"Being able to see a counsellor is an unaffordable luxury for many," says Lawrence Prior, who worries lack of access to a trained counsellor could leave some people with nowhere to turn to.

Lawrence, himself a trained counsellor who worked for Lifeline for 15 years, has been nominated in the Community Spirit category of the Pride of New Zealand Awards for his dedication to helping those who can't afford counselling.

With student counsellors needing to have a set number of client hours in order to be fully trained, Lawrence saw a way to help them get the needed number of hours while helping people who couldn't afford a counsellor.

"I match the two together, I meet with potential clients first to get an understanding of what they need, then I match them with someone who will suit them in terms of experience and availability."

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The formula seems obvious, yet before Lawrence started doing this, the student counsellors were struggling to get their client hours completed and potential clients were struggling. "Even when someone is referred to a counsellor through the system, they may only be given a few hours, not enough to actually help them get through whatever they are facing. Or the counsellor they are referred to has a waiting list, doesn't have suitable appointment times or is otherwise unsuitable. This system means the client gets as many hours as they need, not what an agency has decided or their budget can afford."

Lawrence meets with all the people he provides clients to on a weekly basis for internal supervision and support. "Counselling isn't something you can do without a network of support and advice. You need to debrief, to talk things over at times."

The rooms they use are provided free of charge by the Taranaki Cathedral, "we aren't a religious organisation though, the counselling is completely secular." With no room charge, they aren't left with bills to pay while building their log of client hours. Keeping the service free is important to Lawrence.

Counselling is a need not a luxury for someone in crisis

We simply ask the client does something to give back to their community in some way to repay the favour. Often that person is already doing something, helping out somewhere, giving their time or something else, we just want them to recognise the value of what they receive and to give back in some way".


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Nominations for the 2015 awards have now closed.
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For more information on the awards go to the official website.