Kenya is a beacon of hope for psychology cross-pollination with the rest of the world, and especially the Global South.
Psychology and changing human systems is the underlying game of any development as it contributes immensely to Kenya’s Vision 2030 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as overall well-being, in addition to the absence of disease in both adults and children.
In particular, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 43 provides several rights for children including education and health.
The law requires that the rights of children are realised immediately not progressively as those of adults.
Therefore, the national and county governments are obligated to make these rights a reality for anyone below 18 years.
To enable translation and operations of these requirements, academia-policy partnership is crucial for evidence-based research and interventions to avail mental health to members of the community.
To this end, universities need to interpret policy and provide quality mental programs, the kind that Kenya requires to meet the nation’s ever-present mental health needs.
Indeed, USIU-Africa has championed the growth of psychology in Kenya and stands out among many universities offering the discipline.
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and behaviour. It contributes immense value to the global society at large in, not only preventing deaths such as through suicides and psychological illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia among others, but also improving the quality of life.
In Kenya, the profession of psychology enjoys a wealth of expertise from practitioners and scholars in the specializations of counselling, clinical, education, child, marriage & family therapy, industrial-organisational, forensic, community, cognitive, developmental and research among others.
The United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) prides itself as a leading institution where the formal training of Psychology started in Kenya in the year 1977.
Beginning its first class in 1977, the first class graduated in 1979 with a paltry number of students. USIU-Africa’s golden jubilee this year will be celebrated by many psychology professionals and their diligent professors.
USIU-Africa Psychology graduates are well sought after by industry players for clinical, educational, consulting, corporate, and philanthropic work. The profession lends itself to a host of cross-disciplinary aims in helping people modify lives and empowering rich and healthy directions to improve health and increase life satisfaction. In the words of Prof. Emeritus Samson Munywoki, “Where there are people, there is Psychology.”
The strides towards having tangible legislation that boosts the mental health agenda and policy in this country have been achieved partly by USIU-Africa alumni.
A chronological view reveals that professionalization of the field of psychology is recent, marked by the registration of numerous professional associations of psychology and counselling in Kenya since the year 1990.
In the Kenyan psychology scene, July 30, 2014, was a landmark date when the Kenyan Parliament approved the Kenya Counsellors and Psychology Act 2014.
Domiciled under the Ministry of Health, in the near future, Kenya may soon celebrate the formation of the Board of Counselling and Psychology.
Once fulfilled, this Board will, among other agenda, regulate the profession of psychology and accredit training institutions.
Meanwhile, the psychology profession in Kenya is still in the hands of legislators whose goodwill and buy-in are important to creating the legal structures from which to operate.
Funding and political goodwill will also ensure that the Mental Health Act, currently pending approval, will be backed by all the necessary policy infrastructure and budgetary considerations to implement mental health services, as envisioned in the ubiquitous Universal Health Coverage.
USIU-Africa has a broad course offering of five degree programs from the undergraduate to doctorate level.
These include Bachelor of Arts (BA) Psychology, Master of Arts (MA) Counselling, MA Clinical and Masters in Family Therapy (MFT), as well as Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Clinical Psychology.
The PsyD is based on a premier practitioner-scholar model, the first of its kind in East Africa, which focuses on building specialist knowledge, theory and skills with emphasis on assessment, diagnosis, case conceptualization and psychological treatment.
Courses are offered with a flair of cultural sensitivity, for instance Community and Rural Psychology, among others.
The program also hosts the first and only Centre for Cognitive and Developmental Research in East and Central Africa, leading ground-breaking research on memory and language.
The Counselling Centre provides comprehensive, quality, sustainable, preventive, supportive and curative counselling psychological services to the campus fraternity.
The Psychology Alumni are proactively involved in counselling, clinical supervision and career mentoring, as well as dissemination of academic research through community forums, the media and conferences to the Kenyan community and global society. That students, alumni and faculty are involved in publications is a great example of academia-industry partnerships.
This year, the USIU-Africa Psychology Alumni is celebrating [email protected] under the theme: "Emerging Trends in Psychology: Looking Back, Thinking Forward", with an online campaign on Psychology’s role in national and global development. With qualified faculty, small class sizes, and access to a well-equipped state of the art library, USIU-Africa churns out competent graduates to meet the mental health needs of the public. Kenya and East Africa still needs competent and qualified professionals in psychology.
The campus is paving the way to develop professional standards of psychology practice in the region, whose future includes an even broader course offering in Psychology programming than before.
A hallmark of the campus’ motto, “Education to take you places”, is its Financial Aid office which ensures affordable access to the deserving needy and bright students.
All its degrees are approved by the United States accreditation body, Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Kenyan Commission for University Education.
The USIU-Africa at fifty celebrations will be held on its campus from September through November this year.
Mental health and development will sit squarely in our purview for a long time to come.
An institution that is involved at both the academia level and proactively also in national policy design and implementation and that which shapes legislation is worth highlighting.
Joyce Ngugi is a Consultant Psychologist and can be reached via [email protected]