Communicating with a person with disability and dealing with a family impacted with addiction were among the many workshops provided to certified counsellors at the fourth biennial Bhutan counselling conference in Thimphu yesterday.

When 18 differently-abled individuals were asked if they got out on the street often, 17 said they did not. Behaviour specialist, Thuji, said that the common answer for the decision was because of the uncomfortable stare on the street. “Some of the taxi drivers charged them extra because they had to help them in and out,” she said.

Professor and chair of the Department of Counselling and Higher Education of Ohio University, the USA, Dr Mona Robinson, said that when a person is seen in a wheelchair or stretchers, many assume that the person is weak or needs help.

Thuji said that a person shouldn’t be associated with the kind of disease he or she had. “The person comes first and we should not necessarily focus on the weakness of the person.” she said.

She said that at policy levels things are planned for improvement. However, she said that the need for the environment and the society is essential. “It is not enough that the CSOs or any other organisations are working towards it. If a person with the problem doesn’t come out, people will not know. We have to self-advocate that disability affects all classes of people,” she said.

More than eighty school guidance counsellors at the conference attended the workshops.

Often the balanced roles and interdependence of family members shift when a change occurs in a family.

Family counsellor at Meredian Helathcare in Youngtown, Ohio, Dr Amy Williams, said that addition of a new member or losing a family member is a part of a family life cycle. “These change is stressful and is normal.”

Addiction can also be a solution sought by an individual to escape the stress because of a change.

When addiction adds to the transition process of a family, the roles of the members change in an attempt to realign itself.

Dr Amy Williams said that family members tend to adapt to a certain behaviour named, the oddest child, escape goat and mascot, when attempting to survive the family.

She said that the oddest kid tend to behave maturely and take on responsibility that is dropped by a person into addiction. However, she said that the individual still suffers and is only taking on the responsibility to provide to the survival of the family.

The escape goat usually attempt to survive by escaping the situation and can be invisible most of time.

Mascots are the ones who try to ease and reduce the tension in the family. “Every family member is at risk genetically, socially and systemically. A young person may choose to not go to a college because they are scared that the family might break,” she said.

She said that to help a family impacted with drugs, the counsellor must set achievable targets and make members talk within the family. There should be consistency from parents while helping their children.

Bhutan Board for Certified Counsellors certified 147 counsellors on the first day of the two-day conference.

Phurpa Lhamo