| General Practitioner
| Counsellor & Psychotherapist
The following table provides an overview of the some of the differences between health professionals
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|General Practitioner||Counsellor & Psychotherapist||Psychologist||Psychiatrist|
|Medication - can they prescribe?||Yes||NO||NO||Yes|
|Fees & Appointments||GP services are available through the Medicare system. Some GP’s bulk-bill, meaning that there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the appointment. If the GP does not bulk-bill, there will be an expense (the ‘gap’ payment).|
Since November 2006, the Mental Health Care Plan allows a GP to work with you to assess your mental health, work out what you need, set goals and choose treatment that would be best for you.
|No set fees or Medicare rebates. Fees range from $50 to $120 per hour. |
Appointment times range from 60 to 90 minutes.
|The Australian Psychological Society has a Schedule of Recommended Fees however psychologists may adjust fees according to the client's financial circumstances. ||Typical appointment length is 50 minutes. Fees are set by Medicare depending on the session type and how long the consultation goes for.|
Although bulk billing is available to some patients, there is often an out-of-pocket fee (the ‘gap’)
|Medicare Rebates available?||Yes|
|NO||Yes - if the psychologist is registered with Medicare||Yes|
|Making an appointment||Contact the GP or Medical Clinic directly.||Contact the therapist directly— no referrals are necessary||You might be referred to a psychologist by your GP; however, it’s fine to contact a psychologist directly without a referral letter.||Discuss first your feelings and symptoms with your GP who will make the referral to a psychiatrist in order to access Medicare rebates. In some cases you may have to wait a few months for an appointment time and you should see you GP if anything changes in the mean time. |
General Practitioner (GP)
General practice is the first point of contact for the majority of
people seeking health care, and often therefore the first point of
referral. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) defines a General Practitioner (GP) as one who provides primary whole-patient medical care to individuals, families and their communities.
The GP often deals with complex problems that need diagnosing, including mental health problems. In managing the patient, the GP may make a referral to other doctors, health-care professionals and secondary-care specialists, such as Psychiatrists or Psychologists. GPs play a critical role in the mental health care system in Australia, providing 11 million services relating to mental health each year. According to research studies, GPs are the preferred source of professional assistance for people with depression.
MedicationThis information was provided by ADAVIC based on information accessed from the RACGP website. Contact RACGP by:
GP’s can prescribe medication for a range of mental health issues, including Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression.
The RACGP website (see below) has a section on Medicine information where you can search for details of particular medications and what they do. (at the website, go to Patients > Consumer Medicine Information)
Fees & Appointments
GP services are available through the Medicare system. Some GP’s bulk-bill, meaning that there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the appointment. If the GP does not bulk-bill, there will be an expense (the ‘gap’ payment).
GP Mental Health Care Consultation—this is a longer appointment with your GP (more than 20 minutes) in which you and your GP focus on your mental health. This appointment has a different Medicare item number to a regular visit.
Since November 2006, the Mental Health Care Plan allows a GP to work with you to assess your mental health, work out what you need, set goals and choose treatment that would be best for you. The Mental Health Care Plan helps everyone involved in your mental health care (psychiatrist and psychologists, for example) to work towards the same goals. If you are referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist through the plan, you can claim these fees through Medicare.
How to make an appointment?
Contact the GP or Medical Clinic directly.
Good Resources for locating GP's
|Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) |
Phone: (03) 8699 0488
- Look in the Yellow pages under 'Doctors - Medical Practitioners'
- Speak to friends and family about their positive experiences with GP's
Phone: (03) 8699 0488
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Counsellor & Psychotherapist
and Psychotherapists (therapists) help people who are generally
suffering from emotional and well-being issues that have a negative
impact on their quality of life. These issues are generally created
through life's normal ups and downs such as job loss, relationship
difficulties, or death of a loved one. These issues when ignored can
lead to the onset of anxiety and depression. If a client seeks help
early on as these issues occur, a few sessions of therapy can help
prevent these issues from becoming chronic. Unfortunately some people
also suffer emotional and behavioural issues due to issues such as
abuse which can either be historical as in the case of child abuse or
can be ongoing such as bullying. These types of issues require a
therapist with specialist training. Mental illness issues such
Schizophrenia or paranoia will require the services of a psychologist
or psychiatrist who may work with a team that includes a therapist.
MedicationThis information was provided by Philip Armstrong, CEO, Australian Counselling Association. He can be contacted via:
Australia therapists are not able to prescribe medication, nor are they
qualified to discuss dosage amounts or appropriateness of medication. A
therapist may suggest that a client's medication be re-assessed by a
qualified professional such as a psychiatrist or GP.
Fees and Appointments
are no set fees or Medicare rebates for therapy delivered by a
therapist (at the time of this article). Fees generally range from $50
to $120 per hour. However, lobbying for Medicare rebates is underway to
change this. Appointment times should be approximately for 60 to 90
How to make an appointment?
Contact the therapist directly - referrals are not necessary at this time.
Good Resources for locating Counsellors & Psychotherapists
Email: Philip@theaca.net.auback to top
Phone: 1300 784 333
Psychologists can help people find ways to function in a more healthy way. They provide techniques and insight so people are better able to handle stress, family problems, or depression experiences, for example. Psychological therapies are also widely used by groups and organisations. While psychologists and psychiatrists both work in the area of mental health, and often work together, there are significant differences between the two:
- Psychologists tend to help mentally healthy people find ways of functioning better, while psychiatrists may tend to have a greater focus on treating mental illness, such as schizophrenia
- Psychologists have different education and training than do psychiatrists
- Psychologists cannot prescribe medication—only psychiatrists are medically trained Doctors.
MedicationThis information was provided by Australian Psychological Society (APS). They can be contacted on:
Psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Their treatments are based on changing behavior without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective.
Fees & Appointments
The fees that psychologists charge vary, and depend on the type of service being offered. The APS has a Schedule of Recommended Fees however psychologists may adjust fees according to the client's financial circumstances.
Appointments usually last between 45 minutes to one hour. Sessions may be longer for certain kinds of treatment and psychological testing. Typically, patients need only four to ten sessions with a psychologist, because of the effectiveness of short-term treatment. Occasionally a single session may be sufficient. Some psychologists practice on a long-term basis and some patients require long-term support.
- Medicare rebates: Since November 2006, all registered psychologists who are endorsed by Medicare Australia can provide treatment for mental health problems. Medicare rebates are also available for consultations with specialist clinical psychologists, who are experts in the assessment and treatment of more serious mental illnesses.
- Health insurance rebates: Since July 2004, some psychology services are covered under Medicare. Private health insurers may also rebate part of the cost of psychological consultations.
- Government Payments: Most government-operated or -funded services are free or low-cost. For example, your consultation may be covered if you are a victim of crime, or have been injured in the workplace or in a traffic accident, or have been a veteran (Department of Veteran’s Affairs—DVA).
- Community Health Centres and Local Council Services: Generally charge no or low fees for a psychological consultation. For example, Swinburne University Psychology Clinic offers low-cost counselling by supervised postgraduate Psychology students. Phone: (03) 9214 8653 or web: www.swin.edu.au/sbs/pc
How to make an appointment?
You might be referred to a psychologist by your GP; however, it’s fine to contact a psychologist directly without a referral letter.
|Australian Psychological Society (APS) |
Phone: 1800 33 497 to find a Psychologist in your area
- Ask your GP or your local Community Health Centre
- Look in the Yellow pages under 'Psychologists'
- Check at work to see if you can see a psychologist through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
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Phone: (03) 8662 3300
A psychiatrist is a registered medical doctor who has obtained additional qualifications and training to become a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional problems. Psychiatrists have many roles and provide assessments and counselling to individuals, families and groups and are also able to prescribe medications to assist with the ongoing treatment and management of mental health conditions. You can access Medicare rebates when seeing a psychiatrist upon referral from your GP. Medication
Only medical doctors, including psychiatrists and GPs, can prescribe and manage medications for mental health conditions. However, not all mental health conditions may require medication and your psychiatrist or GP will know which medication best suits your needs if required. Fees & Appointments
A typical appointment length is around 50 minutes. Fees are set by Medicare depending on the session type and how long the consultation goes for. Although bulk billing is available to some patients, there is often an out-of-pocket fee and you can ask your psychiatrist what this is prior to attending. If you miss a session without telling the psychiatrist without enough advance warning you may still be charged for the session. You should ask if your psychiatrist has a policy on billing for missed sessions. How to make an appointment?
You should first discuss your feelings and symptoms with your GP who will make the referral to a psychiatrist in order to access Medicare rebates. In some cases you may have to wait up to a few months for an appointment time and you should see you GP if anything changes in the mean time. Good resources for locating a psychiatrist?
This information was provided by Sarah Gafforini, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). They can be contacted on:
|Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) |
GP’s can make a referral to a psychiatrist for an assessment or counselling and can search online for a psychiatrist in your area whilst you are in the room (GP access only).
- ADAVIC tip: Psychologist's may also be able to direct you to a Psychiatrist. However, a referral from a GP is needed for Medicare rebates for psychiatrist fees
Phone: (03) 9640 0646 back to top