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 Table of Contents  
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 273-275

A faculty training module on the art of counseling students on non-academic issues


1 Department of Psychiatry, JSS Medical College and Hospital, JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research, Mysore, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, St. John's Medical College and Hospital, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, Adichunchanagiri Institute of Medical Sciences, Mandya, Karnataka, India
4 Department of Biochemistry, M.S Ramaiah Medical College, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
5 Department of Electronics and Communication, RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication15-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. M Kishor
Department of Psychiatry, JSS Medical College and Hospital, JSS University, Mysore - 570 004, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijhas.IJHAS_73_18

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How to cite this article:
Kishor M, Chandran S, Vinay H R, Kusuma K S, Kantanavar P. A faculty training module on the art of counseling students on non-academic issues. Int J Health Allied Sci 2018;7:273-5

How to cite this URL:
Kishor M, Chandran S, Vinay H R, Kusuma K S, Kantanavar P. A faculty training module on the art of counseling students on non-academic issues. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2018 Dec 12];7:273-5. Available from: http://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2018/7/4/273/243270



Sir,

The purpose of any educational institution is to foster not only academic learning but also the all-round development of the students. A student is but an individual who has to continuously interact and learn from the surrounding environment. Students' life can be broadly categorized into academic and nonacademic aspects. Educational institutions focus predominantly on academic aspects; however, many students may face potentially stressful experiences that are associated with complex bio-psycho-social changes that happen in this crucial phase of life.

Given the uniqueness of this phase, guidance and counseling, in synchrony with the goals of education, can immensely benefit students. Faculty plays a key role in students' well-being. They can guide and counsel students in nonacademic issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and addiction to smoking/alcohol/cannabis (ganja). However, there is hardly any module to train the faculty on these important matters. In this article, “Approach to nonacademic issues” is discussed and “approach to academic issues” has been discussed elsewhere.[1]

The need of the hour is on building the capacities of every teacher as “student-centric teachers.” Here, we have attempted to address one possible way of approach to train faculty in counseling students for nonacademic issues. This module can be incorporated in student well-being initiatives of educational institutions.[2] It is preferable that training of the module is carried out by resource persons like senior faculty and/or by psychiatrist/psychologist wherever they are available. The module described here is of 60-min duration, for a group of faculty numbering <40 to make learning effective; predominantly, the methodology should be interactive with case scenario, role plays, and group discussions. However, the duration and faculty number for training session can vary from institution to institution based on the infrastructure and the availability of resource persons.

The session starts with brief introduction on the aims and learning objectives of the training module, methodology, and ground rules of the meet. The faculty group can then initiate the discussion on the common “nonacademic issues” of that particular institution, and a list of such issues is prepared for the workshop. Then, the basic framework for a counseling session can involve the following steps, although they can be modified and adapted for specific situations: (1) approachability, (2) building rapport, (3) identifying the problem, (4) discussing and searching for possible solutions, (5) implementing the solution, which may require further guidance from professional experts, (6) follow-up, and (7) identifying situations requiring intervention by mental health professionals. Each aspect can be taken up and a role play can be designed to enhance the understanding.

The discussion among faculty can also be on selection of an appropriate place for counseling. Sometimes, it can be helpful if there is a designated office space within the institution that is convenient and easily accessible for students. Discussion on methods of approach and qualities of faculty that help students to feel at ease such as being nonjudgmental, empathy, and confidentiality is to be elaborated with case examples. The next aspect of faculty training is to sensitize oneself to identify a problem and notice subtle changes stemming from nonacademic issues. Changes can be in behavior/irritability/disobedience/aloofness or dull unlike before/being irregular to class/falling grades, all of which should raise suspicion of a possible problem the student is facing. The discussion then can be on should faculty volunteer to approach a student? Or wait for student to approach them? There should be space for both the possibilities. The next step is for the faculty to be able to identify the key area of concern and the dimension of the student's life that is causing the distress. An approach to a few common nonacademic issues is enumerated as follows.

Depression among students is not rare; the teaching faculties are in a unique position in this regard, as they interact with students every day and can be the first people to identify potential warning signs and symptoms.[3] The faculty training discusses the key features that differentiate sadness from depression. The severity and the duration of the sad mood/irritability, the loss of interest, tiredness unlike before, lack of concentration, the pessimistic view, and the death wishes are all features to consider. In these scenarios, it is important that the faculties express support, use a positive tone, avoid generalizations, look at the availability of a student's social support, and be nonjudgmental. Depression and even anxiety among students can stem from academic pressures, personal stressors, or may be generalized, without any identifiable etiology. Specific problems can be solved by helping the student find specific solutions to it. Relaxation techniques such as sports/deep breathing/yoga/meditation can be suggested to the student along with reassurance to reduce symptoms. If the student cites academic overload, the faculty discuss the methods such as breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and focusing on each part one by one.[4] The crucial part of the faculty training is to monitor and screen for suicidal thoughts/intentions or any self-harm in the past or family history of suicide. When present, it is important for the faculty to discuss and devise preventive strategies such as coping skill enhancement methods, encouraging help-seeking methods, building support system with their family members, and wherever possible joining hands with mental health professionals.

Substance abuse, especially alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis, is a growing concern among students.[5],[6] The faculty can list the common methods to identify students with substance use. The training can then utilize role plays on the art of helping students with brief motivational enhancement techniques to reduce substance use.[7],[8] The faculty can discuss the positive aspects of acknowledging the problem in a nonconfrontational manner. Learning to discuss the negative consequences of continued substance abuse (financial burden, adverse health effects, and academic failures) and also about different treatment resources available can be highlighted. The faculty can also discuss novel methods such as conducting group sessions and also forming self-help groups on campus. Faculty training can also discuss strategies in guiding students against substance use such as (1) never try, delay the first experiment; (2) never start if any family member had problems with alcohol/smoking/drugs; (3) never use in extreme mood state (happy or sad); (4) never hesitate to say “No” to friends; and (5) never hesitate to take help for problems.

Another pressing nonacademic issue affecting students that should be incorporated in faculty training is when students express difficulty in relationships,[9] be it with family members or friends, platonic or in romantic relationships. Discussing such situations objectively in the workshop and delineating constructive solutions for it can go a long way in the overall development of students. The relationship issues are hardly discussed, especially in India, where romantic relationships are heavily frowned upon.[10] Academic life can be adversely affected because of perceived relationship issues. Talking about these things still remains taboo and students are at a loss about who to turn to for advice. But, the fact of the matter is that relationships among students are a common reality in educational institutions and reasonably trained faculty when confronted with such distressed student can look at practical solutions to such problems. Hence, the faculty training discusses ways to help students in differentiating friendship and relationship, harm reduction in perceived relationship, and the art of prioritizing one's own goal.

The faculty can choose any issue that is relevant for that particular institution and consider the above examples in ways of approaching the solutions. The training of faculty should prioritize an impactful conclusion of individual faculty–student sessions; it can be with the students summarizing the session on their key learning points, the immediate plan of action, methods to self-evaluate and monitor their progress, and a possible agenda for the next session. The faculty can give necessary feedback and encourage positive problem-solving steps to students. Guidance books can also be prepared by the faculty which can help sensitize incoming students to potential issues they could face at educational institutions and possible resources they can utilize during these circumstances.[11]

The above module can be accommodated within the existing student well-being models or student mentorship program or any similar program in the educational institution. The design of the module presented is concerned to nonacademic issues such that it is preventive, developmental, supportive, and remedial for the students' needs. The success of the module depends on the motivation of the faculty, institutional support, and the student's ability to utilize the services of trained faculty. Education is a vital transition period in students' life and faculty-driven counseling modules can reasonably ensure their well-being.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Kishor M, Vinay HR, Kusuma KS, Kantanavar P, Chandran S. A faculty training module on the art of counseling students in academic issues. Int J Health Allied Sci 2018;7:210.  Back to cited text no. 1
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2.
Kishor M, Vinay HR, Kusuma KS, Kantanavar P. Young minds: A proposed model for students' well-being in educational institutions. Int J Health Allied Sci 2018;7:123-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
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Bayram N, Bilgel N. The prevalence and socio-demographic correlations of depression, anxiety and stress among a group of university students. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2008;43:667-72.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Meichenbaum DH, Deffenbacher JL. Stress inoculation training. Couns Psychol 1988;16:69-90.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Knight JR, Wechsler H, Kuo M, Seibring M, Weitzman ER, Schuckit MA. Alcohol abuse and dependence among U.S. college students. J Stud Alcohol 2002;63:263-70.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
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O'Malley PM, Johnston LD. Epidemiology of alcohol and other drug use among American college students. J Stud Alcohol Suppl 2002;14:23-39.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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Tevyaw TO, Monti PM. Motivational enhancement and other brief interventions for adolescent substance abuse: Foundations, applications and evaluations. Addict 2004;99 Suppl 2:63-75.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
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Borsari B, Carey KB. Effects of a brief motivational intervention with college student drinkers. J Consult Clin Psychol 2000;68:728-33.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Gryl FE, Stith SM, Bird GW. Close dating relationships among college students: Differences by use of violence and by gender. J Soc Pers Relat 1991;8:243-64.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Alexander M, Garda L, Kanade S, Jejeebhoy S, Ganatra B. Romance and sex: Pre-marital partnership formation among young women and men, Pune district, India. Reprod Health Matters 2006;14:144-55.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
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Chandran S, Kishor M, Bhargava S, Jayaram R, Sundararajan R, Prabhu P, et al. An innovative concept book guide for MBBS students. Indian J Psychiatry 2017;59:525-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
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