Clinical Research

Research centre for clinical psychologists

Current Research

Published Research

The Psychology Centre has a focus on the development and dissemination of innovative clinical research and evaluations. Some of our projects are developed internally and reflect the strengths and interests of the staff and board. However, a majority of our research is directed by strategic collaborations or through direct contractual arrangements with funders.

Prescription priviledges for psychologists: Where does New Zealand stand?

John Fitzgerald & Karma Galyer

The issue of prescribing rights for psychologists has been a subject of debate for many years in the international community. An article published recently in both the Bulletin of the NZ Psychological Society and the regular newsletter of the NZ College of Clinical Psychologists (ShrinkRAP) outlined some considerations pertinent to this debate. The topic has become more salient of late as psychologist prescribing has been approved in some US states, with many other applications underway. At the same time the Ministry of Health has sought consultation for the development of a third class of prescribing practitioner in New Zealand, the ‘collaborative prescriber’. They are exploring the idea that a “non-prescribing heath practitioner, after authorization from their registration authority, may prescribe under the supervision of an authorized prescriber.”  With the support of the National Executives of both the NZCCP and NZPsS, The Psychology Centre conducted a national survey of all College/Society members in order to gauge opinions on this subject. We also made attempts to contact psychologists working within Universities and District Health Board who were not members of either organisation.

Participation was voluntary and anonymous.  The survey included some questions regarding the structure of your work, some background information, and some questions about your views on the prescribing rights issue.  We also collected background demographic data to check we had a representative sample of psychologist, and to look at the impact of respondents’ work roles on their views of these issues.

Data from the survey has now been collated and will be presented via the Society’s/College’s publications and conferences.

A copy of the survey form that we used (.pdf format) can be found by clicking here.

Dissemination of Results

  • Galyer, K. T. & Fitzgerald, J. M. (2008). Colaborative Prescribing: Where Do New Zealand Psychologists Stand? Paper presented as part of a symposium entitled Prescribing Privileges for Psychologists: Do we want it? Do we need it? (chair: John Fitzgerald) at the annual conference of the NZ Psychological Society, Christchurch (29-31 August)
  • Fitzgerald, J. M. & Galyer, K. T. (2008). Colaborative Prescribing: Where Do New Zealand Psychologists Stand? Paper presented as part of the Prescibing Rights forum (chair: Iain Montgomery) at the annual conference of the Australian Psychological Society, Hobart, Tasmania (23-26 September)
  • Fitzgerald, J. & Galyer, K. (2008). Collaborative prescribing rights for psychologists: The New Zealand perspective. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 44-52.

See also

  • Fitzgerald, J. (2013). Psychologist prescribing in New Zealand: Is it worth considering? Psychology Aotearoa, 5(2), 82-85.
Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) in a New Zealand student population

John Fitzgerald PhD, Director/Clinical Psychologist, The Psychology Centre, Hamilton, NZ
Cate Curtis PhD, Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ

The primary purpose of this study is to explore non-suicidal self injury, and specifically cutting behaviour, in a sample of non-referred New Zealand university students. These data do not currently exist, although a recent report by Duff (2012) suggests that up to 50% of teenagers will self-injure at least once and as many as 15% will engage repeatedly in this behaviour.

At this stage we are awaiting final ethical approval for the project, which we hope to initiate within the next few weeks.

Do you need support because of worries about self-injury?

Dated: 25 August 2014

The Role of Dynamic Family Factors in the Development and Management of Suicidal Risk in Young People.

John Fitzgerald, Karma Galyer, Gavin Whiu, & Philippa Thomas

Our primary emphasis was on understanding families. Suicide risk provides the important context within which we are working.

Description of the Project:

The purpose of this project was to obtain data to enhance our understanding of the role of dynamic family factors in the development and management of suicidal risk. We wanted to understand what characteristics, dynamics and strategies distinguish those families who cope well with the threat of loss by suicide and demonstrate high resilience, from those that struggle. Specifically, are there family interaction patterns or practices which compound/mitigate risk? Are there family strategies which enhance psychological and social resilience and coping, and which contribute to better outcomes? To make this project more manageable we have elected to focus on youth up to the age of 24 years, although we are aware that a majority of completed suicides occur during adulthood.

To complete this project we talked with …

  • Families that had experienced the loss of a young (16-24 yrs) family member by suicide,
  • Families where a young family member had attempted suicide, and
  • Families where the young family members had no recognised mental health difficulties, and where there had been no suicidal thinking or behaviour.
  • A number of mental health professionals who provide services to individuals and families who have been ‘touched’ by suicide.

The final report is available on the Te Pou website for download . There is also a brief Fact Sheet available.

Mental health screening for depression and anxiety in vision rehabilitation needs assessment

John Fitzgerald PhD, Clinical Psychologist, The Psychology Centre
Claire Fitzgerald DBO BA, Practice Advisor, Blind Foundation, NEW ZEALAND

In this project we explored the use of a simple screening measure in assisting frontline staff in identifying anxiety and depression which are (a) common in the general population, and (b) can have a major impact on an individuals day-to-day functioning, including their ability to benefit from rehabilitation programmes. As mental health and general psychological services have moved to place increased emphasis on evidence-supported interventions there has been an improvement in the ‘technology’ supporting the early detection of psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.  This is fortunate as these two psychological disorders are common and can be highly disruptive. Within the Blind Foundation (previously the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind) the early detection of these difficulties could aid staff in making more appropriate use of existing services, e.g., counselling, and plan a rehabilitation programme that is more individually tailored to the strengths and difficulties of the client at that time. The positive outcomes from this project could also support movements to develop a basic intake dataset (benchmark) against which outcomes can be evaluated, and assist in the ‘professionalisation’ of the needs assessment process.

Data collection for this project was completed between 2012 and 2014, with a summary fof the data being presented at the Vision 2014 Conference in Melbourne, Australia (April, 2014).
Fitzgerald C. & Fitzgerald J. (2014). Introducing a simple mental health screen to vision rehabilitation needs assessment: Assessing the usefulness of screening using the Patient Health Questionnaire-4.

A summary of this research has been published.
Fitzgerald, J. & Fitzgerald, C. (2014). Use of a simple mental health screen within vision rehabilitation needs assessment: the PHQ-4. International Journal of Ophthalmic Practice, 5

Ethics in practice: Attitudes and behaviours amongst Clinical Psychologists in New Zealand.

Dr John Fitzgerald, Director/Clinical Psychologist, The Psychology Centre, Hamilton
Dr Joshua Myers, Clinical Psychologist, The Psychology Centre, Hamilton

This project examined awareness and application of ethical values in clinical practice. Ethical decision making is at the foundation of safe and competent practice in clinical psychology. While we have valuable guidelines in the Code of Ethics for Psychologists Working in Aotearoa/New Zealand we have little information about how these are translated into practice other than when the ethical principles are seriously challenged. Fortunately, these cases are relatively uncommon, and the transgressions are readily identifiable.

The purpose of this survey was to explore the judgments about ethical values and associated clinical experiences of a broad range of clinical psychologists, and clinical students. By using a survey format that has been used in America and Europe we are able to provide some comment on those aspects of clinical experience and practice that touch on our own ethical values. We also hope that the data collected will eventually assist in the identification of professional development needs and opportunities specific to New Zealand. By seeking data from across a broad range of clinical psychologists we hope to be able to examine changes in ethical awareness as practice competence increases.

The survey consisted of three sections. The first contains 84 items related to various aspects of clinical practice. Participants were asked to provide three ratings for each item, (i) the extent to which they have engaged in each behaviour in their practice, (ii) how ethical they thought the behaviour is, and (iii) to what extent the behaviour reflects good/poor practice. The second section presented a list of 13 resources for informing ethical practice. Participants were asked rate how useful they have found each of these in guiding their ethical practice. The final section collected some demographic information about the participant.

Preliminary survey results were presented at the 2013 annual conference of the NZ Psychological Society (Auckland, September 2013)

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