An indigenous psychology perspective on psychosocial support in Southern Africa as collective, networking, and pragmatic support

Liesel Ebersöhn, Tilda Loots, Ruth Mampane, Funke Omidire, Marlize Malan-Van Rooyen, Maximus Sefotho, Maitumeleng Nthontho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This comparative case study seeks to describe the traditional African psychosocial support practices used in postcolonial Southern Africa. We use an indigenous psychology theory (relationship-resourced resilience) as a theoretical lens to understand and supplement dominant Western discourses on psychosocial support. Seven Southern African communities with high need and indigenous belief systems were conveniently sampled. Participatory reflection and action methods were used to generate data from a snowball sample of individuals with a dominant African home language and who demonstrated significant vulnerability (n = 430: elders = 240; youth = 190; men = 150; and women = 280). Focus groups were audio-recorded and their speech transcribed. Observation data were documented in photographs. After in-case and cross-case analysis, we found that psychosocial support was collective, pragmatic, and capitalised on networking. The psychosocial support strategies expand insight into the indigenous psychology theory on collective resilience. The intentional description of robust non-Western psychosocial support practices, continued to be used by elders and young people in rural and urban spaces in Southern Africa, establishes that endemic practices exist in lieu of policy-level support to provide much-need services given frequent and intense need. Knowledge of the way in which psychosocial support is commonly provided affords an opportunity to graft development initiatives onto that which has withstood adversity, rather than reimagining interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-347
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Southern Africa
  • collective resilience
  • indigenous psychology
  • networking
  • psychosocial support
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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