Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling in Iran: History, Current Status, and Future Trends

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Counseling in Iran: History, Current Status, and Future Trends

Article excerpt

According to the World Health Organization (2006), Iranian society has recognized the value of positive mental health and the important role of counselors in providing mental health services. The demand for counselors in Iran has increased as a result of challenging conditions, including natural disasters (Yasamy et al., 2001), war, and social and political instability (Priester, 2008). The role of counselors in Iran serves as an example of how counselors can help people and provide services under challenging social and political circumstances.

In this article, we present an overview of Iran's demographics and cultural context to give a background on Iran and its population. We also discuss the historical roots of counseling in Iran, its current status, and future directions. We conclude with a focus on challenges facing the profession of counseling in Iran.

Cultural Context of Iran

The establishment of Iranians' civilization and empire dates approximately as far back as the 6th century BC (Ladjevardian, 2005). Iran is a Middle Eastern country, which shares borders with Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's neighbors across the Caspian Sea, which is located to the North of Iran. The southern edge of Iran is formed by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman (World Population Review, 2013). With a size of 1,628,771 square kilometers, Iran has a population of approximately 75 million people (Statistical Center of Iran, 2011).

Demography of Iran

Iran's population significantly increased during the second half of the 20th century (Tehran Times, 2012) due to improvements in the health system; however, the population growth rate decreased in recent years by 1.29% (Statistical Center of Iran, 2011). The mean age of the population is 29.86 years, with the largest group comprising ages 15-64 (70.9%), followed by 0-14 (23.4%), and 65 plus (5.7%; Statistical Center of Iran, 2011). The rate of divorce in Iran is 1.7 per 1,000 people (Reihani, 2010).

Iran's population consists of various ethnic groups: Persian (61%), Azeri (16%), Kurd (10%), Lur (6%), Baloch (2%), Arab (2%), Turkish tribes and Turkmen (2%), and others 1% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2011). Currently, Iran is considered a Muslim state with a 98% Muslim population. Approximately 2% of Iranians are Jewish, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Baha'i (Hassan, 2008). There is no record available for the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and their specific mental health challenges in Iran due to the country's general stance on sexual orientation and gender identity. Being involved in a same-sex relationship is a crime in Iran (Human Rights Watch, 2010), and this classification prevents individuals from identifying themselves as LGBTQ. Furthermore, sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage are illegal in Iran (Human Rights Watch, 2010). These issues contribute to the lack of awareness about the mental health challenges of LGBTQ individuals in Iran.

The official language of Iran is Farsi, which is spoken by 65% of the population. Other spoken languages are Gilaki, Mazandarani, Azeri, Kurdish, Balochi, and Arabic (Library of Congress Federal Research Division, 2008). Iran became an Islamic country and theocratic republic in 1979 when the Pahlavi monarchy was overthrown (Ladjevardian, 2005). The Pahlavi monarchy (1925-1979) tried to promote modernism in Iran (Harvey, 1989) through industrial transformation. The Pahlavi monarchy's goal was to transform Iran into its previous imperial glory (Keshavarzian, 2007); however, it gradually became oppressive, which led its overthrow in 1979 (Abrahamian, 1982). The overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy and its replacement with an Islamic Republic brought significant cultural and social changes that affected people and mental health care providers (Priester, 2008). …

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