What can I expect from relationship counselling?
Counselling can help with a range of issues including relationship difficulties. It is a process that can help you to better understand yourself, your partner/spouse and your relationship, and develop ways to improve your life together. Counsellors are trained to help you in this process. They may have trained in a range of techniques and may specialise in specific types of issues.
The process will vary depending on the client and on the counsellor, but in general:
- the counsellor will not give you advice, tell you what to do or try to solve your problems - rather they will help you to talk through the issues and help you to decide on your own solutions;
- you should be able to expect your counsellor to be non-judgemental, a sensitive listener, respectful of your privacy, and able to discuss your issues and support you to make any changes that you choose.
- counselling usually takes place over several sessions, for example a weekly one-hour session;
- if the issues you wish to deal with are to do with your relationship with your partner or spouse then it is likely that both parties to the relationship will be expected to attend.
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How do I find a counsellor who’s right for me?
It’s important to choose someone you feel comfortable with, so that you will be able to talk honestly about your problems. You should think about whether:
- you want a male or female counsellor
- you want someone older or younger than you
- you would like someone from the same ethnic group as you
- you would like someone who speaks your own language, if this is not English
- it is important that your counsellor understands your religious and cultural beliefs
- you would like a counsellor who has a particular philosophy or approach to dealing with problems
- you prefer a counsellor who has a specific type of qualification
More general information about what to expect from a counsellor is on the Linkage website.
The NZ Association of Counsellors has a directory of members which you can search. You could also ask your friends and family for recommendations - you can always change counsellors if you don’t feel comfortable with them. Your local CAB can also help you find local counsellors to contact.
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Is there any way I can get free relationship counselling?
There are some free counselling options, for example some GPs can refer their patients to publicly-funded counselling. You can ask your GP whether this option is available to you.
Some workplaces provide access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), which may include relationship counselling as one of their services. EAP services are paid for by the employer. You can ask your employer whether EAP is available in your workplace.
There are also local community services that offer free or very low cost counselling. You can search the Family Services directory or contact your local CAB to help you find out what options are available for your needs. Some services offer discounts to community service card holders, so it’s always worth asking about this.
If you’re a tertiary student, you may be able to get free or discounted counselling from a provider at your tertiary institution.
There is limited access to free counselling through the Ministry of Justice, if you and your partner (or another carer e.g. guardian) are in dispute over the care arrangements for your children. You can only access this counselling if: