Choosing the right counsellor

How do I choose the right counsellor for me?

Choosing the right counsellor is a very important decision to make as you will be putting yourself in their hands, metaphorically speaking. There are many online directories available and you can also use a search engine.

Check that the counsellor has proper training and qualifications. In New Zealand, counselling degrees have only been offered since about the early 2000s, so many very effective, experienced counsellors have a Diploma qualification.

Professional bodies ensure that therapists practice with supervision, have regular professional development and adhere to a strict code of ethics.

What is the most important element to get a good result out of counselling?

The answer to this question is the right fit with your counsellor. 

There are other important elements too - someone with the right kind of experience, qualifications and professional membership, but none of these things will work well if you don't have the right fit. If you don't "gel" with your counsellor; if the first session doesn't finish with a feeling of acceptance and rapport, then it's likely that you won't get the results you are after.

It may be tempting to go to someone who charges less, or who has time available that fits your schedule best - choosing using this criteria may mean that you don't get the right person. I can't emphasise how important it is to find someone that you feel comfortable with - it may be worth waiting for some additional funds (or talking to them to see if they can discount their fee), or getting time off another commitment to see the right counsellor for you. Finding the right person will probably mean you spend less overall - you may pay more per session, but you will probably need less sessions overall to get the results you want.

Trust your gut - have a good look through your potential counsellor's website, and allow yourself to get a sense of them. It is perfectly acceptable to telephone "interview" your counsellor before meeting.  A few clients have done this with me in the past, and they feel a lot more comfortable at the first appointment as a result.

It is your right to choose the right person for what you want to achieve. It is the counsellor's responsibility to let you know if they are not comfortable working with you for any reason, or the goals you have talked about are outside their skillset.

A professional therapist will discuss the topic of "a good fit" with you during the first session.

Types of therapists


  1. Your Counsellor should belong to a professional body such as the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC). Full members of NZAC are registered with NZAC. The old abbreviation is MNZAC, which means the same thing. Provisional members (those who have not yet completed all their required client hours, and been interviewed by a panel of NZAC members), are called Provisional Members, and are also registered with NZAC.
  2. You can search for NZAC registered counsellors here.
  3. The NZAC Code of Ethics can be found here.


  1. Your Psychotherapist will most likely belong to the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP) - this is not mandatory, as some are registered with the The Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa (a government body instead - some are registered with both NZAP and 
  2. You can search for a NZAP registered psychotherapist here.
  3. The NZAP Code of Ethics can be found here.


  1. Psychologists study to a masters or doctorate level in psychology. Unless certified through post graduate training, a psychologist cannot prescribe medication.
  2. Psychologists are required to be registered with the New Zealand Psycholgists Board.
  3. You can search for a registered Psychologist here.
  4. The New Zealand Psychologists Code of Ethics can be found here.


  • Psychiatrists train as medical doctors first, then specialise in psychiatry/abnormal psychology. They are involved in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental disorders, and are able to prescribe medications.
  • Psychiatrists in New Zealand are members of the New Zealand Medical Council.
  • For more information on the process in New Zealand, click here.