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.
Department’s community engagement 2015-16
Community Engagement (CE) is a central aspect of the mission and delivery of the academic project at Rhodes (see http://www.ru.ac.za/communityengagement/ ), illustrating commitment to social and individual transformation, sustainable community development, student civic responsibility and the scholarship of engagement. The Psychology department makes substantive contributions to these initiatives promoting 3-way partnerships between students, staff members and community groups (whether formalised or not). The table at pdf lists our involvement over the past year or so. From a broader definition of CE, there are in addition a number of valuable ‘community education’ or ‘community outreach’ activities not listed in the table.
Community-Based Service Learning (CBSL)
CBSL has promise as a means of promoting and developing community psychology in South Africa. Training in community psychology is core to all psychologists’ programmes, and this department is contributing to the translation of theory and principles into practice and gathering evidence about the outcomes. In the predominantly North American literature, CBSL (termed ‘service learning’) has been shown both to enhance students’ learning and to sensitise students to the impacts of social inequality. Within the South African context, many psychology students are motivated to assist those less fortunate than themselves, thus CBSL promotes psycho-education and engagement with community partners.
At Masters and Honours-level, the students’ experiences translate community psychology principles into practice, leading to changes in students’ attitudes and motivations related to the work. Students are exposed to the nuances of encouraging participation and the difficulties of moving from amelioration to transformation at systemic levels, with facilitated reflective processes exploring aspects of the interactions of people and systems and theory – practice interfaces.
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.
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.
Community Engagement: links with the Faculty of Humanities and Community Engagement Office
Prof. Jacqui Akhurst maintains links between the department, faculty and broader university initiative through her work as the Faculty representative on the RU Community Engagement Committee.
From the start of the year, students are encouraged to become involved in student volunteering (SVP) – see http://www.ru.ac.za/communityengagement/volunteerism/studentvolunteerprogrammesvp/ and the Vice Chancellor’s Nine-Tenths Mentoring programme http://www.ru.ac.za/communityengagement/vcseducationinitiative/ninetenths910ths/ described here https://www.ru.ac.za/studentaffairs/latestnews/vcaddressontransformationissues.html
This is part of the broader and interconnected Vice Chancellor’s education initiative: http://www.ru.ac.za/communityengagement/vcseducationinitiative/
In early May during 2015 and 2016, Psychology staff and postgraduate students have been part of the RU Community Engagement Symposium, where they presented papers and posters about their work, along with some of our community partners. https://www.ru.ac.za/media/rhodesuniversity/content/sanc/documents/Stott,%20Maritz,%20Williams%20-%202016%20-%20Family%20maths%20events%20in%20Grahamstown%20after-school%20programmes%20A%20community%20approach.pdf
From 25 -29 July 2016, the RU Community Engagement office’s ‘Trading Live for Mandela’ week prompted an impressive range of activities being exchanged between university groups and the surrounding community. A number of student organisations and residences were involved, with a full list of activities and report http://www.ru.ac.za/communityengagement/tradingliveformandela/ From a Psychology Department perspective, there were initiatives from students involved in the Inkwenkwezi Society, Inkululeko student volunteers, and from the eleven student halls and residences.
Finally, in 2016, Abegail Schwartz (one of our Masters in Counselling psychology graduates) was announced as a finalist in the Community Engagement Awards
Last Modified: Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:03:50 SAST