Developing a culturally relevant counselling psychology degree programme in Afghanistan: Results from a DACUM study
Martha Bragin1, Bree Akesson2, Mariam Ahmady3, Sediqa Akbari3, Bezhan Ayubi4, Raihana Faqiri3, Zekrullah Faiq5, Spozhmay Oriya3, Basir Ahmad Karimi6, Basir Ahmad Azizi7, Fareshteh Barakzai6, Hikmatullah Noori8, Kristina Sharifi9, Mohammad Hadi Rasooli10, Sayed Jafar Ahmadi11, Hannah Wolfson9, Sataruddin Seddiqi3
1 PhD, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, USA
2 PhD, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford, Ontario, Canada
3 MA, Kabul University, Kabul, Afghanistan
4 MSc, Kabul University, Kabul, Afghanistan
5 MS, Kabul University, Kabul, Afghanistan
6 MA, Herat University, Herat, Afghanistan
7 BA, Herat University, Herat, Afghanistan
8 MBA, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, USA
9 MPH, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, USA
10 MD, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, USA
11 PhD, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY, New York, USA
Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York, 2180 Third Avenue, New York, NY, 10035
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
This paper reports on the results of a research study that was conducted by the members of the Departments of Counselling at Kabul University and Herat University in collaboration with their international advisors. The purpose of the study was to determine how Afghans practicing counselling psychology or wishing to employ professional psychological counsellors understand and operationalize the knowledge, skills and values required to be a professional counsellor in Afghanistan. In workshops with 147 male and female participants − including supervisors, professionals and paraprofessionals − from six different sites in five of Afghanistan’s seven regions, the study used the Develop a Curriculum method, which aims to ensure that curricula and standards for new professions introduced in the post-conflict period will be relevant and applicable in the Afghan context as informed by Afghan experts in the field. Findings indicate that participants had markedly different conceptualizations of what the role of a counsellor should be (e.g. focusing on individual methods versus working with families and communities). Furthermore, these differences exist along professional lines (e.g. medical versus protection), as well as region. The findings underscore that a deep knowledge of Afghan cultures, customs, and spiritual beliefs was required, along with detailed professional knowledge of individual, group and family counselling ideas, values and practices. In addition, constant self-awareness and reflection at every level is needed to balance these two essential areas of competence to resolve contradictions and to blend both seamlessly into one set of professional standards. Results of this study will assist Afghan faculty members in adjusting their curricula to align with the realities of providing culturally relevant counselling in Afghanistan today.
Key implications for practice
- All Afghan counselors should be highly trained, supervised in practice, and well versed in international standards, as well as Afghan customs, culture and values.
- Assumptions regarding the clients' beliefs, cultural values, experience or ideas can never be assumed and must be explored for counseling to be effective.
- All Afghan counselors, like their international counterparts, require supervised support for self-awareness and reflection to be effective in the Afghan context.