Counselling on wheels to come to Khayelitsha

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Cape Town - “It will be like an emotional ambulance.” This is the vision of 28-year-old Banetsi Mphunga: a mobile psychology clinic in Khayelitsha which will see kids in the township receive free help dealing with psychological trauma, GroundUp reports.

“I grew up in Khayelitsha. I am a registered counsellor by profession. The idea of the mobile clinic started after realising the need for psychological services here in the township.

"I realised this from the kids that I worked with in a previous programme; it was an after school care programme. I was a programme manager for psycho-social skills, high school level, which is the group that is most vulnerable when it comes to substance abuse and gangsterism.”

Mphunga said while working with children he found that some had problems that needed psychological interventions.

“They always manifested in front of other children and I had to constantly intervene. I enquired from my educator friends, principals and school kids about why they are not making use of psychological services and counsellors in schools.

“This is where I discovered that in order to get psychological assistance, they had to wait for weeks to be attended to by someone from the Department of Education, because they didn't have counsellors at school. So I thought starting a practise could help the community,” he said.

Substance abuse

Mphunga said he was familiar with the kinds of problems that today's youth face, especially when it comes to substance abuse.

“I also experimented with drugs while growing up, I started smoking weed and then from there I did mandrax, but luckily I managed to stop before I became an addict and before my family found out. But these days, kids are not that lucky.”

Mphunga bought a green Volkswagen Microbus, popularly known as iCaraCara, in May. He has already used it for a study group consisting of four kids.

“A combi is more or less the same size of the rooms that I have viewed that I would be using and running the practise from. The study group tested my idea of using the combi as a practise and I saw, I can do it.

“I can engage with the kids in comfort and no one could just walk in and disturb us. So I just need to have this combi fixed interior wise, put tinted windows and branding, then I will have a clinic that can assist these kids.

“This is a popular van amongst these kids, because everywhere I go kids note the green combi, even though there's nothing special about it. They even start singing the hit song CaraCara when they see the car. So since it's a popular van, it can work well as a consultation room.”

Stigma around seeking help

Mphunga said he was working on getting funding for the van, but regardless of getting it or not, he would start officially using the mobile psychology clinic in August and it would serve as a referral agent to rehabilitation centres.

“Something that I have noted in my observation of psychological services, is that kids default on their therapy sessions because they are stigmatised for seeking psychological assistance, because there is this thing in society that if you seek psychological assistance, then there is something wrong with you, that you are mentally challenged or you are weak.

“There's also an issue of fear of the clinical environment. They feel intimidated by the environment and talking to someone. The combi can serve as an initiating tool for therapy.

“First sessions can take place there. Then follow-up sessions can take place at a more established venue, which I have applied for.

“Not all sessions will be in the combi, only those that need immediate help. Like for example when there has been a shooting in school, we will be there. The combi will be like an emotional ambulance,” said Mphunga.

Long term Mphunga said he wanted to work in all townships of the Western Cape and other provinces.

Read more on:    cape town  |  health

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