The Growing Importance of Psychosocial Services in South Africa 

The overall objective of psychosocial services is to promote some form of psychological rehabilitation in which those affected are assisted to regain a sense of well-being as well as restoring their ability to function within their respective communities. Though initially limited to a primarily restorative function, their use in a more preventative capacity, in situations where there could be a potential for psychological damage, has become more commonplace and is proving to be very effective.

A programme of therapy may involve a mix of psychotherapeutic treatments, training in social skills and the requirements of successful independent living as well as psychological counselling for those either directly of collaterally affected by the causes or manifestations of the condition. Those involved in the required regimens may include social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and various other healthcare specialists with skills relevant to psychosocial services. Often, these specialists will be required to address various common prejudices and social stigma experienced by their patients, preparing them for a return to social inclusion.

Increasingly, the demand for this type of attention is among those that are affected by a terminal or severely debilitating chronic illness and often the victims most in need are young children. A classic example of this has, in recent years, become a global problem but, for a variety of reasons, it is now especially pertinent on the African continent and in South Africa particularly. While the young victims of leukaemia, cancer and other conditions such as cystic fibrosis are numerous enough, the volume of those affected by HIV/AIDS far exceeds these. In some cases, though not personally affected, they may be forced to face the prospect of caring for and the ultimate loss of one or both HIV positive parents.

Practitioners involved in providing psychosocial services are conscious of the fact that the effects of such illnesses extend well beyond those directly afflicted and may take their toll on the emotional and, indeed, on the physical wellbeing of those who love and care for such a victim and who also, in time, will most likely be required to cope with the trauma of his or her death.

As distressing and seemingly hopeless as these situations may appear to those caught up in them, there are effective ways in which everyone involved can learn to cope and, in so doing, ease the stresses and anxieties experienced by both the victims and their loved ones. In the care of a skilled and experienced practitioner such as Dr Tienie Maritz, the practices embraced by today’s psychosocial services can provide families with the essential coping strategies that are able to make adapting to a radically-altered life as well as to the prospect of death far less stressful.

Albeit, in modified forms, this type of intervention also has an important role to play in dealing with other family crises such as the consequences of marital conflict, drug abuse, gambling addiction, habitual criminality and other behaviours that may threaten the continued integrity of the family as a whole.

Dr Maritz offers a wealth of experience gained over almost a quarter of a century and a proven track record of success in all forms of mental healthcare. His psychosocial services have one goal – helping people to live their lives better.

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