In Search of Appropriate Psychotechnology for the Developing World: the Nigerian Experience

Oladimeji, B. Y. (1996)


Prior to contacts with the Europeans, traditional healing systems took care of the mentally ill. Orthodox mental health services in Nigeria started with the establishment of asylums for custodial care of aggressive and violent patients. With the establishment of psychiatric hospitals and units in various parts of the country, orthodox mental health practitioners from various disciplines and backgrounds started to render treatment and rehabilitation services. The increase in the number of mental health practitioners in recent times is commendable though still inadequate for the population. Most of these practitioners are foreign-trained. They come equipped with assessment techniques and therapy methods, validated and standardised in other cultural settings. They in turn transfer the imported conceptual systems and approaches to their elite trainees, just like the imported technologies in the industrial sectors. The result is the observed "dual perception" and "parallel growth" in the field of mental health practice and research. The paper reviews attempts by practitioners to transfer and apply known theoretical concepts and mental health technology in the context of a developing country like Nigeria. The thrust of the paper is on the need for a critical appraisal of currently employed psychotechnology. As in the discussions of industrial technology transfer from the developed world, experience has shown the need to evolve "appropriate psychotechnology" in terms of self-reliance; needs responsiveness or relevance; cultural compatibility; institutional feasibility; economic suitability and political practicality.