All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.
Zulia College of Professional Counselors (ZCPC)
Responsible for raising the visibility of professional counselling in Venezuela by creating the first Counselling Code of Ethics, advocating for counselling jobs, and becoming a valid interlocutor between professional counsellors and the government.
The Venezuelan chapter of the Sociedad Interamericana de Counselling [Interamerican Counselling Society]
- Website: www.counselingamericas.org/
Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes
Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres
The Center for Psychological, Psychiatric, and Sexual Studies of Venezuela
Background & Context
Counselling has a long history in Venezuela. According to Vera (2011) educational guidance and counselling began in the 1930’s, with early pioneers in the field concentrating on psychometric testing and vocational suitability. School counselling services began to operate in the 1940’s, and as a result of these beginnings, counselling was primarily considered a career-oriented service that was seen primarily within educational services.
As a result of the rapid development of the oil industry, the Venezuelan economy required better educated and more specialised workers. This need led to the Venezuelan government rolling out new education and employment policies including a policy in the area of guidance and counselling. Calogne (1988) describes the early 1960’s as being the time when the first counsellor education training programs were introduced.
Vera (2011) explains that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) formed an agreement with the Venezuelan Ministry of Education, whereby U.S. counselling professors were employed to train local school teachers in counselling and guidance, including theory and counselling techniques. A significant result of that collaboration was the Venezuelan government establishment of a school counselling centre for each school (Calonge, 2004).
According to De Breuer (1980), in 1961 the National Institute of Professional Guidance and Selection was created by the Venezuelan Child Council, a child welfare organisation. This institute had the express objective of concentrating on vocational counselling and selecting candidates for vocational training. Vera (2011) further explains that the Pedagogic Institute of Caracas (today, Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador) played a central role in the design and delivery of the government’s counselling and guidance training programs. The first program was delivered there in 1962 and the word Orientación [orientation or guidance] was selected as the training course name, with graduates receiving their diplomas as qualification to practice as an Orientador [guidance counsellor]. Connection to the prestigious Pedagogic Institute of Caracas assisted counselling in achieving recognition as an occupation that required suitable and specialist education.
The first graduates were reported to be in high demand and the Counselling Division of the Ministry of Education developed and formulated the National Counselling System. This body was given responsibility for counselling activity nationwide including the development of counselling services, development of a code of ethics, recommending on recruitment practices, and supervision and training requirements. Calogne (1988) describes the work emanating from this division as the point where counselling started to be not only envisioned as an educational and occupational function, but where its potential use as a model for human development was realised. As it was now possible to become employed as a counsellor through the Education Ministry, universities started to offer guidance and counselling programs.
Vera (2011) describes the first bachelors’ degrees (five-year bachelor’s degrees) in education majoring in mención orientación [guidance and counselling] being granted in the early 1970s. Also, master’s level degrees in guidance and counselling started to be granted by the Pedagogic Institute of Caracas. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, a number of counselling and guidance-related organizations were founded by the early graduates of the first programs, such as the Zulia College of Professional Counsellors (ZCPC), and the Venezuela Federation of Counselling Associations (FAVO) in the early 1990’s. These organisations advanced the profession in Venezuela and helped to develop professional and social identity for the counsellors (Vera, 2011).
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
Counselling is not recognised as an independent, autonomous, profession in Venezuela. Montilla (2011) states that the legal permissions to practice counselling are dependent on the other disciplines to which it is connected. The three main disciplines and regulatory laws are:
- School Counselling: This is viewed as an educational activity and, therefore, its practice is subject to the guidelines defined by the Organic Law of Education, 2009, and other rules pertaining to the teaching profession in the country
- Psycho-Social Counselling: Counselling and clinical psychology are governed by the Ley del Ejercicio de la Psicología de Venezuela, 1978 [Regulations for the Practice of Psychology, 1978].
- Theology and Faith-Based Counselling: The General Directorate of Justice and Cults of the Secretary of Interior and Justice of Venezuela regulates the practice of family, pastoral, and substance abuse counselling (Montilla, 2011).
According to Vera (2011), the Venezuela Counselling Associations Federation (FAVO) will soon introduce a proposed legislation to regulate the professional practice of counselling. FAVO hope that a law, if passed, will allow Venezuelan counsellors to have credibility and recognition as professionals in their own right.
Counsellors in Venezuela work in a wide variety of settings that aim to help individuals, families, and communities. According to Montilla (2013), the 1990s saw many Venezuelan teachers, who had attained master’s and doctoral degrees abroad (primarily in the US and Europe), return to Venezuela. Their experience and knowledge of where counselling could be delivered influenced an increase in the number of practice settings. This research has shown that the following are the most common settings:
- Public elementary schools, secondary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities
- Rehabilitation centers at state, private, and non-profit organisations
- Non-profit organisations offering mental health and substance abuse counselling
- Mental Health Agencies
- Faith based organisation via pastoral counsellors, family counsellors, professional counsellors, and clinical pastoral supervisors
- Private practice (Montilla, 2013).
Challenges & Trends
The lack of legal recognition of counselling as a profession in Venezuela is the most obvious challenge. However, the fact that it is recognised through the auspices of three related work areas (education, psychosocial, and theological) and their related government departments is a significant foundation from which counselling leaders can advocate for further recognition. Another major challenge is the need for more counselling activity. Venezuela’s humanitarian and social problems are complicated and the continuing hyperinflation, on top of the country’s large debt, makes fiscal resources to expand counselling challenging to locate.
Although limited information on the current situation is available, it was the case up until 2015 that an increase in the number of counselling degrees being offered through Venezuelan higher education institutes. Montilla (2013) describes government plans to promote the reintroduction of a school counselling program that aims to have school counsellors in most public elementary schools, secondary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Educación Universitaria [Ministry for Popular Power of University Education], 2009). This plan held much promise for the advancement of professional counselling practice, including credentialing for practitioners and supervisors.
A positive and continuing connection to counselling organisations outside of Venezuela has been a feature of the development of counselling in Venezuela. For example, the Federación de Asociaciones Venezolanas de Orientadores and the National Board for Certified Counsellors-International (NBCC-I), have partnered to conduct a national research study on counselling jobs (Montilla 2011). NBCC-I have also collaborated with the Venezuelan Federation of School Counsellors to explore the reach of school counselling activity. According to Montilla (2013), in the early 2000s and sponsored by the Zulia University, Drs. R. Esteban Montilla and Robert L. Smith started offering a two-year specialty in family and professional counselling in order to train religious leaders and clergy to provide counselling services. This was one of a number of project initiatives that Dr. Montilla has led for the advancement of counselling in Venezuela. The foundation of the counselling profession in Venezuela has a solid base and once conditions for development improve a certain opportunity exists for the regulation of an autonomous profession.