Cambodia

Summary

Counselling Associations

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

Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP)

University of Puthisastra

Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres

Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Cambodia 

Mercy Teams International (MTI) Cambodia

 

Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) 

ARV Users Association 

Child Helpline Cambodia 

Background & Context

From 1935 onwards, the only mental health hospital existing in Cambodia was the 

Praek Thnoat Mental Hospital, run by two Cambodian psychiatrists trained in France. However, the Cambodian mental health field was devastated as a result of the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979). Large numbers of qualified professionals of all disciplines were killed by the Khmer Rouge, with the two psychiatrists assumed to have met their death as well. From 1975 to 1994, no mental health training was conducted as it was believed that there were no surviving mental health professionals available to teach (Chimm, 2017, pp. 136-137). 

As a result, Cambodia has had to slowly rebuild their mental health infrastructure. In 1992, a Mental Health subcommittee of the Cambodian Ministry of Health was formed to aid in its development (Parry & Wilkinson, 2019). Cambodia has also sought help from international NGOs, such as the Cambodia Mental Health Training Program (CMHTP) started by the University of Oslo in 1994;  CMHTP provided the first modern group of mental health professionals in Cambodia (Chimm, 2017, p. 137). 

In 2014, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (DMHSA) was established by the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the responsibility for mental health, substance abuse, and harm reduction. However, the Cambodian Ministry of Health still has yet to formally recognize a Mental Health Policy and, as there is no separate national organization for counselling currently set up in Cambodia, a significant amount of mental health work is done by non-profit organizations relying on donations (WHO, 2005). Funding for the mental health field is also struggling with less than 1% of the annual government health budget allocated to the profession (Schunert et al, 2012). 

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

Cambodia currently does not have a governing body to regulate counselling practices, nor does any counselling association in general currently exist. However, as of 2018, according to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), a group of teachers and students from the University of Puthisastra in Phnom Penh are working to establish Cambodia’s first official association. 

Cambodia does not currently provide insurance benefits for those in need of counselling nor for general mental health services either. 

Practice Settings

Most of the counselling services available in Cambodia are located in Phnom Penh. Those providing services are typically lay counsellors and do not necessarily have a formal background in counselling. 

Practice settings include: 

  • Non-profit & Non-governmental Organizations
  • Community & Faith-based Counselling Centres
  • Hospitals and Mental Health Facilities
  • Private Practices

Challenges & Trends

Much of the counselling services offered by NGOs in Cambodia are engaging in community-based psychosocial work. Though many have their bases in the capital, Phnom Penh, they are also actively reaching out to more rural areas of Cambodia, where 75% of the population reside, and offering counselling to those who are cut off from its accessibilities. Counsellors are still actively trying to provide aid for clients and their families struggling with major trauma events, such as the Khmer Rouge, as well as trying to improve the quality of life for those struggling with economic issues such as poverty and vulnerability through using education, training, and therapy. 

Cambodia’s biggest challenge is rebuilding the mental health infrastructure from zero post-Khmer Rouge. As reported by Schunert et al (2012), only <1% of the annual health budget is allocated to mental health, which slows down the development and expansion of mental health facilities in a country with a large percentage of its population suffering mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, from the aftermath of Khmer Rouge rule. As the mental health field is yet to be nationally recognized, those who work in the profession often do so in NGOs. As there are limited job opportunities, the demand for universities to provide counselling courses is affected. Currently, only two universities in Cambodia offer courses in counselling. This cycle of the lack of academic courses to the lack of professionals to the lack of services leaves Cambodians who need mental health intervention to deal with it on their own or to look for alternate remedies such as through spiritual doctors. 

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:

Cambodia
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