The role of professional counseling associations in professional counseling practice in Kenya
Kimiru, Mwangi Peterson
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There are several roles of Professional Counseling Associations (PCAs). Major among them is for accountability purposes of a professional practitioner. PCAs provide the checks and balances necessary in the maintenance of professionalism. From a global perspective, Western countries seem to have succeeded in coming up with PCAs with globally drawn membership. They regulate and standardize counseling practice. This study surveyed the role of PCAs in the professionalization of counseling practice in Kenya. It adopted the theory of communities of practice in the theoretical framework, and a descriptive survey design in the methodology. The research was primarily done in Nairobi City, but it involved counselors who practiced from different parts of the country. Purposive sampling method was used to identify the PCAs and their executive officers who participated in the study. The population consisted of counselors affiliated to PCAs who were sampled using systematic random sampling. The data collection instruments included a questionnaire and an in-depth interview guide. Use of the two instruments and a sample drawn from both the counselling practitioners and their executive officials enhanced validity and reliability. The quantitative data was processed using the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) version 18.0. It was then analyzed and summarized into tables. The qualitative data was analyzed by organizing the data into themes, before it was summarized and interpreted. The findings revealed that there existed different criterion among PCAs in their recruitment of members. The main consideration for membership was academic and professional qualifications. It was rated at 96% by the respondents. Even in the same association, there were hierarchies denoting various levels of membership ranging from individual to corporate. The PCAs offered various professional services. A major service offered was the creation of a platform for counselors to network as was rated by 81.5% of the respondents. PCAs also offered accreditation, continued education and research opportunities. The study identified various ways of enforcing professionalism among the PCAs in Kenya. Although they are not legally binding, the existing codes of ethics provided a professional understanding for members to base their practice on. Respondents had varied opinions about their associations. Most of them were “highly satisfied” that their associations are professional agents who positively influenced the respondents counseling practice. Respondents view was that better commitment of members including the embracing of collaborations would help the associations to be more influential in carrying out their professional roles. A major recommendation of this study was the need to fast-track the suggested Counseling and Psychological Bill in order to professionalize counseling practice in Kenya through a legal framework which was identified as currently lacking. It is expected that when this is accomplished, accreditation, licensing, supervision, counselors training, and enforcement of the codes of ethics would be done in a professionally organized manner. Therefore the need for the formation of an umbrella association for all counseling practitioners in Kenya was identified as imperative. Such an association could ensure that the roles of PCAs are professionally done and assist in filling the gaps identified in the study.