field of social work emerged in Russia in 1991. The counseling profession is now officially established as a branch within the social work field, as a result of a government directive that went into effect in 2011 (Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation [Ministry of Education and Science], 2009). Another recent government policy calls for the creation of an addictions counseling specialty, offering the potential for counselors to work alongside psychologists and medical doctors in the treatment of addictions. A look at Russian history, including the history of its mental health professions, may provide an understanding of the unique aspects of Russian culture that affect the potential for the emerging counseling profession in the world's largest country.

* Political and Religious History (962-Present)

Reporting on how Russians are likely to respond to the trauma of terror, a Russian public opinion analyst gave an insight that resonates throughout Russian history: "People place their trust in the president, the army and the church" (Krainova &von Twickel, 2009). From Russia's beginnings as Kievan Rus in the year 962, whether the Russian leader has been called prince, czar, or prime minister, that "president" is an authoritarian leader. …

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