The Factors Of Avoidance Of Counselling


I recall reading an old Mmegi newspaper dated November 2014, when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Richard Matlare, was speaking at the First Annual Alcohol and Substance Abuse Symposium. He pointed out how the Botswana government spends a lot of money and time on alcohol and drug abuse issues. He showed concern at how Batswana abuse these substances, both youth and adults. He even highlighted the social ills associated with alcohol and substance abuse such as rape, road accidents, unwanted pregnancies, family conflict, poor health, crime, deteriorating moral standards and HIV and Aids.

The Daily news, 6th March 2016, also quoted Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, Moiseraele Goya, saying that alcohol and drug abuse challenges are not changing despite government efforts. He said they could not allow drugs and alcohol to rule, ruin and reverse the gains made by government. He called it a war that could not be left in the hands of government alone. He labelled it a crusade that required collective responses from all corners. As an adult student, I come across a number of students who want to talk to me about their issues, yet they have professional Guidance and Counselling services in place, in the University at their disposal for free. These are fellow counselling students who know the importance of seeking counselling when in distress. What more the other students from other disciplines who do not really understand what counselling is? BackgroundYouth problems such as teenage pregnancy, substance and drug abuse, depression, loneliness and anxiety have become topical issues in newspapers, radios and television and other forum in Botswana. Worldwide, there is a high rate of drug and substance abuse, teenage pregnancies, depression, loneliness, suicide among the youth. Studies locally, show high rate of same problems in schools and universities. The government introduced guidance and counselling into schools in 1987. Almost every school has guidance and counselling department. The same applies to colleges and universities. Therefore counselling is not a new animal when students come to university. The majority are away from the family and the parental support they are used to at home.

The supposedly replacement, which is the Careers and Counselling Department, is underutilised by university students. They face problems with schoolwork, friendship, pregnancies, finances, drug and substance abuse, to name a few. However, they do not seek help from the centre that was created for them within the university. This is the department that welcomes them to the university on arrival, and they are told of the services that they offer. According to Vogel and Larson (2007) from the Department of Psychology at the University of Lowa States and Stephen R from the Department of Educational Psychology University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Their case study titled; Avoidance of Counselling: Psychological factors that inhibit seeking help says;Counselling and psychotherapy has been described as potentially difficult, embarrassing and overall risking enterprise that induce fear and avoidance in some individuals. People tend to see counselling as a last option i. e. something that is considered only after all options have been exhausted. People still have perceptions about counselling even after being proven that seeking counselling services is often helpful and that the consequences for not seeking help are often severe. There is clearly a need to identify the factors that stop people from seeking help even though they might need it p410. Avoidance FactorsThese are factors that contribute to individuals not seeking help and these are social stigma, fear of emotion, social norms and self-esteem. These factors are discussed below and the degree of their usefulness in understanding why individuals do not seek professional services.

Social Stigma

Dean and chamberlain (1994), defined social stigma as “the fear that others will judge a person negatively if she/he sought help for a problem”. The stigma has been conceptualised as one of the most significant barriers to seeking counselling. The society always has negative views about people who have mental issues and they even go to an extent of labelling or calling them names; more awkward, unfriendly, self-justifying, needy, unconfident, miserable and antisocial. Other members would even say to them that they are weak or disturbed. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that people would rather not seek help for their problems if at the end they would be surrounded by such negative feedback from the society. The UB community would not be any different from other societies as far as stigma is concerned.

Fear of Emotions

Fear of having to discuss painful emotions is another reason that a person would not seek counselling for help (Kumiya et al. , 2000). It is a brave step to seek help but some experiences are attached to deep emotions and one does not want to relive those again. Kumiya et. al. (2000) found that reluctance to seek counselling was higher for individuals who were not open about their emotions. Expectations to having to express emotions to a therapist affected individuals help seeking attitudes and intentions (Vogel and Wester 2003).

Social Norms

Social norms have not been directly pointed as an avoidance factor, but the attitudes by family and friends. These influence how an individual will define and act upon telling their issues. If the social network of the individual encourages them to seek help they will likely go knowing they have the support of friends and family. But if the person’s social network is not so encouraging or even totally against counselling, the individual is likely not to go and seek help. In as much as we would want to dismiss the thoughts, attitudes, perceptions of family members and friends, they do really matter. It has been found that 92% of people seek help from family members and friends before seeking help professionally (Cameron, Leventhal, & Leventhal, 1993).

Self Esteem

Many researchers have generally over looked the significance of self-esteem as an influential part or factor for opening up to a total stranger. Despite that, it has been proven that it is indeed an important psychological barrier for seeking help from non-professional services like from family and friends. Fisher, Nadler and Whitcher-Algana (1982) suggested that seeking help from someone entails a hidden analysis of the costs and benefits to one’s self esteem. Seeking help means admitting that one cannot face the issue(s) alone and is acknowledging that they need help. There is fear of embarrassment and feelings of inferiority or incompetence that have been linked with help seeking decisions (Nadler, 1991).

15 April 2020
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