Counselors: Cliched and Useless?
School kids speak out
Undoubtedly, student counseling is an appropriate
and practical method of dealing with the emotional and educational
problems of young pupils. Unfortunately, in Iran’s schools,
counseling is not conducted in an effective manner.
Considering the many problems Iranian youngsters
face, including the difficulties in overcoming the tensions and
conflicts between traditionalism and modernism, counseling is very
Since there are no firm laws supporting youngsters
who are harassed by their parents (intentionally or unintentionally),
having a helpful, skilled counselor is vital. It's been some time
since the Ministry of Education recognized the importance of school
counseling, but today, it seems officials have yet to consider it as
a matter of any importance.
As a trained counselor can be costly for a school,
the staff that is ultimately hired for the job is often untrained.
When schools don’t take counseling seriously, they naturally
choose their counselors from among the teachers, assistant tutors, mo’alem-e
tarbiati (moral supervisors) or even the headmasters, rather
than trained professionals. In such cases, there are problematic
If we listen to pupils from an all-girls’ school,
the shortcomings become more obvious. The girls state that:
1) Counselors cannot do anything beyond listening.
One student said that even though her counselor was moved to tears
after listening to her, she wasn’t able to take any action
2) Counselors look at matters strictly from a
personal point of view, and continuously repeat their own ideas, and
are thus unable to fully grasp the situation of someone who seeks
3) After counseling, they report the matter to the
parents - even if the pupils protest - saying it is “in their best
4) Counselors do not dare say anything that runs
contrary to the headmaster or the parents, a restriction which
actually renders them “utterly useless”.
5) They have no psychological training, and cannot
offer psychological assistance.
6) Counselors' constant preoccupation is whether the
pupils have friends of the opposite sex, and constantly ask
questions, even when the pupil’s problems aren’t in the
slightest bit related to the matter, as if it was the only issue
When asked why the employees acting as counselors
have proven so incompetent, pupils argue that the mo’alem-e tarbiati is responsible for implementing values and
religion, while the headmaster has to run the school, “so they
cannot act as counselors, for if they find out your strengths and
weaknesses, it’s possible that they will use them against you”.
“The only thing they can do is offer the same
advice and religious guidance that you hear all the time from your
parents, or in the mass media.” This, the girls say, is why they
need professional counselors.
One example was that of a girl who asked her
counselor questions on having a boyfriend, and the counselor sent
her to a doctor. Another girl had a counselor who was just as touchy,
and when asked for advice on boyfriends, she put the pupil under the
headmaster’s supervision, treating her as if she was ill.
When asked what the characteristics of a good
counselor were, they answered:
Thinking beyond stereotypes
Not imposing one’s own ideas, but offering several
solutions, and allowing the students to make choices themselves
Ability to offer solutions beyond religious advice
Being well-read in counseling
Some pupils believe a counselor should be young,
well-dressed, and up to date. This would help the pupils sense that
their counselors were closer to them, in their attitudes and
interests, and it would facilitate trust between them.
One positive trait that a counselor must have, and
on which nearly all the pupils agreed, was the ability to mediate
between students and school authorities. This way, even if the
school were trying to settle some question regarding a student
behind closed doors, she at least wouldn’t be exposed to pressure
from the staff, and could accept the counselor’s advice.
Of course the difficulties of counseling aren’t
limited to the above cases, but this study may at least served as an
introduction to the problem. Suffice to say that there’s a long
path ahead before we get to a form of counseling that is practical
transl.: Atoosa Sameie