Cost Cutting Costs Lives


Press Release: New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists

22nd April, 2016

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists supports calls for a nationwide enquiry into the Mental Health system, after more New Zealanders than ever before lost their lives to suicide last year.

The NZAP gathered this week for its annual conference in Hawkes Bay and heard first hand from local Iwi the impact that recent suicides has had on their community.

“What we hear from communities around the country, is that the mental health system is at breaking point and no longer providing timely treatment and intervention to those who need it most” says Kyle MacDonald, Psychotherapists Association Public Issues spokesperson. “Staff are under increasing pressure as demand for services continues to rise and resources are unable to meet that demand. And sadly this increasingly leads to preventable deaths.”

This week the Director of Mental Health released a report into the Waikato District Health Boards Mental Health services, prompted by the suicide of young man whilst in their care.

The report identified a number of shortcomings in the resourcing and staffing levels, and yet this same week the Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman released the “New Zealand Health Strategy” with no specific focus on mental health or our woefully high suicide rate.

“Mental illness is third only to heart disease and vascular disorders when it comes to negative health effects in New Zealand, yet this Government continues to underfund the health system and ignore the fact our levels of mental illness and suicide globally, are among the highest” says MacDonald. “I believe we’ve reached the point where funding alone will not solve the problem, and we support the Green Party and the Public Service Association’s calls for a nationwide enquiry into the functioning of the mental health system before we have more preventable deaths.”

Contact: Kyle MacDonald

021 708 689

Mental Health Funding Cuts: Double blow for Canterbury


Press release New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists

16th February, 2016


In the last 24 hours we have seen reports of both the Canterbury District Health Board being forced to reduce spending on public mental health services, despite already falling behind national average spending levels, and it being revealed that the Canterbury funding for earthquake trauma counselling has been slashed from $1.6million, to $200,000.

This despite increases in the number of people struggling with anxiety and earthquake related trauma, especially children, a claim disputed by the Ministry of Health, who continue to claim that demand is decreasing.

“As a psychotherapist and counsellor I am still getting clients who maybe don’t come with the trauma of the earthquakes uppermost in their minds, but who say that their problems began round about the time of the earthquakes” says Sheila Larsen a Christchurch psychotherapist and President elect of the NZAP. “For some of these clients this is the first time they have had the opportunity to talk about their own experiences.”

Of particular concern is the increased effects on children, and the fact that psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers and other professionals are clear: there is no reduction in demand, in fact the situation is getting worse.

“What we’re hearing is that it is increasingly difficult to access the counselling funds, and that given the complete lack of any available public mental health service unless you’re actively suicidal, people are giving up” says Kyle MacDonald, NZAP Public Issues spokesperson. “I don’t doubt that the spread sheets are telling the Ministry that demand is down, but it seems wilfully ignorant to go along with that when the community itself is crying out for help. And all of this on the back of this weekends big quake? It seems particularly uncaring.”

The Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman has consistently refused to comment on mental health funding for the area, but pressure has been applied to Canterbury District Health Board since last year, with the Ministry claiming there was no increase in demand and the DHB needed to live within it’s means and balance its books.

“The anecdotal evidence flowing out of Christchurch today, in response to this news is clear, people want help and are unable to get it, whether that be counselling or more severe mental health support, now is not the time to be cutting help to Canterbury” says MacDonald.

Contact: Kyle MacDonald 021 708 689

Domestic Violence Review – consideration of treatment

Sunday, 9 August 2015, 4:33 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Association Of Psychotherapists

Domestic Violence Review needs to include consideration of treatment

This week the Government announced a review of laws relating to family violence by Minister of Justice, Amy Adams.

The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists welcomes this review, as dealing with family violence is so frequently part of the work of many of our members clinical practice.

“We look forward to offering our views as part of this consultation, and on talking with the Minister. We see an ongoing need to include provisions for treatment and rehabilitation, for all affected by family violence, as part of the review of the laws” says Kyle MacDonald, Public Issues spokesperson for the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists.

The sharing of information between various agencies, and the increased clarity that may be offered by new criminal charges related to domestic violence, are some of the possible changes discussed by the Minister.

“Psychotherapists and other professions have accumulated many years of clinical experience in working with families in difficulty, in domestic violence offender treatment programmes and with victims of family violence” says MacDonald. “This understanding of what helps people recover, either from being a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence, is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing better community responses to this complex problem.”

Individuals and organizations can represent their views up until the 18th of September, 2015 via online consultation at:


ACC Privacy ruling welcomed for Sensitive Claimants


Press Release: New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists

Tuesday 15th April, 2014


Yesterday’s District Court ruling, that the standard ACC release of information form the “ACC 167” is illegal, has been welcomed by psychotherapists and clinicians working with sexual abuse survivors.

“The Disley Independent Clincial review of the ACC’s treatment of Sensitive Claimants, undertaken in 2010, outlined serious concerns about this form and the ACC’s approach to the gathering of health information.  This decision is welcomed, but long overdue” says Kyle MacDonald, New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists Public Issues spokesperson.

The Disley review included a legal opinion, which noted concerns about the ACC 167, and explained the limitations that apply to the collection of health information.  Those working with all ACC claimants, and specifically in the sexual violence sector, have long expressed these concerns.

“We’ve known for a long time that this form, and it’s implementation, has caused specific problems for sensitive claimants”  says Kyle MacDonald, “it has been common practice for the ACC to request ALL of a claimants GP or Mental Health notes, and not accept a health professional acting in accordance with the Privacy act by providing only those parts of the record relevant to the claim.  Furthermore the ACC have quite explicitly declined to advance a claim if individuals refuse to sign the waiver due to quite legitimate privacy concerns.”

This has set up a perception that ACC have gone on “fishing expeditions” for reasons to decline claims, rather than sticking to the limits of the Privacy Act, like all other health professionals are required to do.

“Hopefully this decision allows people who have had their claim declined due to the illegal acquisition of health information to have their claim revisited.  It should also allow those who have had their claim declined due to their refusal to sign this form to also re-apply for cover and treatment.”

Counselling cuts questioned

Gambling counsellin

Press Release:  New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists

Saturday 22nd March, 2014


Once more New Zealander’s access to counselling has been limited by funding cuts, this time in the area of free help for problem gamblers.  Yesterdays announcement that the Problem Gambling Foundation, or “PGF” would not have it’s contract renewed this year has shocked those in the sector, and raised questions of political interference.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has a role in prevention and advocacy, and as such has been an outspoken critic of the National led government’s decision to increase the number of poker machines operated by Sky City, in Auckland as part of the convention centre “deal”.

“The questions of political interference are concerning, but from a treatment point of view this will severely limit the access to funded help for those struggling with gambling addictions, and their Whanau” says psychotherapist and NZAP spokesperson Kyle MacDonald.  “This decision makes little sense to anyone in the sector: the PGF has been a leader in providing skilled clinical help, as well as research and conferences for those working in the gambling addiction field.”

Throughout the last three years of this National Government’s term funding for relationship counselling has been cut, and this decision represents another restriction to the funding of professional psychotherapy services.

At the very least this process has been handled poorly, with the other largest Gambling counselling provider, the Salvation Army, announcing today they were “unaware” of the fact that they had now been awarded the majority of funding of providing gambling help.

“If this decision was driven by a desire to punish a health organization for being critical of governments decisions around gambling licences, the only people who will actually be punished by this is the thousands of individuals, families and children whose lives are torn apart every day in this country by gambling addiction”.

Press release

Kyle MacDonald: New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists

13th January, 2014

Mr. Craig’s statement today in the press that that he continues to use physical discipline against his own daughter, is disappointing, and out of step with the research on the effectiveness of physical discipline as a parenting technique says Kyle MacDonald of the New Zealand Association of the Psychotherapists.

“It is concerning to me that a respected member of the community and possible future politician would be taking such a stance.  It is clear from the growing body of research that not only does physical discipline not work for the purposes of “correction” but it can have negative psychological consequences that are far reaching” says Mr. MacDonald.

The American Psychological Association states clearly that “Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children… …The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 calling physical punishment “legalized violence against children” that should be eliminated in all settings through “legislative, administrative, social and educational measures.”

“The problem is largely that smacking is what frustrated and angry parents resort to, and that in doing so there is always the risk of unintentional escalation and harm” says Mr. MacDonald.  “This change would not only represent a step backwards  but also makes no sense when New Zealand has one of the highest rates of physical assault and homicide of children in the OECD”

“Community leaders across the political spectrum need to be taking a stand against all forms of violence against children, not encouraging it for political effect.”


Kyle MacDonald

021 708 689

Nine to Noon: Mental illness treatment costs

Off the Couch

This morning I had a chat with Kathryn Ryan on the Radio NZ National show, Nine to Noon.  We talked about the research into the effectiveness of psychotherapy.  She also talked with Sovereign Insurance about their approach to the funding of talk therapy.  To listen to the interview click below:

Alarm over depression therapy cuts

Off the Couch

From: Herald on Sunday, 5:30 AM Sunday Jul 28, 2013, By Sally Webster

Psychotherapists anxious as Govt, insurers redirect funds for depression
Funding for talk therapy is drying up just as increasing numbers of New Zealanders are feeling comfortable talking about their problems.

The country’s biggest income protection insurer, Sovereign, says claims for depression have reached a crippling 40 per cent and the cost of counsellors it sends clients to “out of the goodness of our hearts” can’t be sustained.

It will recommend more clients do exercise and take medication.

Government departments have also reduced the counselling services they have offered for years.

Free relationship counselling services offered by the Family Court are about to be axed; the Ministry of Social Development is tightening up on the extensive counselling it offers the mentally ill on the disability allowance; and ACC is doing a major review of how it handles those who come to it with sexual abuse and assault trauma.

The ceiling on therapy sessions may be cut from 16 to as low as four.

Some of the cutbacks, particularly Sovereign’s, have alarmed the Association of Psychotherapists’ chair of public issues, Kyle MacDonald.

He says they are being done simply to save money.

“We are up against the massively funded model of the drug companies who convince people that medication is the best treatment, despite evidence to the contrary for mild to moderate depression.”

Sovereign’s chief medical officer, John Mayhew, says it has decided that where antidepressants have been proven to work well, it is “efficacious” for them to be used.

“In the past we’ve had, say, a 50-year-old stockbroker with an income protection product who’s become severely depressed.

“The first thing we’d do is get him seen by a psychiatrist, get a diagnosis and then start treatment. That might be a mixture of psychotherapy, medication and an exercise programme. But now we’ve decided a talk therapist isn’t necessary for everyone.

“A guy whose wife has just left him might be depressed and struggling to cope but it doesn’t mean he necessarily has to see a counsellor.

“Anti-depressants like SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are proven to work.”

The Ministry of Justice is gutting its free relationship counselling. The Court Proceedings Reform Bill before Parliament will kill off the remaining three hours’ free relationship counselling for couples. That was halved from six in 2012.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the ministry has no idea of the outcomes of counselling sessions.

These will be replaced with six separation mediation sessions, free to 60 per cent of users who fall under the civil legal aid threshold. Those above it will pay about $780 + GST a couple, or $390 a person.

The squeeze on therapy has angered comedian and Nutters Club founder Mike King, who has had well-documented battles with addiction and mental illness.

“The reason I had talk therapy was because I was overwhelmed with suicidal thoughts.

“As much as the whole therapy thing went against everything I stood for, I was faced with death as the only option – I had to try it for my family’s sake.

“I can say from experience that talk therapy absolutely works. But few people can afford it.

“We don’t need less talk therapy. We need to be working with the Government and insurance companies to find ways for more people to get affordable or free therapy.”

MacDonald of the psychotherapists association says that at its most basic, the choice is coming down to the cost of a pill versus $120-plus for a session of talk therapy.

“People are given medication as the frontline treatment – usually SSRIs – after just 15 minutes of consultation,” MacDonald says.

“It is often not an effective form of treatment but people are getting this as the only option.

“We must find the reasons people are depressed and this is what therapy is for, otherwise it is likely to recur.”