There are a number of factors that you need to take into consideration when deciding whether to provide counselling opportunities for participants. These include, though are not limited to:
When considering these issues, it is important to neither overstate nor dismiss any potential risk. Responsible researching involves providing reasonable care for your participants.
If you do decide that it would be prudent to provide counselling opportunities, then the next issue is to decide which health providers you will use. It is important that any opportunities you provide will not require any payment from the participant. When counselling is required as a consequence of your research, then you need to ensure that your participants do not pay for the consultations. For adult participants in the Auckland region, the usual counselling provider that you should offer is AUT Student Counselling and Mental Health.
AUT Student Counselling and Mental Health can provide up to three free sessions of counselling for research participants, where the researcher is an AUT student or staff member and has AUTEC approval. These sessions are only available for issues that have arisen directly as a result of their participation in the research, and are not for other general counselling needs. If your participant is an AUT student, then they are entitled to access AUT Student Counselling and Mental Health free of charge and may not be limited to three counselling sessions. When offering the use of AUT Student Counselling and Mental Health, there is an agreed wording that you will need to include in your Information Sheet. You will find this in the Information Sheet exemplar.
Should a participant wish to use the counselling sessions, they will need to identify you and the research project they have been involved in when they make their appointment. The counselling is face-to-face onsite in the AUT Student Counselling & Mental Health Centres or online via a video call. This counselling provision cannot accommodate crisis work, so in that situation the participant would need to access their own health provider or Community Mental Health Services as soon as possible. You can find out more information about AUT counsellors and counselling.
If your participants are adults outside the Auckland region, then you will need to locate an appropriate local or online service close to them and make any necessary arrangements with those services. Many researchers provide the contact numbers for free publicly available telephone services such as Lifeline, Youthline, Outline et cetera. There may also be services linked to the area of your research, e.g. Depression Helpline, Chinese Lifeline, Wellington Samaritans, Problem Gambling, and many others.
Counselling services for children are not available at AUT. If you are conducting your research within a school community, then you may be able to access the local school counsellor. Please note that this option may not be appropriate if the school counsellor is involved in or is the focus of the research. There are also telephone services such as Kidsline and Youthline.
These are some suggestions. It is up to you to find a suitable free service that is appropriate for your research and to provide your participants and AUTEC with advice about how the services you have chosen may be accessed if they are needed.