All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.
The Belize Community Counselling Center (BCCC) of the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.
Headquarters West Block, Independence Plaza, Belmopan, Belize
Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Counselling Service Providers
Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes
Background & Context
Very limited literature on the counselling profession in Belize exists. Overall, it appears that professional counselling in the country is an underdeveloped field; however, school counselling is recently emerging as an expanding counselling specialty, showing possibilities for future professional growth (Coogan, 2016; Smith-Augustine & Wagner, 2012). Some evidence for private and community counselling exists (Woods, 2000), but it is difficult to ascertain the extent of services offered or the nature and scope of counsellor training and professionalisation for those individuals providing services.
Under the auspices of the Community Rehabilitation Department of the Belize Ministry of Human Development, some community counselling is provided through the Belize Community Counselling Center (BCCC; http://humandevelopment.gov.bz/index.php/service-units-2/community-rehabilitation-department/). According to BCCC’s website (2018), this centre provides “professional, culturally sensitive, age appropriate, caring and quality counselling services” with referrals coming from the Belize Family Court and the Ministry of Human Development’s Department of Human Services and the Community Rehabilitation Department. Clients also come from the Ministry of Human Development’s Youth Hostel, which is “the only certified institution providing rehabilitation and development to high-risk children in conflict with the law” in Belize (BCCC, 2018).
The BCCC opened in 2000 staffed by volunteer counsellors (Woods, 2000). It was established to provide counselling to victims of interpersonal violence, individual and group counselling, and clinical concerns including “adolescent and child issues, suicidal issues, stress management, alcohol and drug abuse psychiatric counselling, juvenile delinquency, relationship issues, [and] marital issues” (Woods, 2000, para. 3). The BCCC’s primary mission appears to focus on offering counselling services to individuals who cannot afford to attend the more costly private counselling services available sparsely in Belize.
Several private substance abuse treatment centres exist in Belize offering counselling, but it appears these centres are primarily marketed to expatriates of the country and wealthier residents of Belize (http://www.treatment4addiction.com/rehab/international/belize/). Also, there is some evidence for private counselling practices in Belize, but it is difficult to research how many exist or how many practitioners are trained as counsellors vs. other mental health fields like clinical social work, as in the example of the Belize Counselling Center (http://www.belizecounselingcenter.com/default.html). Additional counselling for interpersonal violence, family planning, and related services like youth life skills programming, aside from what is offered at BCCC, is available at some private human service agencies, such as those found at the Belize Family Life Center (http://www.bflabelize.org/).
School counselling appears to be the most developed form of professional counselling in Belize, but it exists in varying states of professionalism in private and public schools in the country (Smith-Augustine & Wagner, 2012). The Belize government has employed handfuls of school counsellors since at least 1996 (N= 10 in 30 schools) and as early as 2012 that number had increased to 40, but with thousands of students attending approximately 349 public schools, there is a clear need for the growth of counsellors in Belize (Smith-Augustine & Wagner, 2012). Furthermore, school counselling is mostly concentrated in schools located in urban areas of Belize City with students attending rural schools having few access to counsellors. In 2013, the Ministry of Education of Belize determined vocational guidance and student retention programming was needed at the middle school level, and a pilot program lead by U.S. school and career counselling experts from Bridgewater State University was developed, but it is unclear of the status of this program today (Coogan, 2016).
Other schools in the country not administered by the Belize government, such as private community and religious schools, also employ school counsellors but records of how many counsellors and what education-levels or training those counsellors have is unavailable. In general, most school counsellors in Belize are paraprofessionals and teachers, with varied and limited training in professional counselling; In fact, few school counsellors in Belize have any academic training in counselling (Smith-Augustine & Wagner, 2012).
Furthermore, counsellor education is available in Belize in a very limited capacity. Smith-Augustine and Wagner (2012) identified only three formal training opportunities in counselling in the country, a distance master’s degree in counselling from the University of the West Indies, some face-to-face courses in counselling children and basic counselling skills by the same university, and a few basic courses in counselling and guidance targeted to psychiatric nurses, teachers, and social workers offered by the University of Belize.
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
No information could be found for any organisation or government body addressing the certification, regulation, or training of professional mental health counsellors in Belize. In 2009, the Belize School Counsellors Association (BSCA) was established to provide professional development to all school counsellors in the country, including those at private schools (http://bzeschoolcounsellor.weebly.com/about.html). BSCA has been influenced by U.S. counsellor education guidelines and the national standards of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA). BSCA has worked to provide school counsellors the following type of services:
- Professional standards and training
- An ethics code
- Opportunities for networking, support, and mentoring
- Lobbying and advocacy efforts with Belize government entities
- Public awareness efforts to the community
- Leadership development
- Promotion of counsellor education
As previously stated, information on the day-to-day practice of counsellors in Belize is highly limited. However, counselling in limited extents has been indicated in the following settings and modalities:
- Primary and secondary schools
- Postsecondary schools
- Vocational guidance settings
- Community and private clinics
- Individuals, couples, and group counselling
- A wide variety of clinical concerns including:
- Interpersonal violence
- Substance abuse
- Children and adolescents
- Relationship and marriage
- Crisis, stress, and trauma
Challenges & Trends
Much work on the development and promotion of professional counselling needs done in Belize, but there appears to be a good backbone for professionalisation forming, especially around school counselling. It is evident from the research presented in this report that wider-spread counselling services are needed and room for additional collaborations with international counselling organisations, such as IAC and NBCC International, may help to expand the reach of counselling in Belize in the future. In particular, there may be overlooked opportunities for counsellor education, training, and advocacy for the profession that international counsellors, educators, and supervisors could assist with as the counselling profession in Belize continues to grow.