Psychotherapy is one of the university’s oldest programmes and was developed principally by Evan Sherrand, who was hugely influential in the field. What began as a one-year diploma, now encompasses undergraduate and postgraduate study (including specialisation in child and adolescent psychotherapy), a psychotherapy clinic at AUT North Campus and a growing body of research.
Over the years, the programme’s theoretical view has shifted, from eclectic and psychodynamic to relational psychotherapy, which seeks to help people understand the role that relationships play in shaping their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
It is estimated that more than half of Auckland’s practicing psychotherapists are AUT alumni.
Professor Tudor is the head of AUT’s School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, and the only professor of psychotherapy in New Zealand. He maintains that psychotherapy is about healing the soul and building, or rebuilding, a positive relationship with the self, others and the world.
“In a small country such as Aotearoa, where many people know each other, it is heart-breaking that so many people feel alienated and that they don’t have a future – and sadly, this is reflected in our high suicide rates. We are social animals. We have to find our way back – find a place to stand together,” he says.
Professor Tudor believes that psychotherapy can have a major impact on mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand. Yet, district health boards employ just over 50 psychotherapists, compared to around 90 counsellors and 600 psychologists.
“Of course, I would advocate that the government fund more public sector psychotherapy. It shouldn’t be a privileged treatment for the middle and upper-classes, and it works – it is the most cost-effective treatment for severe psychological distress and deep-rooted issues like trauma,” he says.
Research has shown that low income and ethnic communities face an inordinate amount of trauma and suffering, and that entire groups of people may be in greater need of psychotherapy than others.
In order to realise the value of psychotherapy in New Zealand, we need more indigenous knowledge, social-cultural analysis and diversity in the workforce, says Professor Tudor.