Graduate Student Seeks to Improve Mental Health Education in Kenya
Mueni Masambia, a talented graduate student in the Educational Specialist program, researches global mental health issues to improve Mental Health Education in Kenya.
According to Dr. Lennis Echterling, Graduate Program Director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, cross-cultural studies of counseling are important for many reasons, especially because the United States is a place of cultural exchange with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural roots from around the world. Counselors must honor the cultural heritage of their clients and integrate counseling practices into diverse worldviews. Western counseling practices are commended for their advancement using technology and medicine, however there is much to learn from other cultures that use rituals and other healing practices to treat universal psychological problems, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD.
James Madison University’s graduate program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling is well recognized for its efforts to serve both the local and the global community at large. Tackling health service issues abroad requires compassionate and determined young leaders. Mueni Masambia, a talented student in the program is already building the foundation for her counseling career and developing important knowledge to bring back to her home country in Kenya, where lack of educational resources and access to mental health care remain a significant problem.
Masambia has a vision and she is taking the small steps needed to improve mental health services in Kenya. Her work seeks to build awareness about the issues through her research, training and public presentations. In recognition of her important contributions to global mental health research and education, Masambia was selected to present at the American Counseling Association Annual Conference in Hawaii, serving on the international student panel.
Masambia states, “ I was one of five people to present on the panel at the conference. I was excited to represent Kenya and have the opportunity to discuss ideas from my Ed.S. [Educational Specialist] project.” Her project first provides a description of the socio-cultural, geographic, economic and historical contexts of the East African country of Kenya, particularly highlighting the impact of the AIDS crisis on mental health outreach and education. According to Dr. Echterling, the AIDS epidemic in Kenya was a national disaster that spurred the country to train and send counselors to cities and rural communities to help address the behaviors that contributed to the epidemic. Masambia’s project emphasizes the current status of training and practice of counseling in Kenya, while providing a discussion and analysis of both the challenges and future opportunities for professional development of counseling for mental health services in her home country.
Dr. Echterling has worked alongside Masambia and is proud of her accomplishments within the program and the conference. Echterling explains, ”Mueni’s research is significant because it is documenting that graduate counselor education programs are creating the new professionals. Hospitals and agencies are beginning to recognize the value of professional counselors, and the people are benefiting from receiving counseling services throughout Kenya.”
Masambia welcomed the valuable experience to meet and hear about other students involved with international mental health projects, including those on her panel from countries such as Turkey, Jamaica, Austria, and China. This international exchange allowed for her to gain new perspectives and enriched her understanding of the many ways that professionals are advocating for mental health issues in other countries.
Through this international conference opportunity, she met and spoke with many counselors and was able to network with members of her field. Mueni explained, “In the future, I can see myself helping organizations to formulate models for crisis counseling and intervention in Kenya and teaching about mental health.”
Kiara Mauro ’15