Effect of psychological counseling on the perception of vulnerable groups towards adoption of self-reliant poverty alleviation initiatives in Nigeria
In Nigeria efforts towards poverty alleviation has largely been through government policies, loans and hand-outs, yet level of poverty is rising in the country with serious consequences on daily survival among the vulnerable groups. The most vulnerable here are usually women and youths and most, especially those living in rural communities. Those living in poor conditions are likely to be psychosocially deprived and disadvantaged, a situation that has become even more worrisome with impact of Covid-19 pandemic. The World Bank reports that over 95million Nigerians are living in poverty in 2022 made this study expedient. Therefore, the present study sought to address the question: Can psychological counseling change the perception of vulnerable groups towards self-reliant initiatives for poverty alleviation? A mixed method approach was adopted for the study. This comprised descriptive survey and the pretest-posttest (experimental and control groups) quasi-experimental design. The study area was Central Senatorial District of Cross River State, consisting six local government areas (LGA) namely; Abi, Yakurr, Ikom, Etung, Boki and Obubra with a projected population of 775,250, and land mass of about 288,000SqKm (Leko,2013). Boki LGA houses Africa's largest rainforest including an extensive forest reserve (Ibiang, 2014). Indigenous occupations of the people are; farming, lumbering and trading. Women and youths in the area are involved in one or more of these occupations. This area is purposively selected based on the researchers' observation of the abundance self-Reliant opportunities for poverty alleviation and proliferation of cooperative groups.To select the sample for the study, purposive, cluster and simple random sampling were employed. Using 40 percent proportion two LGA were randomly selected. Cluster method was applied to select two rural communities that are similar based on the most cultivated crop produce.( plantain, cassava, rice). While one served as experimental, the other served as the control group. Sample consisted of 214 participants; the experimental group had a sample size of 108 (64 women, 44 youths male, 20 female 24), while the control group had 106 (56 women, 50 youths male 23, female 27). Two instruments which were designed by the researchers and validated by peer review were used for data collection: Self Reliant - Perception Scale (SR-PS) has a Cronbach Alpha reliability index of 0.82. Psychological Counseling Therapy (PCT) which comprised motivational lessons was delivered verbally to the participants in experimental group in the Town Hall.The control group were not exposed to the PCT but were occupied with discussion on government loans and how to qualify for it.The intervention took one session weekly and lasted four weeks. Two research questions and two null hypotheses guided the study. Data was screened and participants that completed the sessions were admitted as the study sample. The experimental group suffered twenty (20) percent attrition while that of control is nine (9) percent. Data was analyzed using both descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation) to answer research questions, inferential statistics (Analysis of Covariance - ANCOVA) was used to test hypotheses at 0.05 Alpha level. Results showed significant mean difference between the comparison groups. There was also statistical significant effect of psychological counseling therapy on perception of self-reliant initiatives. The study concluded that psychological counseling was effective in tuning the participants’ psychology towards self-reliant initiatives as expressed in the favourable change in the perception of the experimental group participants, which was further substantiated by their positive feedback response, that the intervention was worthwhile. It was recommended that programmes for poverty alleviation for women and youths in rural communities should incorporate psychological counseling while exposing them to self-reliant initiatives towards poverty alleviation.