While in the University as a student counsellor, one of the biggest issues we had to come to terms with is the fact that guidance and counselling isn’t thriving in Nigeria.
Years after years, thousands of people keep graduating with counselling degrees but what we see is that the country seems not to be acknowledging the fact that there are some people called counsellors and because of this there are no rooms for counsellors in the world of work.
Although not statistically proven, I can safely guess that over 70% of graduates of guidance and counselling never practice as counsellors. And for those who are practising, the two most visible options are to become guidance and counselling lecturers and to work in a public school.
But why is this so? In this article, I have explored 10 problems affecting guidance and counselling in Nigeria and what can be done about them.
Problems Affecting Guidance and Counselling in Nigeria
1. Inadequate sensitisation of citizens
This is the biggest and most obvious reason why counselling is not thriving in Nigeria. People don’t just know about counselling or what it can offer to them. In fact, a good number of my coursemates in the University then, said they first heard about the course when they were offered admission.
If the counsellors who are studying counselling themselves are just getting to know about what they do, how then can others patronise what they don’t know about?
If there is one single reformation that can change the prospect of guidance and counselling in Nigeria, it is to let every citizen hear about counselling and how it can help their lives.
2. Incompetence among counsellors
This is another major problem of counselling in Nigeria. Most of the graduates of guidance and counselling cannot practice professionally and people know. Even counsellors know they are not skilled enough to help clients (except for a small proportion). So even among those who have heard about counselling, they are not patronising Nigerian counsellors because they know they can’t deliver.
Various schools have employed counsellors and laid them off because they can’t see any contribution the counsellors are making in their school. If a new wave of counsellors rises whose services can actually change lives, more people will hear about it. Counsellors need to train themselves and up their games.
3. Inadequate advocacy from counsellors
Now from the counsellors who are skilled and can actually deliver, there is no advocacy. Counsellors aren’t making enough noise and fighting for their cause in Nigeria. I have not witnessed any campaign from counsellors, I have not seen any billboard, Newspaper column, or TV broadcast advocating for counsellors.
Even online, when I was trying to do some research to write this article, the only resources I found about counselling in Nigeria were academic research (projects) and we know no one reads projects except they want to write their own project.
Counsellors who are sure they have something to offer must take up a stand and advocate for themselves until their voices are heard.
4. Non-functioning professional bodies
So why aren’t counsellors advocating? Because our professional bodies aren’t functioning. In the University we were taught of the existence of CASSON and APROCON but that was the end. We weren’t told how to join the bodies, the activities of the bodies, or where their offices are.
At least, in my final year we heard about TRCN and we were given the option to join if we wanted. But nothing is heard of CASSON or APROCON. I just checked CASSON’s Facebook page now and nothing is happening there except for an invitation to an event asking us to pay ₦16,000.
The last publication on CASSON’s website was in 2019. APROCON’s website, on the other hand, was inaccessible when I tried. This shows how the professional bodies of counsellors don’t even believe in their cause.
5. Inadequate funding
I know I have been tough on counsellors in the last two points but it is understandable. Counselling bodies and advocacy programmes cannot run without funding, and a lot of it, but we still need advocacy programmes to convince the government to give us funding to do advocacy. This is a funny situation.
Individuals can rise, however, and start something. We can leverage influential relationships to both source for funds and advocate for us. There are several counsellors in government who can make a difference.
6. Unfavourable government policies
This is another problem of counsellors in Nigeria. I heard few years ago that the Kwara State government no longer recognises counsellors in public schools (our only hope). They said you either choose to teach or there’s no job for you.
This is just one of several government policies affecting guidance and counselling in Nigeria and the way out is still intensified advocacy as stated earlier.
7. Proliferation of quasi counsellors
If you look at your neighbourhood closely enough, you will find that it is not as though people aren’t looking for counsel. It is just that they aren’t going to professional counsellors for counselling.
Week after week, the offices of pastors are filled with people who go for counselling. So the presence of quasi counsellors is another reason why professional counselling isn’t thriving in Nigeria. This wouldn’t be an issue though if counsellors can portray themselves as solution providers. People will go anywhere for a solution if they are sure they will get it.
8. Over dependence on government or conventional counselling approaches
The only way to practice as a counsellor is not until the government approves of us. Just like I stated in the previous point, since what people are looking for are solutions, if you can come up with creative and innovative ways of rendering your services, you will thrive.
For instance, instead of complaining about quasi counsellors in churches you can partner with the church by convincing the leadership and making them see how effective you can be. Don’t say they won’t accept, persuasion is a skill that can be learnt. I have covered creative ways you can practice in this post here:
- 10 Easy Ways To Make Money As A Counsellor or Therapist In Nigeria
- How To Get A Job As A Counsellor in Any Organization
9. Offering counselling degrees to uninterested students
Now, we are back to institutional challenges facing counselling in Nigeria. I didn’t apply for guidance and counselling. I applied for Computer Science but the University of Ilorin offered me Counsellor Education.
Thankfully I later loved the course because I had interest in the field. But I am just 1 out of 265 students in my set. Till I graduated, I didn’t see any of my classmates who said guidance and counselling was what they wanted to study and even after graduation, most of my course mates weren’t interested in the field.
Graduating more students who don’t want to be counsellors only tarnishes the image of the profession even more because those who see a graduate of guidance and counselling who cannot practice because they aren’t interested will think that’s how other counsellors are.
Universities should stop making guidance and counselling a dumping ground for students who don’t qualify for other courses.
To get more people to study the course, the approach should be sensitizing secondary school students and increasing career guidance programmes so that only those who are truly interested in practicing will become counsellors.
If certified counsellors are fewer and highly skilled, they will be more respected than if they are many and unskilled.
10. Impracticability of guidance and counselling lectures
This is also an institutional problem against counselling in Nigeria. The practicum exercises in counselling training programs are not effective. In my case we were asked to go to any secondary school, counsel any student and record the session and we were graded based on that recording.
Till today, I didn’t get any feedback on how effective I was. I don’t know what I did wrong or right, I just saw a random score on my result. Counselling practicum should be more immersive with the aim of practical teaching, not practical grading.
Factors Mitigating Against Counselling in Nigeria
There you have the major problems I have identified to be affecting the thrive of counselling in Nigeria and they are all overcomable. The future of counselling is in the hands of counsellors not the government or the citizens.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.