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In Kyrgyzstan, there are two different streams of epistemology assumptions of psychotherapy and counselling (Molchanova, 2009). The first approach is closely related to traditional healing practices, referred to as the “natural Kyrgyz folk psychotherapy” while the second is referred to as the official government approach and is rooted in universities and training programmes (Molchanova, 2009, p. 98) . In 1966, Nikolay Kantorovich was the head of the Society of Kyrgyz Psychiatrists and Medical Psychologists which was later renamed the Kyrgyz Psychiatry Association (KPA; Molchanova, 2009, p. 273). KPA is a non-profit organization devoted to the destigmatization of patients with mental health disorders and to the development of mental health services in Kyrgyzstan. The first professional psychological (non-medical) association was founded in 1968 by Aaron Brudny, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the society stopped its activities due to lack of financial and social support (Molchanova, 2009, p. 273). Certification and licensure processes are under the control of the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic (Molchanova, 2009, p. 273). There are also a lot of administrative challenges counsellors have to overcome in the process of getting a professional license.
Counselling is a term used alongside such terms as psychotherapy, psychology, and psychiatry in Kyrgyzstan (Molchanova, et al., 2015). Although mental health experts understand the differences, psychiatrists and psychotherapists working in crisis centers prefer to call themselves counsellors to avoid stigmatization by patients (Molchanova, et al., 2015). Because of the confusion associated with terminology, the number of psychologists or counsellors in Kyrgyzstan is difficult to determine. There are currently no professional non-medical psychological associations that are active in Kyrgyzstan. After the collapse of The Kyrgyz Department of Psychological Science of the U.S.S.R, the Kyrgyz psychological community found itself in the situation of trying to reform and revive the psychological association which required a new source of funding and support (Molchanova, et al., 2009, p. 273). There are also no universal training paradigms for counselling psychology in Kyrgyzstan. Each University has its own training paradigm that is different from one another. A Specialist Degree in Psychology (5 years) is offered by both the National State University (NSU) and Salvonic University (SU); a graduate with a specialist certificate may continue their studies at a graduate level or proceed to work in the psychological field. However, there is no specialization in counselling, therefore study primarily focuses on theory and research while less attention is given to practice (Molchanova, et al., 2009, p. 273).
Counselling practices in Kyrgyzstan is limited, with it being available at:
- Private Practice (requires professional license)
- Public mental health institutions (requires medical or specialist degree)
One of the biggest challenges and trends is the prestige of folk or traditional healing in Kyrgyzstan. Almost 89% of patients who visit the psychotherapeutic clinic and 100% of patients in other mental health wards in Kyrgyzstan have met traditional healers prior to seeking psychotherapy (Molchanova, et al., 2009, p. 267). Officials of Kyrgyzstan’s medical organizations try to discourage this but often fail because folk healing is so embedded in the culture and appears so natural that its effectiveness does not require any scientific explanation, as people just believe the methods of folk/traditional healers.