How do I receive the Medicare rebate?

You first need to visit your General Practitioner (GP) to outline your mental health concerns and request a referral. It is best to let the practice know when booking your appointment that you require a Mental Health Care Plan assessment as it is common practice to book a double appointment so that they have adequate time to develop a care plan with you. The Mental Health Care Plan entitles you to a rebate for 10 individual sessions AND 10 group sessions per calendar year. You can obtain 6 rebated sessions on your first referral and another 4-6 sessions on your second referral (called a 'review'). If you do not have a Mental Health Care Plan in place before your first visit you will be required to pay in full.

Can I still see a psychologist without a referral?

Yes. You are welcome to attend any time without a referral. You only need a referral if you wish to claim Medicare rebates. Some clients do not use Medicare but prefer to pay the full fee or use Private Health rebates.

Note: Check with your fund first if intending to use Extras. Some private health funds require you to use all 10 Medicare rebated sessions before you are eligible for Psychology Extras.

What if I’m late or miss an appointment?

We aim to be on time and ensure that all appointment times run to schedule. For this reason, if a client runs late the full fee and scheduled appointment time will be kept the same and extra time cannot be given. We do appreciate that circumstances may require appointments to be rescheduled. If you need to cancel an appointment it is important to give us a minimum of 24 hours’ notice. We reserve the right to charge clients the $75 fee for non-attendance where appointments are missed with less than 24 hours’ notice. This fee will be the responsibility of the client and not other paying parties.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

There are a number of important differences between these two types of mental health professionals. The first is that psychologists have completed a university qualification in understanding human behaviour and emotion and thought, whereas psychiatrists have a university qualification in medicine. The second difference is that psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications whereas psychologists are not. Psychologists treat mental health issues using thought and behavioural techniques, such as thought analysis and restructuring, life skills training, education, lifestyle adjustment, exercise, goal setting, problem-solving and making positive environmental changes. In addition, clinical psychologists have undertaken an extra two years’ postgraduate training in specific mental health disorders, their assessment, diagnosis and treatment, and have often trained and worked in more diverse clinical settings such as hospitals, community and acute mental health services. Psychiatrists are particularly helpful when medications are required, such as with psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder or when the presenting illness has organic pathologies, for example, in cases of dementia or acquired brain injury.

Should I take medication for my concern?

Previous scientific evidence indicated that medication is a front-line treatment with a few specific mental illnesses. For example, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder and the varying types of psychoses are best treated with medication. For other more common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, medication can also help to stabilise mood and bring about change, in the short to medium term. However, it is important to appreciate that the choice of medication versus counselling is not mutually exclusive. That is, just because you may already be taking medication does not mean you would not benefit from counselling. Indeed, research suggests that a combination of both medication and counselling often leads to better outcomes.

Having said that, the latest research in neuroplasticity research suggests that creating enriched environments (a Nobel Prize idea) is essential for improving our mental health. This is what Soul Food Cafe and Lifeboat Counselling focus on.

“To effectively address mental illness, neural pathways need to shift. This capacity of the brain to change has been demonstrated with enriched environments – of which talking therapies are an important part. The role of therapeutic relationships in changing neural connectivity and reshaping higher neural connections is indeed in line with Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel’s prediction in 1998 – the dawn of a ‘remarkable scientific revolution’ that will change the paradigm of understanding the brain for the 21st century”. – Professor Pieter Rossouw