South African organisations, along with those in the rest of the world, are undergoing rapid change, driven in the main, by the advent of The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). 4IR is changing how people live and work. It is reshaping education, healthcare, commerce and government—touching almost every aspect of people’s lives. It goes without saying that these changes are having a profound impact on employees in their personal lives and in the workplace. What’s more, South Africa is in the midst of change in terms of the country’s political and socio-economic climate.
South African EAPs need to keep up with the full extent of these changes and stay up-to-date in meeting the evolving needs of employees as they encounter troubled clients in need of clinical intervention. What is equally important is that, in order to be effective, beyond the need to keep pace with the causes and effects of wholesale change, EAP counselling approaches need to take into account the cultural and spiritual contexts of the people they are committed to serve.
“There is a need to have a tinge of ‘Africanness’ in clinical EAP interventions” – Professor Lourie Terblanche
Prof Lourie Terblanche (author of the booked titled, Creating legacy in EAP Business: The South African approach towards Employee Assistance), gave a presentation at the EAPA-SA and Pan African Eduweek (2018), based on his paper, EAP Counselling approaches: Widening the scope, in which he and co-compiler, Dr David Igbokwe from the Covenant University in Nigeria, consider the need for an Africanised counselling model within the context of South African EAPs.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy in the context of EAP
In an abstract from this paper Professor Terblanche and Dr Igbokwe state: “EAP advisors prefer the Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) when they encounter clients in need of clinical intervention. The SFBT has proven effective over time with a plethora of confirmatory studies empirically alluding to its efficacy. However, for some African clients, SFBT does not seem to be enough because the behaviour of the African is largely determined by his/her harmonious relationship with the components of his cosmos or world. Hence, there is need to have a tinge of “Africanness” in EAP intervention by integrating other indigenous psychotherapies like the Harmony Restoration Therapy (HRT) with SFBT for better outcome.”
What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)?
Psychology Today defines Solution Focused Brief Therapy as follows: “ Unlike traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyze problems, pathology and past life events, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate coaching and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.”
What is the Harmony Restoration Theory (HRT)?
In an abstract from an article by Dr Igbokwe titled, Harmony-disharmony therapy: A treatment method of African origin, he states: “The harmony restoration theory of health was borne out of the African concept of illness. In Africa, the mind, the body and the society interact to produce health and ill-health. The theory emanated from years of clinical practice of Peter Ebigbo in the mid-90s (and) has as its basic tenet, “he who is at peace with his world does not fall sick”, and this is the root from which all other tenets of the harmony restoration theory stems. From clinical practice, it was observed that the African personality has three components, namely: the endocosmos, which is the relationship between the individual and himself; the mesocosmos, the relationship between the individual and the significant others in his environment; and the exocosmos, the relationship between the individual and his God or gods. It is a theory of harmony-disharmony, psychopathology, psychotherapy and a useful attempt to account for the aetiology of psychopathology in the African. Central to the theory is the notion that psychopathology arises from the disharmony in the cosmos of an individual. Parallels of the HRT concept depicting the need for the African client to maintain harmony exist in many African cultures, traditions, folktales, proverbs, mores and so forth. For instance, the Ubuntu philosophy, “I am because we are” is a principal reflection of the need for harmony.”
In the context of the South African workplace with its diverse mix of people-groups, cultural sensitivity and appropriateness is the key to effective EAP counselling interventions. By becoming au fait with, and employing, a mix of clinical EAP interventions that are culturally sensitive, socially accessible and adaptable to suit the different situations and cultures of their diverse clientele, EAP counsellors will be enabled to offer South African employees effective clinical support.