06 October 2022 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo Kaleidoscope
Tobias van den Bergh
Tobias van den Bergh, President of the Southern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACHDE)

Tobias van den Bergh, Counselling Psychologist at the University of the Free State, has been appointed as the President of the Southern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE).  The appointment became official at the annual SAACDHE conference, which took place in Pretoria from 12 to 14 September 2022. As such, van den Bergh perceives this appointment as an opportunity: “To be part of a creative process that tackles the challenges faced in higher education and knowing the difficulty that students and my colleagues across the country are struggling with, accepting this appointment felt right.”

The role of SAACDHE

“The organisation represents members of several higher education counselling and career development centres from the SADC region. The organisation’s mission is to promote, guide, and advance best practices in centres at institutions of higher education,” explained Van den Bergh. Through this representation and assistance, members are able to provide quality support to the students they serve. SAACDHE members include mental health professionals, social workers, HIV/AIDS counsellors, researchers, and career development specialists from more than 15 higher education institutions in South Africa and Botswana. Furthermore, Van den Bergh asserts that, “SAACDHE represents its members through lobbying for increased institutional support, the promotion of scholarly, ethical, and best practices, and the training and development of professionals.”

Van den Bergh as President of the organisation

 As the newly elected President of the organisation, there are several challenges that Van den Bergh believes require the immediate attention of SAACDHE.  For instance, he maintains that student populations and the mental health challenges they face have grown at a substantial rate over the past few decades. However, the staff capacity in counselling and career development centres has not increased commensurately. As such, the challenge in this regard is that the need for mental health interventions continues to grow, but the capacity is not sufficient to deal with those challenges and to fill the gap in public mental health services. To address this challenge, he indicates that “the organisation is striving to innovate counselling centres, and to find ways to work smarter and be preventative where possible”.

In addition, Van den Bergh is adamant about ensuring that the organisation continues to be innovative in the way mental health services are provided to students, and to create practices that are culturally and contextually relevant. However, his long-term vision for the organisation is, “to continue serving as a training, development, and practice-based organisation, so that we can equip members with support and knowledge that will help them to continue helping students in a smarter and better way”.

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