The New Zealand Association of Counsellors says the ability for troubled students to access school counsellors when they need them is being threatened as demand begins to outstrip supply.
The NZAC says most counsellors are now seeing up to 50 students a week who need their help, with problems as serious as bullying, sexual abuse, family violence and self harm.
NZAC spokesperson Sarah Maindonald says the increase in students wanting to see school counsellors means some students with potentially serious problems are not getting appointments when they need them.
The Education Review Office is reviewing guidance provision, including school guidance counselling, and the NZAC welcomes the move.
“As an association, we are particularly interested in this review of school counselling and guidance provision. We want the review to take a good look, using robust data, at the ratios of school guidance counsellors to students,” says NZAC board member Sarah Maindonald, also a counsellor at Hillmorton High School in Christchurch.
“Every town can have different crises that they have to deal with that will increase their workload at times. There have been some rural communities where there has been a cluster of suicides and that certainly put extra pressure on counsellors.”
Ms Maindonald says some schools are more supportive of guidance counselling than others.
“Counsellors work very hard and are doing an awesome job. However some need more support to cope with the increase in students coming to them. Some schools take money out of their operation grant to employ extra counsellors if they need to, to make sure their students are safe and have access to help.”
Ms Maindonald says counsellors are good ‘go to’ people with whom students can discuss a range of issues, not just focussed on medical or mental health matters, without the fear of being stigmatised or labelled.no