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Advocacy & Outreach in Southern Africa: Using Critical Consciousness to Engage in Social Justice. Rachael D. Goodman, Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, & Sejal Mehta. University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida. Introduction. Outreach Project Outcomes. Future Research.

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Advocacy & Outreach in Southern Africa:

Using Critical Consciousness to Engage in Social Justice

Rachael D. Goodman, Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, & Sejal Mehta

University of Florida College of Education, Gainesville, Florida


Outreach Project Outcomes

Future Research

Background & Significance

Counselor identify is shifting to include both advocacy and outreach in order to meet the needs of communities that may not access traditional mental health services or who are impacted by community-wide disasters (Lewis, Lewis, Daniels & D’Andrea, 2003). However, counselors may not know how to operationalize this new commitment to social justice.

Critical Consciousness Theory

Action that is based on reflection, awareness, collaboration, and empowerment is liberating and humanizing for both service providers and communities (Freire, 2000).

Purpose Statement

Presented are recommendations for how counselors can provide social justice oriented outreach services, based on our experiences in South Africa and Botswana.


Through the dialectic process, outreach team members demonstrated new skills and thinking, which was facilitated through the formation of group cohesion and through mentoring. The members also conceptualized themselves differently, expressing a sense of agency and both personal and professional transformation.

Critical Consciousness

Outreach team members were able to provide strength-based, culturally appropriate counseling services due to the focus on awareness, reflection, and responsiveness.

  • Future research can focus on:
      • Forming interdisciplinary outreach teams
      • Using outreach as a component of training in counselor education programs
      • Identifying how engaging in outreach impacts traditional or non-outreach counseling practice
      • Developing a training model for social justice-based outreach

Selected References

Outreach Recommendations

Burnett, J. A., Hammel, D., & Long, L. L. (2004). Service learning in graduate counselor education: Developing multicultural counseling competency. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 32, 180-191.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc.

Ivey, A. E., & Collins, N. M. (2003). Social justice: A long-term challenge for counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 31, 290-298.

Lewis, J. A., Lewis, M. D., Daniels, J. A., & D’Andrea, M. J. (2003). Community counseling: Empowerment strategies for a diverse society (3rd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Nelson, M. L., & Neufeldt. S. A. (1998). The pedagogy of counseling: A critical examination. Counselor Education & Supervision, 38, 70-88.

Roysircar, G., Gard, G., Hubbell, R., & Ortega, M. (2005). Development of counseling trainees’ multicultural awareness through mentoring English as a second language students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 33, 17-36.

Vera, E., Daly, B., Gonzales, R., Morgan, M., & Thakral, C. (2006). Prevention and outreach with underserved populations: Building multisystemic youth development programs for urban youth. In R. L. Toporek, L. H. Gerstein, N. A. Fouad, G. Roysircar, & T. Israel. (Eds.), Handbook for social justice in counseling psychology: Leadership, vision, and action (pp. 86-99). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

West-Olatunji, C., & Watson, Z. (1999). Community-as-client mental health needs assessment: Use of culture-centered theory & research. The Community Psychologist, 31, 36-38.

Review of the Literature

I: Planning

Planning for the outreach began by assessing the community’s needs in order to determine what services will be provided and how (Lewis et al., 2003; West-Olatunji & Watson, 1999).

II: Partnering

Collaborative partnerships were established (1) with organizations that could provide resources (Watson, Church, Darville & Darville, 1997), and (2) with the community in order to create empowering relationships (Nelson & Neufeldt, 1998; Weah et al., 2000).

III: Attending to Group Dynamics

Group process was a critical component of the development of critical consciousness and cultural competence through reflection and feedback (Burnett et al., 2004; Roysircar et al., 2005).

IV: Preparing the Site

Site preparation established partnerships with community stakeholders that enabled the outreach team to gain the community’s trust, critical when entering as outsiders (Vera, Daly, Gonzales, Morgan & Thakral, 2006).

V: Establishing Procedures

Both clinical procedures and group process procedures were established in order to ensure that service delivery is aligned with the outreach philosophy and that team members have opportunities for reflection and process.

Multicultural Counseling & Advocacy

Multicultural counseling is now considered a core competency of the profession (Sue & Sue, 2003). As an extension of this, advocacy is also focus of recent scholarship as critical to meeting the needs of marginalized populations and addressing systemic barriers to psychological functioning (Lewis, Arnold, House & Toporek, 2003).

Social Justice Action

Counselors have also been increasingly engaged in action for social justice as a necessary component of multiculturalism (Vera & Speight, 2003). Recent disasters and acts of systemic oppression have placed greater emphasis on the need for counselors to be involved in social justice action.

Outreach & Critical Consciousness

Outreach guided by critical consciousness theory offers a way for counselors to engage in social justice action that provides service to communities in need in a culturally competent, humanizing manner.

Outreach in Southern Africa

  • Primary activities included:
    • Tour of historic and culturally significant sites
    • Training, direct services, and collaboration with community agencies in South Africa and Botswana focusing on: HIV/AIDS, women’s empowerment, children and adolescents, and crisis response.
    • Round table discussions with universities on advocacy and outreach in community counseling.