With the dire state of mental health in South Africa, arousing a lot of discussion over the last few years, in 2014, SACAP launched the 4-year Bachelor of Psychology (BPsych) degree. What inspired this degree was the need for professionally registered counsellors able to deal with South Africa’s unique mental health crisis.
This 4-year, full-time professional BPsych degree is accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and leads to professional registration with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor. This means, once you have this qualification, you can practise as a Registered Counsellor with the scope outlines by the HPCSA in community and private settings.
Registered Counsellors are trained to :
- Provide developmental, preventative counselling services to protect and promote psychological well-being.
- Perform psychological screening, primary mental status screening and basic assessment and refer clients where necessary
- Promote psychosocial health and community based care with individuals, families and communities in diverse settings.
- Perform primary mental health interventions.
- Participate in the design, implementation, management, and evaluation of psychologically-based programmes that are appropriate for individuals or groups in community contexts.
- Participate in policy formulation based on various aspects of psychological theory and research.
- Train and supervise other Registered Counsellors.
Dr Sharon Johnson, the SACAP former BPsych Degree Programme Coordinator says, “The BPsych degree programme is an important step towards growing a workforce of practitioners who will be able to work at community level, providing psychosocial support, mental health counselling, mental health promotion and psychoeducation focused around issues of vulnerability and building resilience in the context of widespread risk.”
The traditional route aspiring psychologists take is to register for a general undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Arts, then major in Psychology, with the hope of getting into Honours and then Masters, meaning it will take them about 6 or 7 years before they can practise as a registered psychologist.
According to the Department of Higher Education, only 20% of general degree undergraduates majoring in Psychology will be selected for Honours programmes and then of those, only a third will be accepted for Masters. This is mainly because of the small number of places available at postgraduate level, as compared to the larger enrolments at undergraduate level. This leaves many holders of BA graduates, even those with Honours, unable to register with the HPCSA and so, limiting their employability.
Dr Johnson says, “Traditional university study pathways in Psychology are not efficient at producing the number of psychologists presently needed in South Africa, and in any event psychologists are not the answer to primary mental health provision. Psychologists may be over-trained for this task and tend to focus more on individual clinical interventions in environments and contexts that can afford their services rather than community based counselling.”
This is creating a double bottleneck when it comes to providing mental health in South Africa, because of the lengthy and difficult route most students have to take to become psychlogists
The main advantage of the BPsych Degree is that it has a fourth year, which is equivalent to Honours (they both sit at an NQF 8), and so the students do not have to worry about being selected for one of the few places available in Honours programmes.
In addition, once you have completed you BPsych Degree, you will be able to write the HPCSA Professional Board exam for registration with the HPCSA as a Registered Counsellor, something that those who have taken the general undergraduate degree, followed by a Psychology Honours programme route are unable to do. This is seen as highly advantageous for employment status of a BPsych graduate.
Finally, a BPsych Degree incorporates a 960 hours practicum in which students are placed at an organisation and have the opportunity to put their training into practice while receiving supervision and guidance from the College. And if they want to further their studies by doing a Masters programme, the skill set they have after completing a BPsych Degree will put them in a good position for acceptance.
Dr Hermanean Laauwen, former Principal of SACAP’s Johannesburg Campus says, “The BPsych degree is one of the keys to resolving so many of the challenges that our country faces in addressing our mental health challenges. The BPsych degree is a highly efficient academic pathway for professional registration and is directly targeted at training professionals for a scope of practice to work in community contexts at a primary mental health level.”
Dr Laauwen goes on to say, “What differentiates us from a traditional university setting is that we are committed to the personal development of our students along with their sense of vocational identity. Our BPsych degree empowers graduates with knowledge and essential ‘work ready’ skills to make a difference where it’s needed most,” says Dr Laauwen.
SACAP’s Cape Town and Johannesburg campuses offer an accredited BPsych Degree, and applications for 2016 close on 30 November with a limited intake of only 20 students at each campus.