Psychology in Ghana
Kwaku Oppong Asante
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Regent University College of Science and Technology, Accra, Ghana
Regent University College of Science and Technology, Accra, Ghana
African Institute of Management Science, Accra, Ghana
Address correspondence to Kwaku Oppong Asante, School of Applied Human Sciences, Howard College Campus, College of
Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 4041, Durban, South Africa. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article presents a brief overview of the emergence, education and practice of psychology as a profession and
academic discipline in Ghana. We begin with a short history about psychology education in Ghana, which could be
traced to the offering of courses in counseling and educational psychology in departments of education at the colleges
of education. Because the classroom has been used mainly to train psychologists in Ghana, we provide relevant
information about how and where to get psychology education in that country. We also highlight the practice of
psychology as a formal discipline in Ghana, including specific challenges that are encountered. Psychology has the
potential to be more relevant to Ghanaian people if we demonstrate the importance of the application of its principles in
their everyday life.
Keywords: psychology, education, practice, indigenous psychology, Ghana
Psychology is one of the most popular courses among uni-
versitystudentsinGhana.It leadsto avarietyof careers,includ-
ing working with children and adults with mental and other
health conditions. Only two research papers have been written
to assess the relative importance of psychology in Ghana since
the introduction of psychology as an academic discipline in the
early 1960s. These two publications, however dealt with spe-
cific areas of specialization,that is: school psychologyin Ghana
(Danquah, 1987) and community psychology in Ghana (Akotia
& Barimah, 2007).
In this paper, we provide a brief overview of the emergence,
education and practice of psychology as a profession and aca-
demic discipline in Ghana. We conclude with recommendations
to make psychology a more relevant academic discipline.
Historical Background of Psychology in Ghana
In Africa, the scientific study of psychology began in the
early years of the 20th century. Generally, scientific psychology
in Africa emergedout of the contact of African peoplewith Euro-
peans and evolved during the colonial period (Nsamenang,
1993). For instance, in Ghana, scientific psychology emerged
(Peltzer & Bless, 1989). Initially, psychology was offered as
counselingand educationalpsychology courses in the Colleges
of Education which were responsible for the training of profes-
sional teachers. Early providers of teacher education: the Basel
Seminary (now Presbyterian College of Education) and the
Accra Teacher Training College (now Accra College of Educa-
tion) were established in 1898 and 1909 by the Basel Mission
and the government of Ghana respectively (Graham, 1971).
The majority of professionals whose professions involved
the application of psychological knowledge were not always
trained in psychology per se; their training may be in such fields
as education, medicine, and human services (Danquah, 1987).
Thus, psychology related professions existed in Ghana, al-
though not formally recognized.
Psychology teaching at the University level began in 1963
when it was taught as a combinedpsychology-sociologycourse
in the Department of Sociology of the University of Ghana,
Legon (Agodeka, 1998). Then, it then became an independent
academic discipline, when the Department of Psychology was
established at the University of Ghana, Legon Campus in May
1967. Since then, psychology has gradually evolved as a pro-
fessional discipline in Ghana.
Despite its existence for over forty years, psychology, as
taught in Ghana, is still foreign in content and as a result, practi-
tioners often have difficulties applying the western theories to
the Ghanaian cultural context. Peltzer and Bless (1989) said, of
Zambian psychologists, that they try to overcome the lack of fit
between theory and the socio-cultural milieu “by utilizing their
own experience and link them up with the cross-cultural re-
search material available” (p. 8). In a similar way, Ghanaian
psychologists also addressed this lack of fit. However, the prac-
tices and techniques that emerge as a result of such synthesis
have neither been documented nor subjected to evaluation.
Fortunately, there is a growing awareness among students and
new graduates of the bias of psychology towards western cul-
Psychology Education in Ghana
There are currently two publicand two private university col-
leges that offer psychology undergraduate and postgraduate
programmes in Ghana. These are: the University of Ghana,
Legon; University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast; Methodist Uni-
Journal of Psychology in Africa 2012, 22(3), 473–478
Printed in USA - All Rights Reserved
Psychology in Africa
versity CollegeGhana, Accra; and Regent University Collegeof
Science and Technology, Accra.
University of Ghana. The Department of Psychologyat the
University of Ghana was established in 1967 with 4 students
and 3 lecturers. The department was one of the first psychology
departments to be established in an Anglophone West African
University (Agodeka, 1998). Professor C.E Fiscian was ap-
pointed as the first Head of Department and was supported by
Mr. H.C.A. Bulley with Prof Gustav Johoda joining them later.
The department of psychology has trained numerous psycholo-
gists occupying various positions in Ghana and around the
est departments in the University (University of Ghana, 2010)
The Departmentof Psychologyoffers the followingdegrees:
Bachelor’s of Arts (BA)/ Bachelor’s of Science (BS), including
honors degrees; Master of Philosophy (MPh) in Industrial and
Organizational Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and
Psychology; and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The durations for
these programmes are 4, 2 and 3 years respectively. The Mas-
ter’s degree programmes in the department also require a
1-year supervised internship with accredited institutions. Grad-
uates of these programmes must satisfactorily complete a re-
searched based thesis. Although the department continues to
admit large number of students, it is housed in a very small tem-
porary structure, designed in the 1960s, making it very difficult
to attract equally qualified academic staff.
This department also plays an important role in the develop-
members are mostly responsible for external quality assurance
services that the new psychology departments receive. For in-
stance, the National Accreditation Board in Ghana draws from
the rank of the faculty to assess the qualityof (a) the psychology
curricula developedat the new psychologydepartments and (b)
student assessment practices prevailing at the new or already
Areas of research of the lecturers in the department spread
across the various areas of specializations in psychology. These
include clinical psychology, industrial and organizational psychol-
ogy, community psychology, social psychology, cross-cultural
psychology, psychometrics and neuropsychology.
University of Cape Coast. The Department of Psychology
(formerly Educational Foundations), was established in the late
1970s with the sole aim of producing graduates with the degree
of Bachelor of Education in Psychology (B.Ed Psychology).
The focus of the programme was to train teachers with special-
ization in educational psychology to (a) teach their content sub-
jects to senior secondary schools or (b) teach educational psy-
chology in the Colleges of Education. Additionally, these
teachers were expected to take on the responsibility of provid-
ing psychological services in their schools respective schools,
This department offers a 3- to 4-year BA/BS degree in edu-
cation and 2-year Master of Education programme with a major
emphasis on child psychology, developmental psychology,
counselling, special education, and tests and measurements.
Graduation is contingent on the completion of these courses as
well as general education courses in arts and sciences. Gradu-
ates from the university are employed to teach or serve in ad-
ministrative positions in secondary schools and teacher training
colleges, and in schools for persons with disabilities. During the
2005-2006 academic year, the university introduced B.Sc. Psy-
chology under its Centre for Continuing Education.
Methodist University College of Ghana. The Department
of Psychologyat MethodistUniversityCollegewasoriginallyes-
tablished as Department of General Studies at the inception of
the university in early 2002. By the end of 2008, a full-fledged
department had been established for teaching and research in
psychologyas part of the Faculty of SocialStudies. Likethe cur-
riculum at Regent University College of Science and Technol-
ogy, the psychology curriculum implemented at Methodist Uni-
versity College varies in some significant ways from the
curriculum implemented at the University of Ghana. For in-
stance, the psychology curriculum includes courses in Ger-
man/French Language, Economics, and Sociology (Methodist
Psychology programme, it also offers a B.A. in Religion, Ethics
and Psychology. Also, the department offers a Master of Arts
Regent University College of Science and Technology.
The Department of Psychology was established in September,
2008 after approval from the National Accreditation Board to run
demic staff included 4 full time lecturers and 2 part-time lecturers.
tober, 2008, 9 were women and 2 were men.
The programme offering a BSc Psychology and Human De-
velopment is interdisciplinary model rooted in intellectual tradi-
tions of psychology with the compliment of leadership and man-
agement courses. The duration of the programme varies from
3-4 years depending on whether a student is admitted into the
program during his or her first or second year. One unique fea-
ture of this psychology programme is the mandatory practicum
in Human Development over two-periods of 3 months each dur-
ing the third and final years respectively. This practicum experi-
with practical skills in the real working environment. It also al-
lows students to gain relevant work experience in order to inte-
grate theories of psychology with practice. Graduates of the
BSc Psychology and Human Development programme must
satisfactorily complete a researched based dissertation.
Faculty areas of research are mainly in clinical psychology, in-
dustrial and organizational psychology, community psychology,
health psychology, developmental psychology as well as
HIV/AIDS. The Department of Psychology has received approval
from Ghana’s National Accreditation Board to run a comprehen-
sive MSc. Human Development programme. With their approval,
this programme became the first postgraduate programme in the
area of developmental psychology to be run in Ghana.
Scope of Psychological Practice in Ghana
Currently, 7 categories of psychologists can be identified in
Ghana. They are the industrial psychologists, clinical psycholo-
gists, social psychologists, developmental psychologists, educa-
tional psychologists, community psychologists and counselling
psychologists. A major challenge for practitioners is the
overdependence on western theories and practices. As a result,
there is a need for Ghanaian psychologists to develop culturally
appropriate philosophies and theories that would be used in
For instance, Gyekye’s (1996) book “African Cultural Values: An
Introduction” and Nukunya’s (2003) “Tradition and Change in
Ghana: An Introduction to Sociology” could provide valuable infor-
mation to assist Ghanaian psychologists in developing culturally
appropriate philosophies and theoretical models.
474Asante & Oppong
The absence of a vibrant psychologicalassociation and cer-
tification bodies makes the credential “psychologist” unpro-
tected by law, and as a result, one cannot vouch for the training
and experience of those who claim to be specialty (i.e., clinical
exist is the need for practitioners to obtain postgraduate degree
in psychology in order to use the title “psychologist”. For exam-
ple, a clinical psychologist may claim to be a sports psycholo-
gist, even when he/she does not have a formal professional
training in the subfield of sports psychology.
There has been very little involvement of the state in the de-
velopment and growth of psychology in Ghana. Low income
countries such as Zambia (Peltzer & Bless, 1989) and India
intervention that helped to improve the image of psychology
during and after the emergence of the discipline in those coun-
tries. This assistance from the state has shaped the profes-
sional image of psychologists and their research methodolo-
gies. The absence of government’s involvement in the
development of psychology in Ghana implies that practice of
psychology is not well-established as in other developing coun-
tries mentioned previously. As a result, the Ghana’s Ministry of
Health (MOH) and Ghana Health Service (GHS), over the
years, have been unable to place clinical psychologists in the
teaching, regional, and district hospitals.
Despite these drawbacks, clinical psychologists are hired oc-
others also work with non-governmental organizations. Addition-
ing as they are hired by banks, management consultancy firms,
and telecommunication companies (Oppong, 2011). Additionally,
clinical psychologists are expected to be hired and placed in the
Act, and the establishment of the Ghana Mental Health Service
(GMHS) by the Ministry of Health. Furthermore, the inclusion of
clinical psychologists on the new salary structure, that is, the Sin-
gle Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) for the public and civil services
will also facilitate the hiring and placement of clinical psychologists
into the various public health institutions.
Challenges and Prospects
The current challenges faced by Ghanaian psychologists
are similar to what psychologists in other Sub-Saharan African
overdependence on western theories and practices, fewer re-
search protocols that address local social problems, inability to
examine research questions via a Ghanaiansocio-culturallens,
fewer universities offering psychology at graduate level, scar-
enrolment levels, difficulty in securing attachment for students
during vacation, and the fact that the field is not well known in
To address this lack of fit between the western theories and
carried out into what practices and techniques best fit our cul-
tural context using a mixed methods design combining both
qualitative and quantitative methods could be useful. Results of
such research should be incorporated into the psychology cur-
riculum to enable knowledge transfer to future Ghanaian psy-
chologists. In addition, academic psychologists could draw on
the oral literature (folktales, values, proverbs, maxims, and be-
liefs) of the various ethnic groups in Ghana to develop accept-
phenomenon in their cultural context. The work of Gavi (2009)
on moral development using the Ananse Modelled Behaviour
(AMB) is a classic example. AMB is a set of undesirable social
folktales in which the villain or protagonist is “ananse” (the spi-
der). The crux of Gavi’s (2009) research using the AMB is that,
though behavioursmodelledby “ananse”in the folktales are un-
acceptable, there appears to be no attempts in these oral narra-
tives to provide adequate punishment for “ananse”. This exclu-
sion, therefore, implies that the desired outcome (learning of
ethical behaviour) of telling such narratives is defeated as
gested in these oral narratives. Gavi’s work has found applica-
tions at Brand Ghana Office for branding of Ghana as well as
dealing with corruption.
With regardsto the prospectsfor the developmentandprac-
tice of psychology in Ghana, Ghanaian psychologists should
seize the opportunities that social problems present to demon-
strate the contribution of psychology to national development.
For instance, the following social issues need urgent research
attention: corruption, crime, suicide, poverty, unemployment,
alcohol and drug dependency, ethnocentrism and political po-
larization, child labour and streetism, adolescent problems
(e.g., teenage pregnancy, poor academic performance, etc.),
conflicts, outmoded cultural practices, pornography,HIV/AIDS,
cardiovascular diseases and other lifestyle diseases, job evalu-
ation and fair remuneration, psychometric testing, customer
service, employee supervision, human capital development,
occupational and traffic safety, industrial relations and strikes,
and employee motivation (Oppong, 2011; Tonah, 2009). Gha-
naian psychologists should adopt problem-oriented research,
of social problems and developmental challenges to either find
causes and/or solutions to them. Undergraduate and postgrad-
uate psychology students in Ghana should be encouraged to
pose research questions that reflect some of the social prob-
lems of Ghana. However, the recognition and acceptance of
such a research agenda should be pushed by the psychologists
who are willing to trek the uncharted course. Additionally, a
more inductive reasoning approach may also have to be
adopted in which Ghanaian psychologists build new models
from the “empirical soil” via the collection of data to reach con-
clusions that may or may not be theoretical.
Furthermore, as Ghanaianpsychologists address thesesocial
problems, they are likely to make the psychology profession to be
perceived as more relevant. For example, given the current wave
of graduate unemployment in Ghana, psychologists should be in-
terested in understanding its psychological impact on the gradu-
and achievement motivation. These psychological effects are also
related to national development as low generalized self-efficacy,
external locus of control, and low achievement motivation distin-
from unsuccessful entrepreneurs (Oppong, 2011). Entrepreneur-
development and employment creation (Ofori-Atta, 2009).
It is very imperative for Ghanaian psychologists not to wait for
governments to offer assistance whenever social issues surface.
Academic psychologists have a responsibility to contextualize the
content of psychology curricula implemented by incorporating
instance, Gyekye (1996), an eminent Ghanaian philosopher, has
Psychology in Ghana475
outlined the nature of knowledge and wisdom which can serve as
a foundation of the development of a Ghanaian theory or model of
intelligence. Similarly, Gyekye (1996) discourse on moral charac-
ter and political values can also serve as foundation of Ghanaian
models on personality and leadership respectively.
Indigenizationof the psychology curriculum in Ghana will be
near completion only when home-grown doctoral programmes
are encouraged to address the Ghanaian psychosocial prob-
lems through a Ghanaian socio-cultural lens. The promotion of
home-grown doctoral programmes should be complemented
with the introduction of journals that are accessible to psychol-
ogy students and academics as well as practicing psycholo-
gists. However, given that only one public university, University
be appropriate in the meantime to encourage study abroad.
on return, to groomandmentor the next generationof psycholo-
gists through the pursuit of culturally relevant research and
quality doctoral supervision.
development of psychology as a profession and an academic
discipline in Ghana. We demonstrated that the classroom has
served as the main catalyst for the training of psychologists in
Ghana. Given the challenges that professional psychologists
currently face in Ghana, we conclude that Ghanaian psycholo-
gists should take advantage of the prevalent social problems to
demonstrate the contribution of psychology towards national
development by addressing the social problems that the coun-
try faces through relevant research.
Academic psychologists in Ghana should contextualize the
content of the current psychology curricula by incorporating
Ghanaianvalues into the theoreticalframeworks of psychology.
Annual conferences and symposia are equally needed to help
promote psychology in Ghana and to also share new insights
about the contextually relevant paradigms.
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476Asante & Oppong
The Journal has been informed by Ms. C. Tebele that in the Brief report “Appreciative Inquiry: A
Case Study of a Woman’s Experience of Poverty” (Journal of Psychology in Africa 2011, 21(4),
607–610) by herself and Kathryn Nel, the name of the institution for the co-author was erroneously left
out. The following information should appear by the authors’ of the Brief Report:
Cebile Tebele (University of South Africa)
Kathryn Nel (University of Limpopo-Turfloop Campus).