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ACC shuts the door on Counsellors

>From the New Zealand Association of Counsellors
23 October 2009

ACC shuts the door on Counsellors

As part of their new, and final, “Clinical Pathway” for Sexual Abuse claims, published on Monday, ACC is forcing survivors of sexual abuse to consult with Psychiatrists or Clinical Psychologists in order to be given a psychiatric diagnosis. This flies in the face of public outcry at this re-victimisation of victims of sexual crimes. ACC is saying that they have legal advice that all claims must have a diagnosis from the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) and that only people that have been trained at a tertiary level in the use of this manual will be able to assess claims for “mental injury” from sexual abuse. This leaves out all counsellors who are currently working with survivors towards recovery. Whilst some GPs and psychotherapists may be able assess claims they will only be allowed to do so if they have had tertiary training in the American method. Pacific understandings of human psychology are being ignored and we are being pulled into the US mainstream. We might as well be a state of the US. This is another example of the Americanisation of our culture, the favouring of particular groups of clinicians and the restriction of consumers’ choice.

ACC are saying that this new system is necessary because of legal advice. This legal advice is questionable and surely against the intentions of Parliament when it specifically included Sexual Crimes in ACC legislation. Parliament did not specify psychiatric diagnosis as the mental injury, only that there had to be a “clinically significant behavioural, cognitive, or psychological dysfunction”. This is not the same as an American diagnosis; it is a description of impairment.

Eric Medcalf, Convenor of the Ethics Committee of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors says that this is inhumane and will have the effect of driving away sexual abuse survivors and, in essence, condoning the abusers’ beliefs that sexual abuse is not harmful. “This is an Abuser’s Charter”, he says. “New Zealand has led the world in providing high quality therapy for sexual abuse survivors and in doing so has underlined the fact that sexual abuse is psychologically harmful” Do ACC really believe that someone can be abused and not suffer a level of psychological harm? ACC claim statistics are a useful measure of the incidence of sexual abuse in our society. Survivors do no need to go through the process of laying legal charges and have therefore felt more able to seek the help they need. Putting barriers in the way is going to deter people and therefore make it seem as if abuse isn’t the problem that we know it is.


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