A New Zealand Families Commission report has revealed that New Zealanders often prefer turning to family and friends for help in preference to seeking support from professional counsellors when it comes to their relationships.

The study, titled Reaching Out: Who New Zealanders turn to for relationship support, spoke to 50 New Zealanders at in-depth level and asked them who they spoke to when it came to dealing with relationship problems.

The Families Commission said that when they sought help, they not only sought it from their friends and family, but from professionals they trusted too, such as GPs, nurses, school teachers, church ministers and community elders. This differs from international research which indicates people turn to counsellors more than professionals.

The report said the main reason for a different Kiwi attitude is down to people “often looking for a ‘listening ear’, practical advice, and sometimes an intervention.” However, it was also due to cost, scepticism and a general lack of awareness of the options available to them via counsellors. Some people also see counselling as their “last resort”.

“It is a concern when we see that cost is one of the main barriers to people seeking counselling support for their relationship in the Families Commission report,” Relationship Services said.

“Most people who are going through relationship difficulties are eligible for free counselling, which is funded by the Family Court,” Relationship Services’ national practice manager of relationship services Cary Hayward said.

Chief Families Commissioner Jan Pryor said, “Our study found that people who distrust formal counselling services, who keep problems to themselves, or have limited social networks were more likely to open up to professional people they already had trust in such as GPs, Plunket nurses and midwives.” If professional people suggested that they receivecounselling help, they’d open up more to that idea.

“We recognise that people are often reluctant to seek help from counsellors. Many people look for ideas in books or on the internet,” Mr Hayward said.

There is practical advice available on Relationship Services’ website, www.relate.org.nz, and have 75 offices located nationally around New Zealand.

This article was written by Gabriel Pollard of Bird’s Eye News.

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