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Child Abuse Rampant in Africa

CC Giorgio Minguzzi

William Van Ornum - published on 07/03/13

What can African counselors learn from Western concepts such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc.? Do you see a need for these treatments to be brought to Africa?

Human beings are the same and also unique; despite the various dimensions of our culture, a particular therapeutic process that works well in a given society can equally work in another society. As an African counselor, I know that the Western concepts of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc. are not peculiar to other cultures. The knowledge of these concepts and their treatments would broaden the horizon of the African counselor. I am equally aware that there are specific limitations for indigenous psychologies that arise from the pervasive acceptance of Western diagnostic tools as a primary source of diagnostic criteria for psychopathology. Even though I will depend on DSM IV-TR or DSM V for recommendations for the treatment of diseases, I will blend it with the rich cultural dimension of Africa since there may be some limitations for its proper use in my culture.     
It is possible – and imperative – that indigenous psychologies find meaningful points of integration with western psychologies, and may include the systematic operationalization of mental illness within rigorous diagnostic criteria. However, integration towards a global psychology or other overarching cross-cultural framework of psychological phenomena transcendent of specific cultural ontologies may require the inclusion of models and procedures that exist apart from traditional western-scientific understandings.

What dimension does pastoral counseling add to psychological treatment?

Pastoral counseling is an important discipline for human growth and development in which psychologically trained people provide therapy as well as a representation of a religious tradition, using the insights and principles of religion, theology, and modern behavioral sciences in working with individuals, couples, families, groups, and in situations toward the achievement of wholeness and health. The major dimension that pastoral counseling add to psychological treatment is the conviction that mental and emotional illness are best treated by both the wisdom of religious teaching and the knowledge and skills of human behavioral sciences.

Do you think Francis’ pontificate will more greatly extend the resources of the Church to the problems of child abuse in Africa?

Pope Francis has brought a new dimension to the papacy. In the assumption of his pontificate, the new Pontiff has sent a signal to the whole world to be an agent of the new evangelization. All Christians are called to imitate Christ and transform their lives according to the Gospel in order to reach out the most vulnerable in our society. The Church is to be the voice of the voiceless in our world. Pope Francis has demonstrated this in his episcopate while in Argentina, and for the short period of his pontificate he equally showed it when he washed the feet of prisoners in Rome and by choosing to reside in more humble lodgings.  I believe this gesture is an urgent sign to all Church leaders to look into the problem of child abuse in all communities. The Church must champion the course of vulnerable children, who are in effect the future leaders of our Church and society at large. Our faith in Christ must urge us to extend our resources to these children. Like Christ, we need to embrace, nurture, and protect these children from any aggressor or abuser.   

In your own diocese, does the Church sponsor agencies to provide mental health or services for abused children?

The Diocese of Ho in the Volta Region of Ghana has hospitals that provide mental health and services for abused children. The most unfortunate situation is that these centers are not well resourced, and some even lack the trained personnel to carry out the psychological treatment that is needed for the abused children. It is therefore the responsibility of the diocese to invest more resources in services for at-risk children, adolescents, young adults, and their families, and for adults with psychiatric disabilities in community settings, community-based group homes and residential services, and supported independent living environments. There must be programs in the areas of prevention, early intervention, and diagnostic assessment, as well as treatment and rehabilitation. I will assist my diocese with my expertise to provide community-based, public residential, clinical, and educational facility, serving children and adults with severe emotional disabilities. Brief assessment units provides psychiatric evaluation, medication management, environment behavioral treatment, psychological treatment, and educational intervention.

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