Gender perspectives in counseling services among university students in Kenya
Njeri, Kamunyu Ruth
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This study investigates gender perspectives in counselling among university students in Kenya. Due to changes in traditional social set up, individuals have been alienated from their extended family and community that provided the necessary support system, thus an increase in the number of people, both males and females seeking professional therapy. University students who are largely young adults experience emotional and psychological challenges that require counselling. The objectives of this study were: to establish prevalence of students seeking counselling services in universities, investigate the gender preference of students seeking counselling services, investigate factors that influence the gender preference of the counsellor by the client, to determine the issues that are taken to men/women counsellors by either gender, and, suggest recommendations for gender counselling. The study is guided by Person Centred and Social Learning Theories. The study applied descriptive survey research design using quantitative and qualitative data. Stratified, simple random and purposive sampling methods were used to sample three universities, 310 students and seven student counsellors. Data was collected using questionnaires, in-depth interview schedules and Focus Group Discussions Guide. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and is presented in Tables, Pie charts and Bar graphs. For qualitative data, emerging patterns of the content analysis is presented thematically according to research objectives. The study reveals that students are faced with many counselling issues such as academic, psychological, social, personal, economic, health, physical, vocational and spiritual. However, only 35% of students with issues in both private and public universities seek counselling services. The findings also reveal huge gender discrepancies among university counsellors where 57% are women compared to 43% men. The study reveals gender discrepancy among students seeking counselling in the universities where more female students than males seek counselling services according to 86% counsellors and 97% students. Factors which influence gender preference of the counsellor by the client include: nature of issues to be addressed by either gender, communication skills, previous counselling experience of the student, methods used and availability of any gender of the counsellor. The study findings reveal that 54% of students prefer female counsellors as compared to 27% that prefer male counsellors. Female counsellors are preferred for being caring, nurturing and understanding. Issues that students discuss with university male counsellors are academic, family, personal, peer relationship, economic and physical problems. Issues that male and female students discuss with university female counsellors are psychological, social, spiritual, and education/academic challenges. The study recommends that: university counsellors should initiate vigorous campaign to encourage male/female students to seek for counselling services. Intake counsellors should be gender sensitive and allocate the preferred gender according to presenting problems.