Thursday, April 25, 2024

New mental health accreditation is good thinking

Counsellors are now able to become accredited to work in publicly-funded clinical roles for the first time, as the Government moves to better support the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders.

The Government and the board of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) have developed a new opt-in accreditation pathway, allowing NZCA members to be employed as clinical staff in mental health and addiction roles.

“The mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is a priority for this Government as is addressing workforce shortages across the health and mental health system,” said Health Minister, Andrew Little.

“We’ve already added nearly 1000 FTE to frontline community based mental health and addiction services and this pathway is another way to get more boots on the ground to do the same.

“Because counselling is a self-regulated profession, even highly-qualified counsellors haven’t been able to work in publicly funded clinical roles.”

Under the new arrangement, accredited counsellors could work as Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPs), Health Coaches or publicly-funded counsellors in their community; at GP clinics, in Kaupapa Māori, Pacific, and Youth settings, as well as in schools.

“They could join a therapeutic multidisciplinary mental health team in a specialist hospital environment which could free up other specialists, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, to focus on the most acute cases and presentations,” Mr Little said.

“Counsellors and the work they do is an important part of our therapeutic approach to mental wellbeing, and in many cases can prevent small issues from becoming big problems.

“This scope of practice accreditation gives reassurance to those seeking help at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives that they’re in the best hands, and that the person providing support is accredited to do so safely,” he said.

The Minister said NZAC had around 3,000 members who can choose to opt-in at any time. The first tranche of accreditation could be completed within the next six weeks, he said.

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