Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre for Child & Family Psychology

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Building stronger communities

The Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre is run alongside the University of Canterbury Child and Family Psychology Programme and is unique in Australasia. The Centre provides assessment and interventions on a short-term basis for children and families/whānau with moderate needs who are not currently receiving support from other services, or who face long waiting lists for such services. It is a free service set up from donated funds and is managed by senior registered psychologists.

Since inception, the Centre has provided training to 51 students and 590 children and families have been provided with free psychological services.

Pukemanu Dovedale

After a visit to their family doctor, parents Pam and John were encouraged to visit the Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre because of concerns about their daughter Millie’s behaviour. What was soon revealed was that their whole family was in need of support and a long journey to health and happiness was to follow.

“What we appreciated most about the Centre was the provision of support for as long as it was required, the sessions going at our pace, good listening, and a parenting intervention which was specifically tailored for our family.”
Pam & John – Parents

Millie (6) had problems with self-esteem, emotional outbursts and challenging behaviours that included screaming, yelling, biting, pinching, hitting and destruction of property. Older brother Tim (8), had also been displaying worrying behaviour and had been heard to say things like ‘I’m useless’ and ‘what’s the point of living’. These issues first presented at home, but progressed to school following earthquake closures and transitions to new environments.

For Pam and John, supporting Millie and Tim had become increasingly difficult and the situation was made worse by their different approaches to parenting and relationship problems.

“With 15 out of 16 possible areas of conflict showing in their parenting assessment, their differences were really problematic,” explains Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre Clinical Director Suzi Hall.

“We also assessed significant marital conflict and distress and that John was experiencing severe depression.”

With so much weighing on the family, each issue needed to be tackled to ultimately create a better home environment. John, uneasy at first, worked with his doctor to treat his depression and the pair then utilised couples therapy. Once the Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre had supported the parents through those steps, the Centre worked with them using an evidence-based approach to their parenting.

"Each week, John and Pam were given a plan to implement at home that involved using specific parenting skills such as descriptive praise, house rules, behaviour charts, effective consequences and engaging activities to keep the children busy,” Ms Hall says.

“The parents later identified this written plan as one of the most helpful things they could focus on as it meant they began to communicate more successfully and implement effective strategies, meaning the children’s behaviour vastly improved.”

Pam and John say that the Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre’s thorough assessment enabled them to see the big picture and helped identify and treat the contributing issues. A year on, Pam reports that life in their family is very different following their involvement with the Pukemanu-Dovedale Centre.

“Both children’s behaviour is settled and John has had very significant positive changes in mood. This has had an impact on how he relates to the children, the strategies he puts in place to manage their behaviour and the communication, negotiation and warmth he has with me,” Pam says.

“I also found the ability of the Centre’s staff to work as a team with our couple’s therapist invaluable, their understanding of the role depression played in the family dynamics was critical. I rate the quality of the service as 10 out of 10.”