Counselling Associations

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

There is no information that could be located on counselling associations in Turkmenistan, as of 2020.

Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes

There is no information available online about universities that offer counselling or psychology courses in Turkmenistan. Medical education has deteriorated significantly, affected by the reduction of years of university education and the lack of training materials. Very few medical works are published in the Turkmen language and there is no access to information relating to health or health care in Turkmenistan or to international medical literature. In addition, health professionals are rarely allowed to take part in international conferences. Medical knowledge is outdated and relies on treatment protocols developed under the Soviet Union.

Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres

No information can be found online on the state counselling services that are provided by the Turkmenistan government. The suppression of civil society has a direct impact on the health of the population, as those NGOs that have started to work in the health sector in recent years can no longer operate openly.

Background & Context

Turkmenistan, located in Central Asia, is one of the most repressive countries in the world. There is only limited information available on the mental health services in Turkmenistan as the government completely controls the media, censors all newspapers, and censors access to the internet (U.S. Department of State, 2004). Turkmenistan’s almost total isolation has led to a serious lack of information about the health situation in the country.

No systematic information is available on the mental health of the population of Turkmenistan, but it is very likely that the psychological pressure of a dictatorship, pervasive corruption, and a lack of prospects for the future have taken their toll on the population. Drug addiction has risen markedly in recent years and it has also been reported that suicides have become much more common. Reportedly, the central psychiatric hospital in Ashgabat was demolished several years ago, creating serious problems of access to mental health services for the population.

Additionally,  psychiatry in the country is likely being abused for political purposes. In the Soviet Union, dissidents were routinely locked up in psychiatric institutions. The suppression of civil society, the growing isolation of the country, and the general climate of fear, repression, and corruption are likely to contribute to deteriorating population health in Turkmenistan.

Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:

Mental health services are orientated towards hospitalisation rather than community-based treatment of patients in Turkmenistan (Mamedkuliev et al., 2000). No other information could be found for any organization or government body addressing the formal certification, regulation, or training of professional counsellors in Turkmenistan.

Practice Settings

Turkmenistan has been described as one of the world’s most repressive and closed countries. Civil society activists have faced persecution and imprisonment and the government massively interferes in the work of NGOs. NGOs supporting democracy and human rights are not allowed to operate openly in Turkmenistan. The suppression of civil society has a direct impact on the health of the population, as those NGOs that have started to work in the health sector in recent years can no longer operate openly.

Challenges & Trends

The period between 1991 and 2006 was one of economic turmoil and traumatic health reform in Turkmenistan. In 2004, to cut costs, President Niyazov arbitrarily dismissed 15,000 health care workers, amounting to roughly one-third of the medical workforce (Rechel and McKee, 2007).There are some promising signs of change under Turkmenistan’s new president, Berdymukhamedov, who has promised to improve health services in Turkmenistan. Pensions have been reinstated and some previously laid-off health workers have been rehired. Unlike the previous regime that refused to admit that the country needed HIV prevention programmes, the current administration has been taking a few, albeit measured, steps to increase HIV awareness. These include the opening, for the first time, of two new youth centres that provide HIV prevention information, and the approval of HIV information campaigns for sex workers and prisoners.

Mental health professionals and the general population have no access to information related to health and health care in Turkmenistan or other countries, or to international medical literature. Lack of access to health-related literature or the internet means that the population has very limited access to information about prevention or treatment. The almost complete dominance of the Turkmen language, in which very few medical works are published, contributes to the isolation of the country, although in practice many citizens are unable to speak Turkmen and use Russian instead. In addition, many health professionals are not allowed to take part in international conferences. Overall, there is a shortage of training materials and medical knowledge is outdated.

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:

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