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
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2017) the Republic of Costa Rica has expanded access to education much faster than most countries in the Latin American region. This has had a beneficial impact on the population and has, in part, contributed to Costa Rica having a well-developed universal healthcare system. While examining the educational and role differences between counsellors in the United States and in Costa Rica, Collier (2012) describes how educational development, and particularly the inclusion of humanistic studies in higher education, has led to the Costa Rican government taking a more humanistic approach to public health.
According to McLeod (2013), although counselling services are well established in Costa Rica, they are subsumed into other professions such as psychology and social work. Collier (2012) explains that the Spanish word for counsellor is orientador, which means to orient or guide. Collier (2012) further highlights that Costa Rican orientadors’ have a much more limited range of actions, essentially being only allowed to encourage or direct clients, and that this mostly takes place within the realm of education and career guidance.
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
Counselling is not recognised as an autonomous profession in Costa Rica. The closest related work can, according to Collier (2012) be divided into three separate categories: (a) the work of orientadors; (b) psychologists, and (c) social workers. The term orientador heavily overlaps with that of social worker, and to practice either a bachelor’s degree (normally studied over four years) is required. To practice psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic techniques, a Licenciatura is required. Collier (2012) describes this as a credential at a level between that of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Costa Ricans can train to work as orientadors in both public and private schools with the National University of Costa Rica (UNA; https://www.una.ac.cr/) offering school counselling programs.
The most common counselling practice contexts and settings are:
- Schools and technical institutes
- Faith based organisations
- Occupational trade associations
- Non-profit organisations offering mental health and substance abuse counselling
- Special population centers and prisons
- Centers for the elderly
- Private practices
- Mental health agencies
Challenges & Trends
A considerable amount of work is required to establish counselling as an autonomous profession in Costa Rica. The potential for developing and promoting the counselling profession is good as the orientador and school counselling systems are well established. Widespread counselling services would serve the population well and future collaborations with international partners might be helpful to the emergence of these services. Collier (2012) describes there being no association specifically for orientadors, but that both orientadors and psychologists adhere to the ethical code of the Colegio Profesional de Psicólogos de Costa Rica [The Professional Association of Psychologists in Costa Rica]. Perhaps the first step towards a stronger profession is the establishment of a counselling organisation as a basis from which to grow.