Frequently asked questions

Who are we?

We are Auckland based psychologists providing help with a variety of adult and child concerns.  We are also a specialist service for women with postnatal distress such as postnatal depression, postnatal anxiety and post traumatic stress.

What does a psychologist do?

A psychologist is a specialist in the assessment and treatment of mental health difficulties. They provide psychological evaluation, assessment, testing and treatment for people experiencing a wide range of emotional and behavioural difficulties. Psychologists are trained to provide therapy and support in order to help people overcome issues that impact on their quality of life.

What is the difference between a psychologist, a psychotherapist or a counsellor?

The difference is in our training and practice. All psychologists complete at least 6 to 8 years of university training and have either a masters or doctorate in psychology. Psychologists are trained to use models and measures that have been scientifically proven. Because of this we are usually outcome focused, using effective techniques grounded in research, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Psychotherapists and counsellors have a variety of backgrounds. It is always advised to ask anyone about their training and experience before commencing therapy.

Note that psychotherapy is a term that is inter-changable with talk therapy, therapy or counselling.  Psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors all use psychotherapy as part of treatment but they differ in training and the models they use.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are qualified medical doctors who have undertaken further study to specialize in mental illness. They are trained in assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders and can prescribe medicine.

What to expect from Adult Therapy

We will first ask you questions about yourself and the reason that you are seeking support. This will help us determine the factors that might be contributing to the difficulties you are experiencing.

The next step is to set realistic goals for change and to start treatment. We believe that it is important to offer interventions that the research suggests will help you with your concerns. These interventions are well structured: they contain specific goals, strategies and techniques.

The initial therapy session takes about 1 ½ hours and the following sessions are 50 minutes (a therapy hour). The number of therapy sessions depends on the type and level of difficulty that you are presenting with, and will be negotiated with you.

Depending on the issue, we may also utilise well established questionnaires and measures to help gauge the level of your difficulties and to assess change (alleviation of these difficulties).

What to expect from Child and Parent/Child Therapy

Like adult therapy, the initial session takes 1 ½ hours and the following sessions are 50 minutes.

In the initial session we will ask questions about your experience of your child from pregnancy up until their current age, and your reasons for seeking help. We might ask about your child’s temperament, developmental milestones, their learning and behaviour, how they express their feelings and how they relate to others. We will then decide, depending on the age of your child and the presenting difficulty, which model of therapy will bring about the best outcome. Younger children require greater support from their parent and generally parents are coached alongside a child’s therapy. Older children do not require as much support from their parent; however, parents receive feedback and are provided with opportunities to discuss any difficulties.

The number of therapy sessions depends on the type and level of difficulty the parent and/or child is presenting with.

What are postnatal depression and anxiety?

Postnatal Depression affects about 10% to 20% of mothers. These women experience difficulties such as poor mood, loss of pleasure and tearfulness.

Symptoms of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling sad or unhappy most of the day
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in work, hobbies or activities that used to be enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss or gain, or decrease or increase in appetite, unrelated to pregnancy
  • Difficulty sleeping or over-sleeping
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulties concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

You may be experiencing postnatal depression if you have experienced several of these symptoms (and at least one symptom is low mood or loss of pleasure/interest) nearly every day for a period of 2 weeks or more. Women with fewer or milder symptoms may also benefit from intervention.

Importantly, symptoms of depression can happen immediately and suddenly after the birth of a baby, or develop gradually over the first year.

Postnatal Anxiety can occur alongside depression or on its own. At least as many women suffer from anxiety as depression postnatally.

It is normal for parents to have a little worry or anxiety following childbirth. However, too much anxiety and distress can interfere with your enjoyment of life and your ability to cope with the daily activities associated with parenting.

Feelings of anxiety or panic that last longer than two weeks may indicate that intervention is required.

Signs and symptoms of postnatal anxiety:

The experience of postnatal anxiety can vary from person to person, but usually includes several of the following:


  • anxious, scared or overwhelmed
  • irritable or ‘on-edge’
  • a sense of dread

Behaviours and physical sensations

  • avoidance, feeling immobilised or frozen
  • restlessness, pacing, or rapid speech
  • difficulty sleeping (e.g. worries keep you awake)
  • compulsive behaviours (e.g. counting/checking)
  • physical sensations such as heart racing, dizziness, trembling, sweating or feeling immobilised/frozen


  • worry or concern for safety of self or others
  • need for control or perfection
  • obsessive, intrusive thoughts
  • thoughts of worst case scenarios

Like depression, anxiety can also occur suddenly or over a period of time.

Postnatal depression and anxiety are treatable.

Many women with postnatal issues do not seek support. Often this is because of shame (e.g., “I should be able to cope”) or denial (e.g., “this will go away on its own”), or myths about motherhood (e.g., “if I am not happy, I do not care for my child”).

These thoughts and myths are not true. Please reach out for support with postnatal issues. As well as being a difficult experience for you, feeling depressed, anxious or irritable may interfere with your relationship with your child and others close to you.

If left untreated, postnatal depression and/or anxiety can develop into a long-lasting difficulty, or return with subsequent pregnancies.

Why is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) used for the Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression group?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy changes the way you feel by changing the way you think:

  • CBT identifies and changes unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaving.
  • The skills learnt are goal oriented and practical.
  • CBT has become the most empirically proven treatment for a range of emotional difficulties that can follow the birth of a child.
  • CBT has been shown to be an effective treatment for all levels of depression and anxiety.
  • This intervention can be used to address feelings of: stress; sadness; anger; guilt; panic; post traumatic stress disorder; insomnia; marital discord, and much more.
  • Evidence shows CBT intervention does not need to be lengthy to be effective.
  • Follow-up research shows treatment persists well beyond the end of therapy.

Our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy group for mothers with postnatal depression was originally developed by research based academics and practitioners at the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) in Victoria, Australia. It has been proven through research studies to be highly effective with long-term results and we are proud to offer it as part of our service.

What if I would also like free support and practical help?

Mothers’ Helpers is a Charity which brings support and practical help to many mothers with postnatal depression: mothershelpers.co.nz or ph 0800 00 27 17

The Postnatal Distress Support Network  runs support groups for women with postnatal depression. Instead of being facilitated by psychologists these support groups have an emphasis on women sharing their experiences: www.postnatal distress.org.nz or ph 8366967

I would like to see a psychologist but I can’t afford to pay privately.

You can contact your GP to find out if they are a member of a primary health organisation in Auckland.  If you qualify, they may be able to refer you to a limited number (usually 3-6 sessions) of funded sessions with a therapist from another organisation, not Emotional Health Services.

What are my options in the public mental health system?

Depending on your level of need you may be able to get support from an Auckland Maternal Mental Health Team. You can discuss this option with your GP.

Who to phone if you are in crisis. 
Auckland adult mental health crisis services numbers:  

  • Central Auckland 0800 800 717
  • West Swanson, Piha & Titirangi (09) 822 8500 or after hours (09) 486 8900
  • Henderson (09) 822 8600 or after hours (09) 486 8900
  • North Shore (09) 486 1491 or after hours (09) 486 8900
  • South Auckland (09) 270 4742 or (09) 270 9090