Psychotherapists help individuals, couples or groups identify, understand, and manage emotional and behavioural problems.
Graduate psychotherapists at district health boards usually earn
$48K-$56K per year
Senior psychotherapists at district health boards with extra responsibilities usually earn
$72K-$100K per year
Source: District Health Board/PSA MECA, 2017
Pay for psychotherapists varies depending on experience, employer and location.
- Graduate psychotherapists with a Master's degree working for a district health board (DHB) usually start on $48,000 to $56,000 a year.
- With five years' experience, psychotherapists at DHBs can earn up to $74,000.
- Senior psychotherapists with extra responsibilities at DHBs can earn $72,000 to $100,000.
- Self-employed psychotherapists can earn from $60 to $160 per hour.
Source: District Health Board/PSA 'Allied, Public Health & Technical Multi-Employer Collective Agreement 2015-2017', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Psychotherapists may do some or all of the following:
- assess their clients
- help clients explore issues, including the effect of their early influences
- help clients understand themselves and how to meet their needs and manage their emotions and behaviour
- evaluate treatments
- undergo their own therapy
- supervise other psychotherapists
- run workshops and courses.
Skills and knowledge
Psychotherapists need to have:
- an understanding of psychotherapy and psychodynamic therapies (therapeutic approaches that aim to get the client to realise their true feelings)
- understanding of social and cultural issues that may affect their clients
- skill in analysing and evaluating human behaviour
- research skills.
- may work irregular hours, but usually have no more than five contact hours a day with patients, if working full time
- work in private practices, non-profit agencies, voluntary organisations, and public hospitals
- may work in emotionally draining and stressful circumstances
- may travel locally and nationally to visit clients, and attend workshops and conferences.
What's the job really like?
"Psychotherapy is a job where you need the ability to engage with people, while having a piece of yourself that is assessing and processing things at the same time,” says Virginia Edmond.
Creating change for clients
"It's so rewarding when I have a session with a client and really feel like I have connected with them and it's made a difference." To do this she says you need very good listening and communication skills. "The ultimate satisfaction though, is seeing things change in clients' lives outside the therapy room."
Coming into psychotherapy through different routes
Like many psychotherapists, Virginia came into psychotherapy through her own therapy. "This route into psychotherapy is relatively common, and it's how I got interested. The other route that people commonly enter from is counselling or social work."
A job that suits the more introverted
Virginia had been working as an English as a second language teacher, and says that experience transferred well into psychotherapy. "Like teaching, you sometimes work in small groups, and the teaching experience means I can work with all kinds of cultures. But I'm an introvert, and projecting myself and entertaining a large group was difficult, so this suits me much better."
Supervision and ongoing learning are a core part of the role
"Ongoing learning and training are essential in this job because they prevent you from getting stale," says Virginia. "Supervision with a senior colleague is obligatory, but the training workshops and conferences need to be your own initiative."
To become a psychotherapist you need to:
- have a qualification, or a qualification and work experience, that meets the Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand's registration criteria
- be registered with the Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
A tertiary entrance qualification is usually required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, social studies and health education.
Psychotherapists need to be:
- empathetic and concerned for the wellbeing of others
- able to keep information private
- able to relate well to people
- able to influence people.
Useful experience for psychotherapists includes:
- social work
- community work or counselling
- life experience
- work helping or caring for people
- research in related fields.
Psychotherapists need to be registered with the Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
- Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand website - information on psychotherapist registration
Find out more about training
- NZ Association of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists
- secretaryNZACAP@gmail.com - www.nzacap.org.nz
- NZ Association of Psychotherapists
- (04) 475 6244 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nzap.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
There are few permanent full-time positions advertised for psychotherapists. However, they often work part time as psychotherapists in private practice and combine this with paid work as a case worker, counsellor or addictions counsellor.
Forty percent of psychotherapists work part time.
According to the Census, 600 psychotherapists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
More demand in rural locations
Demand for psychotherapists is higher in rural areas, for example work as a private contractor for ACC. However, these jobs are not always full time.
Self-employment common and types of employers varied
Sixty-five percent of psychotherapists are self-employed. They may also work for:
- district health boards
- government departments such as Department of Corrections, Ministry of Education, Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki, ACC and Defence Force
- iwi organisations
- non-governmental organisations such as Red Cross
- addiction, trauma and abuse centres
- universities and polytechnics.
- MacDonald, K, Psychotherapist, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, May 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists website, accessed May 2017, (nzap.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- The Psychotherapists Board of Aotearoa New Zealand website, accessed January 2016, (www.pbanz.org.nz).
- Turner, E, psychotherapist, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, July 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Psychotherapists may specialise in mental health, research, teaching, clinical work, and advisory and management roles.
Psychotherapists can also do postgraduate study in areas such as:
- child and adolescent psychotherapy
- group/family psychotherapy
- clinical supervision.
Last updated 18 September 2020