The New Zealand Association of Counsellors is a professional association and not an agency where counsellors are employed, so as such, does not hold any counselling notes.

If the client is referring to the counselling notes that his/her counsellor took, the notes are held by the counsellor or the agency and can be requested by the client. If the client saw a counsellor privately, then the counsellor is considered the "agency" in this case. The counsellor notes of the sessions should include the date that the client was seen for that appointment.

The Privacy Act of 2020 and the Health (Retention of Health Information) Regulations 2020 both apply to counselling notes, and all notes must be kept by the counsellor or agency for 10 years after the last contact with the client. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (https://privacy.org.nz/) is also a great resource for questions in this area.

Currently in New Zealand there is no registration body for counsellors, unlike for psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses etc, who do have a registration process and on-going registration requirements. Therefore anyone can practice as a counsellor, with any level of qualifications or experience. This is not a decision made by NZAC, but relates to current legislation.

Most counsellors choose to belong to an association, like the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. The NZAC has a membership process, a Code of Ethics, a complaint process, and an on-going requirement for supervision and professional development. 

The public are advised to take into consideration a counsellor's qualifications, experience, and association membership, before deciding whether or not to go ahead with counselling with that person.

Provision is made for Complaints about all health and disability professionals to the Health and Disability Commissioner Office as the Code of Health and Disability Rights covers the provision of all health and disability services, those covered by the Health Practitioners Act (2002) and those which are self-regulated such as Counselling. The client may wish to raise the concerns to them. See https://www.hdc.org.nz/making-a-complaint/

Currently in New Zealand there is no registration body for counsellors, unlike for psychotherapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses etc, who do have a registration process and on-going registration requirements. Therefore anyone can practice as a counsellor, with any level of qualifications or experience.

Most counsellors choose to belong to an association, like the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. Our association has a membership process, a Code of Ethics, a complaint process, and an on-going requirement for supervision and professional development.

Counsellors could also be members of other professional organisations, as listed below. Most of these have membership lists online.

The NZAC Complaints process accepts written complaints into whether NZAC members have contravened the NZAC Code of Ethics in regards to:

  • Professional misconduct
  • Behaviour which adversely reflects on the NZAC, or on the profession of counselling

Please see Raising Concerns about a Counsellor in the Ethics Section of the NZAC website for more information.

Please note that requests for reimbursement of fees paid for counselling received are not a part of the NZAC complaints process, as NZAC is a professional organisation, and not the employer of the counsellors.

In the NZAC Code of Ethics, clause 5.6(b) states:

 "Counsellors shall ensure that fees are reasonable and commensurate with the service provided."

 NZAC Code of Ethics, clause 5.4 states:

 5.4 Clear Contracts

  • The terms on which counselling is provided shall be clear and reasonable. Contracts negotiated between counsellors and clients may include matters to do with availability, fees, cancelled appointments, the degree of confidentiality offered, handling of documentation, complaint procedures and other significant matters.
  • Counsellors shall establish with clients the aims or purposes of counselling and renegotiate them as necessary.

Counsellors should contract clearly with clients about the fees and understandings about payments, missed appointments etc.  Unless it has been negotiated that a fee is dependent on the outcome, a client is not entitled to a reimbursement if they are not happy with the outcome.

There is no obligation to return fees where the work does not achieve the desired outcomes; the Code does not suggest fees should be returned. A counselling fee is a fee for service, not for any particular goals and the counsellor would have entered into the work in good faith. If the counsellor has done due diligence, and has come to the conclusion that the service they provided was indeed commensurate with the fees charged, the counsellor would not be considered to be acting unethically.

The right to confidentiality is a cornerstone of counselling. A person of any age is more likely to be open about what they are experiencing if they know they have control over the information they are sharing. Openness is an important contributor to managing safety. The normal rule of thumb is that the younger the child, the more likely it is that a parent needs to be involved in knowing the issues so they can provide support at home. However, at times children do not want their issues known about at home. It is the counsellor's role to work out whether the child's fears are realistic and/or the involvement of parents unwarranted. A counsellor should use their professional judgement to rate the child's maturity to understand the implications of sharing or not sharing, also taking into account any other information to hand. Sometimes it is necessary to be patient in working towards informing others. Sometimes it is not relevant to inform anyone at all. Often children are ok about some information being shared, but not other pieces, so careful checking is necessary, with rehearsal of how things might be said. Even quite small children have things they don't want their parents to know about.

From Counselling and the Law: A New Zealand Guide by Robert Ludbrook (2012), "Children are entitled to the same rights to confidentiality as adults. The Health and Disability Commissioner's Guidelines in relation to the right to privacy and confidentiality do not differentiate between children and adults. The counsellor needs to start from the position that the child has a right to privacy and confidentiality."

The normal limitations to that confidentiality regarding safety of the child will apply. However the counsellor may choose to inform another professional or organisation if they have concerns rather than the parent.