Frequently Asked Questions

Seeking out a psychologist for the first time can be confronting. Having the right information can really help. Some common queries are addressed here.

  • What is a psychologist? +

    As noted on the Australian Psychological Society website:
    Psychologists study the way people feel, think, act and interact. Through a range of strategies and therapies they aim to reduce distress and to enhance and promote emotional wellbeing. Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, and have studied the brain, memory, learning and human development. Psychologists can assist people who are having difficulty controlling their emotions, thinking and behaviour, including those with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, serious and enduring mental illness, addictive behaviours and childhood behaviour disorders.

    This does not mean that only people who are experiencing severe mental illness can seek the assistance of a psychologist. Many people who have never been diagnosed with a mental illness see psychologists - people who have "normal" jobs, families and relationships and who do not "appear" to need help.

    Whether due to a particular challenge at work, a difficult social situation, nervousness when speaking in public or using lifts, difficulty dealing with conflict, relationship stress and for many other reasons, it is absolutely okay to ask for help to learn new skills and to have support in order to manage your life more effectively.

    Psychology is a regulated profession in Australia, and any person calling themselves a psychologist or practising as a psychologist must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA).

    Psychologists must take part in ongoing education and training to keep their skills and knowledge up to date to retain their registration. They must also follow a strict code of ethics, which protects consumers by covering issues such as conduct and confidentiality, and meet rigorous professional standards that are enforced by the PsyBA.

  • What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? +

    A psychologist studies a science or arts degree with a major in psychology (the study of human behaviour) followed by a postgraduate degree specialising in a particular field of psychology (such as clinical, counselling, forensic etc).

    Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have studied six years of general medicine, followed by further study to specialise in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. They typically work in medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics and private practice and are interested in the mental and physical factors contributing to psychological disorders.

    They can prescribe medications, such as anti-depressants. Some combine medication with other forms of therapy and many work in cooperation with psychologists providing non-medication therapies.

    A referral from your GP is usually required prior to making an appointment with a psychiatrist.

  • What does confidentiality mean? +

    When you see a psychologist you have the right to expect that what you say to them will be kept with them and not disclosed to any other people. However, there are some exceptions to this: By law, a psychologist must seek the assistance of a third party if you tell them that you are going to a) harm yourself, b) harm someone else, or c) engage in an activity which threatens to harm your wellbeing.

    Your psychologist will usually keep notes regarding the sessions that you have, and if you are involved in a legal situation, their file can be subpoenaed by the court. If you are referred through the Medicare system your psychologist will need to have contact with your GP.

    Usually, psychologists also engage in regular supervision themselves to improve their practice, and they might raise your situation with their supervisor to receive feedback about the approach they are using.

  • How many times do I need to see a psychologist? +

    This depends greatly upon the situation you are experiencing - everyone is different. Some things are shifted in 3-4 sessions while others need long-term deep psychotherapy.

    It is not so much the severity of the problems that determines the length of the therapy process, but the nature of the issues and therefore the chosen therapeutic modality. This is something to discuss with your psychologist.

  • What if I don't like the psychologist I see? +

    Finding a psychologist that you "click" with is just like finding a GP that you feel comfortable with - sometimes it takes a while to find the right person. Different psychologists also have different approaches, so while the first person you come across might not seem right for your situation, it is always worth trying someone else.

  • How effective are psychological treatments? +

    Research shows psychological treatments are effective in managing many mental health disorders. These approaches are based on changing behaviour generally without medication. Some treatments are as successful as medication in treating the most prevalent conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

    Around one in five Australians develop common disorders and the most prevalent adult mental health conditions are depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, which affect around 18 per cent of adults. A similar percentage of children and adolescents develop anxiety, depression and disruptive behaviour.

    A review of current research shows that a range of well-defined psychological treatments:

    ● are effective at treating the most common mental health conditions
    ● are effective in treating most anxiety and depression disorders
    ● are the treatment of choice for most childhood problems
    ● tend to be more effective than medication over the long term, because people receiving medication only are more likely to relapse after they stop taking it
    ● are viable treatments, in terms of both their effectiveness and costs.

    Qualified psychologists have a range of evidence-based therapies which provide them with many tools to address a range of problems and issues. To be registered, a psychologist must now have six years of education and supervised experience, meaning they have significant knowledge and skill when they enter the field.

  • Can I get a rebate from Medicare to cover the cost of my psychology sessions? +

    To be able to claim the Medicare rebate, you will need to see your GP or Specialist to discuss your eligibility prior to your counselling appointment. If suitable, your doctor will formulate a Mental Health Treatment Plan.

    When the GP registers you with Medicare for the Mental Health Treatment Plan, you may request the psychologist of your choice. Alternatively, the GP can refer you to a psychologist he or she recommends.

    With a Mental Health Treatment Plan from your doctor, you are eligible for up to 10 counselling sessions in a calendar year. This comprises six initial sessions, followed by a review with your GP regarding your progress. The doctor will then decide if you need an additional four sessions.

    The current rebate for a 50+ minute session with a psychologist is $84.80.

    If you make an appointment with us without a doctor’s referral, you will not be able to claim the Medicare rebate. However some Private Health Insurance Funds cover psychology appointments. Please check your individual cover.

  • Common reasons people seek help from psychologists +

    Everyday problems, such as work stress, relationship troubles and coping with illness, can seriously affect your life. Addressing these concerns is vital to enjoying life and good relationships.

    Among the issues that Australians commonly consult psychologists about are:

    Addictions Eating disorders Relationship problems
    ADHD Environment Refugees and asylum seekers
    Ageing Financial stress Same-sex marriage
    Anxiety Gambling Self-image
    Autism Homelessness Sexualisation of girls
    Bullying Human rights Social networking
    Child sexual abuse Indigenous Australians Stress
    Dementia Learning disabilities Torture
    Depression LGBTI issues Trauma
    Disasters Lifestyle effects on health Violence
    Drugs and alcohol Parenting Workplace issues
    DSM-5 Racism
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Medicare Rebates

You may be eligible for a Medicare rebate for counselling appointments. See your doctor and request a Medicare mental health plan referral.

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