Counselling or Playing with Mental Health
Posted on July 6th, 2010

Dr Lalith Perera

Last year one of my friends requested me to find a job for his nephew and when I received his CV, I found that he had no proper education qualifications. He had completed GCE O/L only. Since I wanted to help the young man, I referred him to a known businessperson requesting him to give a job as a salesman. Although the young man got the job, he could not sustain it for a long period. He was fired due to inefficiency. I was helpless at this point and all I could say to him was to do a computer course and accumulate some qualifications.

 Recently I met this person unexpectedly and I asked him whether he did pursue my advice. He told me that now he is having his own therapeutic center and he is working as a counsellor. He further said that he is treating psychiatric patients. I was stunned for a while and asked him how he managed to get training in counselling. He told me that he did a counseling course at the Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors under Mr D.S Ranawaka and with that certificate, he opened his private practice. He happily said that per day, he treats 15- 20 people and now he is having a stable income.

 With a natural curiosity, I called the Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors and tried to speak to the Director. When I revealed my interest to know the qualifications of the lecturers and so forth, my call   was declined saying that the Director was busy. When I asked for an appointment, the director was reluctant to give me a scheduled time. Therefore, I went to their web site and found some attention-grabbing information.

 What is Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors

According to the website, the Director of the Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors Mr. D.S. Ranawaka is a Consultant Counselling Psychologist with the FICP and MICP counseling degrees which are  highest degrees in counseling psychology. 

 One of my colleagues spoke to Mr Ranawaka and asked him, from which University he received the above-mentioned degrees. But Mr Ranawaka had no answers. He kept the phone.

 We spoke to numerous people and gathered information about the Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors and its Director Mr. D.S Ranawaka. We found that he was working as an associate Professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Colombo.

  A spokesperson at the Educational Psychology Department of the University of Colombo told us that Mr Ranwaka has BA and MA in Arts subjects but he has not received any master’s degree in Psychology from a recognized university. The spokesmen told us that FICP and MICP degrees were self-made degrees by Mr. Ranawaka.  This looked an odd joke for us. We realized that these degrees are fake. So we spoke to two Psychologists attached to the University of Colombo and  the University of Peradeniya.

Based on their explanation to become a Psychologist one must have a PHD from a recognized University. In Sri Lanka, there are very few Psychologists in the Island and they can legally engage in psychological therapies. In this framework, Mr Ranawaka is not a Psychologist and not qualified to train counsellors.  But he conducts counseling courses for 3- 6 months charging nearly 40,000 Rupees. There are over 600 certificate bearers from Mr Ranawaka’s institute and they practice in the mental health field as counsellors mostly treating psychiatric patients.

The violation of Ethics

In 2002, Mr D.S Ranawaka became an Associate Professor at the faculty of Educational Psychology.  Associate Professors cannot use their title as a Professor after the retirement and it is unethical.  But Mr Ranawaka uses this title as a businesses attraction and to mislead clients and the students.

Our investigation found that there are many people with the MICP degree (issued by Mr D.S.  Ranawaka ) working in the Education Department, Family Health Bureau etc  as counsellors.  To earn the legal status Mr. DS Ranawaka registered his Sri Lanka National Institute of Professional Counsellors (SLNIPC) at the Social Services Department as a non-profit making organization through the secretary of the Social Services Department Mrs. Viigi  Gegarajasinghem and for this favor she was given a free MICP degree.

Without any professional background or a Psychology, degree from a recognized University Mr. Ranawaka started teaching and selling Psychological Counselling Degrees at his institute which is located in the  Alfred Avenue( off Darmaraja Mawatha) Colombo 3. Although this is a serious violation of the Mental Health Act and the rules and regulations of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, he was able to do this for a number of years.    To cover his work he started giving degrees to top people of the Police, Army, Education Department and even to journalists. Many Police Officers got MICP degree from his institute and protected him form the legal problems.

 Bogus Qualifications   

Mr Ranawakas website states following information.

 Professor Ranawaka’s postgraduate research area was “Anxiety Disorders of University Students in Sri Lanka. After postgraduate research, he has gained clinical experience the Psychiatry Department, Faculty of Medicine at University of Colombo, Psychology Clinic Queensland University, Australia and Faculty of Medicine Copenhagen University Denmark.

(Professor Ranawaka Personal Page

 When we spoke to a senior Psychiatrist attached to the University of Colombo, he said that there was no such research by Mr. D.S. Ranawaka and it was a total fabrication. This so-called postgraduate research article was never published in a Medical or Psychology journal. It was just a bluff to mislead the students.  

 There is another interesting fact found by Mr Vinya Wijethilaka “”…” a case investigator.  Mr. Ranawaka says that, he has gained clinical experience at the Psychology Clinic Queensland University, Australia. This is a   total lie. He went to Australia under a tourist visa to see his daughter. When the case investigated contacted the Head of the Psychology Department at the Queensland University, Australia Professor Sofranoff and the assistant head of the Department of Psychology Paul Hornet, they knew nothing about Ranawaka and there were no recordsof him. It is a common sense that a foreigner cannot go and work in Australian Mental Health Clinics, even to work as a volunteer it demands a lot of documentation. Copenhagen University Denmark. Malaysia and Japan are the part of same nonsense.

 Exposure by the Ravaya News Paper

For the first time Mr. D.S Ranawaka’s fraud was questioned by Mr Thimbiriyagama Bandara   a journalist attached to the Ravaya News Paper. Thimbiriyagama Bandara ‘s weekly column  Manas Situwam revealed D.S Ranawaka’s unethical practices.  Thimbiriyagama Bandara   questioned D.S Ranawaka’s FICP and MICP Counselling degrees and its origin. Ranawaka immediately made a complaint to the Press Commission. Mr Lucil Wijewardana and Mr Darmasiri Bandaranayaka Hon Members of the Press Commission asked Mr Ranawaka to submit the original copies of FICP and MICP Counselling degrees, but up to date he has not fulfilled the Press Commission’ s request.  So the case was closed. Ranawaka did not peruse this complaint further realizing it would expose him further.

 The Health Ministry has Turned a Blind Eye

Unqualified people with a short training that was given by the incompetent instructors without any professional training in Counseling Psychology is nothing more than blind leading the blind. It is a frightening scenario that over 600 quacks are treating patients. The numbers are increasing day by day. Its clear that there are serious violations have taken place and unskilled con counselors are playing with the metal health of the people.

 The Health Ministry and the Directorate of Mental Health are not taking any effective measures to stop these malpractices even though it has been happening for a number of years. Even the College of Psychiatrists has no backbone to stop this unlawful practice by Ranawaka.  This is a good example that shows the poor leadership of the mental health authorities in Sri Lanka.

 I think this article is an eye opener for the Director General Health Services, Director Mental Health and for the President of the Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists.  If you are concerned about the mental health of the public, please show it in proper action rather than words. The public is watching you.

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