UKZN graduate in the School of Psychology, College of Humanities, Dr Paulette Naidoo, recently presented her PhD findings at the annual Southern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE) Conference held in Swaziland.
The theme of the Conference, “From Business as Usual to ‘Business Unusual’: The Role of Student Counselling in Higher Education”, was aimed at generating innovative, cutting-edge ideas and strategies around enhancing student counselling services in Higher Education.
Naidoo presented two papers, drawn from her PhD study, which sought to encourage critical reflection and debate around how student counselling is conceptualised and enacted within the realm of Higher Education as well as the ways in which value is assigned to both student counselling services and the practitioners who render this crucial service.
Naidoo’s first paper, titled: “No Longer Business as Usual: Viewing Student Counselling through the Lens of Community Psychology”, highlighted significant parallels between community psychology and student counselling practice, particularly in respect of social relevance and engagement, service diversity and accessibility, client empowerment and broader community engagement.
Naidoo highlighted the various ways in which student counselling practice challenged traditional psychological models of training and practice, with the student counselling context necessitating a more progressive, contextually-relevant approach commensurate with the systemic nature of student profiles and challenges.
The second paper, titled: “The Student Counsellor as ‘Institutional Step-Child’: The Case for a More Inclusive Model of Student Counselling, Development and Support”, drew attention to student counsellors’ perceptions of themselves as an institutional “step-children” in Higher Education. This was exemplified in perceived discriminatory institutional practices such as ambiguous role expectations and institutional titles, restricted funding and resource allocation, limited career advancement opportunities as well as significant remuneration and benefit discrepancies between psychologists in student counselling, academia and public service.
The implications of this “step-child” status for service delivery, impact, efficacy as well as the attraction and retention of professional staff in student counselling, was further highlighted.
According to Naidoo, fellow delegates at the Conference agreed that disparities between psychologists in Higher Education and those in the public sector, was shocking and unacceptable and needed to be addressed at the highest levels. Delegates were committed to working together in bringing the status, benefits and remuneration of student counselors on par with psychologists in public service.
Dr Naidoo is of the opinion that the annual SAACDHE Conference provides the ideal platform for student counselling practitioners to engage, network and collaborate with colleagues across institutions of higher learning. She therefore believes that all practitioners should attend this annual event.
Dr Naidoo expressed her sincere appreciation to Dr Chalufu, Executive Director of Student Services, for assisting her with the funds necessary to attend the Conference in Swaziland. Dr Naidoo also expressed her gratitude to Dr Saloschini Pillay, member of the Executive Management Committee - SAACDHE and Manager: Student Support, College of Health Sciences (UKZN) for supporting and encouraging her to showcase her research at relevant platforms such as SAACDHE.