Types of health practitioners
Finding a health professional who you can work with may depend on a number of things, including the approach they use and how comfortable you feel with the person.
Not everyone is right for you, and it’s important to get the right fit. The first health professional you see might not be right. When you first talk to a health professional, it can be useful to ask, “How can you help me?” or “What can you do for me?”. If you don’t like their answer, or if you’re not happy after the first session, you don’t have to stay with them. Even though it’s hard to have to start again, it’s worth it to find someone who you feel comfortable with. You can always ask your friends if they use someone who they would recommend.
You can check if your health professional is a registered practitioner under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. Being a registered practitioner means they are recognised and regulated by a professional body.
A visit to your family doctor or general practitioner (GP) is often the first step in getting help for physical or mental health problems.
Your doctor can assess your symptoms and talk with you about what might be the best way for you to get treatment. That might mean taking medication, going to talking therapy or referring you to someone else who has specialist knowledge.
Your doctor can also help you work out a self-help programme and keep an eye on your progress along the way
Go back to your doctor on a regular basis so that they can review your situation and think about whether to adjust or change your treatment. If there is no improvement or the depression or anxiety gets worse, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or another mental health professional, and they might recommend hospital care.
Psychotherapists or counsellors
Counselling is the process of helping and supporting a person to work through personal, social, or psychological challenges and difficulties.
A well-trained counsellor will help you to see things more clearly and possibly from a different view-point. They will support you to focus on feelings, experiences or behaviour that will assist you to make changes for the better.
Psychotherapists are similar to counsellors in that they provide counselling and they may also offer therapy for past issues or trauma.
Psychologists, and more specialised Clinical Psychologists, are registered health professionals who can help you work out what’s happening for you. They are trained to give and explain tests and assessments that can help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way you think, feel and behave.
Psychologists use a range of approaches to help you improve your life. Most commonly, they use psychotherapy (or talking therapy). There are several different types of therapy. Their aim is to give you skills to keep yourself well. The psychologist will choose the type of therapy that best addresses your problem and that you feel comfortable with.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are specialised in mental health. They can make health assessments, suggest medical tests and treatments. Treatments include talking therapies and medication.
Trained peer supporters
Peer Supporters are people who have been through mental health problems themselves and have recovered. They've had training in how to give hope and support to people who are going through similar challenges.
You’ll find self-help groups, peer partnerships and one-to-one peer services throughout New Zealand. The Family Services directory includes an up-to-date list of active groups. Also check out the support groups on the Mental Health Foundation website.
All health practitioners must keep your personal information confidential. This means that it can’t be shared with people who are not directly involved as professionals in your care without your permission. The only exception to this rule is if they feel there is a risk to your or someone else’s personal safety.
Some suggestions for your visit
There are things you can do to get the best out of your visit to a health professional:
- When making the appointment, ask if you can have extra time to talk (korero) with your doctor
- List the signs and symptoms you’ve been experiencing
- Consider taking a friend or whānau member with you for support
- List the things you’ve tried that have or have not helped
- Let your doctor know if you’re on any other medicine or treatments
- If your current treatment doesn’t seem to be working, ask to discuss another approach
- If you’re not satisfied with the help from your health professional, consider changing to another one.
How to find them
The Mental Health Foundation has useful information on how to access a health professional as well as how to get help if you feel you or someone else is in crisis or unsafe.
The Family Services Directory helps you create your own list of providers based on where you live, what you’re going through and what sort of help you need. It gives you numbers to call for free or places to visit online.
Some health services are free of charge or subsidised. The cost of visiting health professionals varies, and it’s good to find out what they charge when making an appointment. Many medical practices now have access to free or subsidised talking therapies. Workplaces often have access to employment assistance programmes. Ask a workmate or employer if you’re not sure if your workplace has one. ACC may pay for therapy for a sensitive claim for sexual assault.
There are a number of phone help services with trained people on the other end. They are there to help if you want to talk (kōrero) with someone about how you’re feeling, or if you know someone who may need help. There are options so choose what feels right for you.
Depression Helpline, free phone 0800 111 757
Talk to a trained counsellor who can discuss your situation and find you the right support (tautoko). Help is available all day, every day. You can also text them (4202) or email them using this form.
This support is only available within Aotearoa New Zealand and users overseas should seek help from their local health care provider or emergency services in their country.
Anxiety Line 0800 ANXIETY (2694 389)
Talk to a phone therapist who can give you support and help you understand anxiety and your experiences. This helpline is open all day, every day.
Crisis assessment and treatment teams (CATT)
Crisis teams (called CATT or PES) provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week assessment and short-term treatment services for people experiencing a serious mental health crisis. If you think you or someone you know has reached 'crisis point', you need urgent help. Emergency teams (called CATT or PES) provide 24 hour, 7 days a week assessment and short-term treatment services for people experiencing a serious mental health crisis that could include urgent safety issues. Contact your local Mental Health Services immediately.
The Lowdown is a website to help young New Zealanders understand depression and anxiety from their own perspective. Get in touch with a trained counsellor by free txt (5626).
0800 787 797
0800 229 6757
0800 654 655
0800 778 778
0800 787 254
Once you are feeling better it's a good time to learn how to maintain your mental health if things get tough againHow to stay well