French philosopher, art critic and writer, Denis Diderot once said “only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.”

Probably this is one of the numerous reasons professionals providing career guidance always encourage people to follow their passions whenever they choose careers. For Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo, the passion in psycho-social well-being of children as well as adults saw her embarking a journey of becoming a Narrative Therapist and a Psychosocial Specialist. In 2006 she had her break-through when her project which she produced as part of her diplo-ma was adopted as a methodology for international psychology trainings and counselling.

Together with David Denborough, Mrs Ncube- Mlilo developed the Tree of life Narrative Methodology used for counsel-ling. The methodology is based on narrative therapy principles.

“Since its development it is used in several countries as a counselling methodology. Among the countries are United Kingdom, Australia, United States of America, Canada, Turkey, Russia, Norway, Netherlands, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and many more,” she says.

Mrs Ncube- Mlilo also recalls that after developing the methodology she was invited for global conferences and training workshops. “The methodology went all over the world. I was invited to talk about it. Sometimes I hesitated but colleagues said I should go. I had a presentation about it in Norway where over 500 psychologists were present. “

I was also a key note speaker at a national Tree Ncazelo Ncube- Mlilo (right) and Phola workers of life conference in England where there were more than 300 mental health practitioners show casing their work on the methodology.  In another Global Mental Health and Psychosocial Support conference in England in 2017, my methodology was featured as an innovation from a low middle-income country,” Mrs Ncube- Mlilo says.

These conferences attracted a lot of academics and entrepreneurs who encouraged Mrs Ncube- Mlilo to pursue whatever she wanted to do with the project. “

One of the professors asked me what I wanted to do. I said I want to be independent and wanted to train people and develop more methodologies,” she recalls.

Their support rekindled her zeal to train people. She then advertised with the National Health Service in the UK. She started to run Advanced Tree of life training courses. Since then she has been training psychologists in various methods.

She has also developed other “culturally sensitive counselling tools” which include the COURRAGE Methodology and the Narratives in the suitcase methodology. Currently she conducts online training for Psychologists across the globe be-cause of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mrs Ncube-Mlilo also revealed that here passion to “develop local and culturally appropriate psychosocial healing practices and methodologies” pushed her to be independent hence the establishment of Phola.

She was initially funded by a UK based organisation that is interested in seeing the Tree of life work expand in South Africa and beyond but Phola is now getting other grants and the Department of Social Development has recently pitched in with funds.

Phola was registered as a non-profit organisation in South Africa in 2016. The organisation works with poor and marginalised communities and operates caravans as counselling rooms. It runs various programmes for all age groups. These include Phola Baba, Phola Mama, Phola Intsha, Phola sana, Phola Mdeni and Phola Sisebenzi.

With 21 employees including Social workers and Psychologists, Phola uses narrative approaches to provide counsel-ling in various areas which include Orange Farm, Zandsspruit, Diepsloot and Mamelodi among other places.

In these areas it uses its methodologies which are COURRAGE, Tree of life and O.U.T.T.R.A.G.E.D. as well as Narratives in the suitcase project.

COURRAGE “is a ground-breaking project that was developed in partnership with women to support women experiencing Gender Based Violence (GBV) and other related hardships. The methodology has been used broadly to respond to effects of trauma with different groups of people seeking counselling.”

Tree of life “is a story telling approach to counselling which helps people to talk about the stories of their lives in ways that make them stronger. It focuses on the neglected stories or second stories of people’s lives (good and positive stories) which give people hope and encouragement and can support them to tackle the problems of life.”

Narratives in the suitcase is “counselling project is for working with children and others on the move. This includes refugees, migrants and others who have had to leave their homes or countries of birth and live in a foreign land or far place. The methodology helps such people to reconnect with their values, hopes and dreams and important people in their lives as they pursue their dreams in these new places.”

Mrs Ncube-Mlilo also says Phola spear-heads women empowerment and most of its employees are women. She highlighted that this is intertwined with that most psychological problems affect women be-cause of gender inequalities which culminate to GBV, Femicide and so on.

She however, bemoaned the slow adoption of her methodologies in South Africa. “Uptake is slow in South Africa, yet the methods have been vastly adopted. I want to do more for Africa because these methodologies have been created in Africa,” she says.

For more information, contact +27 61 458 7899 or email Mrs Ncube-Mlilo has also developed other “culturally sensitive counselling tools” which include the COURRAGE Methodology and the Narratives in the suitcase methodology.

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