Counselling Psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand-What Is It, Where Has It Come from, and Where Might It Go?

By Farrell, Bill | New Zealand Journal of Psychology, November 2013 | Go to article overview

Counselling Psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand-What Is It, Where Has It Come from, and Where Might It Go?


Farrell, Bill, New Zealand Journal of Psychology


In this paper, I want to look at and think about the emergence of counselling psychology as a practice tradition in Aoteaora/New Zealand, the origins of that tradition, and its potential to contribute and take us forward. Here and elsewhere in this paper I will at times be writing in the first person. This is partly to make the point that this is an intellectual tradition in which subjectivity (including intersubjectivity) is central. It is also because I will be referring to aspects of my own experience.

The usual argument for the convention of writing in the third person is that it contributes to achieving the major aim of objectivity. However, in fields where the foci of attention include the subjective and intersubjective experience of the participants (which includes the field of the counselling psychologist), it can be hard to justify the privileging of distance from this experience. Sufficient and variable distance is needed to allow a range of reflections on subjective and intersubjective experience, but making this distance permanently equal to that required to permit objectivity may lessen, obscure or miss altogether the knowledge that may be contained in that experience. In my view, it is hard to better the argument of Wolcott (1990, p. 19) in relation to the reporting of qualitative research,

   The more critical the observer's
   role and subjective assessment,
   the more critical to have that
   acknowledged in the reporting.

From a formal and recent perspective, the New Zealand Psychological Society's Institute of Counselling Psychology was formed in September 2003, as a successor to the Society's former Counselling Division. Aotearoa/New Zealand's first training in counselling psychology, at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), admitted its first students in 2006. An application to the Psychologists Board for a Counselling Psychologist Scope of Practice was approved in 2010, and the AUT training received Psychologists Board Approval in 2011. At the time of writing, the Psychologists Board has recently begun a consultation on the Draft Competencies for the Counselling Psychologist Scope of Practice under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, 2003 (New Zealand Psychologists Board, 2012).

Counselling psychology--what is it?

In a sense it is problematic to separate (as I am attempting to do in this paper) what something is from where it has come from, but I will do so now as a way of beginning, and do the re-joining later, not least by including and where is it after I reach the issue of where has it come from. One place to start looking for an answer to this question what is counselling psychology is in the formal masthead definitions employed by professional bodies. The American Psychological Association's Division of Counseling Psychology (Division 17--The Society of Counseling Psychology) defines counseling psychology thus:

Counseling psychology is a psychological specialty that facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Through the integration of theory, research, and practice, and with a sensitivity to multicultural issues, this specialty encompasses a broad range of practices that help people improve their well-being, alleviate distress and maladjustment, resolve crises, and increase their ability to live more highly functioning lives. Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders (American Psychological Association, 2012).

The British Psychological Society's Division of Counselling Psychology has the following to offer:

Counselling psychology has developed as a branch of professional psychological practice strongly influenced by human science research as well as the principal psychotherapeutic traditions. …

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