Fetu'utu'una'i le vā = Navigating relational space : an exploration of traditional and contemporary pastoral counselling practices for Samoans : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Pastoral counselling is one of the important roles of ministers in Samoa. An emerging ethos of individualism is challenging traditional notions of collectivism in fa’aSamoa (culture and traditions of Samoa). This evolution has been identified and described as the ‘changing Samoan self’. Traditional approaches of counselling employed by ministers in the past must adjust to align with the changes faced by church members today. This thesis presents the voices of 34 Samoan participants living in Samoa that include ministers, minister’s wives, matai (title-holders), New-Zealand born Samoans, church members, and service users of a domestic violence agency. Participants shared their expectations of being counselled as well as counselling others, together with reflections concerning effective and ineffective counselling practices. A Samoan research methodological framework called Tafatolu (three-sides) has been conceptualised and used herein as the methodology for this project. Tafatolu methodological framework involves the synthesis of three key parts that this project considers as valuable to any research—a ‘contemporary academic’ approach to research, a ‘cultural’ approach, and the ‘self’ that represents the researcher’s perspectives and positioning within the project. Collectively, these three parts have assisted this project in the collection and analysis of data that have informed this study. The findings from this research have highlighted the emergence of a changing Samoan self and counselling practices that remain centred upon God. Fetu’utu’una’i le vā, (Navigating relational space) emerged as an applicable approach to pastoral counselling for Samoans today. The enforcement of fetu’utu’una’i le vā has evolved alongside a changing Samoan self, from the use of physical force, to verbal force, excommunication and punishment, to now include conversations through dialogue.
The findings from this research have forged a theoretical framework of pastoral counselling for Samoans, presented as a continuum of traditional and contemporary understandings. Recommendations from this research propose pastoral counselling practices that cater for both traditionalists and contemporary Samoans.