SectionsMauri Ora 2021 – the National Conference for School Counsellors Boosting the Pacific mental health and addiction workforce Building relationships with challenging adolescents is crucial Long-term pathway for transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing Te Tiriti audit forges future pathway for NZAC
Counselling Aotearoa August 2021
Mauri Ora 2021 – the National Conference for School Counsellors
We invite you to attend Mauri Ora 2021, the National Conference for School Counsellors. The Conference will be held at the Harbourside Function Venue in Wellington’s CBD from the 17th to the 19th of November 2021.
The conference will bring together 300 professionals working in schools throughout New Zealand to learn, collaborate, and network as a community.
The kaupapa for this year’s conference is Mauri Ora: strengthening wellbeing within Aotearoa, and supporting our young people and whānau to thrive.
Conference organiser Claire Ross, who works as a guidance counsellor at Hutt Valley High School, is especially excited for this year’s conference after the 2020 conference was postponed.
She believes the extra time to plan has allowed the team to create an even better experience.
“A team of us have been planning this for quite some time but one of the advantages of having such a long time to plan is that we have been able to secure some really amazing speakers and put together get a very special programme.”
Keynote speakers include:
- Dr Diana Kopua
Dr Kopua is a psychiatrist who has been awarded the prestigious Dr Maarire Goodall award for her contribution to Māori Health, and Mark Kopua, an esteemed historian, master carver, and moko artist who is celebrated for keeping ancient Māori knowledge, whakapapa and approaches to healing alive.
- Dr Denise Quinlan
Dr Quinlan is the co-director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience, adjunct senior fellow at the University of Canterbury, and a published academic researcher.
- Professor Meihana Durie
Deputy Vice Chancellor Māori at Massey University and Head of School, Te Pūtahi-a-Toi (School of Māori Knowledge) at Massey University, as well currently sitting on the Health Research Council’s Māori Health Research Committee.
- Dr Chris Bowden
Dr Bowden is a lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. Chris teaches courses that focus on human development, youth issues, child and adolescent mental health, and counselling.
- Jehan Casinader
As a journalist, author and mental health advocate, Jehan has helped hundreds of Kiwis share their vulnerable and deeply personal stories. As a survivor of depression and suicidality, Jehan will provide a challenging and enlightening perspective on the healing power of storytelling.
- Professor Marc Wilson
Interested in the application of social psychological theory to important social issues, Professor Wilson’s main research programme in the last five years has focused on understanding why some people, particularly young people, deliberately hurt themselves, without suicidal intent.
- Bernard Beckett and Anna Flaherty
Two drama teachers at Hutt Valley High School, they’ve spent the last four years developing the touring playsTwo Nights and Two Rooms, which were designed as conversation starters for the young people to think about intimacy and the issue of sexual consent.
Claire says the conference provides a good balance of networking, professional development, and support to counsellors over a wide range of important issues.
“The programme will cover current issues in school counselling such as supporting our rainbow community in schools, supporting Māori student wellbeing, equipping young people in Aotearoa to around issues such as drugs and alcohol, pornography, eating disorders, as well as ethics for school counsellors, and resilience for both young people, whānau and ourselves so we can continue to provide the support that is needed.”
Registrations can be purchased online at schoolcounsellorsconference2021.nz and also include one ticket to the conference networking function on Wednesday evening.
Boosting the Pacific mental health and addiction workforce
Efforts to grow the Pacific mental health and addiction workforce have been boosted with 133 students receiving scholarships through the Le Va Futures that Work programme.
The scholarships are available to people of Pacific descent who are enrolled in a relevant mental health or addiction-related qualification.
Le Va is a national non-governmental organisation that provides resources, training, education and tools tailored to meet the wellbeing needs of Pacific communities.
The Ministry of Health provides funding for Le Va to run the Futures that Work scholarships and support programme to grow the capacity and capability of the Pacific mental health and addiction workforce.
Le Va Chief Executive, Denise Kingi-‘Ulu’ave, said the scholarship presentation evening reflected the unique characteristics of the Pacific community, and demonstrated why it’s important to have people of Pacific descent delivering care.
“Delivering culturally-appropriate and responsive services means more than just having Pasifika at the frontline, it means developing a model of care that reflects the values and the philosophies of the Pacific,” she said.
“Services need to appreciate the important role of social and family connection, the relationship with the land and environment and the crucial factor of community.”
Scholarship recipient Laura Tongalea-Nolan is studying for a master’s programme in Health Practice, specialising in Mental Health and Addictions.
She told Pacific Media Network that having more Pacific people work in the area of addiction will lead to much improved results for Pasifika.
“There aren’t many of us practising in the addictions workforce and I think if we take an equity lens, we know that if we introduce more Pacific practitioners into the sector, that’s going to enhance engagement with our Pacific communities, which can only lead to better outcomes.”
Building relationships with challenging adolescents is crucial
Helping students as a school leaver, Kathryn Berkett came across a particularly intelligent student who was ‘failing’ school.
Convinced that the traditional system wasn’t right for some people, she set about helping others like that student and became an educational psychologist.
“As a school leaver, I worked with a number of wonderful young people at an alternative education centre in Petone, but one boy struck me the most,” she says.
“He was incredibly intelligent with maths and problem solving, in a very practical and self-taught way yet he was ‘failing’ at school. I realised the system was not working for young men like him.
“I wanted to study in an area that could help young people like him which led me to become an educational psychologist. Along the way I fell more in love with neuroscience, and then discovered I really enjoyed talking to groups, so that is where my current business grew from.”
Kathryn has a Master’s in Educational Psychology, and is also a certified Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics practitioner, a qualification she gained from the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas.
While Kathryn does not work with tamariki or rangitahi directly, she trains those who do.
Running her own business, Engage Training Ltd, she travels the country educating others on how environmental trauma can impact the development of the brain and how to best create an environment that can impact change.
“I believe to work with someone who has experienced trauma, you need to have a relationship,” she says.
“Relationships for these people take time and consistency. I don’t have that to offer, so I work with those who already have the relationships and that is where my expertise comes in.”
Kathryn says working with adolescents present different challenges due to the vast amount of brain development and growth that is occurring.
During adolescence, puberty signals the brain to upgrade, she says, just like a computer uploading new software, or when we renovate the house.
“Any upgrade requires a bit of disorganisation, reorganisation, and results in a bit of glitching. This is sort of what is happening for our adolescents.
“So much is being reorganised in their brains, they ‘glitch’. But just like uploading or renovating, if we turned off halfway through, or stopped supplying resources, the upgrade wouldn’t happen.
“This is what we need to understand with our adolescents. They are behaving the way they are, mainly because they have got so much going on.”
The changes that occur in the adolescent brain can have an effect on behaviour and it is important for counsellors to understand this to get the best results for young clients.
Kathryn says the two of the most important upgrades that are happening occur around facial expression recognition, and the ability to understand the perspective of others.
“These are two skills needed for empathy. So, if we are glitching in these areas, we can understand why some of our youth may act much less empathic at times, even when we know, in our heart, they are empathic.
“There are many other examples of where the brain changes impact behaviour. If you think ‘gosh this adolescent used to be like ... but now they seem ...’, you can sort of assume it is something to do with the glitching of adolescence.
“This is, of course, a very broad statement, but it is a good approximate guide.”
Kathryn stresses the importance of building solid relationships between adolescents and counsellors, but acknowledges gaining the trust of young people can be more difficult.
“The relationship must be built first. For some students, this will happen in the first few minutes. But for some, it could take months. However, without the basis of a relationship, very little will be achieved.
“This is even more important with adolescents. The way their brains are working can make them very difficult to connect with at times, and some of their signals can be off, due to them being quite mixed up in their thought process.”
Many school guidance counsellors will know that providing a space where an adolescent feels comfortable enough to talk can be quite challenging.
In which case, Kathryn suggests providing them with options for those who find face-to-face interactions daunting.
“Due to facial expression confusion, status issues that can increase in adolescence, and general over-sensitisation of lower brain regions, it can often really help to be in a space that allows parallel interactions, “she says.
“Face-to-face can be a bit daunting for everyone, especially adolescents. This is just a tip, not an instruction. Counsellors know their clients best, so they will be aware of what the best way to communicate is.”
Kathryn’s advice for those working with or parenting adolescents is to be more patient.
“Be patient and create a sense of safety for your kids. There is so much going on inside their heads, so many thought processes and changes of feelings and bodies, that it is a really overwhelming time. They will often need more of you in those early adolescent years so making sure you are available to them when they need you, without judgement, is important.”
Kathryn also emphasises the importance of guidance counsellors in schools, and believes becoming an active part of the school community is a great way to improve outcomes for the students.
“School guidance counsellors are absolutely essential, as long as they are able to create relationships. It is beneficial if they are able to have a presence around the school, know some of the youth before they need to come and see them, for example by taking part in sports days. Many of our youth will be hesitant to approach someone they have no former contact with. Relationships are the basis of the success, so ensuring our counsellors have this capacity in their schools is important.”
Long-term pathway for transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing
Unmet needs, growing inequities and long-term, systemic barriers; that was the assessment of the He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction (published in 2018).
The Ministry of Health has since run a national engagement process to gather feedback on the direction of the long-term pathway for transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental wellbeing.
In an email to stakeholders, Deputy Director-General Mental Health and Addiction Toni Gutschlag wrote that the pathway will set the high-level direction for the future system and service delivery.
“The basis of the pathway is founded on the mental wellbeing framework that was first published in Kia Kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Ora Aotearoa: COVID-19 Psychosocial and Mental Wellbeing Plan.”
During the March engagement, the Ministry sought feedback on that framework, and what people thought was needed to support transformation over the next six to 10 years.
Almost 150 submissions were received through an online survey from organisations across the health sector, or with an interest in mental health, with a further 14 written submissions.
The Ministry published a report, analysing all the feedback it received – see here.
Part of the report’s findings stated that: “For the pathway to be a success, many submissions made clear that goals and targets need to be monitored and measured regularly to ensure government accountability”.
“Innovative solutions are thought to require community-led development, a review of traditional procurement and protocols, and bold action that does not get caught up in bureaucracy.
“Ultimately, respondents believed that upending the status quo and enabling whānau, community and the system to engage flexibly and appropriately will lead to improved wellbeing outcomes for all.”
NZ Association of Counsellors’ President, Christine Macfarlane, was one of roughly 200 people to attend an online conversation as part of the engagement process.
She was encouraged to hear the Ministry wants to focus their attentions on Māori, empowering communities, lived experiences, workforce development. and the development of integrated services.
“I do recognise and acknowledge that this system overhaul needs serious consideration, dedication, and time to get right – not only for the mental health system but also for the health and disability review.
“However, the sector needs more information in order to help the Ministry fulfil its role in, and the potential of, transforming the system for the betterment of every New Zealander in need of great mental health support.”
Te Tiriti audit forges future pathway for NZAC
The first of a two-part Te Tiriti audit has been completed and submitted to the NZ Association of Counsellors for review, highlighting areas of improvement.
Examining the honouring of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by Te Roopu Kaiwhiriwhiri o Aotearoa (NZAC), the audit provides a detailed account of the commitments made by the Association across its key documentation.
The audit also encompasses NZAC leadership (roles and responsibilities), membership (roles and requirements), and other policies and procedures (including administrative and ethical guidelines, standards and position papers).
Overall, 63 documents were examined utilising content analysis, drawing upon an agreed audit framework of Te Tiriti provisions and corresponding Tiriti principles.
The audit’s findings highlight both explicit and implicit commitments made by NZAC, and areas that could be further strengthened and developed, according to the audit’s executive summary.
While “explicit commitments to fulfilling Te Tiriti responsibilities feature strongly across NZAC documentation”, the audit makes 75 specific recommendations across four main areas “in order to strengthen NZAC commitments to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi in NZAC documentation”.
“They provide practical guidance focusing on developments in leadership, membership and other key policies. An implementation plan consisting of several key projects is also proposed to help guide these developments,” the audit states.
“Given the focus on NZAC documentation, the findings of this report are therefore not an assessment of actual practice. The degree to which these Te Tiriti commitments are being met, and what aspirations there are as to what and how commitments could be further realised, will be explored in Audit report Part B: Te Pae Tāwhiti.”
NZ Association of Counsellors President, Christine Macfarlane, says the Association’s first objective – which is on the website – is to promote effective counselling services that are consistent with its obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“So, NZAC members have this as part of their philosophy and it is also in the Code of Ethics, that we actively support and understand the principals embodied in Te Tiriti.
“Therefore, the understanding and application of what this means for members will be part of an ongoing process for the Association. Doing so further encourages members to better engage with that part of our objective, which will benefit their work with clients.”
The long-awaited process has been underway since Dr Moana Jackson, a Māori lawyer specialising in Indigenous rights, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and constitutional issues, suggested the audit to help to evaluate how well NZAC was meeting its Te Tiriti responsibilities.
The NZAC Te Tiriti of Waitangi audit differs from most Te Tiriti o Waitangi audits, as the Association chose to do an internal audit rather than it being a requirement.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi audits are also most commonly done to ensure compliance to legislative requirements, whereas NZAC wished to explore how commitments to Te Tiriti o Waitangi itself are reflected by NZAC.
This includes a focus on both Te Tiriti provisions and Treaty principles.
According to the audit, NZAC can “be proud of its current commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi” and the significant measures it currently has in place.
“The advent of settler colonialism meant not only the shattering of the vision Te Tiriti o Waitangi promised for all living here in Aotearoa, but mass human rights atrocities and the entrenchment of injustices, with intergenerational effects that many of our communities continue to suffer today.
“Through its members’ work, NZAC commits to contributing to the healing of these injustices, drawing upon Te Tiriti o Waitangi as its guide. Explicit commitment to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a dominant feature of NZAC documentation.
“Structures and processes are in place to ensure the practice of good governance and the inclusion and engagement of Māori expertise to ensure governance align with Māori needs, priorities and aspirations.”
As counsellors are pivotal in supporting change, Christine believes the Association and its members can better support clients’ health and wellbeing through greater awareness of inequities, while actively growing their understanding of Te Tiriti.
“This is bigger than arming our members with another tool to help people; we’re supporting our members by giving them a Māori worldview.”
Among the recommendations the Association has received, several minor but meaningful amendments to the constitution have been proposed.
Christine says the beginning of this process is ensuring the Association’s language is consistent throughout the constitution – acknowledging the Te Reo version of Te Tiriti, rather than the English version due to their differences.
NZAC Te Ahi Kaa agrees, describing the changes as “strengthening efforts to move NZAC to more of a Te Tiriti-based structure” that will have benefits for members and those who seek counselling services.
This process will be extended to the Code of Ethics and other policies and documents, too, over the next year to ensure that that work is aligned.