Do You Need Help With Your
Nearly half of all Australians will experience a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, at some point in their lives. This means, statistically speaking, having a mental health problem is very common.
Signs you are experiencing a mental health problem can be varied. If you have been feeling sad, worried, down, angry, depressed, numb or generally just ‘not yourself’ for two weeks or more, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.
Seeking help from a health professional such as a Psychologist as soon as possible is very important because without help, your symptoms may worsen, and may begin to negatively impact your physical health and your ability to cope at work, school, or in your relationships.
Fortunately, there many effective psychological interventions available to treat mental health problems.
Step 1: Make an Appointment with a GP to Obtain a Mental Health Treatment Plan
The first step in accessing treatment for a mental health problem, like any other illness, is a consultation with a General Practitioner (GP).
A GP can help you access Government rebates to help pay part of the cost of seeing a Psychologist, through a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP). A MHTP is a plan a GP writes with you about receiving treatment for a mental health condition.
If you have a referral from a GP for a MHTP you will be eligible to receive a Medicare rebate of $87.45 for a session with a general Psychologist, or $128.40 for a session with a Clinical Psychologist, per session, for up to 20 sessions per calendar year.
It is also important to see a GP because a GP can check for any physical health problems or medications that may be contributing to mental health problems you are experiencing.
If you don’t have a regular GP, or are looking for a new one, or one who bulk bills so you don't have to pay for your medical services, you can find one on the Government’s Health Direct website. Alternatively, try googling Doctors in your local area and choose a Doctor who lists “mental health” as one of their areas of interest. However, remember that all GPs are trained to assist you with your mental health.
Step 2: Find a Psychologist
When developing your MHTP, your GP can refer you to a Psychologist that they recommend. You also have the option to find a Psychologist you specialises in the area you want help with, before you go to the GP.
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has a Find a Psychologist™ service (click here) that helps you to find a Psychologist to suit your individual needs. The Find a Psychologist™ directory lists thousands of APS registered Psychologists around Australia.
Once you have your MHTP and your referral, you can set up an appointment with the Psychologist you want to see.
Please note, you can also directly contact a Psychologist to make an appointment (without at MHTP). However, if you choose this path, you will not be eligible for a Government rebate for your sessions and will have to pay the full cost yourself (more details about costs are provided below).
Step 3: Seek Help in the Interim if you Need It
If you are waiting to see a Psychologist, and you need help in the meantime, please seek help from online sources.
In Australia there are free and confidential emotional support, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year:
If you are under 25, or a parent of a young person, call Kids Help Line at 1800 55 1800.
If you think you have a medical emergency and are at risk of harm to yourself, please call 000 immediately.
Can I access psychological services online?
Yes! On 29 March 2020 the Federal Government announced all Medicare-eligible Australians have access to telehealth consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means you can access psychological services via videoconferencing or phone.
How much does it cost to see a Psychologist?
The fees that Psychologists charge vary, and depend on their qualifications, the type of service being offered and the setting in which they work. However, if you have a MHTP from a GP, you can receive Government rebates under Medicare to help pay part of the cost of seeing a Psychologist.
The current Government rebate for seeing a Psychologist is $87.45 for a general Psychologist or $128.40 for a Clinical Psychologist, for a 50 minute session.
This means, for example, if a Psychologist charges $140, your out of pocket cost with a MHTP would be:
$52.55 out of pocket
If a Clinical Psychologist charges $180, your out of pocket cost with a MHTP would be:
$51.60 out of pocket
If you are a Concession Card Holder (e.g., from Centrelink payments), tell your Psychologist, as you may be eligible for a discount.
You can also search for a Psychologist who bulk bills, so that there is no out of pocket expense here.
Private health insurers may also rebate part of the cost of psychological consultations. Contact your health insurance provider for further information.
What is the difference between Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists, and Counsellors?
A Psychiatrist holds a medical degree with a specialisation in mental health. They are able to diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe pharmacological (drug) treatments. Some psychiatrists also do talk therapy. Psychiatrists generally treat the most severe of mental health issues with medical interventions, although this is not always the case, and if you have been seeing a GP or Psychologist for some time about your mental health, and you are still not satisfied, a consultation with a Psychiatrist, for an expert opinion, may help.
Psychologists focus more on psychotherapeutic treatments. They use talk therapy to help people understand their thoughts, emotions and behaviours, and the relationships between them.
A Clinical Psychologist has completed an undergraduate degree in psychology with an Honours in Psychology, as well as a Master or Doctor of Clinical Psychology. They have also undergone specialised training in clinical psychology.
A General Psychologist has completed an undergraduate degree in psychology, followed by an Honours year, plus a postgraduate degree in psychology or two years of supervised training in which they receive on-the-job training while working closely with a supervisor.
A Counselling Psychologist has completed a Master of Psychology (Counselling). They help people through life transitions, with a focus on interpersonal relationships and mediation.
Counsellors are well-suited to helping people who are struggling with life’s ups and downs. Most counsellors have completed a Master of Counselling. However, individuals with more acute, long-lasting mental health issues will sometimes be better served by a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist.
In Australia, all Psychologists must be approved by the Psychology Board of Australia and registered with Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency (AHPRA). You can check the registration of a Psychologist here.
What if I’m scared to talk to a GP about my mental health?
It is understandable to be nervous before you talk to a Doctor about your mental health, particularly if it is not something you regularly talk about.
Remember that the Doctor is trained to assist you with your mental health, just like they know how to help you look after your physical health, and they help patients with mental health problems all the time. Even if you are nervous, it is still important to speak with your Doctor so that you can receive appropriate help. In fact, if you are nervous, it is a good idea to tell your Doctor, as it might help them to understand how your mental health is affecting you. It might help to try writing down all the things you’d like to tell your Doctor before your appointment, so you feel prepared when you arrive.
Keep in mind your health information and MHTP will be private and confidential. Doctors can’t share your information unless you agree to it.
For tips on how to talk to a Doctor about your mental health click here.
What if I don’t want to see a GP or obtain a MHTP?
You only need to talk to your GP to obtain a MHTP if you want to claim a Medicare rebate. You can still see a Psychologist without a GP referral. However, it is often a good idea to keep your GP in the loop if you have a significant issue, so you have a broader support network. In addition, seeing a GP can help rule out any physical health conditions or medications that may be affecting your mental health.
What will happen when I meet with my Psychologist?
The first session with a Psychologist is nearly always primarily an information-gathering meeting. It is about the Psychologist trying to understand what your current problems are, and what is causing them.
From there, the Psychologist will assess what is the best evidence-based treatment to help you with your problems. There are many different psychological treatments for mental health problems. It is important to make sure you know what treatment you are receiving, and if you do not feel the current treatment approach is helping you, ask your Psychologist to try a different treatment.
You can read more about the different treatments here.
What if I don’t feel comfortable talking to my Psychologist?
If you meet with a Psychologist and you do not think it is a good match, then you can see a different Psychologist under your MHTP. It is perfectly acceptable to tell a Psychologist you do not think it is a "good fit" and try someone new.
Keep in mind though, that every session you have counts toward your limit of Medicare rebatable sessions. So, if you “start over” with a new Psychologist, your rebatable sessions won’t renew until the next year.
How can I prepare myself for my first session with my Psychologist?
If you've decided it's time to see a Psychologist, then you’ve already done the hardest part: recognised you could use support with your mental health.
If you would like to prepare for your first session, one good place to start may be to think about what your goals for therapy are.
For some people it is to “feel better”. Which is a great goal, however, the more specific your goals are, the more achievable they will be. Ask yourself: what does “feeling better” look like? Worrying less about what is going to happen in the future? Getting a better night sleep? Being able to better communicate with your partner?
Whatever your goals are, be sure to tell your Psychologist, and throughout therapy, don't be afraid to tell your Psychologist if you feel you’re not focusing on your goals.
What if there is a wait time to see the Psychologist and I need help sooner?
If you are waiting to see a Psychologist, and you need help in the meantime, please seek help here.