Lynley Bilby

Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Counsellor: Cuts are risky

Jonathan Loan
Jonathan Loan

Likely cutbacks in talk therapy will put some people's mental health at risk, a professional counsellors' organisation believes.

Association of Counsellors president Jonathan Loan said it appeared decisions reported in last week's Herald on Sunday were made for cost reasons, rather than on good research data.

New Zealand's largest income protection insurer, Sovereign, says counselling session costs have jumped dramatically, and increased use of antidepressants might be more effective.

The ministries of justice and social development are also reducing the number of free sessions to people dealing with relationship breakdown and mental health issues.

Assess to free sessions for all couples considering separating will end, though judges can still refer those they believe could benefit.

This week it was also revealed three counsellors for rape victims have lost their jobs at a South Auckland service because of a funding crisis.

Said Loan: "The Government's decision to further cut access to counselling, or talk therapy, is alarming and flies in the face of research and guidelines proving the effectiveness of this treatment, on its own or alongside medication.

"[Justice Minister] Judith Collins acknowledges she has no idea of the outcomes of counselling through the Family Court. Yet she cuts funding for it."

College of Clinical Psychologists spokesman Grant Taylor said evidence showed talk therapy was as effective as drugs.

"There's some evidence it may even have a stronger effect and better than drugs," he said.

Taylor said it was good clinical practice to ask clients what would be most helpful for them.

Some would feel comfortable taking a drug while others would prefer to use a talk-based therapy or other tools.

• Last week, we suggested ACC could cut the ceiling of its counselling service for those suffering sexual abuse and assault trauma, from 16 sessions to as low as four.

However, that isn't the case. Up to 16 free sessions will still be available but changes mean there will be a review after about four sessions to assess progress. We apologise for the error.

- Herald on Sunday

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