An examination of the role of the regional psychologists in the Western Cape Province

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

In the South African public health services, psychologists have traditionally been placed within the tertiary psychiatric health services. Recognition of the role of psychologists in terms of broader mental health care can be attributed to theoretical development in the field of community psychology and the concomitant search for appropriate roles. The restructuring of the health services following democratic elections in 1994 and resultant policy development have resulted in the development of regional and district health services working towards providing comprehensive mental health care within a primary health care model. In line with this, posts for clinical psychologists were created in the regional mental health teams. This study examines the roles of the regional psychologists in the Western Cape Province within the regional mental health teams. Semi structured interviews with the relevant psychologists, together with diarised accounts of their daily activities were used. The data was analysed qualitatively, with additional quantitative analysis enriching and informing the results. The nature of the role of the psychologists is described, together with pertinent contextual factors, which influence that role, both at a macro and micro level, as these create and shape the role adopted by the psychologists. Recommendations are made regarding the effective deployment of psychologists. Areas of difficulty, which need to be addressed, are identified, together with ideas for the further development of psychological services within the primary and secondary health services.

Bibliography: leaves 78-82.