Goan psychologist gives training in Afghanistan


A psychologist by profession, Clifford DeSilva, who is also the director of Goa Institute of Counselling (GIC) recently spent some time in Afghanistan giving counselling training to the teachers and NGO members who are partners with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). NT KURIOCITY gets more details


Over the last forty years, Clifford DeSilva, as a psychologist and director of Goa Institute of Counselling (GIC), has conducted counselling training programmes in various parts of India. Recently, he was invited to help out in training school teachers as barefoot counselors in Afghanistan.

“The purpose of the training was to build capacity and competencies of school teachers in basic counseling skills to provide psycho-social support to the war-affected children and youth. This was a pilot project of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which is engaged in conducting education programmes for disadvantaged children and youth in Afghanistan. The goal of JRS is to assist vulnerable communities affected by decades of conflict to become self-reliant and take leadership to rebuild their country through inclusive development and peace building,” says DeSilva. Thus, he says, there is a need for human resource and institutional development through school and higher education, counselling and vocational training so that today’s youth, who comprise almost 70% of the Afghan population, will have a brighter future.

DeSilva, who was there with a clinical psychologist to conduct a pilot training for JRS teachers, says that there is a great need for counselling as almost everyone has experienced multiple displacements within Afghanistan or as a refugees in another country. Everyone, directly or indirectly, has been uprooted and had to flee from home, lost family and possessions, and faced serious trauma in their lives. “During my time there, I was able to see how they live and what they need. Basically, we did a pilot study, we learned from the teachers about the challenges they face, their needs and what therapy will be best for them,” he says, adding that all of them want to tell their story and have so much to share.

The training he gave was basic counselling like listening skills, attending skills and energiser technique such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), affirmations, self talk, as these techniques are easy to learn, can be transferred easily, and ‘do no harm’. “We did not go into professional counselling training. These are teachers who are dealing with children who might come to school without breakfast, or not do their homework properly,” he says.

He further adds that the teachers were very eager to learn, their level of English was also quite good. “I plan to visit Afghanistan again, in order to train a few select teachers as trainers, who could then go on to get better training or higher training,” he says.