UKZN Psychologist’s Ground-Breaking PhD study on Student Counsellor Identity
UKZN Student Support staff member at the College of Law and Management Studies, Dr Paulette Naidoo, broke new ground by uncovering the complexities that South African psychologists face as they try to negotiate tensions between the higher education context and the psychology profession.
Her PhD dissertation, supervised by Professor Duncan Cartwright was titled: "On the Cusp of Context and Profession: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Identity Negotiation and Compromise Amongst South African Psychologists Employed in Student Counselling".
Naidoo’s study highlights powerful systemic influences unique to higher education and the South African social context, which compel psychologists, working as student counsellors in Higher Education, to re-evaluate and revise their work-place identities in particular ways.
The research findings further suggest that psychologists, employed as student counsellors in Higher Education, negotiate an amicable compromise by variously assuming "Preferred Self" and "Compliant Self" identity positions in the context of work activities, power dynamics and relationships with significant professional, community and institutional others.
Examiners described Naidoo’s thesis as an ‘exceptionally well-written’ piece of work that ‘consistently, thoroughly and abundantly demonstrated independent and critical thought’.
Naidoo’s study has important transformative implications for Higher Education and the profession of psychology in South Africa. These include the need to adopt a more contextually-relevant psychological model of training and practice, as well as for the HPCSA and its sub-division, the Professional Board for Psychology, to reconsider the feasibility of narrow psychological scopes of practice in the South African context.
The study furthermore calls for a review of institutional policies and practices in South African Higher Education, with specific reference to the classification, career development opportunities, remuneration and benefits afforded to professional staff in the support sector.
Naidoo described the PhD journey as a complex growth experience that tests the limits of one’s motivation and endurance. She urged current and prospective doctoral students to persevere and be consistent in their studies, as the doctorate is attainable.
Naidoo says her graduation was a surreal experience and the culmination of years of intense and consistent hard work. Being one of a few female coloured Psychologists with a PhD in Psychology in KwaZulu-Natal, Naidoo hopes her achievement will encourage under-represented groups to defy racial stereotypes and personal barriers by pursuing degrees in Higher Education and the psychology profession in particular.
She dedicated her achievement to her late parents, Phillip and Catherine Constance, and wished to acknowledge the generous financial support of a Competitive Research Grant from the Research Office, UKZN.
Dr Naidoo is looking forward to publishing several papers from her PhD research, as well as presenting her findings at both local and international conferences.