Does guidance and counselling have any future in Nigeria?
We know that currently, being a counsellor is more of a title than an actual profession since only a very small percentage of counsellors in Nigeria ever practise and it is understandable since there are many problems currently affecting guidance and counselling in Nigeria.
But what is the prospect?
Before we can answer if guidance and counselling has a positive prospect in Nigeria, we need to understand what is currently stopping it from thriving, what can make it thrive and if anything is being done about it.
The primary reason why guidance and counselling is not thriving in Nigeria is because there is not enough awareness about the profession and what benefits it can offer. Till date, many people in Nigeria still are not aware or convinced that counselling is an option to overcome their issues.
Does this mean there is no hope for counsellors? No! Guidance and counselling is a profession that has a positive prospect in Nigeria because the very needs that counselling seek to meet are continuing to rise in the country. The changes and advancements that are occuring in Nigeria are stacking the deck in the favour of guidance and counselling in the nation.
Prospect of Guidance and Counselling in Nigeria
Guidance and counselling will continue to thrive in Nigeria for the following reasons:
1. There is an increasing awareness of the profession and its usefulness
As information continue to flow from one quartets to another, more and more people are beginning to hear about counselling and therapy. This can be attributed mainly to the internet.
More Nigerians are beginning to see from movies and social media that people outside the country are going for counselling and they are beginning to get used to the idea.
Even on social media, I have had strangers send me Facebook messages asking me for counsel in certain issues once they discover that I’m a counsellor.
If people are now actively looking for counsellors compared to when secondary school students had to be forced to career guidance programmes, it means guidance and counselling is just beginning to blossom in Nigeria.
2. There is increasing awareness about mental health issues
It seems almost everybody in Nigeria is talking about depression these days. Depression is just one of the several mental health issues that were never talked about before— we pretended they weren’t issues.
As more attention continues to go to mental health issues, guidance and counselling will continue to have a positive prospect in Nigeria since counsellors are centric to the alleviation of mental health issues.
3. There is a rise of new mental health issues that weren’t existent before
While this is sad news for the country, it is good news for the guidance and counselling profession since this is the core of our activities. If there are no problems, there is no need for counsellors but increasing problems means more grounds for us.
We are beginning to hear of disorders that weren’t heard of before; stress, anxieties, personality disorders are becoming more popular stories in our society. That signals good prospects for counsellors in Nigeria.
4. There is an increasing difficulty in navigating the world of work
Work in the 21st century is not as predictable as it used to be before. What we had before was that citizens will go to school, find a secure job and continue in that career until retirement. There were very few choices. But it is totally different now.
Currently, there are thousands of new professions that exist that it gives people difficulty in even choosing which they should go for; for those who want to follow the conventional career paths, there are no jobs; for those who are choosing the new waves of career, they are finding difficulty in knowing how to balance the demand with their everyday lives and the list is endless.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 opened another direction in the world of work and people are now working from home which is resulting in little social interactions.
All of these continue to increase the demands for guidance and counselling in Nigeria and if counsellors position themselves well, there is a market that is not going down any soon.
5. There are new technological changes that people have to cope with
There is no day that passes without a new technology rising that affects how we live. We know that change of every kind comes with some level of difficulties and a whole lot of people cannot adapt to change effectively without assistance.
This is a positive prospect for guidance and counselling too.
Currently, the biggest technological change we are faced with is the Metaverse— a situation where we would no longer have to leave our homes to have face to face interactions with people.
As exciting as the idea seems, it will bring a lot of psychological issues. Because people can now create their dream lives virtually no matter how their lives look in reality, more and more people will lose touch with reality and will need counsellors and serious therapy to cope.
If you don’t know about the Metaverse, watch this interesting video and see the problems it can bring. These technological changes also bring new ways counsellors can practice that weren’t in existence before. I have covered that here:
6. There is an increasing number of divorce, domestic violence and unstable relationships
I don’t need to explain this… We are having more and more issues in our families these days and people will continue to need professional help both for initiating and navigating through marriage.
Outside the school setting, marriage and family life counselling is the branch of counselling that has gained the most grounds currently and it is only beginning.
7. There is an increasing advocacy for victims of abuse
Thanks to the activities of NGO’s and activism groups, more attention is being brought to the menace of abuse, both sexual, physical, and emotional. This also signals good prospect for counselling in Nigeria.
Because more and more victims are opening up and seeking help, more and more professional counsellors and therapists are needed daily.
While we hope that these cases of abuse continue to decline, the current victims of abuse (some with PTSD) are still enough of a market for counsellors. Counsellors can partner with these action groups to reach more victims.
8. More employers are focusing on employee welfare
The world of work is one huge market that counselling has not been able to enter in Nigeria, but as civilization is advancing, more employers are continuing to focus on their employees’ wellbeing, including psychologically.
Because of this, there will be more employment opportunities for counsellors. While this is not something that will happen very fast, it is still a good prospect for guidance and counselling in Nigeria.
9. There is an increasing advocacy for guidance and counselling
One of the major challenges I identified that is hindering the rise of guidance and counselling in Nigeria is inadequate advocacy for counselling— counsellors are not making enough noise about themselves.
But as much as enough noise is not being made, there is still more noise being made now than there was before and that means the precession will continue to do better.
We only need to intensify our advocacy for the good prospect to become a reality faster.
10. There is decreasing communal living among Nigerian family
One of the structures that helped Nigerians cope with issues in the past was a communal lifestyle where people lived with extended family members.
What we have currently is more estates, fenced houses, and nuclear families. While this is an increased standard of living, it will leave a gap open that used to be filled by these close social interactions.
Children who are left to only electronic gadgets will need counselling to effectively blend into society than children who grew up in highly social communities. This signals a positive prospect for guidance and counselling in Nigeria too.
11. More quasi counsellors are beginning to fail
One alternative people had to counselling was to go to quasi counsellors especially religious leaders. But we keep hearing in the news the many shameful things religious leaders do to their ‘clients’. This is discouraging many and making them see the need for professional counselling that is guided by ethics.
We can see that guidance and counselling in Nigeria has a positive prospect because there is an increasing awareness about the profession and mental health issues, and there is also the rise of challenges and changes in our society that is making counsellors more needed. So being a counsellor is not a career dead-end in Nigeria.
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.