LISTSERV DISCUSSION CMCL-FAIMER REGIONAL INSTITUTE LUDHIANA                                                                                                                           

The discussion for the Month of Nov. 2008 started on a very refreshing note as festivities of Diwali were just over. The topic assigned for the discussion was STUDENT COUNSELING.




                                    Faculty:           Dr. Gagandeep.

                                    Fellow 2007:    Dr.Chandrika Rao

:                                    Fellows 2008:  Anurag Chowdhary,Sheikh Sajjad Ahmed and Bharti Uppal


 The topic was divided into four parts. During the first week learning objectives were fixed and basics of the concept introduced.


Pre-discussion learning objectives for the month were:


  • Understanding the concept of student counseling  
  • Need and importance of counseling the students.
  • Does everyone need counselling.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Doesevery 
  • Who should counsel?
  • Limitations of counseling.


The basic concept of Counseling as emerged in the backdrop of discussion can be summarized as follows:


  • Bharti U proposed that the word means we are going to advise somebody over anything and every thing. It provides a safe place separate from daily life, where you can explore issues or feelings which are causing you difficulty. The counselor aims to relate an individual in a supportive and purposeful manner and assist in task of finding own way forward.                                                                            


  • Sajjad: pointed out that counseling can be defined as a therapeutic procedure in which a counselor adopts a supportive non-judgmental role of enabling a client to deal more effectively with psychological or           emotional problems and gives  advice on  practical  problems.                                                                                                                      


  • Tejinder Singh, was quick to put the things in proper perspective. He made an important distinction that academic counseling and psychiatric counseling are not one and the same. It is useful to view academic counseling as a continium of information- Advise-Counseling. Most of the time, students will approach teachers only for pure information requests. When is the examination, which books I should read, which clinical postings I need to go and so on. At the second level is advice. This level comes, when there is a 'decision point' in student's life. Examples: should I opt for medicine or surgery, should I drop out for one subject etc. However, advice is best given after knowing about the needs, aspirations, context and plans of the student. This is where counseling comes in. So you tell a student that since you are interested in doing a program in hand surgery, it may be best for you to take special interest in orthopedics. Advice is giving all the options to the student and then letting him choose, what is best for him (non-directive).


  • Counseling offers an opportunity to consider issues that concern an individual, in confidence.  It is a therapeutic approach that seeks to help one to explore and understand current difficulties and to make choices in their life.  Counseling aims to help individuals take responsibility for their own decisions become more aware of their personal resources, more skilled at coping with difficulties and thus more self reliant.    Students use the Counseling Service for a range of reasons. Often they bring issues that friends, family or tutors are not best able to help with and when thinking/talking with someone outside their immediate network may be useful. Often 'just' listening, without giving advice, is very helpful - you don't have to find a solution. You can discuss the matter without breaking a confidence by not divulging details, perhaps with a counselor, where confidentiality is more guaranteed.                               





The areas where counseling is provided are very diverse.


  • Counseling is done as a pre admission exercise where the students and individuals are enlightened on the various career opportunities, study facilities and placements later  on.                                                                                                                           
  • While taking admission to a particular course or college as after PMT tests etc.                                             
  • These days various schools have started counseling the teenagers covering areas like emotional upheavals, uncertainties of adolescence, major and minor irritants, career options, time management   etc.               
  • Counseling students in higher education, universities and professional colleges.                   .. .                                      
  • Counseling individuals for professional stress and job problems.                                     
  • Counseling individuals on one to one relationships with spouse, children, parents, boss, clients etc                         .




With specific reference to medical students counseling has a role on following areas, as compiled by Anupama and BhartiU. .



  • Adjustments with new classmates, teachers and environment.
  • Time management
  • Issues related to performance in academics.                                                                                    
  • Stressof studies especiallyFirst M.B.B.S.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           in                                                                                                                                                                                                            .
  • Self destructive behaviors
  • Anxiety issues and bipolar disorder.
  • Substance abuse
  • Issues related to sexual assault
  • Issues related to finances
  • Loneliness, homesickness, lack of self esteem, poor self confidence, cultural transition, separation, divorce, individuation from parents.
  • Academic problems including loss of motivation, concentration, and confidence                                 .




Why counsel?



The counseling aims at:


·        Acquisition of right skills

·        Adapting to changing situations.

·        Reinventing oneself to get ahead





When to counsel?

Praveen advocated that ideally it is good if we can have routine counseling regularly and if some problem is suspected then the student can be referred to consultant r professional counselor. More is more required at times of stressful situation like exam and result.


Bharthi supplemented that counseling can be undertaken both ways;

  • As a routine exercise
  • Or after the teacher has elicited some alerting signs in the student.           .                                         

 Both approaches have particular advantages and disadvantages. If taken asa routine, then counseling has the potential of becoming a preventive tool. Regular counseling sessions with a presumption that everyone
needs it can be helpful in promoting psychological health of thestudents. Secondly this practices rules out any errors ofidentification that the teacher may commit in referring the students toa counselor. However a teacher can provide routine counseling to students as a level one practice and then refer the students to a level two where an expert counselor can carry it ahead further. Inthis approach the workload of the counselor increases and there is a fear that the whole practice may become unpopular in students as theyidentify it with a routine.
Other way round is that once a student demonstrates some elements ofproblem behavior, only then the counseling sessions are arranged. This approach is good in the sense that need-based and focused attention
is given. But at the same time it becomes an exercise in retrospective. Counseling afterwards is a therapeutic strategy but prevention is always preferred and desirable.

 At this point it was important to make a distinction between mentoring and counseling. Nauveet,Sajjad and Sita provided very useful resources to settle the issue.



A. Counseling

  • Clarifying the thoughts and feelings in a way which enables us to move forward and make changes in our life.
  • Feel heard and understood by another human being.                                                                             
  • Understand and express feelings which might feel difficult or uncomfortable in your day-to-day relationships.
  • Recognize old coping strategies and skills which were necessary to you in the past but which may not be helping in your current circumstances.                                                                                                
  • Understand what you have to contribute to the different intimate, working and domestic relationships in your life, and also the unconscious ways in which you might sabotage these                            relationships.                                
  • Understand and appreciate your own unique value as a human being.
  • Take an active part in becoming the person you really want to be.                                     .                                                            

B. Mentoring

Mentoring is a slightly different way of working which has more of a teaching element in it.

  • Mentoring involves a more active exploration of your journey as a human soul using a number of techniques such as visualization, journal keeping and creative work.                                                                                            
  • This can be a challenging way of finding meaning and purpose in life and then working towards specific goals. It embraces the concept of emotional literacy and looks at, in an active way, the ways in which your unconscious programming stops you reaching your full potential.                                                     
  • As with counseling, mentoring also provides the emotional support necessary for the exploration and healing of the blocks - those areas of yourself which may have been wounded in the past and which may be preventing you from having choices about how you are, how you relate and how you experience your life.              
  • Mentoring can be particularly suitable for those whose life and/or career appears to have lost meaning or, alternatively, those in training as counselors, psychotherapists or any profession needing emotional literacy, leadership and an understanding of the workings of the human   psyche.                                       




How to counsel?



Students always benefit from teacher’s leadership and so their achievements are improved.


WALLACE FOUNDATION had realized it way back and is working on the principle for last 2decades.

There are various ways of counseling.



1. ONE TO ONE:  These are also called as DROP IN SESSIONS.

Here the student meets a professional counselor at a fixed or stipulated hour and discusses his problems.

These sessions can be done by a fixed counselor who may be whole time or part time with an institute.

The advantage of whole time counselor is that the student can drop in any time.


2. Using E-MAIL/TELEPHONES for counseling.

This methodology has been found to be more effective as then the student can talk more freely about the apprehensions as has been observed that students hesitate to voice their concerns directly and online these facts and inhibitions are lost.


Various counselors have said that students can bring up anything and everything as an issue with typical examples as:

Difficult thoughts

Feelings and behavior (their own or others)

Responses to recent or past events

Making decisions

Academic and personnel care.


The use of counseling has always to remain confidential.




The session time varies from 30-50 minutes

First appointment:


Assessment Session

This session helps to tell if counseling is actually needed or not.

Second and subsequent appointments:

The time of session here varies from 1hr -2hrs.

These sessions discuss the problems, find remedies and also the outcomes are analyzed.




Anurag added a few valuable points more:


  • Listen, don't rush to fix, advise or disagree
  • Empathize, put yourself in their shoes
  • Remember your role is to provide support and to make suggestions for further support when it seems necessary. Don't get involved beyond what seems comfortable or appropriate to you                                                   .




·        Counseling cannot work effectively unless it is voluntary and people hold some hope that it can lead to relief. If people attend from a sense of obligation, they might not be able to talk freely.

  • Raise the idea of seeing a counselor without forcing the issue. While you might give the phone number or mention the name of a Counselor you know, you should not ordinarily make the appointment on their behalf.




The “how” part can be summarized in the form of   Ten steps to counseling.



· Encourage the student to talk about the feeling by using listening

· Validate the feeling with reflective listening

· Let the student pour out all the inner feeling.

· Provide missing information about the situation

· Talk about the students’ view of goals and vision

· Communicate what it takes to get there.

· Observe signs of trouble and prepare for possible violence and threats

· Encourage student to develop positive energy towards devising solution.

· Establish regular schedule for follow-up discussion and give feedback

· Agree on what steps to take to change the situation







Academic counseling


At the initiation of Tejinder Singh, Anurag gave a very lucid account of academic counseling.

 Academic Counseling helps students acquire more effective and efficient study skills. It focuses on skills such as:

  • Adjustment to professional college
  • Textbook reading
  • Lecture note-taking
  • Test taking
  • Listening skills
  • Creating a good study environment
  • Good memorization skills
  • How to build self esteem
  • Time management
  • Exam preparation
  • Memory techniques
  • Stress management 
  • and other skills

It helps both 

  • students who are having academic difficulty
  • students who just want to improve their study skills                                                                   

It focuses on selected study strategies such as:

  • Time Management
  • Exam Preparation & managing stress before exams.                                                                                    
  • Procrastination &
  • Stress Management





Students’ expectations from counseling.


•    A welcoming friendly place to go for information
•    Respect as people capable of acting in their own best interests
•    Access to information & counseling at hours convenient to students
•    Clear up to date information related to meeting their goals
•    When appropriate an empathetic, social dimension to counseling
•    Encourage support in meeting the goals they set
•    Information about job & education options
•    To know the level of education for possible career goals
•    To be offered manageable alternatives when a goal seems out of reach
•    To know how to seek accurate information for themselves
•    To be encouraged to effectively express their needs, hopes & fears
•    To feel safe when they express their needs hopes & fears.




Bhatti and Anupama made a few important points about feedback after counseling. The feedback can be in the form of change in the attitude, behavior and results in the examination would indicate the efficacy of counseling or a questionnaire can be administered to be filled to be filled by the students.


All the fellows participated in the discussion with much enthusiasm. TS was there to guide at every point. The faculty was very supportive. Anshu kept steering us towards betterment as always. The discussion concluded on a very positive note.





A few web-based resources that were cited during the discussion are at follows:



Dr. Sheikh Sajjad Ahmed