All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.
Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes
Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres
Background & Context
In Bhutan, a proposal has been submitted to the government to create a cadre for the employment of counsellors in the national health system. Mental health training is provided to an increasing number and variety of health workers. Bhutanese researchers have also begun to inquire about the relationship between traditional and modern approaches to mental health (Lester, 2015).
The Bhutan Board of Certified Counsellors (BBCC) and the stakeholders with an interest in counselling are working together to formalize the profession (Lester, 2015). It was affirmed that Bhutan has a lack of counsellors and aims to have more counsellors to contribute to those in need. As mentioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), Bhutan was identified as a country that is greatly in need of mental health services (WHO & Ministry of Health Bhutan, 2006). The Royal Government of Bhutan approached this subject and invited the United States-based NBCC International, in 2012, to further collaborate with the rest of the Bhutanese professionals in growing and developing a counselling profession in the country (Lester, 2015).
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
In 2017, the Royal Highness Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck inaugurated the National Certification of counselling professionals in Bhutan (Lhamo, 2017). She is also the founder of Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW) in 2004. RENEW is a non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of women and children in Bhutan, with specific attention to the survivors of domestic violence (DV) and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV). The organization is also known for its battle to recognize gender inequalities in the country. Counselling services are provided for all family members throughout the country and RENEW does not charge for their service. This initiation to counselling impacted Bhutan in acknowledging the counselling profession and its crucial role in keeping its citizens’ mental health well being.
Counselling practices in Bhutan are available at:
- Schools & Universities
- Government Ministries
Challenges & Trends
Bhutan is a very secluded country where they limit tourists into the country (Tourism Council of Bhutan, n.d.). Hence, the presence of counsellors is not very known and no formal training can be found. There are only religious figures that support the population with their mental health needs, e.g., guidance and prayer. In recent years, Bhutan has finally sought help in getting more knowledge on the importance of counselling. They have been equipping counsellors in schools and universities in school guidance counsellor. There are more than 200 counsellors as of 2017 in Bhutan (Lhamo, 2017). With the acknowledgement from the Royal Highness Princess Kesang Choden Wangchuck, identifying existing issues such as gender inequality, abuse, and violence on women has resulted in RENEW refocusing to give counselling services to those in need (Lhamo, 2017).
Even though Bhutan is considered among the top 10 happiest countries in the world measured by gross national happiness (NGH; Sondergaard, n.d.), the suicide rate is still prominent and remains an issue. In Bhutan, mental health is heavily stigmatized as in most countries in Asia. People often overlook the fact that Bhutan still lacks counselling for mental health issues and the lack of counsellors in the country has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an issue, also.
Since Bhutan has now been open for help from outside their country, the field of counselling is dominated by Western counselling thought and traditions. In general, importing Western styles of practice and training to other Asian nations has left professionals to question the possible cultural relevance of Western approaches to non-Western settings (Lester, 2015).
Additional Information & References
For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:
- Lester, S.V. (2015). Bhutanese Counselors’ Experiences with Western Counseling: A Qualitative Study.[Doctoral dissertation, Old Dominion University]. ODU Digital Commons. https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/chs_etds/1/
- Lhamo, P. (2017, September 29). Board certifies 147 counselors for practice. Kuensel. https://kuenselonline.com/board-certifies-147-counselors-for-practice/
- Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW). https://renew.org.bt/awts-team-category/counselling-department/
- Sondergaard, M. (n.d.) Gross National Happiness. Little Bhutan. https://www.littlebhutan.com/bhutan/gross-national-happiness
- Tourism Council of Bhutan https://www.bhutan.travel/