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Kids need counselling for addictions

Kids need counselling for addictions

Drug and alcohol-addicted teens often go without the help they need because of the low number of school guidance counsellors available to support them.

“The Health Minister may feel that ‘targets’ are being met, but an awfully high number of addicted teenagers are not getting the preventative help they need because the support services are not there where they need to be,” says New Zealand Association of Counsellors spokesperson, Sarah Maindonald.

She says school guidance counsellors are often the first to see or hear about the early warning signs of addiction or substance abuse among teenagers.

The 2013 Education Review Office Report stated secondary school students sought out guidance counsellors before anyone else for drug and alcohol issues including parents.

“The school guidance counsellor is a first port of call because that's usually teenagers’ only exposure to, and access to, professional support services,” Ms Maindonald says.

“Students feel comfortable seeing the guidance counsellor because it’s on their terms and in their space.

“It’s non-threatening and therefore it’s a service that is much more likely to be used by teens who are struggling with a problem. Counsellors can then make specialist referrals for those at the higher end of the spectrum of drug and alcohol abuse.

“The problem is the ratio of guidance counsellors is such that one counsellor can be responsible for up to 1,000 students.

“Most counsellors are now seeing up to 50 students a week and that doesn’t leave much time at all to help these teens deal with their problems.”

Ms Maindonald says the formula for funding school guidance counsellors hasn’t been reviewed since the 1990s.

“Our youth are in desperate need of more counsellors to identify vulnerabilities and to provide critical support.

“The Ministry of Education needs to act now on the ERO recommendations concerning guidance counsellor staffing.

“A much more realistic staffing realistic formula is essential if these teens are to get the support they need.”


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