Sri Lanka

Summary

Counselling Associations

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

Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors

Sri Lanka Institute for Professional Counsellors

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

University of Sri Jayewardenepura

University of Colombo

Institute of Mental Health 

National Institute of Business Management

Aquinas College of Higher Studies

Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres

Shanthiham Association for Health & Counselling 

The National Council for Mental Health

Women in Need

Background & Context

Whilst there is a lack of studies in the comprehensive history of counselling in Sri Lanka, it can be observed that as with many other Asian countries, it has its roots in school and community-based counselling. In 1983, Sri Lanka introduced school guidance and counselling programmes to a select number of schools in Colombo, in collaboration with the National Youth Council. In 2006, the Guidance and Counselling Unit at the National Institute of Education (NIE) was established with the aim to meet the psychosocial needs of the community through various initiatives such as curriculum improvement, evaluation, and training of professionals (Pathirana, 2016). 

Also established in the 1980s, was the start of the non-governmental Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services as a response to the anti-Tamil and ethnic violence present in the country at the time (Galappatti, Salih, Tegal, & Cassiere-Daniel, 2016). These services moved from being centre-based and individually focused to incorporating community development, such as supporting child protection, resettlement of displaced individuals, and gender-based violence responses (Galappatti, Salih, Tegal, & Cassiere-Daniel, 2016). 

The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 heightened the amount of services provided by the MHPSS. Where MHPSS services were concentrated in areas that were experiencing ethnic conflict, the aftermath of the tsunami brought these services to all affected regions to aid with post-tsunami recovery by the government and international NGOs (Galappatti, Salih, Tegal, & Cassiere-Daniel, 2016; Minas, Mendis & Hall, 2017). This surge in MHPSS supported the government in finalizing the national mental health policy though the mental health infrastructure in Sri Lanka, however, it is still slowly growing as it battles the traditional stigma of mental illness and lack of stable funding as they also largely rely on donations alongside government funding (Kitsiri, 2015). 

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

Counsellors in Sri Lanka are registered either under the Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors or the Sri Lanka National Association of Counsellors. Both associations advertise recognition to practice as a professional counsellor through registering under their associations, though the level of recognition or how they are recognized is not evident from the website. Sri Lanka does not provide insurance benefits to those attending counselling sessions. 

Practice Settings

Counselling services in Sri Lanka are available at:

  • Non-profit & Non-governmental Organizations
  • Universities
  • Private Practices

Challenges & Trends

Sri Lanka’s mental health infrastructure took a turn after the 2004 tsunami, after the arrival of aid and technical expertise of international NGOs working with the Sri Lankan government in providing MHPSS services to those affected around the country. It pushed the mental health system in Sri Lanka into being reformed to be community-based, as well as urged the opening of small inpatient units in most district general hospitals. According to WHO (2013), Sri Lanka was dubbed the poster-child for mental health services development post national emergency. 

The largest challenge seems to be the stigma against those with mental health issues. Prominent stigmatising attitudes have led to discriminatory practices, such as decreased employment options, hiding away family members or relatives with mental illness, and fear of those with mental health issues being violent (Consumer Action for Mental Health [2015] as cited in Minas, Mendis & Hall, 2017; Samarasekare, Davies, & Siribaddanna, 2012). In addition, there is also the belief that mental health issues are caused by spiritual elements such as possession by the devil and other spirits. Thus, those needing or seeking counselling or other mental health services often are discouraged by the unsupportive environment and the dubiousness of mental health services.

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:

Sri Lanka
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