New counselling research a first for NZ
In a first for New Zealand, the Counsellors Association will determine the beneficial impacts of counselling among secondary school students.
The announcement of the 18-month research comes off the back of Kiwis’ week-long efforts to educate and raise awareness about their mental health.
“It’s really exciting to undertake a project that will quantify the value of professional counselling,” says NZ Association of Counsellors president, Bev Weber.
“We are optimistic that the results will go a long way towards building confidence within the education sector and within government in the techniques that counsellors who are registered with NZAC use with at-risk students every day.”
Using a methodology approved by the Ministry of Education, which has co-funded the research, NZAC’s own researchers will interview 2000 students from approximately 20 secondary schools.
The project will run in the first half of next year with preliminary results expected by August/September. The research’s findings should be known by the end of 2019.
Ms Weber says the Association knows early intervention is extremely valuable in cases where young people feel emotionally unwell.
But she knows it’s important to supplement continued calls for increased use of counselling in schools with evidence.
Minister of Education, Hon Chris Hipkins, acknowledged the research in a letter to NZAC, saying that he was enthused by the NZAC and the ministry’s partnership to address the increasing complexity and prevalence of issues facing young people.
“This research may be used to support decisions around the provision of school-based counselling,” he said.
NZAC has long fought for counsellor student ratios to be decreased to 1:400, as some are currently dealing with up to 1,000 secondary students, hence the need for earlier intervention.
While counsellors aren’t utilised in primary and intermediate schools, increasing numbers of children are presenting with issues at an earlier age.
Programmes like the Green Party’s free counselling for under 25-year-olds should be supported and immediately implemented, but Ms Weber says school guidance counselling can be a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than be an ambulance at the bottom.
“We hope the research will demonstrate how valuable an investment school guidance counselling is to the decision-makers and why this resource needs further and greater support.”