Psychotherapy In Nigeria

Alfred Awaritefe


There is no exact word for psychotherapy in many Nigerian languages, numbering over 250. But equivalent words exist for expression such as counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy. The practice of these arts predated the advent of the Europeans. When modern psychology arrived in our shores, we naturally adopted the Euro-American models of psychotherapy. All that makes psychotherapy necessary can be found in our country: trauma due to child abuse, and neglect, abuse of human dignity, tribal wars, political conflict, poverty, migration and stress-provoking lifestyles, among others. The Aro village system developed by Lambo is an attestation to the usefulness of some of our native approaches and to the efficacy of social support that is inherent in the African traditional system. The introduction of a bilingual group psychotherapy at Aro in the early 1990 was a natural follow-up to this development. Group therapy is the most popular form of psychotherapy as it is practised in most teaching hospitals and psychiatric establishments. Meseron therapy and harmony restoration therapy are the two foremost indigenous approaches to psychotherapy in Nigeria. Meseron therapy is cognitive-behavioural in orientation while harmony restoration therapy is existential-phenomenological. Other therapies commonly taught and practised include: Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy; Cognitive Behaviour Therapy; Behaviour Therapy; The Psychodynamic Therapies, etc. Modern psychotherapy services are available in private clinics/consultations, schools, hospitals and medical centres. The services are offered by a wide variety of professionals ranging from clinical psychologists and psychiatrist, to social workers, nurses and pastors. At present, focused training in psychotherapy is inadequate, in spite of the efforts by the universities and the Nigerian Association of Clinical Psychologists. This is an important lacuna that the School of Psychotherapy and Health Sciences, Okija, has come to fill.

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