Guatemala

Summary

Counselling Associations

All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.

Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Counselling Service Providers

Asociación de Orientadores Escolares de Guatemala [The Association of School Counselors]

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

Universidad del Valle de Guatemala

Note: There is no undergraduate counselling degree per se, but two licentiate degree programs, one in family sciences and the other in psychology, include counselor training. School and mental health counselling is not accredited in Guatemala.

Background & Context

Guatemala is a lower-middle income country (World Bank, 2018) that is affected by structural problems of inequality, exclusion, and extreme poverty. Guatemala is exposed to regular natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Violence and high levels of organised crime activity leave many vulnerable. According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO 2015), 23.4% of the population lives in extreme poverty, with 34.2% of the potential workforce being unemployed. Although an officially approved mental health policy exists (WHO, 2014), only 1.46% of the total government health budget is spent on mental health.

Guatemala is a culturally and socioeconomically diverse country. According to Grazioso, Keller, Swazo, and Consoli (2013), this is reflected in the vast differences in the way in which counselling services are delivered, with one type of counselling carried out by indigenous shamans, religious, and community leaders and the other through formal counselling training. While counselling has its origins in clinical and psychological disciplines, it is now emerging as an autonomous profession.

Toro-Alfonso (2009) describe counselling services being provided for family planning, HIV/AIDS, posttraumatic stress disorder for either natural disasters or violence, addictions, and intra-family violence. Grazioso et al. (2013) describe a further divide between rural and urban counselling services with urban services delivered in private practice settings by psychologists or professional counsellors with formal education and training. In rural settings, people are generally living in poverty and counselling is delivered by an elder, or leader, of a town or village. Payment is often by way of a donation of a good or service.

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

There is no regulation of counselling as an autonomous profession in Guatemala. According to Grazioso et al. (2013), following a period of five-to-six-year undergraduate study, graduates (who receive a licentiate degree) may practice in any field. There are no undergraduate counselling degrees but some programs, e.g., psychology, include counsellor training. Grazioso et al. (2013) further explain the routes available to obtain the various counselling qualifications through both undergraduate and graduate academic university programs. These include: (a) a six-semester technical degree in vocational and labour counselling; (b) a licentiate degree in psychology; (c) a licentiate degree in educational psychology; (d) a licentiate degree in family sciences, counselling, and family psychotherapy; e) a licentiate degree in psychology and social counselling; (f) a master’s degree in clinical counselling, mental health, and psychosocial intervention; or (g) a master’s degree in counselling psychology and mental health.

According to Grazioso et al. (2013) no distinction is made between school counsellors and school psychologists. Both carry out the same psychological testing and evaluation and conduct career and vocational counselling in similar ways. No information on the current steps being taken towards licensure arrangements is available. The terms orientación and consejeria are used broadly to refer to counselling. Grazioso et al. (2013) state that counselling, particularly in rural settings, may be conducted in informal setting such as in backyards, on streets, or in fields.

Practice Settings

According to Grazioso et al. (2013), some of the known counselling settings are:  

  •  Elementary schools, high schools, and colleges
  • Faith based organisations via pastoral counsellors and family counsellors
  • Hospitals
  • Non-profit organisations like organizations offering mental health and substance abuse counselling
  • Crisis prevention and PTSD treatment following natural disasters.
  • Substance abuse counselling

Challenges & Trends

The counselling profession in Guatemala faces a number of significant challenges to its development, not least the major socio-economic problems, which impact the majority of citizens in some way. Grazioso et al. (2013) highlight the conflict between traditional, mostly Mayan and Christian religious beliefs, and modern beliefs in relation to mental health, and the lack of counsellors in rural areas. It will be important for ways in which both sectors can cooperate to optimize the care for Guatemalan people.

 The gradual expansion of counsellor education programs and the promotion of mental health awareness are just some ways to engage wider society in the challenge of resourcing the area of mental health. The government should be encouraged to devote a higher percentage of its budget to mental health and to follow international example. Without increased state recognition the counselling profession is unlikely to develop much further. This, in turn, will lead to a continued lack of access for potential clients. The speed at which counselling develops in Guatemala is dependent on multiple factors and the gains made in school and vocational counselling should be used as a foundation from which to build.

Additional Information & References

Guatemala
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