In a society where friendship is soon seen at par with family, and trust is placed on high esteem, who would value the work of a ‘stranger’ by virtue of just his or her professional credentials? Thus, for such obvious reasons, the career of counselling without doubt, remains a difficult career line to tow here in Russia. Mostly due to the purported insecurity and lack of confidence associated with the delivery of the service. Bearing this background in mind, ReadSquare sought to find out more about the current state of the Psychological Counseling Center of HSE, Russian University with their interview with Dina Zafesova, a professional at the center.
The Psychological Counseling Center of HSE, provides psychological counselling and psychotherapeutic sessions for students, university staffers, and lecturers in times of emotional discomforts. It also encourages them to ask for help with their most immediate concerns. With well adequately experienced staff, the center deals with deeper developmental and psychological issues ranging from stress and depression to problems of adaptation and other disorders. All concerns are addressed with sensitivity, respect and understanding. The center also provides proactive sessions to those who wish to prevent their concerns from developing into more serious problems. With strict privacy standards and confidentiality as their hallmark, their essential goal is to provide an environment where students are free to ask for help.
To commence our conversation, she stressed the important role of a comprehensive counselling system in an educational environment. According to her, it complements the regular teaching and learning activities, placing students and workers in a convenient position to advance. In addition, contrary to some views that the center did less to merit any significance, she cautioned that everyone stood to gain from proper and professional counselling. “For instance, in defeating educational problems associated with adaptation, aging, communicating, trauma and shocks, students require the assistance of professional such as counselling psychologists”, she cited.
She was of the revelation also that, the center is one of its kind amongst educational institutions in Russia and is unique to HSE because, other schools in Moscow do not have such centers.
When she was posed with the question of who their regular clients are, she confirmed that even though it is still a big challenge for the elderly to patronize the center, the younger generation do so, and on regular basis. “We have about ten people a day now….people actually come here very often for sessions”, she noted. A development which according to her, has seen a double recruitment of the initial professional staff of counselling psychologists and psychotherapists from four to eight. She also used the occasion to debunk the perceived notion by many that, psychological and psychotherapeutic advice sessions were only for the mentally derailed individuals.
When questioned about how they dealt with the aftermath of the stories and problems of their clients, Dina was quick to add that, there were occasional trainings for the workers at the center to review current trends in the field and to manage very well the degree of stories from their clients.
To students nursing the interest of becoming counselling psychologists or a psychotherapists, her advice was brief, “develop the vision and passion to help people manage stress, get necessary education in the study, be interested in people, listen to them and be able to have several analytical explanations to everything”.
For the international students, especially those adapting to the Russian culture already dinted by prejudice, misconceptions and contradictions, she stated that the center equally provides culturally-sensitive support to them. She also used the occasion to inform the community that, the center was in the process of recruiting a new professional to replace the previous worker who left some time ago. “Yes, we do provide services to international students and so they should be rest assured the center has not left them out of their services”, she assured.
Be it individual or group counseling arranged sessions through a specific website, services run absolutely free of charge for all HSE students. Concluding our interview, Dina briefly spelt out to all a special invitation to the center: “the next time you are faced with any personal issue(s) clearly proving to negatively impact on your well-being, remember an already stretched hand, a pair of listening ear and a heart ready to conceal and share calmly awaits you”.