All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.
Iranian Counselling Association (انجمن مشاوره ایران)
- Website: http://irancounseling.ir/index.php?sid=1 (opt for the Persian language, and use Google Translate to translate the website as it reveals more information)
- Organization Size: 2000+ (These are the registered users of the official website which are required of the members of the association. However, the number may be inaccurate as non-members are also allowed to register as users to access information about workshops, conferences, and documents related to counselling).
Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad
- University Website: https://en.um.ac.ir/
- Programme Website: https://en.um.ac.ir/content/Faculty-of-Education-and-Psychology-FEP
- Programme Types: M.Sc. in Counselling and Family Psychology
Allameh Tabataba’i University
- University Website: https://en.atu.ac.ir/
- Programme Website: https://en.atu.ac.ir/index.aspx?siteid=2&pageid=4274
- Programme Types: Master’s degrees in School, Career, Family, and Rehabilitation Counselling; Ph.D. in Counselling
Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres
Background & Context
The roots of psychology have always been embedded in Iranian culture. Dating back as early as a millennium ago when the field was known as Elmon Nafs (the psychology of self and soul), it was advocated by the likes of Avicenna and Rumi, who discussed topics such as emotions, cognitive abilities, and perception (Fatemi et al, 2020). The former even used psychological methods such as talk therapy as an intervention for treatment of various psychological issues in his times. This rich history of philosophers and thinkers have influenced Iranian culture in valuing advice seeking and consultation (Fatemi, Khodayari & Steward, 2015). Thus, it came to no surprise that the counselling profession has cemented itself in the country relatively easier than other countries.
While psychology was taught in the early 19th century (Fatemi et al, 2020), counselling and guidance were only offered as courses in institutions in the late 1970s (Ahmadi, 2000). The earlier programs were initiated by Iranian counsellors who were experts from the Ministry of Education that were sent abroad to complete their studies and training in the field. The first-ever post-graduate programs in counselling and guidance were offered by the Teacher Training University. Hence, the counselling profession was mostly emphasized within the field of education as most graduates came from a teaching background.
When the war between Iran and Iraq happened in 1982, demand for counsellors increased as they became more engaged in providing mental health services in non-school settings. The war lasted for eight years which severed the country economically, socially, and psychologically (Fatemi et al, 2015). Counsellors of those times collaborated with religious experts and Islamic clergy when providing mental health services. Naturally, this influenced the type of interventions that counsellors offered as they used the concept of God and religious concepts when it comes to assisting people affected by the war. This mesh of religious concepts and counselling interventions can still be seen in modern counselling in Iran (Priester, 2008).
Throughout the 1990s, several counselling centers and clinics were established in the cities, albeit without proper ethical guidance and licensing. With the founding of the Psychology and Counselling Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (PCOIRI) in 1997 and the approval by the Guardian Council of the Constitution in 2004, the profession of mental health counselors was further cemented in the country. The organization is responsible for monitoring the quality of counsellors through licensing, frequent evaluations of mental health clinics, and preparing the guiding ethics for Iranian counsellors.
Counsellors in Iran are established in their professional identity, organization, and set of activities. There are at least three associations related to counselling and psychology which are active in organizing member activities such as mental health conferences, seminars, and workshops to further equip counsellors with specialized training.
Recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, counsellors have been collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education in implementing psychosocial interventions for patients infected with the virus as well as those affected by the stress of the pandemic (PCOIRI, 2020).
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
The Psychology and Counselling Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (PCOIRI) stated that counselling exists as an autonomous discipline in the country, as counsellors have their own established professional identity, organization, and set of activities. They obtain their license and permit to work from PCOIRI in which they would have to pass a number of requirements in order to become a licensed counselor:
- become a member of PCOIRI
- have a Master’s or doctoral degree in counselling or psychology
- complete PCOIRI’s screening process
In order to achieve its objectives in protecting counsellors and clients’ rights as well as maintaining the quality of mental health services in Iran, PCOIRI monitors the performance of new counsellors 2-3 years after they obtained their license and also sends evaluators to mental health clinics. Counsellors must follow the organization’s guidelines and participate in continuing education activities so that they can keep their license. In fact, the government even provides incentives to counsellors, especially those affiliated with university programs, to attend seminars, workshops, and conferences.
According to Afrooz (2011), there are around 6,500 counsellors and psychologists in Iran. Though there is no recent report of the number, it’s safe to say that it has increased over the past decades considering the popularity of the profession. With that, counsellors can be found giving their services in the settings listed below (Fatemi & Kodhayari & Steward, 2015):
- Community mental health centers
- Mental hospitals
- Private counselling centers
- University counselling centers
- Primary and secondary schools
- Psychiatric wards of general hospitals
- Non-governmental organizations
- State Welfare Organization of Iran
Challenges & Trends
According to Priester (2008), counsellors in Iran face several challenges in their profession including “population demographic changes, urbanization, changes to the structure of the Iranian home, the influence of the Iran–Iraq War, and illicit drug use” (p. 257). Firstly, the demographic changes from traditional to modern have become a conflict among Iranians in which the traditionalists would want the younger generation to return to their Islamic roots while the modern, younger generation has appeared to form an apathy towards religion. This influenced the role of counsellors in educating their clients. Most concepts of counselling stemmed from Western values which may coincide with the values of Iranians. For example, recent literature has called for the revision of PCOIRI’s counselling ethical guidelines especially in recognizing the rights and respect for clients from the LGBT+ community (Yadegarfard & Bahramabadian, 2014).
Secondly, the urbanization of the country has also become a challenge in making counselling services accessible to Iranians in cities. The National Mental Health program was mostly concentrated in rural areas when it was first introduced by the ministries in 1986 (Shahrifi, 2009). However, as more Iranians migrated to cities for better opportunities, urbanization occurs more rapidly in the city. Thus, mental health programs would need to shift and balance its priorities in urban areas as well.
Thirdly, substance use and dependence especially on opium and LSD have also become a social issue that counsellors need to mitigate. It is estimated that there were 2.5 million to 3.5 million Iranians with drug addictions.
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:
- Afrooz, G. A. (2011, February 24). Iran needs 17 thousand psychologists. TABNAK. http://www.tabnak.ir/fa/news/150147/ناريا–هب-17-رازه–سانشناوردنمزاين–
- Fatemi, A., Khodayari, L., & Stewart, A. (2015). Counseling in Iran: History, Current Status, and Future Trends. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 105–113. https://doi.org/ 10.1002/ j.1556-6676.2015.00186.x
- Fatemi, S.M., Ebrahimabad, M.J.A., Mahdi, S.M., Maryam, S., & Farahi, M. Psychology in Iran. In G.J. Rich, A. Padilla-Lopez, L. Ebersohn, J. Taylor, & S. Morrissey (Eds.), Teaching psychology around the world: Volume 5 (pp. 281-290). Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
- Priester, P. E. (2008). Mental Health Counseling in the Islamic Republic of Iran: A Marriage of Religion, Science, and Practice. Counseling and Values, 52(3), 253–264. https://doi.org/10.1002/ j.2161-007x.2008.tb00108.x
- Psychology and Counselling Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran. (2013). Psychology and counseling organization of Islamic Republic of Iran.
- Shahrifi, V. (2009). Urban Mental Health in Iran: Challenges and Future Directions. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 3(1), 9–14.
- Yadegarfard, M., & Bahramabadian, F. (2014). Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Ethics Code of the Psychology and Counseling Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran (PCOIRI). Ethics & Behavior, 24(5), 350–363. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508422.2013.845733