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Hamilton College

Publication Date

Spring 2015

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


This project will sought to investigate the difficult role that psychologists play in post-apartheid South Africa, particularly when they are trying to create meaningful change for trauma survivors from the apartheid era. Many survivors found the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) unsatisfactory, and thus still suffer from trauma (Kagee, Naidoo, & Van Wyk, 2013). There is a clear need in the present society of South Africa for a system which helps these trauma survivors find reconciliation and make peace with the atrocities of the past. Part of this system is the counseling psychologists that focus on the trauma that these survivors are still afflicted with. However, for a myriad of reasons, this task is an exceedingly difficult one for psychologists.

In order to understand these challenges, the researcher will interview a variety of psychologists to learn what problems they face in their work as well as how they work to overcome these challenges and still provide effective care for their patients. This study will illuminate the difficulties that mental health professionals handle on a daily basis, and as a corollary will show how it is hard for mental health patients to fully move on from the apartheid era. This project is relevant because psychology is still in a transitional state in South Africa (Cooper & Nicholas, 2012a) and has a paramount role in shaping the future society in South Africa. Moreover, many people in South Africa suffer from lingering effects of the apartheid era, and their stories and situations are crucial to present-day South African society. This project can be of use to the South African people because it is hoped that a synthesis of the interviews will reveal commonalities and differences among counseling psychologists that can be of use to experts in this field.

The results from the interviews showed that the majority of challenges counselors face come from the legacy of apartheid. In addition to the legacy of apartheid, the Western focus of psychology in South Africa also poses many challenges. A third major challenge is how to handle continuous traumatic stress because of how complicated it can be. Counselors have found many interesting solutions to these challenges including client-driven therapy, group therapy, community-oriented psychology, advocating beyond just counseling, and looking to evidence-based research.


African History | African Studies | Community-Based Research | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Multicultural Psychology | Pain Management | Political History | Psychology | Race and Ethnicity | Social Psychology


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