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New Zealand Online Therapy Gets 20,000 Registrations In COVID Year

New Zealanders are turning to online therapy in droves, with local non-profit Just a Thought—which provides free web-based CBT courses—reaching 20,000 registrations in just over a year.

“As a nation we have coped with a lot in the last few years, and now we’ve had to deal with the social, emotional and economic impacts of a global pandemic. It’s amazing to think our team have been able to be there, helping people through some of the hardest times this year,” says Just a Thought Clinical Lead Anna Elders. “Our ultimate goal is to reach as many Kiwis as we can and make sure they have mental health support.”

Just a Thought was launched on 12 September 2019. It provides web-based courses using CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to support people through anxiety, depression, and more recently, COVID-related wellbeing challenges.

The ongoing stresses as a result of COVID-19, as well as isolation during lockdown, accelerated the need for online therapy, says General Manager Charlie David. But one silver lining is that it has helped de-stigmatise mental health in New Zealand. “It’s more acceptable to ask people, ‘How are you doing? It’s broken down some of those barriers,” he says.

Ms Elders agrees that COVID-19 has put mental health on more people’s radars: “It’s becoming more normalised, and it’s more accepted that we all struggle with our mental health from time to time.

“CBT teaches us skills that can be used throughout life when dealing with stressful situations—and Just a Thought introduces an accessible, easy way to learn those skills in a structured framework.”

Online therapy also makes mental health support more accessible than ever before, since the tool can be used on any device. There are no waiting lists, and it can be accessed anywhere for free.

“Mental health support becomes a luxury item when ordinary New Zealanders can’t afford to see a psychologist,’ says Mr David. ‘We believe everyone has the right to good mental wellbeing. This is a way we can support the greater health sector in New Zealand.’

“As hard as our health services are working, it’s very difficult to provide face-to-face support for all the New Zealanders that need it, and there are long waiting lists,” adds Ms Elders. ‘”For some people, Just a Thought will be a first step they can do while waiting for more traditional support, and it also gives people privacy and choice.”

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