Margaret Pullar

Margaret’s work as a psychotherapist is noteworthy because of two important and distinguishing interwoven themes, which have been part of her lifelong commitment to her profession. The first is her awareness of and concern for the mental health of the community where she lives and works, and the second is her dedication to the provision of psychotherapy in a conservative and psychologically unsophisticated part of the country.

Margaret began her counsellor training attached to the Invercargill office of Marriage Guidance in the mid-seventies, at a time when there were virtually no other mental health agencies or social services south of Dunedin. A group of socially concerned Gore citizens, including Margaret, began meeting to address the provision of local services, and in January 1978 the Gore and Districts Community Counselling Centre was opened. This included a Citizens’ Advice Bureau, education in human relations, and counselling and psychotherapy. Margaret was initially Secretary to the organisation. The Counselling Centre had its critics, including those to whom psychodynamic therapy was an enigma. It was Margaret’s belief in the necessity of psychotherapy that was the driving force giving the Executive the courage to continue. Her professionalism and insistence on the highest standards of supervision and training provision for local people enabled them to silence their critics and prove their worth.

Margaret became Director of the Counselling Centre in 1986 and initiated a new phase of expansion. One of her achievements was the establishment of a group of rural volunteer counsellors, assisting farming families with the enormous anxiety and suicidal distress that followed the rural downturn in the eighties. Another was overseeing a project extending the Centre in the nineties, including adding facilities for work with disturbed children and their families.

Since leaving the Counselling Centre ten years ago Margaret has been in private practice, and she intends to retire from this in September. We thank her and wish her well.