SectionsNZAC's Trial Concerns Taken Onboard, Collaborating with Ministries NZAC Welcomes Independent Panel's Recognition of Counselling's Importance Prisons in Dire Need of ACC-Registered Counsellors Language used a Powerful, Mana-Enhancing Counselling Tool Part 2: The Future of the Counselling Profession and NZAC's role in it
Counselling Aotearoa April, 2019
NZAC's Trial Concerns Taken Onboard, Collaborating with Ministries
Thanks to the NZ Association of Counsellors’ communication with Homecare Medical, the digital health service is considering concerns raised in order to amend to its Mental Health Advice Line Trial material.
In February, the NZAC School Guidance Counsellor Advisory Group was made aware of a trial being undertaken in Hawke’s Bay.
While there appeared to have been no dialogue with existing School Guidance Counsellors or pastoral care teams in the area before this advice line was set up, NZAC sought information.
In recent weeks, meetings were held with the Ministries of Health and Education to discuss the material being circulated.
NZAC recommended some amendments be made to help make the role of the school guidance counsellor more prominent.
Additionally, approaches were suggested where schools don’t have a guidance counsellor.
Another point raised was how and why teachers should follow existing school protocol for managing “at risk” children – as per the requirement under the Vulnerable Children’s Act.
The Ministries received NZAC’s concerns well, and said their intentions weren’t to marginalise school guidance counsellors.
They recognise how important SGCs are in schools’ pastoral care environment, especially as more and more younger people present with mental health issues.
In addition, they said they were happy to collaborate and work with NZAC in providing high-quality support and care for young New Zealanders.
The Ministries and Homecare Medical will review the advice line material with NZAC’s views in mind, and send a new version for the Association to review.
Once all parties are happy, NZAC will seek a further meeting to discuss how this new content will be communicated to schools.
NZAC Welcomes Independent Panel's Recognition of Counselling's Importance
Echoed throughout the country, during the Family Justice Service Independent Panel’s first public consultation, were requests to reinstate pre-court counselling.
In their second document,Strengthening the family justice system, the Panel said they heard that “the removal of counselling has had a significant and negative effect”.
Their initial thoughts on a proposed direction for a family court change makes for welcoming reading, the NZ Association of Counsellors says.
NZAC member and Family Dispute Resolution mediator Ellen Altshuler says she is pleased the Panel has recognised the importance of counselling.
“Clearly, they have heard the voice of people who are involved with family court.”
With the removal of counselling from the family court, Ms Altshuler says parents often focused on their own strong emotions rather than their children’s needs.
While the Panel are considering whether counselling should be available earlier in the Family Justice Service, their view is that it should be different from the service provided prior to the 2014 family court reforms.
Instead, they’re proposing three types of state-funded counselling be available:
- counselling to help people deal with emotions that are stopping them from dealing with issues of care, contact and guardianship
- more in-depth therapeutic or behavioural family therapy-type counselling for complex court cases about parenting or guardianship issues
- counselling to improve the parenting relationship or help people comply with an order (as is the case currently).
A step in the right direction, it may however, prove disappointing for many counsellors who would like to see funding for parental reconciliation, Ms Altshuler says.
“I can understand that couples reconciling might be outside the gambit of the family court if they don’t have children.
“But if they do have children, then that service would support families to stay together or do whatever’s best for the children. I think the NZAC membership will be disappointed that they have drawn that line.
“However, my second response is that counsellors are really pleased that the Panel see the importance of bringing counselling back.”
Ms Altshuler is also pleased with the Panel’s targeted approach regarding the second variant of counselling, delivered by accredited counsellors.
There is a place for the third type, too she says. However, what is missing is counselling for children.
“There are parents who I meet for mediation that agree their child suffers from some form of stress or anguish due to their actions,” Ms Altshuler says.
“What they’re in disagreement about is who is at fault and what solution the is. So, there would be situations like that where I’d like to refer their children for counselling.”
The Panel’s focus was to help parents resolve guardian disputes and improve parenting relationships and behaviours, despite children’s involvement in family therapy.
“We think this should be the government’s main focus and will also be of greatest benefit to children.”
However, the issue of waiving confidentiality when parties are directed by the court to therapeutic intervention isn’t as clear cut.
Confidentiality is a key counselling ingredient and NZAC would recommend it not be waived.
In saying that, Ms Altshuler believes a discussion would be useful around the parameters for the court’s requirement of said information when reporting back.
“We don’t think it’s necessary to waive all confidentiality in order to report on issues and outcomes because counsellors currently, provide outcome reports in many other areas, like ACC or EAP services.”
With the closing of the second round of submissions on March 1, the Panel will report to Minister of Justice Andrew Little by May 31.
Prisons in Dire Need of ACC-Registered Counsellors
Demand for mental health services are increasing across a variety of New Zealand sectors, none more so than in prisons.
One who knows this first hand is NZ Association of Counsellors Executive member Jenny Manuera – a Ngāti Kahu iwi affiliate.
As an ACC specialist with more than 20 years’ counselling experience who works with prisoners across the country, she says people are clamouring for support.
“The trend that I’m seeing is that demand has become overwhelmingly huge; the waiting list continues to grow and there just aren’t enough ACC-specialised counsellors to address it.
“[Prisoners] who wait on these lists, they deteriorate, and their behaviour gets worse.
“This then impacts the officers in the units because they’re not coping – [prisoners] usually display a lot of anger because they feel like there is no one to support them.”
Compounding the long waiting lists is prisoners’ awareness of the support they are entitled to through ACC, meaning more are asking of what they’re entitled to, Ms Manuera says.
“They are all screaming out for counsellors – the need has doubled, tripled, quadrupled to see ACC counsellors.”
Despite the greater demand, counsellors specialising in ACC-related services are not forthcoming, Ms Manuera says.
So, one component to addressing this is to encourage more counsellors into this line of work through korero with students studying at various educational institutions.
It’s something Ms Manuera does often, demystifying the pathway before finding ways to better equip counsellors with the required skillset.
However, the pathway to becoming an ACC counsellor is somewhat complicated – it’s a topic of discussion Ms Manuera has spoken to ACC about numerous times over the past six months.
“We’ve had loads of robust conversations since last year around the number of available counsellors.
“ACC has decided there aren’t enough providers (counsellors), therefore they’ve decided to allow provisional counsellors and intern students to do this work.
“What we we’re probably a little bit pleased with is that there are very strict and tight provisions around those people, which is strictly a case-by-case basis.”
The alternative, she says, is to simplify the pathway for counsellors who would like to register with ACC.
“Right now, there are just over 600 ACC counsellors in the country. But if the pathway is simplified, more people can jump on the waka to provide more high-quality counselling to those who need them.
“The other problem I’d like to see addressed is knowing how many of those counsellors are Māori. Māori inmates often want to speak with Māori counsellors. But the ACC registration process doesn’t specify what ethnicity a counsellor is and therefore no one knows how many [ACC registered] Māori counsellors there are.”
Language used a Powerful, Mana-Enhancing Counselling Tool
Most people understand the power of language; its ability to convey powerful messages and – often – the capacity to denigrate.
So, it is ever-more important that counsellors are vigilant with their use of words – both in New Zealand English and Te Reo Māori, NZ Association of Counsellors Te Ahi Kaa Gay Puketapu-Andrews says.
Her observation follows a recent professional development day featuring Keri Opai of Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui – a national centre of evidence-based workforce development for the mental health, addiction and disability sectors in New Zealand.
Some may have heard of his work – Te Reo Hāpai, the language of enrichment – which he launched during Matariki week in 2017.
The new Māori glossary contains 200 words, terms and whakataukī (proverbs), designed to help increase people’s knowledge of the mental health, addiction and disability sectors.
The concept aims to engineer a different way of thinking about a person’s condition, Ms Puketapu-Andrews says.
“Rather than being pathologizing, these words and terms are mana-enhancing.
“In my view, and others, it is very powerful stuff because there is a potential there to change how people are viewed and then interacted with.”
She says instead of viewing someone living with autism as having a disorder, for example, Mr Opai coined the term Takiwātanga – somebody who is in their own time and space.
“So, it becomes a way of viewing somebody that acknowledges their unique way of being in the world, rather than what is considered ‘wrong’.
“And then that will inform the way that we then interact and develop treatment with that person. And that’s what counselling should be about.”
While it may be a similar approach to strength-based counselling, Ms Puketapu-Andrews says it can supplement that particular modality.
This is predominantly so for Māori counsellors, she says, because it supports their world view and fits with NZAC’s Puawananga Kaitiakitanga.
Additionally, it’s a relatable method for all ethnicities, which is why some counsellors would benefit from up-skilling in this area.
“There is a greater need for this type of [strength-based] counselling.
“I think we have, even though there is a lot of strength work and it has been around a long time, become a bit too focussed on the deficit or the disorder of a person, the ‘what’s wrong’ aspects.
“And that takes you down a different pathway because when you focus on the deficits and not the strengths, then you presume that a person needs something to address that.
“When you build up and focus on somebody’s mana, that person is going to get a better outcome.”
Part 2: The Future of the Counselling Profession and NZAC's role in it
In the second of a new six-part series exploring the future of New Zealand’s counselling profession, Chris Williamson of the NZ Association of Counsellor reflects on the NZAC Educations Standards and why they will lift the profession.
The advent of the Counsellor Education Standards has lifted the industry’s professionalism and will continue to ensure those coming through tertiary pathways will benefit all counsellors.
So says Chris Williamson, Head of the College of Community Development and Personal Well Being at Otago Polytechnic.
A counsellor with more than 20 years’ experience under his belt, and former NZ Association of Counsellors National Executive member, he played a role in the standards’ development.
“It was about resurrecting, in some ways, an old process where NZAC had a programme approval process.
“Because, for a variety of historical reasons, a lot of the counselling programmes on offer at the time hadn’t been involved in that process.
“Whereas now, the tertiary education providers are signed up to the Education Standards.”
The standards have had a profound impact on the counselling profession, he says.
A clear set of standards from the professional body, that sets the level of requirements, ensures NZAC remains a leader in providing high-level outcomes. “From the education side it gives us a very clear set of requirements to drive program delivery and quality”.
It also “plugged gaps” NZAC had when deciding whether to register under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act or utilise a self-regulatory regime.
“One of the gaps was in the Continuing Professional Development area, but the other significant gap was in the Education Standards, so that was another driving factor.
“If we are to put ourselves forward as a professional body, which we are, then we needed to be demonstrating the same level of rigor that the HPCA has.
“Both of those issues have now been resolved.”
Looking forward, Mr Williamsons believes that the Standards are well-placed to move with changing and challenging times.
“I think this is an interesting time, I think there is a challenge that needs to be faced by counselling about moving from the traditional model to counsellors to becoming more involved in the community and organisations that we are working in. For example having a greater role of delivering professional development for other staff.
“Similar issues with technology; it can strengthen the counselling industry, but it also brings problems.
“So, there are questions around how we’re going to deal with those complexities at an earlier stage – in the education process. Thanks to the Standards’ five-year review process, we can consult the industry to ensure that what we’re doing is meeting the demands and expectations.”