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List of roles and descriptions of Mental Healthcare Professionals.


Counsellors help people deal with their feelings and responses and assist their clients to decide on action they can take to solve problems. They may specialise in relationship counselling, grief and loss, addictions, family problems or life changes.

Mental Health Nurses/ Psychiatric Nurse

A mental health nurse provides treatment, care and support for people with emotional, mental and behavioural problems.  Mental health nurses are increasingly working in a community setting, but the majority work in hospital outpatient or outpatient settings. They are skilled in the specialised use of communication, counselling, psychopharmacology, applying speciality knowledge in the provision of clinical assessment, monitoring, therapeutic interventions, treatment, and referral to other health professionals.  Some mental health nurses have special responsibilities under the Mental Health Act 1992 as duly authorised officers.


Mental Health Support Workers

The mental health support workforce is mainly employed in the non-government community support services sector.  They provide support and practical assistance and deliver rehabilitation services or programmes that facilitate the recovery process for people experiencing serious mental illness or emotional distress.  

Social Workers

Look after social and practical needs such as family assistance, welfare benefits, housing, jobs and so on.


Psychotherapy’s concern, in the broadest sense, is assisting individuals, couples and groups to see, think, feel, or act differently.  It is a collaborative process between client and the psychotherapist, based on the client’s active participation.



Psychologists also understand our emotions, feelings, thoughts and how the brain works. There are many psychology specialties. Psychologists who work with mental illnesses are clinical psychologists. Like psychiatrists, clinical psychologists treat mental illness with psychological treatments (talking therapies). But psychologists cannot prescribe medications. Psychologists need to be registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board.



Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They understand our emotions, feelings, thoughts and how the brain works. They can treat mental illness with psychological treatments (talking therapies). Psychiatrists understand the links between mental and physical problems. They can prescribe 
medications for mental health issues. These include 
antidepressants and 

mood stabilisers.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapy is the professional group that uses activities and occupations to enable people to recover from mental illness.  Occupational therapists work with people to regain lost abilities, or to develop new skills and interests.  Being involved in meaningful occupations helps people on their journey to recovery.  They focus on self-care, productivity, and leisure time activities.  They take a client centred approach and work closely with family/whanau.

District Inspectors

They are the watchdogs of patient’s rights, ensuring the Mental Health act is correctly applied and the rights of individuals are respected and upheld. They are appointed by the Minister of Health under the 1992 Act. They are always Barristers or Solicitors, and this role is conducted in addition to their usual legal practice.  Their role does not include being the patients advocate or legal advisors for mental health services.  Every individual subject to the act should be visited by a DI who will provide them with information on the process, explain their role, the patient’s rights and discuss options for review.  


Duly Authorised Officers

They are the front-line operators of the Act. They are appointed by DAMHS (Directors of Area Mental Health Services) and are trained health professionals.  They should have identifying cards provided by the Hospital or Health Service.  They can assist anyone to apply for an assessment of a person or help an individual make the application themselves. They must first be satisfied that the concern is valid and there are reasonable grounds for believing that the person may be mentally disordered. District Health Boards must keep a list of telephone numbers of DAOs that you or your family or whanau can ring if you need help or advice.

Responsible Clinician

Is usually a psychiatrist and is the person responsible for a person’s treatment while they are under the Mental Health Act.

Information from the Mental Health Foundation

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