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
Francisco de Paula Santander University (specialty program in vocational and occupational guidance)
National Pedagogical University of Bogata (UPN; specialty in educational psychology with emphasis on school guidance)
Universidad El Bosque (specialty in educational counselling and human development)
Instituto Colombiano de Análisis Existencial y Logoterapia Viktor Frankl
Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres
Background & Context
Professional activities related to clinical mental health counselling appear to be the exclusive domain of psychologists in the country of colombia (Ardila, 2010). This field has an established history of providing mental health treatment and a well-developed professional association, the Colombian College of Psychologists (http://www.colpsic.org.co/), and legal recognition from the government. No research was located identifying professionals other than psychologists providing clinical counselling services to the citizens of the country; however, there is a solid tradition of delivering vocational guidance and related career counselling activities within the educational system of Colombia (Brunal, 2017).
Brunal (2017) states that no professional title of career counsellor exists in Colombia, but a position of school counsellor does exist throughout public and some private schools, mostly focused in primary and secondary grades from first to ninth grade. These school counsellors come from various undergraduate preparation backgrounds (e.g., education, psychology, social work, occupational therapy), but all are seen as teachers within their schools who have additional, or in some cases exclusive, duties of addressing the career, personality development, and educational needs of students. In 1974, the Government of Colombia via Resolution No. 1084, established “the ratio of school counselors to students at 1:250” (Brunal, 2017, p. 2), yet this ratio has never been enforced and by 2016 in the city of Bogata, for example, the actual ratio was 1:750 (N= 1,200 counsellors to roughly 900,00 students). Additionally, school counsellors infrequently exist in many rural and even some urban schools. As of 2016 there appeared to be a total of 1,892 “guidance teachers” in Colombia (Brunal, 2017, p. 3).
Although the National Ministry of Education has developed expectations for the inclusion of career counselling to be addressed within the school system of Colombia, the reality appears that career guidance is treated more like an educational topic offered by various teachers who have a diverse range of specialized graduate training in some common career counselling core areas, but most received advanced training in clinical psychology, social sciences, humanities, educational psychology, or occupational therapy building upon their undergraduate training (Brunal, 2017). Accordingly, the activities these school counsellors focus on are often influenced by their original field of study, with educational psychologists possibly taking an “academic or behavioral approach to students and teachers” or those trained in clinical psychology taking a more psychotherapeutic method to their duties, for example (Brunal, 2017, p. 7).
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
No uniform standards for the training of school counsellors exists in Colombia, nor does any entity monitor the profession, although the government has sporadically established some common duties for those offering school counselling at times. For example, in 2010 the National Civil Service Commission of Colombia listed specific functions for school counsellor job applicants including:
- The assessment, development, evaluation, and implementation of student guidance programs, to include some focus on character development
- Promotion of ethics, morality, and good citizenship for students to become productive and engaged members of society
- Encouragement of good decision-making for students, including in areas of career, skill development, and knowledge acquisition
- Promotion of effective teaching and parenting strategies, educational programming, and cultural, sports, and civic activities to the school and community
- Engaging in networking and skills development with government or private sector entities or institutions around teamwork, time management, problem-solving and conflict resolution, accountability, and related skills (Brunal, 2017, p. 3).
All school counselling activities are focused in primary and secondary public schools in colombia (up to the ninth grade primarily), with some school counselling existing in private schools; private school counsellors are mostly clinical or educational psychologists versus the breadth of the training of public school counsellors (Brunal, 2017). Additionally, some higher education colleges and universities hire psychologists, but these individuals most often focus on student retention activities, apparently a rampant problem in colombian higher education, rather than focusing on career or other school counselling areas of practice.
Challenges & Trends
With such diverse educational backgrounds of professionals practicing school counselling, it is evident the execution of these duties is quite different within the schools of Colombia. According to Brunal, as of 2017 there was no official organization or government body in existence in Colombia for regulation of standards, accreditation, or credentialing of school counsellors or their duties, although there does exist a National Accreditation Council that oversees teachers and teacher training institutions and there has been some interest among practicing school counsellors for the development of an association for guidance professionals, indicating future professionalization of the field of school counselling has promise. Due to this potential for professionalization, it seems Colombia may be interested in assistance in these endeavors from the international community of professional counsellors via ACA, IAC, and NBCC International, and other organizations.