FAQs About Counselling

Just google counsellors ‘near me’ and you should get a full list of counsellors who are registered with the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) - (also known as Counselling Aotearoa), and who work close to you.  Alternatively search here: Search for an NZAC Counsellor

It pays to always look for a counsellor who’s registered with NZAC/Counselling Aotearoa.  This is a specific and advanced professional development category that not all counsellors meet.  Counsellors who are registered with NZAC are appropriately trained and qualified, have to undergo regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to retain their registration with NZAC and are subject to our meticulous ethics and complaints process.  Other factors to think about are cost, naturally, and whether you feel comfortable talking to this person.  Also think about what you want to get out of counselling and have a chat to the counsellor about that before committing to any sessions. 

NZAC registered Counsellors are required to meet extremely high standards of training, be appropriately qualified, undergo regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and are subject to our robust ethics and complaints process.  This helps to ensure a thoroughly professional service to you in a safe, respectful, inclusive and effective environment.

There is a lot of similarity between counselling and psychotherapy; they are both “talking therapies”.  Psychotherapy helps you to understand yourself by exploring how your early life experiences and personality affect your current thoughts, feelings, relationships and behaviour.  Counselling can also include these aspects, but it will focus on your difficulties and concerns and help you develop more satisfying and resourceful ways of living.

Think of a counsellor like your GP.  Even though you may not have any particular health issues, it’s good to have regular check ups with your GP.  It’s the same with seeing a counsellor – it’s having a check up for your emotional health – whether it’s stress, anxiety or something else, it’s just as important.

Not anymore.  The fact that there are so many counsellors practicing these days shows just how much demand there is for our services.  Life can be tough – there are so many day-to-day pressures and stresses, and getting support is the most important thing. 

Counselling helps you explore and manage your emotions, thoughts and behaviour.  You might be feeling anxious or depressed, or simply worried/stressed, about things, including work, relationship breakdown, the kids (or the parents!), the death of a loved one, bad things that have happened to you in the past, or worries about what might happen in the future – anything that causes you emotional upset or that challenges your happiness and sense of self-worth.  Counselling helps you to address those challenges, whatever they are, and find ways of dealing with them more positively.  It aims to give you a new perspective on your life and help you to develop new ways of thinking and living.

It is sometimes difficult to know how many sessions will be required.  It depends on the complexity of the issues you want to work on and what you want to achieve for yourself.  Discuss this with your counsellor and review it with them when you need to.  

It’s different for everyone.  But most people say they begin to feel better just by starting the counselling process.  Just taking that first step of talking freely with someone who’s neutral and non-judgemental, and who wants to, and is trained to, help often makes people feel better.  But actually putting a timeframe on when you’ll finally ‘feel OK’ is for you to determine  It depends on a range of factors, but you should feel you are making progress after the first few sessions.

We can very confidently say that counselling that’s provided by a highly trained and qualified professional, like counsellors who are registered with NZAC, provides beneficial results for most people, most of the time, but it is a gradual process that will require work and time on the part of the person receiving the counselling.

Seeing a counsellor is just like seeing any other health professional; in order to help you they need to know exactly what’s wrong.  In this case, what’s wrong is emotional rather than physical but the same rules apply.  So, counselling works best when you’re ready to participate, share honestly and openly about the issues you are dealing with, and when you and your counsellor are clear and realistic about your therapy goals.  

Most likely, Yes, you may need to talk about difficult things depending on the issues and challenges you want to address however you will not be ‘pushed’ into sharing if you don’t want to.  it does pay to remember though that counselling works best when you have the courage to share openly and honestly – no one’s going to judge you!  They just want to help and support you.  And remember, too, your NZAC registered counsellor is specially trained to ensure you have a safe, respectful, accepting and inclusive environment.  

We know from research that it’s the relationship between the client and the counsellor that is the most important thing in successful counselling; it’s more important than the ‘type’ of counselling used.  We call this the ‘modality’.  So, ensure you are comfortable with the counsellor you choose, and feel confident that you will be able to share with him or her openly and honestly.  Having said that, most counsellors use a range of different ‘modalities’ or ways of working, and counsellors who are registered with NZAC are trained to find the way that works best for each client.  

Discuss your concerns with your counsellor first, if you’re able to, or simply look for another counsellor.  Your emotional wellbeing is paramount and all our counsellors understand that.  They won’t take offence if you feel you need to work with someone else.  The most  important thing is that you feel comfortable with your counsellor, so trust your instincts. 

Absolutely.  The whole process is all about making you feel safe and comfortable and if you feel like having a support person with you, by all means bring one.  Whatever it takes to help you. This will be discussed with your counsellor before the session in question.

Counsellors don’t prescribe medication. Medication is sometimes useful in conjunction with counselling, for example in some cases of depression or anxiety, but you’d need to seek advice from your counsellor on that and discuss medication issues with your GP.

Your doctor or psychiatrist may indeed suggest medication for your depression or anxiety.  For many people, the right medication can be very helpful. But keep in mind that while the medication can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, they won’t fix whatever might be going on in your life that might be affecting your mood.  Research shows that in the first instance the best treatment for mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety is therapy.  Over a period of a few months, therapy can help you generate a positive, long term and consistent mood change.  Nor are you likely to experience any adverse side-effects which can be a problem with medication.

Each counsellor sets their own fees.  Don’t be afraid to ask about this upfront.  You may qualify for funding help so ask what’s available in your area.  

Yes, there is funding available through ACC, Work and Income and some PHOs and GPs.  It would pay  to ask your counsellor or GP if any of these apply to you and if so, how best to access those schemes.

In the very unlikely event that happens we suggest you change counsellors.  Remember, it’s very important you feel safe and respected by your counsellor.  NZAC has a rigorous code of ethics and if you feel your counsellor has breached these by acting inappropriately or unprofessionally you can send your complaint to our Ethics Secretary at ethicssecretary@nzac.org.nz, or write to us at PO Box 25-287, Wellington 6140.  

The different types of 'talk therapies' commonly used today

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a short-term form of treatment directed at present-time issues and based on the idea that the way you think and feel affects the way you behave. The focus is on problem solving, and the goal is to change your thought patterns in order to change your response to difficult situations. A CBT approach can be applied to a wide range of mental health issues and conditions.

 Person-centred therapy uses a non-authoritative approach that allows clients to take more of a lead in discussions so that, in the process, they will discover their own solutions. The therapist acts as a compassionate facilitator, listening without judgment and acknowledging the client’s experience. This client-focused process facilitates self-discovery, self-acceptance, and provides a means toward healing and positive growth.

Narrative therapy views people as separate from their problems. This allows clients to get some distance from the issue to see how it might actually be helping them, or protecting them, more than it is hurting them. With this new perspective, individuals feel more empowered to make changes in their thought patterns and behaviour and “rewrite” their life story for a future that reflects who they are, what they are capable of, and what their purpose is, separate from their problems.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas. First, mindfulness focuses on improving an individual's ability to accept and be present in the current moment. Second, distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotion, rather than trying to escape from it. Third, emotional regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.  Fourth, interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships

Emotionally-Focused Therapy (EFT) is a short-term form of therapy that focuses on adult relationships and attachment. The therapist and clients look at patterns in the relationship and take steps to create a more secure bond and develop more trust to move the relationship in a healthier, more positive direction. Couples and families in distress can benefit from EFT and learn to improve their relationships. Often, clients are dealing with anger, fear and loss of trust, or a sense of betrayal in their relationship. EFT focuses on the present time to makes changes in the here and now.  Clients will learn new ways to listen and stay attuned to another’s emotions and discover more productive ways to respond to emotional situations.

Motivational Interviewing is often used to address addiction and the management of physical health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. This intervention helps people become motivated to change the behaviours that are preventing them from making healthier choices. It can also prepare individuals for further, more specific types of therapies. In a supportive manner, a motivational interviewer encourages clients to talk about their need for change and their own reasons for wanting to change. The role of the interviewer is mainly to evoke a conversation about change and commitment.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented approach that stems from traditional behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. With this understanding, clients begin to accept their issues and hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behaviour, regardless of what is going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.

Attachment-Based Therapy is a brief, process-oriented form of counselling. The client-therapist relationship is based on developing or rebuilding trust and centres on expressing emotions. An attachment-based approach to therapy looks at the connection between an infant’s early attachment experiences with primary caregivers, usually with parents and the infant’s ability to develop normally and ultimately form healthy emotional and physical relationships as an adult. Attachment-based therapy aims to build or rebuild a trusting, supportive relationship that will help with a person to develop resilience and increase mental and emotional wellness.

Family Systems Therapy helps individuals resolve their problems in the context of their family units, where many issues are likely to begin. Each family member works together with the others to better understand their group dynamic and how their individual actions affect each other and the family unit as a whole. One of the most important premises of family systems therapy is that what happens to one member of a family happens to everyone in the family.

Solution-Focused Therapy is unlike other more traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyse problems, pathology and past life events.  Solution-focused therapy concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate support and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.

Integrative Therapy is a form of counselling that combines different therapeutic tools and approaches to fit the needs of the individual client. With an understanding of normal human development, an integrative therapist modifies standard treatments to fill in development gaps that affect each client in different ways. By combining elements drawn from different schools of psychological theory and research, integrative therapy becomes a more flexible and inclusive approach to treatment than more traditional, singular forms of therapy.

Strength-Based Therapy is a type of positive counselling that focuses more on your internal strengths and resourcefulness, and less on weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings. This focus sets up a positive mindset that helps you build on you best qualities, find your strengths, improve resilience and change worldview to one that is more positive. A positive attitude, in turn, can help your expectations of yourself and others become more reasonable.

Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of couples counselling that helps those in committed relationships work out their misunderstandings, reduce conflict, and rediscover ways to bond, communicate, and find common ground. Much of the work in Imago workshops and private therapy involves learning to recognize how early childhood relationship experiences affect how we communicate, behave, and respond to others in adult relationships.

Humanistic Therapy is a positive approach to counselling that focuses on a person’s individual nature, rather than categorizing groups of people with similar characteristics as having the same problems. Humanistic therapy looks at the whole person, not only from the therapist’s view but from the viewpoint of individuals observing their own behaviour. The emphasis is on a person’s positive traits and behaviours, and the ability to use their personal instincts to find wisdom, growth, healing, and fulfilment within themselves.

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) helps those who struggle with the shame and self-criticism that can result from early experiences of abuse or neglect. CFT teaches clients to cultivate skills in compassion and self-compassion, which can help regulate mood and lead to feelings of safety, self-acceptance, and comfort. CFT has been shown to effectively treat long-term emotional problems by addressing patterns of shame and self-criticism, which can significantly contribute to mental health issues. 

Art Therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, colouring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art. With the guidance of a credentialed art therapist, clients can "decode" the nonverbal messages, symbols, and metaphors often found in these art forms, which should lead to a better understanding of their feelings and behaviour so they can move on to resolve deeper issues.

Play Therapy is a therapeutic approach primarily used to help children explore their lives and freely express repressed thoughts and emotions through play. Therapeutic play normally takes place in a safe, comfortable playroom, where very few rules or limits are imposed on the child, encouraging free expression and allowing the therapist to observe the child’s choices, decisions, and play style. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in healthier ways, become more respectful and empathetic, and discover new and more positive ways to solve problems.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is an approach to counselling that identifies and addresses multiple sub-personalities or families within each person’s mental system. These sub-personalities consist of wounded parts and painful emotions such as anger and shame, and parts that try to control and protect the person from the pain of the wounded parts. The sub-personalities are often in conflict with each other and with one’s core Self, a concept that describes the confident, compassionate, whole person that is at the core of every individual. IFS therapy is used to treat individuals, couples, and families. It is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to be effective for treating a variety of conditions and their symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, phobias, panic, and physical health conditions as well as improving general functioning and well-being.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a unique, non-traditional form of counselling designed to diminish negative feelings associated with memories of traumatic events. Unlike most forms of talk therapy, EMDR focuses less on the traumatic event itself and more on the disturbing emotions and symptoms that result from the event. Treatment includes a hand motion technique used by the therapist to guide the client’s eye movements from side to side, similar to watching a pendulum swing. The purpose of this technique is to help you fully process your negative feelings and begin to recognize that you no longer need to hold on to some of them.