HRH Princess Kezang Choden Wangchuck was invited to grace the IVth Biennial Bhutan Counseling Conference “Counselor Education, Supervision, Training and Certification” on 28th September 2017. The event was organized by RENEW.
It is with immense pleasure that I have accepted the kind invitation to participate in what I recognize to be a historic event for Bhutan. 140 practitioners are being recognized for their valuable knowledge, skill and dedication and are to become the first cohort of Nationally Certified Counselors.
I am delighted to extend my Congratulations to all of you! I have no doubt that you will work towards upholding the profession with dignity and competence and be rewarded with immense satisfaction and fulfillment in your life.
I am equally heartened to note that this is the 4thBiennial Bhutan Counseling Conference. This clearly indicates that the trained and practicing counselors spread across various agencies of the government, civil society, private and corporate sectors are actively engaged in strengthening their collective capacity in a spirit of cooperation to serve their common cause.
Under the visionary leadership of His Majesty the King, we the Bhutanese people are enjoying unprecedented peace, harmony and development. But as His Majesty has often reminded us, we cannot be complacent. We need to be mindful of the unintended and adverse impacts of development. Indeed, having chosen the path of progress and inevitable integration with the globalized world, our country is changing in ways that we want as well as in ways that are extremely worrying. More and more of us- our children, siblings, neighbors, friends and colleagues are finding themselves caught in situations that they are unable to deal with. The onslaught of modern lifestyles and weakening of family structures are eroding the precious traditional family and community systems that provided timely support and guidance.
It was His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck who first felt the need for counseling to aid the growth and development of our youth through the education system. Recognizing counseling as a formal profession in Bhutan in 1996, His Majesty established the Youth Guidance and Counseling Program to address youth issues in the country.
His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgay Wangchuck attaches the highest importance to youth in the pursuit of our national vision of a happy society. Under the guidance of His Majesty, the Royal Government invests considerable resources to ensure that the material progress of our nation does not come at the cost of the mental wellbeing of our citizens. It continues to strive to provide our youth with opportunities to grow and develop into capable and productive individuals. I am certain that the counselors are inspired and moved by the exemplary deeds of our beloved King. His Majesty is personally engaged in creating special opportunities both within and outside the country to support the wholesome development of our youth and to recognize and reward the deserving while extending emotional and material care to the disadvantaged.
All of us may agree that keeping the nation on the path of GNH has not been easy for our Kings and policy makers. It will become even more challenging as our citizens are transformed not only by our own planned development process but also by the powerful global forces of change.
More children, youth, adults and the aged than we would dare to admit are becoming emotional orphans. Feelings of being unloved, unwanted, excluded, lonely and disconnected are spreading in ways that are not always visible especially since the vast majority of us are materially better off than our parents ever were. Here in the capital, the money that our youth spend on frivolities, in bars and restaurants reveal very little of the emotional and psychological ailments many of them suffer. Indeed, our social structures are undergoing fundamental changes. They are tested, stressed and breaking apart in many ways. Relational failures, aspirational disappointments and loss of trust and hope are driving more and more people of all ages to clinical depression, substance abuse, crime and violence. For a country that is serious about happiness, our suicide rate is most alarming.
Bhutan has truly arrived in the globalized world. Our people are as much troubled by globally common ailments as by our unique challenges. As everywhere else, for Bhutan too, there is a dire need of psychologists, counseling professionals, mental health professionals, and other frontline care givers. Yet, we are all aware of the grave dangers of wrong counsel by the well-intended but incompetent to those who are emotionally, psychologically or even physically vulnerable and to those who are aggrieved by loss, anguish and despair. We are also aware of such cases being exploited by unscrupulous people. This makes critical the development and strengthening of legal framework, institutional arrangements and supportive infrastructure for the motivation, effective functioning and sustainability of the counseling profession. I am certain that these are some of the issues that regularly find place on the agenda of the biennial conference. All of these make the Bhutan Board for Certified Counselors so very important.
One humble suggestion that I would make is that this conference might consider discussing how the professional work of counselors can be supported by informal and traditional forms of counseling by non-professionals including parents, elders, peers, teachers and religious people among others. I believe these essential roles and practices also need to be strengthened through various programs and processes including interaction and collaboration with the nationally certified counselors. It would indeed be unfortunate if, through misunderstanding, counseling became the sole responsibility of professionals.
I am extremely happy that the Bhutan Board for Certified Counselors under the auspices of RENEW – an organization under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck has established the procedures to develop standards for counseling as a profession in Bhutan with the help of the National Board for Certified Counselors based in the United States of America.
I know your work will demand the highest patience, compassion, empathy and sacrifice. It is only with such qualities that you will be able to gain the confidence, trust and respect of the cases you deal with. In so doing, it becomes vitally important to act with professional objectivity by maintaining emotional separation from your work. I also realize that counseling is among the most exhausting and challenging of vocations. Consequently, maintaining one’s own physical and mental health, may not be simple. You will have to begin by taking care of yourself first and by trying to be good examples and role models. Therefore, the need for your own spiritual and mental nourishment and care through means and practices fully established in your very well developed profession must never be undermined.
I take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck. Her Majesty is creating an awareness on the importance of the counseling profession and is spearheading the development of counseling services in our country.
My gratitude goes to the National Board for Certified Counselors for providing valuable support and substantive collaboration in this fairly new field for Bhutan.
I would like to acknowledge all the international and national participants at this event and wish you all a successful conference.
Once again, I express my admiration for all of you who have chosen to dedicate your life to this vital field and for rising to the call of our nation. I commend all of you for taking up this noble profession that has a key role in our collective aspiration to become a GNH society.