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Expert calls for rethink of traditional therapy as NZ faces severe shortage of mental health workers

For every 312 people in New Zealand affected by mental health issues, there is only one psychologist.

In order to meet the recommendations of the Government’s mental health and treatment report, New Zealand needs to quadruple our workforce that deals with mental health.

Professor Roger Mulder of the University of Otago says it’s not feasible to meet that kind of demand and we need to explore a range of options rather than focusing on just patient to psychologist therapy.

"We have to look at alternative therapies, we have to look at the causes of mental distress rather than just look at - are we just going to patch everyone up with brief clinical interventions?" Professor Mulder told TVNZ1's Breakfast.

He says access to treatment has been an issue and possible alternatives that would work equally well would be E- therapies, group counselling and encouraging peers to help.

One on one therapy may not always be feasible, "for certain conditions, particularly the milder end of depression and anxiety, computerised therapies may be helpful," he said.

He says there is international evidence that increasing the amount of therapists doesn’t necessarily work that well.

"Group therapy is more efficient in situations where people have encountered post-traumatic stress, for example after the Christchurch earthquake."

Professor Mulder also says encouraging good parenting helps avoid early childhood events which can become a contributor for mental health problems later in life.

Professor Roger Mulder from University of Otago says one on one therapy is not always an option. Source: Breakfast