Internship Accreditation for CAES Student Support Services

The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) Student Support Services (SSS) Division is celebrating the accreditation of its Counselling Psychology internship programme by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

It is the only College at the University to have achieved this distinction.

The accreditation enables the Division to host student interns who are completing a one-year internship as part of the requirements to become qualified psychologists. After being provisionally accredited in 2016, the internship programme has now been formally accredited for five years.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the CAES Professor Albert Modi congratulated the College Manager for SSS, Ms Shelley Barnsley, for her leadership in the accreditation process, and her team for maintaining a high standard of services.

The CAES SSS currently comprises three counselling psychologists, three educational psychologists, a life skills officer, help desk administrator, intern life skills officer, counselling psychologist intern, and an educational psychologist intern. The Division works closely with the career development officer from the CAES Public Relations team.

The CAES SSS provides holistic support to students, covering academic support such as study skills and time management workshops, and psychological support for those experiencing personal and psychological difficulties. It supports the College’s services to close to 10 000 students across the University’s Howard College, Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Interns rotate between campuses and gain exposure to different contexts, liaising with a broad range of divisions within the University and beyond, including Campus Health Clinics, Risk Management Services, the Disability Unit, residence managers, academic and support staff, various medical practitioners, and hospitals. They also participate in the SSS community engagement partnership with Ridge Primary School and the Child and Family Centre in Pietermaritzburg, and the Centre for Applied Psychology at UKZN in Durban, where they are exposed to counselling children, adolescents and families.

Operating in the context of the ethical code for psychologists, the internship includes provision of academic support services, career guidance, individual counselling, workshops, and psychotherapy. The supervising team provides orientation for the interns, and evaluates and discusses their progress with them on a regular basis. The programme is structured for staggered professional development as interns work with cases on a rising scale of complexity through the year, and their engagement with individual clients enables them to develop diagnostic and therapeutic skills.

Barnsley described the team’s pride at achieving this accreditation, giving special recognition to Dr Neeshi Singh-Pillay for initiating the process and training the team in supervision, as well asMs Rossella Meusel and Ms Prashna Singh for their continuous work on the improvement plan to achieve the accreditation, and for their dedicated, well-informed and professional work in the supervision of interns. She also thanked Dr Kamilla Rawatlal and Ms Philisiwe Khumalo for their supervision.

Barnsley expressed gratitude to the CAES for the support, encouragement and financial resources it had contributed to the programme, and praised all members of the SSS team for providing ongoing support to the interns and for working effectively even when resources are constrained.

Meusel and Singh are finalising a comprehensive SSS model for use in future internship training. Meusel’s PhD research is based on the topic of competency in supervision and she has successfully achieved provisional accreditation for the CAES SSS Educational Psychology Internship programme.

The SSS has continued with student and staff support during the COVID-19 lockdown, providing tools and resources for the University community that have included a video guide and infographic on coping with mental health, and continuing to hold counselling sessions with students.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photographs: Supplied