New CBT degrees to help address inequality in New Zealand

The University of Canterbury (UC) has announced two new Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) programmes for postgraduate students from 2021.

The University of Canterbury (UC) is launching two new qualifications in ‘gold standard’, evidence-based, psychologically informed, talking therapy – the Postgraduate Certificate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and the Postgraduate Diploma in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

Based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has proven effective in treating mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and substance-use problems.

UC is the only tertiary institution in the South Island to offer the CBT programmes, the development of which was led by award-winning educator Professor Eileen Britt.

A strong need for increased access to talking-based therapies at the primary care level, and in non-governmental organisations, was identified in the 2018 Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. The report showed one in five people in Aotearoa New Zealand experienced mental illness or significant mental distress, the latter including an increasing number of children and young people.

“What we think about ourselves, other people and the world affects how we feel,” Professor Britt says. “CBT aims to assist people to change how they think, so they can change how they feel and behave.”

Delivered by UC’s School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing | Te Kura Mahi ā-Hirikapo from 2021, the postgraduate degrees have a strong emphasis on addressing Māori and Pasifika mental health and wellness, with kaupapa Māori integrated into both programmes.

The qualifications will appeal to professionals who are currently working in clinical health-related areas and want to upskill or add to their existing skill set.

Increased access to CBT will lead to improved outcomes for affected people, their whānau and wider communities and for Professor Britt, this is the importance of the CBT programme.

“[It] will develop practitioners who are able to provide these therapies early to people who, under the current threshold for specialist services, might not get access to treatment,” she says.

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