Student Academic Counseling, Career Advising and Mentoring
Counseling is designed to facilitate student achievement, improve student behavior and attendance and help students develop socially. The University has full time professional counsellors in every campus to provide counseling services to students and university community. All campuses have full-time counselors to support students who are experiencing personal or academic challenges and intervene when students face behavioral, physical, or mental health challenges. The counselors often help students mediate conflicts with their peers, lecturers or parents. Counselors often help special needs students integrate into classrooms and oversee programs that address requirements for students with special needs or learning difficulties.
Counselors often help students in:
- Providing instruction on psychological and social issues.
- Counseling services
- Early intervention
- Special needs services
- Providing short-term counseling services to students during school hours.
- Providing referrals, recommendations, and education to parents about mental health concerns.
- Maintaining academic standards and set goals for academic success.
- Developing skills to improve organization, study habits and time management.
- Working through personal problems that may affect academics or relationships.
- Improving social skills.
- Coping with school or community-related violence, accidents, and trauma.
- Identifying interests, strengths, and aptitudes through assessment.
Historical Background of Counselling in Kenya
The University of Nairobi was established in 1970 after undergoing several transformations since 1956. While the Dean of Students office was established in 1971, the first Dean of Students was Joseph Koinange in 1970. He was followed by Amos Kariuki in 1982, Emmy Sumbeiywo in 1992, and Dr Fr. Dominic Wamugunda in 2004. In 1985, the offices of the Assistant Dean of Students/ Counsellor and Placement Officer were established. In 1988, the university employed Assistant Dean of Students/ Counsellor, and social workers to oversee counselling at college level.
1nformed by the prevailing need to take care of the wellbeing of students, more counsellors and social workers were recruited in 1999. They were under the Department of the Dean of Students but got deployed at University Health Services. Between 2000 and 2012, only one person- Mrs Annastasia Mwendwa was employed with the sole duty of a Counsellor. In 2012, one Assistant Dean was employed for a campus. The need for more counsellors in the University was identified with time calling for a mass employment of 11 counsellors between the year 2014 and 2015. They were deployed to various colleges /campuses as either Counsellors or Assistant Dean of Students, respectively.
The Counseling program aims to create and maintain a safe, collaborative learning community where comprehensive services are delivered to every student to maximize achievement as well as personal, social, academic, and career-related potential. The brief mental health counseling and related services help the students identify barriers, improve coping, and achieve personal goals. The activities undertaken in the program can be listed under two sub-themes namely counseling and mentorship.
a) Counseling activities
i) Highly Individualized Counseling typically lasts about 45-60 minutes. The program provides therapy to students who present with a wide range of issues such as depression, anxiety, loss and grief, interpersonal relationship problems, trauma, identity, and self-esteem issues, as well as personality and mental health related disorders. The counselor and student (client) collaboratively explore concerns, establish goals, and discuss ways to meet the established/agreed upon goals. Most of the concerns that the students bring to counseling can be addressed in six or fewer sessions.
ii) Group Therapy addresses a wide range of issues and can be highly effective as it enables the student get input from peers who they can relate to. Feedback and ideas in group therapy makes the student feel connected and find hope that things can be better. The groups ran for the duration of the semester, meet weekly, last for 60-90 minutes, consists of 5-8 members with 1or 2 counselors. Students may join multiple groups and attend as often as they like.
iii) Organizing sensitization and campaigns on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
These help the student learn how to use practical strategies that reduce the risk associated with alcohol and drug abuse and addiction. They learn the consequences of overdose and persistent use encouraging them to seek help without fear for someone who has substance use disorder.
iv) Addiction Recovery programs
The program provides short term counseling and assessment for substance use and other addictive behaviours like betting, internet gaming, gambling, and pornography. If the assessment indicates that the student requires long-term or specialized care, referrals are made to the University Health Services for further assessment.
v) Organizing sensitization and campaigns on HIVS/AIDS and Reproductive Health. This is done in colleges and campuses in collaboration with the University Health Services as well as in partnership with other supportive bodies like National Aids Control Council (NACC) and I Choose Life (ICL).
vi) Recruitment, Training and supervising the work of Peer Counselors
vii) Psychological Testing and Assessment to arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan
viii) Assessment and Referrals
To other resources at the university such as the Chaplaincy, Health Services, SWA, and Academic Faculties when the presenting concerns are beyond the scope of the counseling practice. Sometimes when the concerns are social in nature, the referral may be to community resources to improve mental health and facilitate growth.
ix) Orientation of new students -on general wellbeing, integration, and adaptation
b) Mentorship activities
The counselling program ensures students mentorship by offering vital knowledge and skills that fully address the needs of students in relation to their psychological, social, academic, career growth and development. This is aimed at creating a positive and safe learning environment within the university for the student to acquire educational and professional needs.
ii) Career guidance and counseling
The counseling program works hand in hand with the schools to market their programs. The counselors offer guidance to pre university students by sharing knowledge, information and skills necessary to identify career options and make one career decision.
iii) Life Skills Training
The counselling program organize trainings on various life skills among them, leadership, self-awareness, personality development, self-esteem, stress management, conflict resolutions, time management and report writing among others.
There has been a lot of involvement with both internal and external stakeholders.
The key stakeholders are:
- Students/ student leaders- the program supports them emotionally, socially, and academically. They also network with counsellor in identifying and referring students who require counselling and mentorship.
b) Parents/ guardians and sponsors-who are consulted. They help in providing more information and in reinforcing the skills and concepts introduced to their children by the counselling and mentorship program
c) Faculty- Have close interaction with the students and can pick out issues that cannot be handled in the lecture rooms and refer the student to the counselors
d) University Health Services- is our first referral point when the client has a mental disorder that requires medication and/ hospitalization
e) Student Welfare Authority- Provide information and make referrals for students in the hostels requiring psychological help.
f) The Alumni- to mentor and give financial support to needy students
g) External Organizations
They help in, meeting the physical, spiritual, social, and intellectual needs of the students. They include;
- NACADA and NACC offer substance abuse programs sexual and reproductive health services
- I Choose Life (ICL) and Kenya Red Cross offer life skills training for empowerment and behaviour change
- Religious organizations like spiritual retreat centers and churches- provide spiritual support and networking
- Teachers Service Commission- advisory and recommendation to students
- Kenya Private Schools Association- offer internship opportunities
- County Governments allocate bursaries to students
- Professional bodies like;
- The Architectural Association of Kenya and Institute of Engineers Kenya offer professional guidance and support to the College of Architecture and Engineering students who have been holding mentorship meetings with them.
- Kenya Counsellors and Psychologists Association (KCPA) certification body for professional counsellors in Kenya
- Kenya University Professional Counsellors Association (KUPCA) empowering and networking forum for university counsellors and assistant dean of students.
- Higher Education Loans Board (HELB)
- Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS)
- Kenya Universities Professional Counsellors Association (KUPCA) is a major resource for the counselors.
- Research and publication on the evidence of the success of the program both from an individual and corporate point of view.
- Crisis Intervention and disaster management
- Due to the uncertainties of COVID-19 there is an increase in demand for counseling services and especially on crisis and disaster management. Other areas that will need support are mental illness, crisis pregnancy counseling, domestic violence and family conflicts, and sexual assault.
STUDENTS WELLNESS CENTRE
The University is in the process of setting up a one stop students’ wellness center. The goal of Student Wellness Centre is to promote mental, psychological, physical, intellectual as well as spiritual wellbeing of the students in and out campus; extend services to the surrounding community in the spirit of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to all those who walk through the doors of University of Nairobi and beyond; partially generate funds to support needy students through personal and group therapy to staff and general public; and finally to provide an avenue for internships for those students doing counselling and psychology courses.
Aim of Student Wellness Centre (SWC)
- To promote mental, psychological, physical, intellectual as well as spiritual wellbeing of the students in and out campus.
- To extend services to the surrounding community in the spirit of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to all those who walk through its doors and beyond.
- To partially generate funds to support needy students
- Provide an avenue for internships
Expected Activities at the Students Wellness Center
Some of the expected Activities at the Students wellness center includes but not limited to one-on-one individual counselling, group therapy sessions, mental health discussions and debates, mentorship and coaching programs, psychological assessments and reports, trainings for various groups on various issues such as leadership, basic counselling skills for staff and students, self-awareness, life skills, reproductive health, courtship and marriage for finalists, retirement preparedness for staff, trauma and grief management, disaster management , conducting a wellness week, cultural week, organizing campaigns and sensitizations against HIV/AIDS, drug and substance, exam cheating, abortions and un planned pregnancies, supporting financially needy students, personal therapy sessions, counselor supervision and community outreach activities among others.
Expected outcome of the Students Wellness Center
- Ensure all round formed professionals
- Minimize use of drugs and substance abuse
- Ensure physical and mental health for students and staff
- Create an avenue for students to realize their talents and expertise e.g. leadership role and professional expertise
- Minimize exam cheating, goonism and indiscipline among students
- Timely students’ completion rates
Student Wellness Staff/Facilitators
- Trained psychologists/counsellors
- Mental health professionals
- Physicians and psychiatrists
- Intern-counsellors and sociologist
- Social workers
- Peer counsellors/ peer-educators
- Clerks and secretaries
- Student leaders
The Students Wellness Center will work in collaboration with both internal and external partners:
Internal partners: University Management, Department of Psychology and Sociology, College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi Students Association (UNSA), Peer Counsellors/Educators, Religious Organizations, Professional Students Organizations and Clubs, Students Welfare Authority (SWA), Sports & Games Department, University Health Services (UHS) and RADA App.
External partners: Ministry of Health, NACADA, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNFPA, I Choose Life, Befrienders Kenya, Kenyatta University, Corporates, Donors, Chiromo Lane Medical Centre, Africa Mental Health Foundation, Global Mental Health Program (Columbia University).
Contact Person, College of Health Sciences