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Dr Malepe not exactly retired

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MBABANE – Dr Thandi Malepe is not exactly on retirement – at least not in the sense of staying at home and doing nothing.

She has ventured into private practice to serve as a healer of emotional distress.

"We help to heal," she said.

"We help clients come to terms and to feel connected. I mention healing but I do not mean it in some dreamy, physical sense. We do not lay hands, not in any ritualistic sense. Therapists do not baptise, bless or otherwise assume entrance into another world or even happiness in this world."

She retired from government service in 2002.

Dr Malepe, who made her name as the pioneer of the Psychiatric Centre in Manzini, is training young Swazis in the area of Psychotherapy and HIV Management.

"I use the word healing in the sense of restoring connection. We provide relationship. Effective therapists respond to their patients in a genuine manner, they establish a relationship that a patient perceives as safe and accepting," she said.

"The course is about competence and healing. Compassion without competence is insufficient in any psychotherapy practice, especially in any practice with the complex issues of HIV infection."

She said one of the course’s goals was to provide information that would help the psychotherapist to anticipate and prepare for the complexities and challenges in this special area.

She said AIDS-related psychotherapy served the living and could not be reduced to death.

"Although some persons living with HIV may enter psychotherapy saying they want to deal with the fear of death, most probably, they will work on their fear of living with HIV infection. They will learn that life continues. Then when we learn how to live, then we will be more comfortable with death," she said.

The Manzini based doctor, who operates her school at Manica House opposite the Post Office here, said she believed an HIV-positive status meant a future that could be improved by emotional stamina and commitment to good self-care.

She said the HIV status could also be improved by seeking competent medical care, explorations of anxiety and willingness to see life in the sharp relief.

She said she realised that many people were not being killed by AIDS but by emotions.

As a result, she said, there was a strong need to heal people emotionally through professional counselling.

Dr Malepe said people suffered from trauma, distress and other emotional challenges after they had been told their HIV status.

She said children had been sexually molested, emotionally abused, abandoned and neglected. She said all these children needed counselling. She said her students had been asked by orphanages to give professional counselling to children.

Her students were heading for Nokwane at the New Hope Centre when this newspaper visited her school in Manzini. She named her school as the Swaziland Business Consultancy.

She said diplomas and certificates to be awarded to graduates are accredited by Cambridge International College (CIA).

Dr. Malepe charges E2 700 for a three-month certificate course in HIV/AIDS counselling and a one-year diploma course in HIV/AIDS management costs E6 500.

She said the course in psychotherapy reflected the appreciation for flexibility.

The doctor said they attempted to introduce useful and productive ideas from both cognitive behavioural and psychodynamic orientations, as well as to broadly describe HIV related practice.

"We insist that psychotherapy AIDS related is a subspecialty and should always work with other clinicians for the best service they want for their client, they should work also with support groups, families and communities," she said.

She said they taught that a tender holding of the client included a thorough assessment that illuminated the client’s medical and socio-political situation.

"Other aspects of working with these clients require the therapist to have a searching eye for the physical, psychiatric and neuropsychological complications that come with HIV infection," Dr. Malepe said.

She said the reason why she was professionally involved in HIV related psychotherapy was because HIV was at the nexus of the most important issues of our times.

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