RELIGIOUS OFFICIALS BECOMING CONSULTANTS: 'Spiritual Consultant Cannot Give Mental Health Service'

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  • February 27, 2019
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Eight occupational associations on mental health have released a written statement on the “spiritual consultancy” project, which the Directorate of Religious Affairs is poised to introduce.

The associations said that they do not accept the draft document of the “National Spiritual Consultancy Occupational Standard,” and if the draft document is adopted in its current form, they will go to law against it in the name of the public mental health and occupational boundaries.

What is a spiritual consultant?

Signing a protocol on February 20, the Directorate of Religious Affairs and the Occupational Proficiency Council (MYK) released a draft document of “National Spiritual Consultancy Occupational Standard”.

The document mentions conducting spiritual consultancy services in “student dormitories, youth centers and camps, penal institutions, health institutions, institutions of social service and similar places.”

In the draft document, ‘spiritual consultancy’ is defined as follows:

“Effectively listening to, develop empathy towards, healing, supporting and guiding the target group with a holistic approach to make them overcome physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and social problems and make them understand and give meaning to their lives and make decisions regarding themselves.”

According to the Selçuk University’s certificate program, the following people can be a spiritual consultant: Quran course educators, imams (religious priest), hatips (preachers), müezzins (who calls people to prayer), ministers and ministresses or people who are candidates to become one of the above.

“No legal and scientific bases”

Opposing the draft document, the associations said the following in their statement:

“Since 2015, the Directorate of Religious Affairs has appointed some of its personnel as ‘Spiritual Consultants’ in places such as hospitals, student dormitories, penal institutions, although there were no cadres for them in those institutions.

“These appointments cause wrong applications that lack legal and scientific basis and cross ethical and occupational boundaries.

“The Directorate of Religous Affairs, in a bid to justify these appointments and the so-called title of ‘Spiritual Consultant’, applied to the Occupational Proficiency Council and tried to form the National Spiritual Consultancy Occupational Standard.”

“Assigned duties are under the authority of mental health occupations”

The statement made the following objections to the spiritual consultancy:

“In the first draft document, the spiritual consultants were assigned to duties which are under the authority and competency of mental health occupations such as guiding, treatment, healing, supporting and counseling. We, as the occupational associations on mental health, objected to this draft.

“Knowledge and experience in psycopathology are indispensable for psychological help and support. These people are expected to give support in the areas of physical, spiritual, emotional problems.

“To have a grasp of the problems in the mentioned areas, at least a certain level of knowledge of pscyhopathology is needed.

“Mental health services should be given by the members of the profession, who have been educated in related areas.”

The statement has been signed by the following associations: Mental Health Occupations PLatform, Association for Child Development and Educators, Psychiatry Nurses Association, Social Services Experts Association, Turkish Psychologists Association, Turkish Psychological Consultancy and Guidance Association, Child and Youth Psychiatry Association of Turkey, Psychiatry Association of Turkey. (AS/VK)