Importance of Psychology in South Africa

1 January 2017

We stay in a developing country filled with poverty (Hickson, Kriegler, 1991). Those who stay in poverty stricken areas are forced to face things such as illness, crime and death and are more exposed to things such as mental illness and educational problems. These all affect people, not just physically, but also psychologically. Psychologists play an important role in the treatment of individuals psychologically affected by these things. In my opinion the role of psychologists in South Africa is treating individuals affected by the above mentioned.

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Take illness for example, South Africa has one of the highest statistics of individuals infected with HIV/AIDS (Hayes, 2000). This illness doesn’t just affect people infected by the virus but it also affects those around them. Children are left without parents and families are left without income, these are just two out of many results. It is up to psychologists to treat these individuals psychologically affected by such losses. In poverty stricken areas children are not exposed to good schools and are more prone to educational problems.

A psychologist (such as remedial therapist) would come in and assist the children in their problematic areas. Another important issue (which is part of our past) is apartheid. Many people are still affected by apartheid whether directly or indirectly. An example of how psychology could help South African’s in this issue is the treatment of people affected directly by apartheid (Hayes, 2000). Take an individual who had to be part of the army in apartheid who did not just witness many deaths but who maybe had to kill someone.

An individual like this is most likely affected by something like post traumatic stress disorder. A psychologist would have to treat someone like this. There are many examples that can be used but the above mentioned shows the importance of psychology in our country, in my opinion that is to help those less privileged. When psychologists register there are five categories in which they can register (Health Professionals Council of South Africa, [s. a. ]). These five are named and explained below: The first is Clinical. Clinical psychologists specialise in the more serious side of psychology.

These psychologists treat and assess mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia) and psychiatric problems. Secondly, we have Counselling. Counsellors are psychologists who have a very broad learning area. They treat people with more social, emotional and educational problems. Educational psychology is the third category. Educational psychologists are involved with assisting children with learning disadvantages. An example of this type of psychologist is a remedial therapist. Next is Industrial. Industrial psychologists assist individuals in the workplace. Lastly, we have research psychology.

This field research’s the person and why we do what we do. Through research psychology we are able to explain many psychological mechanisms. South Africa is a developing country where most of its people are greatly affected by poverty. Poverty is a social issue where individuals are more exposed to crime, illness and educational problems, just to name a few. Each psychologist would approach this issue in a different way and would also be involved in different aspects of poverty. Below are explanations of how each type of psychologist would approach the chosen issue.

In areas affected by poverty we find many gangs. Because of these gangs there is a lot of crime. The aspect I’ll use for this example is one individual murdering another. Clinical psychologists treat people who have mental illnesses, which are individuals whose behaviour is not considered normal. Being in a gang you are forced to commit murder from day to day, this is not considered normal (and could even lead to an individual developing a mental illness) and so someone like this, who is disconnected from reality, would be forced to be treated by a clinical psychologist.

This type of psychologist would also just treat people suffering from mental illnesses in poverty prone areas. On the other hand we have a counsellor. Counsellors would approach the problem in a different way. A counsellor will talk to someone about how they feel about being in this situation (poverty) and will help the individual overcome their emotional problems. An example can be used from what has been going on in the Cape Flats. There is so much crime that the courts don’t handle these cases any more. The members of the society have formed their own “Kangaroo” court.

Individuals found guilty of a crime are doused in petrol and set alight in front of hundreds of people. Many children are exposed to seeing these brutal acts and are traumatised. A counsellor would speak to the child and help the child overcome the trauma caused by what he/she has witnessed. Another problem faced in a poverty stricken community is the fact that schools aren’t set to a very high standard. This forces some children to face educational problems, like learning disabilities and not being at the standard set by the government (due to lack of teaching).

An educational psychologist would approach poverty by assisting individuals in an educational setting. There aren’t just problems in these educational settings but also in the workplace. In these communities there are many people who lack education in certain areas; this education could be useful in a workplace. Because these people have this lack in knowledge, problems may occur whether it is problems with an individual’s self or between an employee and employer. An industrial psychologist would be involved in poverty from this aspect (that being problems in the workplace).

Lastly we have research psychology. Many people are affected by poverty in many different ways. A research psychologist would approach poverty from a scientific perspective. This type of psychologist would maybe research how people are able to cope in certain situations (like not being able to feed your children) or what psychological affect poverty has on an individual. A research psychologist would take what he/she has learnt and use these statistics to maybe help other people affected by poverty in the future.

As seen from above, poverty is a very wide spread social issue. Many different individuals are affected in many different areas of a community. Because poverty causes so much pain and suffering (not just physically but mentally too), psychologists can be used to treat people affected by this social issue. Psychologists play an important role in many different settings in a community, helping people whether it be children, criminals or adults.

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