IVth Biennial Bhutan Counseling Conference
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, in Bhutan too, there is a dire need of psychologists, counselling 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 counselling profession. I am certain that these are some of the issues that regularly find a place on the agenda of the biennial conference. All of these make the Bhutan Board for Certified Counsellors so very important.
One humble suggestion that I would make is that this conference might consider discussing how the professional work of counsellors can be supported by informal and traditional forms of counselling 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 counsellors. It would indeed be unfortunate if, through misunderstanding, counselling 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.