Past, present and future perspectives on the role of counselling in social work in Aotearoa New Zealand : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Since the profession of social work began, there has been debate about whether it should
be involved in helping individuals make change, or in encouraging societal change.
Towards gaining an understanding of how this debate has played out in Aotearoa New
Zealand, this research explores the question “What are the past present and future
perspectives on the role of counselling in social work in Aotearoa New Zealand?”
A mixed methodology format was used in this research. Qualitative interviews with
individuals who had helped create the professions of social work, counselling and
psychology were conducted to help understand the historical development of counselling
within social work, and the factors which had impacted upon it. Questionnaires were then
sent out to 985 members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers that
asked about members’ current views on, and practice of, counselling within social work.
The research shows that social work developed late in New Zealand within a welfare state
where governments questioned the need for it. With social work education not widely
available until the 1970s there was limited training in counselling type approaches. The
drive for professionalism (often aligned with those doing counselling) was tempered by
those mindful of community and bicultural commitments due to differing ideologies and
lack of access to education. Tangata whenua have had a major impact on the
development of social work, and counselling within it.
Respondents in this research were clear that aspects of counselling fell within their
definitions of social work and that counselling in Aotearoa New Zealand should hold a
strengths-based, collaborative stance that recognised the importance of a bicultural
perspective. Most respondents indicated that they did some amount of counselling within
their practice, but only 34% of respondents felt that their basic social work qualification had
prepared them adequately or really well for their counselling role. The majority of
questionnaire respondents had undertaken additional training to help them with their
counselling role and over two-thirds indicated a strong desire to engage in further study in
counselling. Registration of the helping professions presents challenges that include the potential for
unhelpful competition between them. The thesis concludes that there is a need for more
counselling education options for social workers and that there is a need for the
profession of social work to formally define its scopes of practice.