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How to Access Affordable Mental Health Services in Australia

How to Access Affordable Mental Health Services in Australia

A Guide to Mental Health Care Plans

The following provides a guide to Mental Health Care Plans and how to access affordable mental health care services in Australia. Including making psychological services & treatment more affordable and how you can find an appropriate service as quickly as possible.

Does Medicare pay for Mental Health Counselling or Psychology?

The Australian Government now subsidises up to 20 Psychology sessions in a Calendar year. It’s important to understand the requirements needed to access all 20 sessions.

Where do I start? What’s a mental health care plan?

Talk to your doctor. GPs expect to be the first person you talk to about mental health concerns. They are trained to consider immediate risks, long-term recovery and referrals to appropriate practitioners. They’ll do this by developing a Mental Health Care Plan (also called Mental Health Treatment Plan) by asking you questions about your circumstances and symptoms. There are two purposes for the Mental health Care Plan. Firstly, as the name suggests, it’s a holistic plan for the recovery of your mental health. Including phone numbers to call if you’re at risk of harm and when you should come back and see them again. The second purpose is to provide you with a referral to a Psychologist. An additional referral can also be written for a psychiatrist if medication is being considered. The Mental Health Care Plan, will typically allow you to receive 6 subsidised sessions from a Psychologist. Medicare will pay back between $89.65 and $131.29 for those initial six visits. I would strongly suggest booking a double appointment or even expect to have a follow up appointment the following week. This is because of all the factors that they want to consider and take care of. If you’re not sure what kind of appointment to book, call the reception and see what they recommend.

What do I do with a Mental Health Care Plan?

Your doctor may have provided you with a list of psychologists or clinics to contact. Currently, most doctors will ask you to research a practitioner or clinic then they will address the referral to them. This isn’t because they’re lazy or uncaring. Psychological services are in such high demand that it’s impossible for GPs to keep up with who is taking new clients. Most psychological clinics will have websites with profiles of their psychologists like The Three Seas Psychology. If you’re overwhelmed by the services on offer (CBT, DBT, EMDR, ERP, etc.), you can always call the clinics and they will help guide you to an appropriate practitioner (9809 1000).

Is it free to see a Psychologist?

Psychology services will only be free if they are able to Bulk Bill you. As this means a large reduction in income for the psychologist, they may only offer a handful of these spots, if any. Most psychologists will charge a gap fee. Currently the Australian Psychological society suggests a fee of $267 for sessions less than 60 minutes. After you have paid that fee you can receive a rebate from Medicare of at least $89.65 ($131.65 for clinical psychologists). Using the suggested fee the out of pocket expense would be $177.35. At the Three Seas we have 30+ practitioners who have varying rates, as well as low cost options.  There are a variety of fees and some practitioners offer concession discounts too.

Why does it cost this much to see a psychologist?

Psychology is a very specialised service. They study and train for around 10 years in order to practice and provide these services. Especially, if you are seeking a highly specialised psychologist, the fees will reflect that.

What happens after I use my six sessions on the Mental Health Care Plan?

You will need to revisit your GP, who will check in and see how you are doing. During that follow up appointment they can write you a  Mental Health Review for a further four sessions. This step is important to support your recovery and so that you can receive more subsidised sessions.

What are the COVID 10 sessions?

During the Pandemic the Government allowed people to get an additional Mental Health Care Review for 10 more sessions. This has been made available until 2023 and may be extended after that. To access this, it is the same process as the first Review, visit your GP for a follow up appointment.

Is my Psychologist available 24/7?

No, Psychologists have structured schedules for you to book appointments. This boundary is an important part of the treatment. Luckily there are many support lines available 24/7 which are listed below.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Written by Will Sutherland

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Monique Jones

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