Andrew Swart: Experiential learning and work
1941 to 2020

I am a life-long learner.

We learn best through experience, so I share some of my life experience with you so that you can decide whether or not I have the experience to understand you as well as you need to be understood.

I believe that the best work is done with the focus and motivation of play. ( See Deci & Ryan: Self Determined Learning, Human Motivation, Wellbeing and Performance.)

Born in the Waterberg / ThabeMeetse area, I grew up on a farm, and lived and played with people of diverse cultures, mainly Sepedi, English, Afrikaans and the Italian prisoners of war who helped my English mother run the farm while my father served in the South African Airforce in the 2nd World War.

I had an older sister and brother and a younger brother.

From my mother and grandmothers I learned English liberal values and manners, and compassion for other people.

From Matipa, my Sepedi nanny, I learned a love of Sepedi music and basic Sepedi, while being with the labourers singing in the fields, and Sepedi values and manners while eating Sepedi food in the midday breaks.

I have fond memories of the Italian prisoners of war working on the farm, who introduced Matipa and my siblings to Italian food.

When my father returned in 1945 he taught us many things:

I was sent to boarding school in Pretoria at age 7 until I matriculated from Pretoria Boys’ High School in 1959. Head boy of Primary school, Captain of Shooting team and Regimental Quarter-Master’s Sergeant in High School.

From 1960 to 1977 I was successively:

My parents and younger brother left South Africa in 1964 to escape Apartheid, and settled in Sussex, U.K.

In 1977 I also left South Africa for political reasons, with my first wife and children, to live with my anti-apartheid brother in London, in a socialist commune. But I also met and spent time with my professional, upper middle class relatives.

In 1981 my wife, children and I returned to South Africa and I was employed as a Senior Counsellor in the Counselling and Careers Unit (CCU), University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,(Wits) where I did my 18 month internship to register as a Counselling Psychologist.

The CCU offered career counselling, corporate recruitment and psychotherapeutic services.

The 1980’s were a politically and socially turbulent time in South Africa, especially at Wits. Many anti- apartheid activists were detained, tortured and killed. As student and staff counsellors, we had to learn how to work confidentially with traumatically stressed students and staff. We were also privy to politically sensitive information.

Eight months into my internship, my Head of Department and Intern Supervisor, Dr Ralph Wortley was escorted into my consulting room by two apartheid security officers, to inform me that he was being arrested and detained under the terms of the Anti-terrorism and Suppression of Communism Acts, and to delegate to me the authority to serve as Acting Head of CCU. After their departure we hurriedly removed all files of student activists to alternative locations for safe-keeping. As Ralph was not a political activist, we assumed he would be interrogated about his inside information of politically active clients. He was held in solitary confinement for 90 days and then went to the University of Natal as head of counselling.

As Acting Head of CCU, I consequently had the responsibility to supervise interns and staff, paradoxically including my own internship. I appealed to the Head of Psychology at Wits, Professor Jill Straker, a Clinical Psychologist and she became my supervisor. She also trained me in supervision skills.

In 1983, on completion of my Internship I was appointed Head of CCU.

Between 1983 and 1996 I completed training as:

In 1984 I was divorced, and moved out of our home:

In 1990 I married Susan Rohm, an audiologist at the University of Cape Town, and she relocated to Johannesburg and became a staff member in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology in Wits.

In 1996 I convened the PsySSA International Conference Committee, and managed the conference, which was hosted by WITS.

In 1996, after my resignation from Wits, my wife, Susan accepted a post as head of “Spraakheelkunde en Audiologie” at the University of Stellenbosch and I relocated to Stellenbosch to set up a new private practice.

In 2000 I was contracted to serve as Clinical Office Manager to help set up an employee assistance programme in the Western Cape for The Centre For Human Development. It grew from serving 1 company with 2,000 families, to serving 45 companies with 37,000 families by 2003. I have (CHD) training certificates for HIV/Aids Intervention and Critical Incident Stress Management. My leadership experience in individual, couple and group counselling and in trauma defusing and debriefing, as well as in Post-Traumatic Stress psychotherapy and conflict resolution was extended and revised.I also trained as a basic level Reiki therapist.

In 2003 the Centre for Human Development sold the company to Careways and my contract was discontinued.

In 2003 I set up a private practice in the Cape Town city centre with 3 of my colleagues from the CHD team.

Between 2003 and 2013 I served as a part-time affiliate to Careways and ICAS, two Employee Wellbeing organizations, and partnered the creation of a third: WellnessAtWork. During this period I  was accredited by the HPCSA in my individual capacity to supervise counselling psychology interns and career counselling interns from UNISA and served as an external supervisor for the Universities of Stellenbosch and the Western Cape.

I noticed that my practice was increasingly becoming more about coaching and consulting than counselling and psychotherapy.

In 2006 I joined the newly formed association of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA).

In 2007 and 2008, two of our group of 4 associates were running at a loss, and withdrew from the practice, which then became unsustainable. After 45 years of being a compliant taxpayer, I was unable to pay our tax, and became non-compliant. Three tax consultants all informed me that there was nothing that I could do to resolve the situation unless SARS accepted our offer of compromise, which was declined.

I became depressed and ill from the resultant stress, but realised that I had to re-invent myself.

In 2009 I was accepted into a PhD course in Coaching, Consulting and Counselling offered by the University of South Africa Departments of Organisational Psychology and Applied Psychology. As one of 10 postgraduate students we participated in about 200 hours of coursework at UNISA.

In 2012 I attended the Diamond Jubilee Conference of The American Counselling Association Conference in San Francisco as a guest, and visited the University of Boulder, Colorado.

When I returned I was diagnosed with atherosclerosis, which we believe was triggered by the stress I had been subjected to, and I was hospitalised for an angiogram. Three stents were immediately inserted into my cardiac arteries, saving my heart from damage. After discharge from hospital I enrolled for a 3 month cardiac rehabilitation program at the UCT Sports Science Institute, where I learned a lot about resilience and wellbeing. I trained as a HeartMath licensed Coach.

After my recovery I commuted weekly between Cape Town and Johannesburg to assist my daughter and a group of families to set up an alternative self-directed education system for their children, adapted from the Sudbury Valley School in the USA – the first such community learning centre in Africa.

Unfortunately I was unable to complete my PhD thesis, as my rented cottage in Johannesburg was burgled twice during my visits to Cape Town and I was no longer safe there. Weekly commuting was not viable, so I relocated to Johannesburg in 2015 to live with my daughter’s family.

I commute between Johannesburg and Cape Town for a week every month or two to see clients in Cape Town.

In 2013 I was co-opted by the COMENSA President, John Paisley, to assist in revitalising and professionalizing COMENSA, and facilitated the development of a set of key behavioural and performance standards with Dr Bill Price and the Membership and Standards Committee during 2013 and 2014.

In 2016 I was co-opted into the COMENSA Ethics Portfolio (EPC) and was elected as Chairperson in 2017. The EPC was tasked to develop a new Terms of Reference for its evolution into a Social and Ethics Committee to comply with the Companies Act 2008 / 2011 and the King 4 report.

In 2019 the Proposed Terms of Reference for the COMENSA Social and Ethics Committee was adopted at the COMENSA AGM. I decided to vacate the position of Chairperson in the interests of corporate succession and was elected as Honorary Life Member of the Social and Ethics Committee.

In 2020 I am focusing on re-establishing my private practice and writing syntheses of what I read and research on the internet.

I was asked by South African Coaching News to write a series of short articles about “The Ethics of Coaching in Africa”.


Feedback I have received from many people informs me that my life experience and inherited aptitudes have challenged and equipped me to become very resilient and able to cope with success and adversity, and that my rich and complex experience enables me to empathise and understand clients who are also seeking ways to cope more effectively with the complexity of life and work relationship challenges in the rapidly changing 21st century. I have also come to realise how relatively privileged I have been.

My passion is in supporting others in their life journeys to become more aware, resilient and able to realise the potentials they aspire to.

Andrew Swart: 2020/02/29

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