Frequently Asked Questions
What is a 'mental disorder'?
‘Mental disorder’ is a term used to describe a range of clinically diagnosable disorders that significantly impact a person’s emotions, thoughts, social skills, and decision-making.
What is a Psychologist?
A Psychologist is a professional trained in the science of how people think, feel, behave, and learn.
In Australia, psychology is a regulated profession. This means that practicing Psychologists must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and listed with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
What is the difference between a Psychologist and and Psychiatrist?
Psychologist – Registered Psychologists have a minimum of six years of university training and supervised experience while engaging in ongoing education to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Clinical Psychologists are trained in the assessment and diagnosis of mental illnesses and are qualified to provide advice in clinical and compensation areas.
Psychiatrist – Psychiatrists are medical doctors with at least 11 years of training. Psychiatrists prescribe medication, Psychologists are usually the first point of contact before seeing a psychiatrist.
What is the Better Access to Mental Health initiative?
Medicare rebates are available for psychological treatment by registered psychologists under the Australian Government’s Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. This scheme provides considerable assistance to people living with mental health problems, allowing them greater access to psychologists and providing more affordable mental healthcare.
Under this scheme individuals diagnosed with mental health, disorder can access up to 10 individual and 10 group treatment sessions per year.
What is a registered Psychologist?
Psychologists study the way people feel, think, act and interact. Through a range of strategies and therapies, they aim to reduce distress while enhancing and promoting emotional well-being. Psychologists are experts in human behaviour. They 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.
All psychologists are registered with the national registration board, the Psychology Board of Australia, in the same way, medical practitioners must be registered. This means that they must be competent and follow a strict Code of Conduct.
Can I go directly to a Psychologist to receive treatment through Medicare?
To access mental health treatment under Medicare you must be referred by your GP, a psychiatrist or a paediatrician. If a GP is the referring practitioner he or she will need to prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan before referring you to a psychologist. You should book a longer session with your GP to enable time for this.
Can I access any Psychologist?
Under the scheme, a psychologist must be registered with Medicare and have a Medicare Provider Number in order to provide services under the Better Access scheme.
Can I request a referral to a specific Psychologist or does my Doctor have to choose?
Your doctor must first assess that you require the services of a psychologist. Your doctor may allow you to request a specific psychologist or may refer you to a registered psychologist that he/she recommends. The psychologist in question must have a Medicare Provider Number for you to be able to claim the Medicare rebate.
If I am already seeing a Psychologist, can I access Medicare benefits?
In order to receive a Medicare rebate under the Better Access initiative, you must be referred to a psychologist by an appropriate medical practitioner (GP, psychiatrist, or pediatrician). The doctor must first make an assessment that you need the services of a psychologist. If you are already seeing a psychologist, discuss this with your doctor.
What will I have to pay for Psychology services?
The cost to you will vary depending on the length of the session and the psychologist’s fee.
The cost for a psychological therapy session is usually greater than the Medicare rebate, so it is likely that you will need to pay the difference between what the psychologist charges you and the Medicare rebate.
What about my private health insurance?
You cannot use your private health insurance extras cover to top up any Medicare rebates. You need to decide if you will use Medicare or your private health insurance ancillary cover to pay for any psychological services you receive.
You can either access rebates from Medicare by following the claiming process or claim were available on your insurer’s extras or ancillary benefits.
How many sessions with a Psychologist am I entitled to?
Under the Better Access initiative, eligible people can receive:
- Up to 20 individual sessions in a calendar year (1 January to 31 December).
- Up to 10 group therapy sessions in a calendar year where such services are available and seen as appropriate by your referring doctor and the psychologist.
- Referrals cannot be provided for the full 10 sessions. A referral is for a maximum of six sessions. Your referring doctor will assess your progress after the first six sessions then determine whether further sessions are required.
- After you have reached the maximum number of allowable sessions for the calendar year you will not be eligible for any further Medicare rebates for treatment you receive from a psychologist until the new calendar year. In extraordinary circumstances after natural disasters such as bush fires or Covid-19, extra sessions may be available under the Medicare program.
- $240 for telehealth and Face-to-face appointments
- $240 in person weekdays
- $255 afterhours (after 6pm) and weekends
A referral is not required for a psychological consultation if you choose to self fund. However, a referral from your General Practitioner (GP), Paediatrician or Psychiatrist is required to access Medicare rebates for psychology assessment and treatment sessions.
Private health insurance
Private health insurers may provide partial rebates for psychological counselling as extras cover. It is recommended that you confirm your level of cover with your insurance provider.
Workers compensation and motor vehicle injury (TAC) claims
Partial psychology consultation fees may be covered in the case of a workers compensation or Motor Vehicle Injury claim. Please consult with your workers compensation insurer or employer for more information.