AUT academic stars in new Three TV show

24 May, 2023
AUT academic stars in new Three TV show

AUT staff and students may have spied a familiar face if they caught the debut episode of Three’s new show ‘Couples Therapy New Zealand’ on Wednesday evening.

Senior lecturer in Psychology and Neuroscience, Dr Elizabeth du Preez, is an on-screen mentor for psychotherapist Amanda Cox in the series, based on the US show which has been running for three seasons.

Elizabeth, who has been working at AUT since 2009, was suggested for the role by a clinical colleague and she felt it was time to “go for it” after 25 years as a registered psychologist.

It seems a particularly apt fit, with the original series used as teaching material in AUT’s postgraduate psychology course as an example of “really good therapy”, and she is keen for students to use the local version too.

Elizabeth first got involved towards the end of last year, with multiple interviews and then having to consider how she and her family would feel about her being on television.

“I gave it a good couple of weeks to think about whether I wanted to do it when I was offered the role,” she says. But one final thing needed to be acceptable before she signed up.

Dr Elizabeth du Preez

“I said I would like to meet [Amanda] as well, just to make sure there was a connection.

“I knew I wanted conversations that would help her reflect on her practice, a little bit like quality assurance. Things like making sure she felt comfortable with the work that she was doing and that we were following evidence-based practice.

“We had a Zoom meeting, and it was just lovely. We really think in similar ways in terms of couple therapy work.”

The shooting schedule wasn’t particularly onerous, says Elizabeth, with three- to four-hour long meetings once per month to talk about the couples undergoing therapy and their sessions.

But she says knowing her practice was going to be shown to anyone who wanted to watch was “a bit surreal” and “nerve-wracking”.

“Therapy is so private and suddenly we’re opening the door to show what happens and how it can be helpful.”

She also admits to feeling a bit vulnerable but those behind the camera were incredibly helpful in ensuring things went smoothly, including ensuring they were easily understood.

“We were encouraged not to use too many professional technical terms, but to make it accessible to the public,” Elizabeth says.

“They were great. They would stop us and say, ‘can you try and say that in a different way’. Or maybe we would say something, and it wouldn’t be quite right. The producers were very responsive to how we felt, as we wanted to come across as respectful.”

Another of the quirks of the series is that Elizabeth will now be able to see the couples in the series, something that wouldn’t normally happen in a mentoring or supervising role.

“I have images of them in my mind,” she says. “I imagine what they look like, and it will be really interesting to see how they compare as well as hearing what Amanda’s taken out of our conversations and how the couples have responded to it.”

Ultimately, Elizabeth hopes the experience will be positive and rewarding, and not just for the couples undergoing therapy.

“People are going to learn a lot from just watching,” she says. “And it will be a little prompt for people do some self-inquiry or to talk to their partners and go and see someone.

“I think it will be fascinating.”

All episodes of ‘Couples Therapy New Zealand’ featuring Elizabeth are available to stream first on ThreeNow, with new episodes broadcast every week on Three at 8.30pm on Wednesdays.