Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Letter of the Day: Guidance counsellors must be objective, compassionate

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2016 | 1:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

As a mental-health counsellor, I was disappointed in the recent statements made by the Jamaica Association for Guidance Counsellors in Education and the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA).

Counsellors, in whatever setting, should be objective and non-judgemental. In fact, this is one of the first things I learned while pursuing my master's degree. I was sternly told time and again that my opinion or beliefs mattered not unless the client stated that he was going to harm himself or another, and in that case I was mandated to report it.

Unless you are a Christian counsellor providing Christian counselling, your treatment plan for your client should be objective and unbiased. I have dealt with all kinds of clients on issues not limited to domestic violence, homosexuality, addiction and gambling. I have heard it all, and even with a strong Christian belief system, I have had to keep a straight face, level head, and help the clients find the best solution for their problem.

The Child Care and Protection Act states that incidence of underage sexual practices should be reported. This is something many professionals struggle with, as this sometimes discourages youth from seeking guidance as they fear they will be reported. As such, our youth fail to get the requisite information on sensitive matters.

SEXUALLY ACTIVE MINORS

How to deal with sexually active minors has been a hot topic for quite some time now, and I believe it's time we agree on a standard that will best serve the ever-growing needs of our youth. The JTA head states that homosexual acts are illegal and, hence, guidance counsellors cannot break the law. Once again, here is another piece of legislation that we need to review and agree upon once and for all.

The bottom line of all this is that guidance counsellors, as us all, have a job to do, and being entrusted with children and young people is not a job to take lightly. You are privileged to be in a position to touch and mould lives, and I encourage you to do so with objectivity, positive regard, and utmost excellence.

Whether or not a child is poor or rich, dark or brown, heterosexual or homosexual, he or she deserves the highest standard of care in every arena. Do your job well and fairly or make room for persons who can.

JHANILLE A. BROOKS

Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network