Creating a Forum for Counsellors

AmityCARE, a part of the Amity group is a unique outreach program in and around Delhi. It strives to provide insight into different careers and helps students in choosing the right career. In the last one-year it has grown to a membership of around 15, 000 students all over Delhi.

Taking a step forward in this endeavour, AmityCARE organized a Counsellorís Meet at the India International Centre on 20th April 2006 under the aegis of Ms Poonam Singh Jamwal, Director, AmityCARE. The theme of the Meet wasí To Children I Give My Heartí.

The main aim of this Meet was to address child related issues and how counsellors, teachers and parents can deal with them effectively. It also dealt with overall development of the child including career counseling. The attendees were primarily Principal, Counsellors, Teachers and eminent people from the Amity group.

The Counsellor’s Meet was divided into three sessions.

Session –I

Chief Guest, Dr. Kiran Bedi, DG-Home Guards & Director Civil Defence, Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan, Founder President, RBEF, Dr. (Mrs.) Amita Chauhan, Chairperson, Amity International Schools & Mr. Atul Chauhan, Chancellor, Amity University, inaugurated AmityCARE’s

  • Website – www.amitycare.net
  • Counsellors’ Magazine – Let’s Talk
  • AmityCARE Counsellors Forum (ACCF)

In her keynote address Dr. Kiran Bedi reiterated the importance of asking questions in life. She said, “Children of today are asking a lot of questions. We may have the answers and we may not have the answers. Counselling is both group as well as individual counseling and both are necessary. In a group, you address a lot of common issues. With an individual, you individualise counseling. Students are asking a lot of questions. Why must I do this? Why should this happen? Why must I behave in this manner? What is the benefit of all this? Why must I learn Liberal Sciences when Computers would be better? Why should I learn Geography, History or Mathematics? So when you are suggesting a subject or a concept, they are all the time asking WHY. So without losing patience, you have to answer those questions. Like, for instance, why must I learn History? It is to learn lessons what went right and what went wrong.”

Dr. Bedi also narrated her personal experiences to drive home the point that motivation by parents and teachers is very essential for the growth and success of the child. “My father and mother made me visualize myself in uniform. They made me visualize being a champion. They made me visualize what I am doing today. It was lot of shadow boxing. They made me visualize hitting a drop shot”.

She added, “In my case, I chose to be extraordinary. My parents ingrained it in me. And now since that thought was part of my system, I started pondering on HOW to be extraordinary. Once you have answered the WHY, the HOW automatically came in. So, when I was competing internationally and traveling out for most of the time, I used to carry suitcases of books despite nobody telling me to do that. No more was I studying only to pass an examination but to research for myself. What is it that made Plato so brilliant? What is it that made Aristotle so different? So I researched and researched. Why because the WHY had already been generated within me. And I was convinced on the WHY. So that is the role of the counsellor. It is to invoke the WHY in the students. And answer the WHY”.

She was of the view that parents, counsellors and teachers need to dig into their past experiences and question themselves before helping and counselling children. “I would like to tell you that we as counselors and mentors have to ask ourselves WHY. Do I have the fire within to invoke fire in the other person? If you are not inspired, you cannot inspire the other person? If you want to impart this inspiration, you need to be warm within and experience this emotion to transfer the warmth”.

Session – II

Paper Presentations by counsellors from different schools. These presentations were marked and reviewed by eminent counsellors like Dr. Waheeda Khan ( Jamia Milia Islamia University), Dr. Renu Kishore ( Delhi University) and Prof. Abha Singh ( Amity University).

  • The first presentation was by Ms. Priyam Kapoor from S.L.S.D.A.V Public School, Mausam Vihar on Development of Humour. According to her, people with a high sense of humour are capable of coping with stress more effectively. The sample survey undertaken by her on children from different age groups revealed that humour boosts their thinking capacity and makes them more sociable.
  • The next presentation was by Ms. Nidhi Kaul from D.P.S, Greater Noida on Adolescent Lifestyle & Smoking. She said that adolescence is a period marked by a number of changes and struggles. According to her children who smoke are more depressed than others and it has an impact on their academics. She spelled out a number of physical and psychological damage done by smoking. She concluded by saying that counsellors can play a major role in helping children quit smoking by motivating them and helping them in handling stress.
  • The last presentation was by Ms. Pronoti Coondoo of Swarnprastha School on. Her topic was Emotional Maturity in School goers. She discussed the nature and need of Emotional Maturity at length. According to the study conducted by her, girls are more emotionally mature than boys. She stressed that teachers and counsellors need to be compassionate towards children and not be selfish. They should use their emotional intelligence to change a student’s everyday life.

Ms. Jamwal concluded the series of presentations by emphasizing that the purpose of these presentations was to research the best practices and recommend them to other people to use. She said “Usability has to be the core purpose of the research”.

Dr. Bhavna Barmi, Sr. Clinical Psychologist at the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre conducted an interactive workshop on Spiritual Intelligence and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Her workshop aimed at reducing all limiting emotions like fears, phobias, traumatic memories etc. According to her, use of EFT as a counseling tool has reduced therapy time considerably. She said that emotions create blockages in our systems which can be reduced by identifying certain energy points in our body. She also gave a demo to work on these energy points, which was highly appreciated by the audience.

Session – III

Panel Discussion on Sex Education in Schools. The panelists included Dr. Roma Kumar, Clinical Psychologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Mr. Abhinav Chaturvedi, Media Personality; Dr. Reema Sehgal, Counsellor – Bal Bharti Public School, Brij Vihar and Ms. Poonam Singh Jamwal, Director AmityCARE.

Ms. Taruna Barthwal, Sr. Consultant with AmityCARE moderated the discussion. She opened the session with the view that it is high time that we talk to our children about sex education with an open mind. She said “Even we, as adults, have been unable to communicate clearly to our children, issues related to sex, due to our social conditioning which made us view sex as a taboo topic. Today, if we want our children to grow up as healthy and responsible individuals, we need to have open forums that address this issue. We need to empower the child to deal with the issue, in an appropriate and sensible manner, and not push it under the carpet”.

According to the panelists sex education is still not addressed with as much seriousness as it should. Mr. Chaturvedi who represented the parent community said “value systems have changed drastically since 70s and 80s. Parents need to change with the times”.

Dr. Roma Kumar started by emphasizing that it is incorrect to address this issue as Sex Education, rather it should be named Sexuality Education in schools. She said, “Sexuality education should start as early as possible. We need to talk to him/her, the moment we feel the child is ready for some answers. Information should be given according to the age of the child”.

“Actually the idea is to prepare the child to handle the need of gender related differences”, added Dr. Reema Sehgal.

Ms. Poonam Singh Jamwal further added to the discussion by saying that “Reach out to children and try explaining it to them in very basic terms so that the child knows that if I have a query, this is my source. You open the door to the possibility of their coming and asking you questions”.

The session was interactive and the audience actively participated and asked a lot of questions to the panelists. Their concerns ranged from what is the right age to start sex education to how much sex related information should be given by counsellors to school children.

The last presentation was a session to Train the Trainer, by Ms. Usha Albuquerque, Career Counselling Expert on ‘Best Practices in Career Counselling’. Her talk dealt with the issue that how can counsellors and teachers help students fulfill their role in future.

She stressed the importance of career planning. Students are confused because of the increasing number of choices and peer pressure. According to her, “students today have 20,000 careers to choose from, so obviously they are confused.” She elaborated on the role of the counsellors in preparing children to deal with life and the career they choose.

Encouraging feedback

The feedback and response of those who attended the meet was extremely encouraging and positive. Dr. Kiran Bedi’s address was very well received and the issues addressed by her served as an eye opener for all. Dr. Barmi’s interactive workshop demonstrating the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) also received tremendous response.

The paper presentations were quite interactive with a lot of cross-questioning and interjections taking place. The interest of the audience could be gauged from the degree of their participation.

The panel discussion on sex education succeeded in bringing out taboo topics from the closet. The discussion was very open and informative for parents, counselors as well as teachers and answered a lot of questions otherwise never discussed. Everybody wholeheartedly welcomed the idea of the formation of a forum for counselors in the form of ACCF.

The suggestions of some of the participants to make future Counsellor’s Meet better were extremely valuable. Many were of the view that paper presentations need to be better researched with more variety and content. Many felt that more time should be given for audience interaction.

Other suggestions included formation of a data bank of counsellors, special education, and clinical psychologists; more teachers and counsellors interaction and practical exercises; interactive smaller groups and panel discussions for the audience too; short term courses in handling children for school teachers to reach out to more children; and development of curriculum for moral science and spirituality

FUTURE PLANS

Counsellors’ Meet II

Everybody was of the view that the serious thought process needs to be carried forward and more issues need to be discussed and dealt with. The event ended on the note that such sessions involving discussions and brainstorming need to take place on a regular basis, thereby laying down the agenda for the next Meet to be held on 20 July 2006. The theme of AmityCARE Counsellor’s Meet II is ‘Discover the Counsellor in You’.

Counsellor’s Meet II will try to discuss issues like listening with sensitivity and understanding, establishing trust with students and others, understanding learning styles in context to self and others, acknowledgement and confrontation of conflict and looking to each other for help on resolving challenges.

The distribution of certificates and mementoes to all the eminent speakers and participants marked the conclusion of AmityCARE’s First Counsellor’s Meet – or rather ‘The Beginning…’