Counsellors call for more funding as demand spikes during COVID-19 pandemic

The New Zealand's Counsellors Association is calling on the Government for more funding amid a spike in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Christine Macfarlane told The AM Show on Thursday that people across New Zealand from all age groups are in need of help for many reasons exacerbated by the pandemic.

"Relationship stresses, addiction, more people seeking support around substance abuse, anxiety, low mood, increased suicidal thoughts," Macfarlane said.

"Lots [of stress] around jobs and security and wondering about whether there's going to be job loss, financial stressors. And of course, if the parents and caregivers are under stress, then the kids are under it as well."

Macfarlane says there are enough counsellors to keep up with demand, but counselling is "very, very hard to access" due to the high price.

Hour-long counselling sessions in New Zealand cost between $60 - $180 depending on the practitioner's education and history, and most patients require continued sessions.

"The public find it hard to access low cost or funded counselling," she said.

"We have community services, non-government agencies who are funded mostly through the Ministry of Social Development and can provide some funding. There's addiction services for addiction. But other than that we don't really have any good funding."

She's advocating for the Government to increase funding for longer-term counselling so Kiwis can access the support they need.

"What we are needing is some funding for counselling for the longer-term for moderate to high needs. We are seeing increased anxiety, increased depression and people need to be seen for a number of months."

Macfarlane also talked about the importance of finding a counsellor who is "the right fit".

"If you don't feel comfortable then you're not going to open up."

The Ministry of Social Development has been contacted for comment.