Students' Perceptions of School Counselors: An Investigation of Two High Schools in Beijing, China

By Shi, Qi; Liu, Xi et al. | The Professional Counselor, September 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Students' Perceptions of School Counselors: An Investigation of Two High Schools in Beijing, China


Shi, Qi, Liu, Xi, Leuwerke, Wade, The Professional Counselor


China has been experiencing dramatic economic and social changes in the past 3 decades (Guthrie, 2012). During this time there has been increased attention to both mental health problems and student development (Cyranoski, 2010; Lim, Lim, Michael, Cai, & Schock, 2010; Xin & Zhang, 2009). It has been estimated that at least 17.5% of the Chinese population has some form of mental illness, one of the highest rates in the world (Phillips et al., 2009), accounting for about 20% of hospitalizations in the country (Fei, 2006). Facing significant mental health challenges, several authors have noted the need for more counseling professionals and mental health service providers (Cook, Lei, & Chiang, 2010; Davey & Zhao, 2012). In rural areas with fewer resources, the demand for mental health care is even greater (Ji, 2000).

Given such great needs for mental health services, China has been making tremendous efforts in reforming its mental health service system (Tse, Ran, Huang, & Zhu, 2013). In 2004, China launched the 686 Project, a mental health reform initiative modeled on the World Health Organization's recommended framework for integrating hospital-based services with a community mental health service system (Ma, 2012). By the end of 2011, 1.83 million Chinese people with severe mental illness had been treated as a result of the project.

While China has witnessed growth in the counseling profession, at the same time it has struggled to build national certification and licensing standards, and create comprehensive counselor training (Chang & Kleinman, 2002; Cook et al., 2010; Davey & Zhao, 2012; Ding, Kuo, & Van Dyke, 2008; Hou & Zhang, 2007). In 2002, China's National Counseling Licensing Board was formed, and there is currently a three-tier national licensing program. More than 30 locations throughout China offer the qualification exams for counselors, and recently a national exam to license school counselors was instituted (Lim et al, 2010). Results from a nationwide survey of professional training of mental health practitioners in China showed that quality of training and supervision were among common concerns (Gao et al., 2010). Also, more accredited professional training programs at the university or college level must be designed and established. Beijing Normal University, in collaboration with Rowan University in the United States, was reported to be the first university in China to offer a school counseling training program (Lim et al., 2010).

Mental Health of Students in China

Increased attention to student well-being has shown high prevalence of mental health problems among Chinese students (Cook et al, 2010; Wang & Miao, 2001). Common psychological problems among students included test anxiety, academic pressure, loneliness, social discomfort, video game addiction (Thomason & Qiong, 2008), Internet addiction, child obesity, self-centeredness and reclusion (Worrell, 2008). A study from a metropolitan area in southeastern China showed that 10.8% of high school students had mental health concerns including hostility, compulsions, depression and interpersonal relationship sensitivity (Hu, 1994). A more recent survey conducted by Wu et al. (2012) among 1,891 high school students in a southern city in China showed that 25% of the adolescents reported a perceived need for mental health services, while only 5% of the sample had used school-based mental health services, and 4% had used non-school-based services.

Researchers are starting to identify factors that contribute to Chinese students' mental health problems, including the pressure to achieve academic success (Corbin Dwyer & McNaughton, 2004; Thomason & Qiong, 2008; Worrell, 2008), being an only child (Liu, Munakata, & Onuoha, 2005; Thomason & Qiong, 2008; Worrell, 2008), prevalence of physical abuse (Wong, Chen, Goggins, Tang, & Leung, 2009), inability to cope with multiple expectations and requirements (Tang, 2006), increased attention to personal and social development (Corbin Dwyer & McNaughton, 2004), and the generation gap between children and their parents (Thomason & Qiong, 2008). …

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