The Psychology Department is involved in a number of projects concerning service learning as well as direct service to the community of Rhodes University as well as the broader Grahamstown community. These projects are predominantly coordinated from the Psychology Clinic, either as independent projects or in collaboration with the student volunteer programme of the RU Community Engagement Office and the Centre for Social Development.
The Psychology Clinic is the ‘practice’ of the Psychology Department. This is where Masters Students in their final year of training in professional psychology spend their time and do their practice. The practical involvement of trainee psychologists is on 3 levels namely psychotherapy, formal psychological assessment, and placement in a school as part of training in community psychology.
Psychotherapy: Each trainee psychologist works with a case load of up to 5 clients seen for individual psychotherapy at any given time during the year. This amounts to approximately 50 clients at any given time and a total service of just over 100 persons seen in therapy during the year. The people we see at the Clinic are from the RU student and staff community as well as anyone approaching us from the broader Grahamstown community and Makana area. This work is done under weekly supervision of registered clinical or counselling psychologists, both from the Psychology Department and from private practice.
Local Schools Partnership: The Psychology Clinic has developed a formal partnership with 5 local schools, and a further contact reaching out as far as Riebeeck East and Alicedale. Trainee psychologists spend one morning a week during term 2 and 3 in their respective placements addressing the needs of the particular school community. This usually involves doing workshops with learners and teachers, group work with learners – both in class groups and smaller theme centred groups, and assisting the parents and broader school community with whatever needs may arise. Following an in-depth needs analysis during 2008, we have successfully built on our relationship with Life Orientation classes in schools who invited us to participate in their programmes. Unfortunately lack of funding hinders continuous contact with schools in areas outside of Grahamstown and we had to focus recent activities on in-town schools.
Psychological assessment: As part of trainee psychologists’ practice, each trainee engages in a minimum of 2 (but sometimes up to 4) formal psychological assessment cases per year. These cases range from traumatic head injury to psycho-educational to medico-legal cases referred to the Psychology Clinic by legal practitioners, schools, parents or self referral. In addition, students requesting assessment for applications for examination concessions often use our assessment services.
The Child Community Project, administered by the student volunteer programme of Rhodes University, is managed by interns and M1 trainees and supervised from the Psychology Clinic. This project involves the coordination and development of age appropriate interventions and support to children with developmental needs (such as Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Autistic Spectrum or other diagnosed developmental difficulties) and their families.
More recently, the Psychology Department became involved on a national level by sending students and trainees at Honours, Masters or Intern level for a rotation placement at the Psychology Clinic on the Phelophepa Health Care Train, an initiative of Transnet that has been recognised internationally for its work in rural South Africa.
Support in the form of Art Expression Workshops had been given upon request to the Amasango Career School for marginalised children. Currently a master’s research project, under the supervision of an Educational Psychologist and with the assistance of a qualified Art Therapist, is developing a programme for lay counsellors and teachers to assist children from these troubled backgrounds through art expression.
This year the Psychology Department was contracted by the World Health Organisation and the national Department of Health to develop a national strategy document: 'Reproductive health among adolescents: comprehensive prevention and promotion strategies'. This project is undertaken under the leadership of prof Macleod. The final document will lead to shifts in services provided to young sexually active and pregnant young women.