How to Access a Psychologist
Balancing our mental health and wellbeing can be tricky! If you feel like you need some tips or advice to take better care of your mental health, it might be time to get support from a Psychologist. There are three simple steps to accessing a Psychologist.
- See Your GP
GPs are trained to help support your mental health, and can make a referral for you/your child to the right agency. This may be a community or government organisation or it may be a private practice. Not only can GPs discuss referral options with you, but they can provide you with a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP), which enables you to get a rebate from Medicare when you see a qualified psychologist.
If you don’t have a GP yet or are not sure where to start, The Peel Health Hub is a great resource (see Finding Help page for more information). Most commonly, people with mental health issues will see a Registered Psychologist or a Clinical Psychologist, both of whom will be registered with the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Using an MHTP, Medicare will rebate up to 10 individual therapy sessions, and 10 group therapy sessions per calendar year. ‘Counsellors’ and ‘therapists’ are not always the same as psychologists, and while they can still offer mental health support, they may not be able to offer you a Medicare rebate.
- Check the Fee
If the service you attend offers Bulk Billing, when you use your MHTP there will be no out-of-pocket cost to you. If you attend a service that does not Bulk Bill, you will need to pay the gap fee between the Psychologist’s fee and what Medicare covers. This will vary by practice and by practitioner. The advantage of seeing a clinician in a private practice is that while Bulk Billing services usually have long waiting lists, at private practices you are usually able to be seen much quicker. Ask directly about any Medicare rebates, out of pocket costs, and waiting times. Talk with your GP about what service is right for you. Some services such as Headspace allow you to self-refer, which means you do not need to see a GP first. The staff will let you know if you do need to obtain a MHTP along the way, and what services they have available without one.
Psychologists usually see clients (that’s you!) in person, on a weekly or fortnightly basis, however the timing of appointments is often negotiated to best suit the needs of the client. Many Psychologists are now also offering telehealth appointments, which can be conducted remotely over programs like Zoom. This can be particularly helpful for clients who live in rural or remote locations. Explore telehealth options with your GP and Psychologist. It can take a few sessions to feel comfortable with your Psychologist, but if you feel you just aren’t clicking, see if the practice has another Psychologist you can try, or go back to your GP for a referral elsewhere.