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AUT leads the way in online counselling

AUT leads the way in online counselling

AUT launches a free online counselling service on Thursday, September 1 2005, a first among New Zealand universities.

Students and staff anywhere in New Zealand or the world can access the service via the Internet and counselling sessions take place by email, live chat or a combination of both.

AUT counsellor and Public Health/Psychosocial Studies lecturer Leon Tan developed the initiative after research completed by fellow staff member Amanda Lees in 2004 confirmed its feasibility.

“Online counselling offers many advantages over traditional face-to-face counselling, and it’s appropriate that AUT as an innovative university leads the way,” says Mr Tan.

Benefits include breaking down physical mobility and geographical barriers, providing flexible appointment times and ease of use for the hearing impaired.

“Many people find it easier to discuss significant issues without someone sitting in front of them,” says Mr Tan. “They can express their feelings openly online from the comfort of their own home or office.”

Online counselling offers more privacy than face-to-face counselling, he says, as there are fewer intermediaries such as receptionists. It also gives people a chance to reflect on their comments.

“Clients and counsellors have the luxury of thinking about their reactions and emotions before sending the email.”

Next year AUT will introduce two online counselling papers and become the first university in Australasia to offer these entirely via the Internet.

“These papers will be suitable for those training to work in mental health and the wider health sciences and existing health professionals,” says Mr Tan. “Also, the papers will be flexible enough to fit into any schedule.”

Online counselling and psychotherapy is gaining increasing acceptance from health professionals and new techniques, such as smoking cessation support via text messages, have proved successful.

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