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Fixing bad behaviour



BEREA – GROWING up in extreme poverty, Tšepang Majara, was written off by many who thought he was condemned to a life of struggling for basics. Yet, it was those conditions that propelled him to become the respected psychologist he is today.

“Those conditions made me strong…they instilled a strong work ethic in me,” said Majara, adding that his passion to study human behaviour led him to psychology.

Majara has been practising for the past 12 years as a registered counselling psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

“I chose counselling psychology because I love counselling with all my heart,” he said.

“What I love most is the opportunity to meet new people and learn from them as much as I help them psychologically,” he says.

“I also love facilitating workshops for groups and appearing on radio to motivate people not to lose hope even if life tough.”

However, he said it’s hard to change people’s behaviour.

“But thinking and attitude is the problem. I believe to change one’s behaviour should start in their head and then behaviour will follow.”

Born in the semi-urban area of Khubetsoana and raised in rural Mokhethoaneng, Majara says he has a strong sense of identity with wild and wide open spaces.

“My identity and spirituality have been forged by a deep love for the earth in places where the tenacity and vulnerable miracles of life’s unfolding cycles are particularly evident,” said the 39-year-old who also serves as chairman of the Forum of the Career Awareness Associations (FOCAAS).

He said the context of his upbringing has instilled in him a need to see both distant horizons and the small and immediate details of life.

“I have come to believe that creative weavings of the sometimes contradictory dynamics of a person or situation are what enable transformative possibilities. Finding and nurturing these possibilities is something I strive for in my own life and relationships, as well as in the connections I make in my work.”

He said the many connections with people and places he has experienced so far “carry with them an awed recognition of the courage and resilience of the human spirit in the midst of sometimes overwhelming suffering and pain”.

Majara is a doctoral candidate at South Africa’s Wits University. He is also a Solidarmed Psychological Consultant and a private mentor of Princess Senate Seeiso.

He has lectured psychology at a number of institutions as a means of spreading psychological knowledge to young and inquisitive minds. He is currently a part time lecturer of psychology at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Majara is also the founder and chief coordinator of the Lesotho annual national career expo in collaboration with tertiary institutions in Lesotho and South Africa and the public and private sector.

He is the Chief Executive Officer and Counselling Psychologist at Mind Liberation Psychology Consultancy (MLPC), which was established in 2012. He says MLPC aspires to be a leading provider of psychological services that is committed to excellence in counselling and research.

He says the institution provides “high quality” psychological services to advance human behaviour in Lesotho and the global village. MLPC, he says, focuses on services in the areas of psychotherapy, employee assistance service, staff development (skills training) and research.

He said the motive behind the establishment of MLPC is “to critically and dynamically impact the thinking of its clients because the belief is that the way people think affects how they feel and as a result, their thinking affects their behaviour. Through our clients as individuals, we positively influence their immediate organisations and families as far as their thinking is concerned.”

He said psychotherapy services are offered to individuals, couples, as well as family and groups of people. Although MLPC offers services across a broad range of mental health needs, he said its activities are particularly in rural and historically disadvantaged communities and provide the ultimate “mind liberation to everyone needing psychological intervention.”

“Whether intervention is needed on an individual or group basis, we cater to our client’s specific needs to ensure a lasting change in their lives through various interventions. We also provide telephonic counselling sessions and home calls to cater to our vast client base,” said Majara, who received the Mandela Rhodes Foundation Prestigious Scholarship in 2009 and is currently the scholarship’s ambassador as the Lesotho regional coordinator. He says MLPC strives “to establish strategic partnerships with organisations and companies with the aim of providing services that contribute both to enhancing the capacity of their staff members as well as to enhance their contributions to the communities they serve.”

Majara said there are many causes to the present injustices that characterise Lesotho. These include corruption, nepotism, lack of fear of God, unprofessionalism, lack of ethical code of conduct and the legal environment.

“I do not think we are doing enough individually and collectively to address them.”

He said in his journey as a psychologist, the sort of impact he is looking forward to is educational using the National Career Expo that he started about 13 years ago.

“I believe education is a strong tool to effect positive change.”

An advocate for social awareness, in 2010 he published the book Condom influence strategies amongst university students. He said he hopes to accomplish writing many books in order to contribute to knowledge generation in the country.

In his profession, he says, working with narcissistic personality clients is very challenging because those are the people who take other people for granted and believe they are the only ones that matter.

“Personally I believe we are all special in our own right.”

He views starting his own practice as his biggest achievement as he runs it independently and has created jobs for Basotho youth. The most difficult case he has worked with was with a client who didn’t believe in the existence of God and as a result challenged everything about religion.

“Being a Christian psychologist, it was a bit challenging to reach common ground,” said Majara, adding that Lesotho still has a long way to go in terms of welfare in order to reach the level of most countries.
Counselling is a useful tool that can help people develop coping skills and process emotions and feelings, he said, noting however that there is still some negativity surrounding counselling regardless of its benefits.
Majara says counselling is very important as it helps one to make informed decisions about life’s challenges.
“I believe everyone needs it.”

However, he says some people don’t understand the significance of counselling given the statistics of people seeking counselling and the negative comments in communities questioning why people should pay for such services.
He said the field of psychology in the country is taking the right direction and called for the establishment of a representative association.

“In the next five years there will be an association regulating the profession. I am also excited to see most youth joining and studying psychology. That means we will have more psychologists in future compared to now,” he said.

He said there are many issues that trigger the need for counselling. These include rape, murder, divorce, financial problems, love problems and relationship problems.

“The feedback from my clients has largely been positive, they tell me that the counselling sessions worked and changed their lives positively,” he said.

Apart from being a psychologist, Majara does evangelism in church, is a farmer and enjoys travelling. He described Gender Based Violence (GBV) as a crisis in Lesotho.

“I do not think enough is being done to address it or any brutality in the country. I think psychologists should be engaged more to help.”

“As a country, we went wrong by not making use of people who are trained to deal with issues of men and women professionally. Psychologists are ready to help, let’s use them,” Majara said.

He said many issues cause GBV, citing failure to understand the gender differences and lack of respect for the opposite gender.

“GBV can be prevented through counselling and counsellors are available. Let them be used professionally.”

He said the consequences whether in the short or long term are “bitter”. The “painful results include unnecessary deaths and bitter children growing in inhabitable homes which affect their view of life negatively”.

He said psychologists should lead the GBV agenda because they are better equipped at dealing with it. He also cited mental health as “a significantly serious” problem in Lesotho.

“I don’t think we are doing enough. Shortage of psychologists to address the members of the public who are affected mentally is a major challenge. Lesotho should train more psychologists so that each district has at least its own independent psychologist.”

He said religious beliefs do cause confusion around mental health issues.

“But psychologists are available to help about how best to address the ignorance that prevails in society.”
In his opinion, a top psychologist’s qualities should include empathy, better communication skills, better listening skills, relationship skills, love doing research and reading and love people.

‘Mapule Motsopa

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