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My name is Emily McDonald and I am a Registered Social Worker based in Christchurch, New Zealand. I have 12 years of experience in the social work industry working in both governmental and NGO agencies. 


Given the growing need for mental health services in the Upper South Island, Diane Gillespie and I have developed Southern Alps Psychology. My goal is to grow and develop our company into a modern service that delivers a diverse range of resources/services to best meet the needs of our clients. ​

At present Southern Alp’s Psychology deliver ACC Psychological Assessment, Counselling/ Psychotherapy, Equine Therapy, Family Court Counselling, Group Therapy, Social Work,
Training and Consulting, Coaching, Cultural Supervision and Clinical Supervision.

If you would like to get in touch we would love to hear from you. Please visit the Contact page to get in touch with me.

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Emily McDonald

Southern Alps Psychology Manager


Registered Social Worker SWRB, ANZASW.

ACC accredited Counsellor, Social Worker and Group Facilitator


Diane Gillespie first begun her private psychology and mental health service in 1999, as a service to support people who were experiencing psychological distress and who needed an alternative to the public mental health and psychological services. At the time she was working between three jobs as a behaviour support worker for IHC (Idea Services), a women’s refuge co-ordinator and part-time tutor for Southern Institute of technology (SIT) teaching conflict resolution, micro counselling and life skills.

Diane’s experience came from lived experience of abuse and violence as a child, working with women, children and families/whanau and political activism in the women’s refuge movement on the one hand, and working in the disability sector applying psychological methods with clients with neurodiversity due to environmental teratogens, brain injury, intellectual disability, trauma, mental health issues, and related challenging behaviour as a result.  She moved from part-time to full-time teaching at SIT, including teaching psychology to nursing, health, social work, and teaching more broadly education, women’s social services and women’s studies of the Health and Humanities department.  

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Her qualifications majored in psychology, and minored in counselling and psychotherapy, with an undergraduate degree, Masters and Postgraduate Diploma in psychology including papers in counselling, early childhood education, women’s studies, philosophy, cultural issues and psychotherapy.  She engaged in further training in dream analysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, CBT, ACT, DBT, Equine Psychotherapy, and attachment-based psychotherapies to assist the longer-term clients she was working with.  


In her private practice, she worked engaging people in psychological processes to apply the psychology, counselling, psychotherapy and trauma training to assess, plan and treat the conditions that were impacting them and causing psychological distress. During this time, she became a full member of first the social work professional body, the New Zealand Counselling and Psychotherapy professional body, and in 2012 a registered psychologists with specialities in trauma and disability. She became approved by ACC, Family Court, and MSD to provide counselling and psychological services to funded clients.

In 2014, ACC developed a new contract for its sensitive claims work the ISSC. Diane worked hard finding like-minded others in Southland and Canterbury where she had built relationships undertaking psychological assessments for particularly complex cases where people had complex histories of trauma and often disabilities. She applied for, and was awarded, an ACC contract as an individual provider/supplier, Diane Gillespie Registered Psychologist.  She also developed a further contract covering Otago and Central Otago with a business partner, forming Southern Psychology (SP). Diane was the clinical lead and also undertook the bulk of the management and duties for SP with the help of a casual office assistant. In 2016 the business partner decided to focus her energies in Central Otago, and the partnership ceased. Diane then began trading as South Coast Psychology (sole trader), with counselling, psychology, psychotherapy, social work providing services throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Owing to demand, these services then grew to include complementary therapies, group work, Kaupapa Māori services, mentoring students and interns, psychiatry, supervision and training.

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In the background, Diane engaged with her horses for self-care and keeping her grounded and aware. In 2019, due to Diane and her husband’s (Jim Gillespie) love of horses, they then developed an Equine Therapy service at their property at Edendale, and Diane began researching equine psychotherapies and the growing body of research showing the effectiveness of working psychotherapeutically with the assistance of horses for healing the impacts of trauma. She then trained in equine psychotherapy through the Equine Psychotherapy Institute and began offering equine psychotherapy to clients.

In September 2021 South Coast Psychology became South Coast Psychology Ltd (a limited liability company) with Diane and her husband Jim Gillespie as directors.  To support the development of the growing company in 2022, Diane and Jim looked at how the business could be better managed to allow for longevity and legacy. Two arms were then developed to assist in developing and managing the regions outside South Coast (Waitaki Bridge down).  These two companies were registered in February 2023.

1.  Southern Alps Psychology (SAP – from the Waitaki bridge up in the South Island) 

2. North Coasts Tamaki Makaurau Psychology (NCTMP – all of the North Island) 

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Collective Overview of Company Structure  

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Individual Company Structure

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Advisory Board 


In 2023, the Advisory board of South Coast Psychology Ltd was developed out of a need for expert guidance from persons who have proven records of adhering to South Coast Psychology’s values, vision, mission, and way of operating, and have the necessary expertise to give advice about the strategic direction of SCP.  

The purpose of the SCP Advisory Board is to bring together people who collectively have wide knowledge and experience in the business, psychology, health and social sectors, accountancy and administration fields, working with the specified cohort of people who will benefit from psychology and social services, as an advisory group on the design, management and development of solutions to further the delivery of psychology services in Aotearoa New Zealand and offer the directors support and guidance.

The advisory board is to provide new insights and guidance to solve business problems or explore new opportunities by stimulating robust, high-quality conversations. The role of the advisory board is not to make decisions, but rather to provide current knowledge, critical thinking and analysis to increase the confidence of the directors.

As at 24.11.23, the members are:
•    Dallas Frederikson – Board Administrator 
•    Erin Howes – Accountant
•    Jenny Beer
•    Nancy McGregor – Chair
•    Nishi Rai-Parkhill
•    Sonia Pera – Cultural Advisor 

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