Original Research - Special Collection: COVID-19

Counselling preparedness and responsiveness of industrial psychologists in the face of COVID-19

Marieta du Plessis, Emma C. Thomas
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 47 | a1860 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v47i0.1860 | © 2021 Marieta du Plessis, Emma C. Thomas | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 February 2021 | Published: 17 May 2021

About the author(s)

Marieta du Plessis, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Emma C. Thomas, Department of Industrial Psychology, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa

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Orientation: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought to the forefront the need for industrial-organisational psychologists (IOPs) and organisations to place an emphasis on employees’ mental and physical health at all times.

Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to determine how prepared IOPs are to counsel employees during the pandemic and how responsive they are to provide counselling.

Motivation for the study: It is not clear to what extent such counselling is being practised by IOPs in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research approach/design and method: A qualitative approach was used to gain an understanding of registered South African IOPs’ experiences of workplace counselling, particularly during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Main findings: Regarding preparedness, we found that IOPs are ill-prepared to counsel in the workplace. Preparedness was influenced by participants’ counselling education, skills and knowledge; experience; convictions about counselling; and psychological and organisational preparedness. Whilst some IOPs did engage in more counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic, most reverted to mitigating actions such as referrals, wellness management, equipping managers and change initiatives.

Practical/managerial implications: The results of this study indicate that, under pandemic conditions, there is an increased need for counselling practices within the workplace and that IOPs should explore the ways in which they could play a more active role in such counselling.

Contribution/value-add: Although we found that IOPs generally responded to employees’ mental health needs in a positive manner, there was a lack of counselling preparedness and responsiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic.


COVID-19; mental health; counselling; industrial psychology; preparedness; responsiveness


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Crossref Citations

1. An industrial psychology perspective of workplace counselling in the changing world of work
Thapelo S. Moralo, Lené I. Graupner
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology  vol: 48  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/sajip.v48i0.1988