What does a psychologist do?

A psychologist is a specialist allied health practitioner who is trained in assessing and treating people with mental health issues. Typically, a psychologist helps the client to help clarify what the presenting issues are, and uses evidence-based treatment to help people improve their mental and emotional well being.

What is the difference between a psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor and psychotherapist?

The commonality between all the above professions is that they aim to help people to resolve social and emotional issues.

Psychologists and clinical psychologists have typically completed an undergraduate degree, a specialist Honours year, and postgraduate specialist training with both practical and theoretical components. They typically use cognitive and behavioural therapies, and emotional education to assist people in the treatment of psychological distress. Click here for information from the Australian Psychological Society.

Psychiatrists are trained medical practitioners (doctors) who specialise in mental health. They usually prescribe medication as a core component of their treatment of psychological distress. Some Psychiatrists also use cognitive behavioural therapies, although they tend to out-source this treatment to psychologists. Click here for more information.

Counsellors and Psychotherapists vary in their qualifications, and the titles “counsellor” and “Psychotherapist” are unregulated – there is no consistency as to who can and cannot call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist. There are however, some associations in Australia that seek to regulate counsellors’ and psychotherapists’ experience, qualifications and practice methodologies. Due to the generic nature of these titles, some psychologists also refer to themselves as counsellors, or psychotherapists or say they offer counselling or psychotherapy services. (for more information on relevant associations, click here http://www.theaca.net.au/,  and here www.pacfa.org.au/)

How much does it cost to see a psychologist?

Psychologists in private clinics can set their own fees, and these are not regulated (in the same way that private GPs can charge any fee they wish). However the Australian Psychological Society (APS) suggests that Psychologists charge according to a fee schedule with hourly rates starting at approximately $228 per hour.

At Private Practice Psychology, we charge $110 per hour for individual sessions, and clients can obtain a rebate from Medicare or their private health insurance, meaning that the out of pocket expense to see a psychologist can be as little as around $25 per session.

Click here for more information on rebates.

How do I get a referral to see a psychologist?

To get a referral through Medicare to see a psychologist, you book in at your local GP for a long appointment, where the GP will conduct a brief assessment of your mental health and determine whether they recommend that you see a psychologist through a Mental Health Care Plan. This will usually mean you can see a psychologist for at least 6 sessions per calendar year, with a review allowing you up to 10 sessions in total per calendar year subsidised by a Medicare rebate.  Click here for more information on Medicare rebates.

Your Psychiatrist or paediatrician can also provide there referrals.

Do I need a referral to see a psychologist?

No. Many people attend psychologists with no GP referral. These people typically identify that there is one or more social, emotional, workplace or mental health issue that they would like to improve without consulting a doctor. If you don’t have a referral, you simply pay the full private fee.

How do I find a psychologist?

Your local GP may recommend a psychologist, or you may request your own psychologist. Many registered psychologists are listed on the APS website that allows you to search by geographic location and specialty. You can also check the AHPRA website to ensure the psychologist is fully qualified and registered.

How many sessions do I need with a psychologist?

The number of sessions required varies from person to person depending on a huge number of factors, including the nature of the presenting issue, how quickly the individual is able to make the recommended behavioural changes during treatment, and the chosen treatment methodology of the psychologist. Some issues can be resolved in as little as 1-3 sessions, others may take up to 12. Some people with long term mental health conditions such as eating disorders, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia benefit from participating in psychological treatment over many months or years. Your psychologist should discuss anticipated treatment timeframes and review points during your sessions. And remember- good psychologists try to work themselves out of a job by providing clients with the skills and knowledge they need to largely manage their own mental health as independently as possible.

What happens when I see a psychologist?

The first step is to make your booking. You may be self referred, or referred by your doctor. Simply contact us via telephone (02 8878 3988) and our staff will find the next available appointment that suits you.

On the day of your first appointment, bring your referral (if you have one), your Medicare card (if you have one) and any other relevant information. Your psychologist will usually spend the first session asking you questions in a clinical interview in order to better understand why you are seeking treatment, and to formulate a treatment plan. Your successive sessions tend to be about obtaining any further specific information, and providing you with skills and information that will help you to resolve your issues as much as possible.

At the conclusion of each session you will be given an invoice (to be paid on the day at reception) for your records, and will usually be given some kind of “homework” task to complete in between sessions. This usually involves thinking about or practicing some of the things discussed in session.