More counsellors to boost mental health workforce


For the first time counsellors will be able to become accredited to work in publicly funded clinical roles to support the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders.

The Government and the board of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) have developed a new opt-in accreditation pathway so NZAC members can be employed as clinical staff in mental health and addiction roles.

“The mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is a priority for this Government as is addressing workforce shortages across the health and mental health system,” Health Minister Andrew Little said.

 “We’ve already added nearly 1000 FTE to frontline community based mental health and addiction services and this pathway is another way to get more boots on the ground to do the same.

 “Because counselling is a self-regulated profession, even highly-qualified counsellors haven’t been able to work in publicly funded clinical roles.

“But now counsellors who become accredited could work as Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPs), Health Coaches or publicly funded counsellors in their community. They could work at GP clinics, in Kaupapa Māori, Pacific, and Youth settings, as well as in schools.

“They could join a therapeutic multidisciplinary mental health team in a specialist hospital environment which could free up other specialists, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, to focus on the most acute cases and presentations,” Andrew Little said.

“Counsellors and the work they do is an important part of our therapeutic approach to mental wellbeing, and in many cases can prevent small issues from becoming big problems,” Andrew Little said.

“This scope of practice accreditation gives reassurance to those seeking help at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives that they’re in the best hands, and that the person providing support is accredited to do so safely.”

The NZAC has about 3000 members who can choose to opt-in at any time. The first tranche of accreditation could be completed within the next six weeks.


Notes for Editor:

Prescribed qualifications and requirements for Counselling in health settings

To meet the scope of practice for Te Whatu Ora- Health New Zealand, health and mental health provider contracts, counsellors must satisfy all of the following: 

  • Hold either a Bachelor of Counselling or a Master of Counselling from an NZAC-accredited programme in a New Zealand tertiary education institution, or a recognised overseas equivalent. 
  • Post-qualification, a counsellor must complete 300 counselling practice hours, and 30 hours of supervision with an NZAC registered supervisor over a minimum period of 18 months to become a full Member of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. 
  • Meet all NZAC initial and ongoing membership requirements, including continuing professional development and professional supervision, and hold a current Annual Practising Certificate. Puawananga Kaitiakitanga as a competency must be completed at least once every three years.
  • Pass police vetting on application for Counselling in Health Settings certification, and again every three years.