Counselling - A support system in higher education


Vincent Vaz


Counselling is no longer only a remedial exercise, a corrective tool or a treatment for people suffering from psychological problems. It was considered to be this some time ago. However, in present times it has proved to be useful not only in these areas but also with normal people to excel and with achievers to enhance the quality of their lives. Hence, in institutes of higher education it can be, and needs to be, used for all types of students.

Basic principles and process of counselling

Counselling is based on a few basic principles:

• That every human being is BEAUTIFUL and RESOURCEFUL
• That there is much more to life than a few or more unfortunate events
• That 90% of our resources, which we are unaware of, are available to us all the time and can be explored and deployed
• That every situation is loaded with multiple possibilities
• That there is always room to enhance the scope of the meaning and purpose of one's life

Counsellors approach the process of counselling with four basic facts:

• That they do not deal with issues, they deal with HUMAN BEINGS
• That counsellees are neither sick nor mad persons
• That the counsellor as well as the counsellee is a Beautiful and Resourceful human being
• That they are not helpers, guides or solution providers; they make people aware of their own potential to cope up with their own problems

Every human being, in the process of daily life, encounters a variety of experiences that cause stress of varying degrees of intensity or for a varying duration of time. At the lowest level these are experiences of discomfort, irritation or pain.

One normally copes up with these by blaming others, telling lies, making excuses or finally by saying 'sorry'. When such experiences persist for a longer duration of time or uniformly recur frequently or are of a greater intensity, then one seeks help, guidance or change of situation or place to be able to cope up. If one fails to cope up this way, it gives rise to frustration and stress. This demands recourse to counselling.

Need of counselling for students

In institutes of higher education in India there are a variety of factors that cause stress among the students. Some of them are:

• Stress arising out of the quantum and intensity of the curriculum content
• Stress arising out of the pressure to perform and excel in grades
• Stress arising due to transition: either from regional language to English medium, or from village life to city life to metro life, or from home to hostel / P. G. accommodation, or from freedom to responsibility or from childhood to adolescence
• Stress arising out of caste barriers or community barriers
• Stress arising out of domestic problems

Often, for a variety of reasons, students fail to avail counselling services. As a result, they adopt one of the two modes of behaviour, which are developmental and progress towards psychologically abnormal behaviour, which is beyond the scope of counselling to address. These are:

1. Submissive

Initially, the students become loners. They are among other students in class, canteen or campus, but in a world of their own, day-dreaming. Then they stay away from others, become quiet and unnoticeable, thus remaining absent.

This results in low submissions and failure, leading to detention. This causes depression and psycho-somatic diseases, giving rise to disability to perform, uselessness and a desire to commit suicide.

2. Aggressive

Such students, initially, become over-active, take part in almost all co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, which gets them tired and incapable to perform or even prepare for academic demands. They miss out on submissions, tests and even attendance due to their excessive preoccupation.

Their language becomes arrogant and abusive, their behaviour becomes retaliative and, over a period of time, violent and destructive. Arguments turn into brawls and, in extreme cases, may lead to murder.

It is part of the professional requirement of the faculty that they are observant of the unusual behaviour of the students when they are at a lower stage of struggle, before it is too late to be handled at the institutional level. Such behaviour then needs to be reported and addressed immediately.

Required approach to counselling

The approach to counselling needs to be three-pronged:

1. Remedial

The student needs to be told, advised, guided and, in serious cases, even helped to cope up with and make up the pending requirements. i.e. if submissions are due, to submit them; if something is broken or destroyed, to pay for it or replace it, etc.

2. Preventive

The faculty should explore, with the student, various ways of preventing the recurrence of such a situation by training the student to accept, adopt and deploy the skill of finding multiple possibilities in any situation.

The faculty need not stop on observing that the student is able to cope up with the malady, but should challenge the student to a higher performance in academics and to a better quality of life, with the release and resultant availability of energy and potential that was blocked in the struggle.

The student counselling process

The process of counselling involves three steps:

1. Building rapport

The counsellor builds up a unique, professional relationship with the student. This is based on the following factors:

• Privacy: Counselling can never be done in public since it addresses several personal matters that are secretive.
• Comfort: The student needs to be made to smile, laugh, talk so that the defences are dropped and the person starts to cooperate.
• Respect: The student needs to be respected as a right not as an obligation and needs to be made to feel so.
• Acceptance: The student needs to be accepted unconditionally and even the statements made have to be accepted without judgement.
• Immediacy: The student's present predicament and condition needs to be kept in focus all the time. The person's past is to be ignored.
• Facilitative Self Disclosure: The counsellor may share similar personal experiences and the initiatives taken successfully.

2. Listening

The counsellor needs to listen not only with the ears and understand, but listen also to the pitch, clarity, volume, speed and silence during the student's speech. The counsellor also needs to observe the facial expressions, gestures, postures and movements of the body so that the data of the student can be taken in through the eyes, nose, mind and the heart in addition to the ears.

3. Responding

• Not Reacting – which is judgemental and blocks the student from opening up.
• Not Reflecting – which doesn't help the student to move ahead in finding a solution.
• Not Replying – which is providing options, solutions, direction or help, thus creating a sense of dependency and depriving the student of taking his/her own initiative.

The counsellor, while responding, decodes the non-verbal content of the student's conversation, asks for clarification, repeats certain statements of the student with suggestive tone of voice for re-consideration, encourages genuine initiatives proposed and taken by the student and reinforces the potential of the student in the course of the conversation.

Counselling or mentoring has gradually moved into the mainstream of all teaching-learning processes in higher education and, as a tool, is here to stay. For the faculty, it is an ethical and professional requirement to be integrated into one's personality and deployed at all times and not just in classrooms. For the students, it is a facility made mandatory in order to support their efforts in the pursuit of higher education.

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Discussion Board

What's your take on the need of counselling for students?

Rohit Chopra
I believe it's desperately needed at all educational institutions! 😇🙏
shreya raj
Much needed! Such a well written article💯💯
Prarthana Aradhye
Amazing article 💯
Pari Laddha
Truly the need of the hour! Amazing Article ✨😊