College Student Support Services Internship Produces Qualified Psychologists

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The Student Support Services (SSS) Division in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) is celebrating the qualification of 10 of their former interns as psychologists, with a further four due to qualify soon. This is the only College SSS division at UKZN to host an internship programme that is accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

The programme was launched in 2016.

Ms Wendy Corfe, Ms Sarah O’Connell, Ms Cebisa Nkatu, Ms Lauren Beukes, Ms Lovey Mnisi, Ms Mayure Padayachee, Ms Janet George, Ms Ronelle Msomi, Mr Rethabile Oliphant and Ms Claire Mondlana are now actively contributing to their profession after passing their Board exams and registering with the HPCSA, with George, Msomi, Oliphant and Mondlana employed within UKZN. Ms Lala Domleo, Mr Mzamo Zondi, Ms Sarah Miller and Ms Sineliso Thabethe are currently completing their internships.

The SSS recently received full accreditation for five years for its counselling psychology internship programme after meeting stringent HPCSA requirements that involved site visits, interviews with interns and their supervisors, the submission of improvement plans and the inspection of physical sites. The SSS is also provisionally accredited to offer an educational psychology internship.

Dr Nicholas Munro, a lecturer in the College of Humanities’ Discipline of Psychology and a stakeholder in the programme, highlighted its importance.

‘The CAES SSS has made a significant contribution to the Discipline of Psychology and counselling and educational psychology in KwaZulu-Natal. Before this internship was established, almost all our counselling and educational psychology graduates were compelled to undertake internship posts outside of KwaZulu-Natal, a major loss of psychological services to the province and within UKZN.’

The programme follows a rigorous model of staggered professional development that involves two to three hours of supervision of interns each week as they assist with the holistic academic and psychological support the SSS provides to the College’s almost 10 000 students on the Howard College, Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses. Interns rotate between campuses and work within varied contexts and between several University divisions. They also participate in community engagement with local schools and centres, operating under the strict ethical codes governing psychological practice.

‘Having interns increases our capacity to support students, increases the richness and diversity of the team on various levels, and involves a lot of peer supervision, learning, development, training, feedback and evaluation,’ said CAES SSS manager Ms Shelley Barnsley.

‘Our model is very much a training model for prospective supervisors and includes training professionals for supervision following an evidence- and competency-based model,’ said Barnsley. ‘There is a lot of mutual support between supervisors and interns, and regular meetings allow for continuous feedback and the constant strengthening of the programme.’

Barnsley acknowledged the CAES for its investment in the programme, thanking its staff, particularly then Director of Professional Services Mr Mark Tufts, for their belief in the SSS and for providing space and resources. She thanked the whole SSS team for providing mentorship and creating an environment conducive to training, and highlighted the commitment to and passion for supervision amongst those supervising interns. She credited Dr Neeshi Singh-Pillay for initiating the process and training the team in supervision.

Educational Psychologist in the CAES SSS, Ms Rossella Meusel is undertaking PhD research on the supervision model used and assisted with designing the programme’s supervision. She highlighted the supportive structure of the programme, and described the resources provided to students in the form of regular, specialised readings that are discussed and applied to cases. Meusel added that the programme provides a sound theoretical and experiential basis for broad exposure that encourages interns to find their professional niche.

The interns expressed their gratitude to the SSS team, particularly their supervisors Barnsley, Meusel, Ms Prashna Singh and Dr Kamilla Rawatlal for their advice, support, and guidance throughout the demanding year of training, adding that they provided a respectful space to grow as individuals and professionals.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied