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Choosing the right health professional for YOU

If you have never seen a mental health professional before, you may not know which one will best suit your needs. There is an array of mental health providers which are trained to diagnose mental health conditions and provide treatment.

General Practitioners (GP): This is usually your first point of contact when seeking health care. GP’s can provide initial assessment, advice, and referrals to other health professionals. They can prescribe medication for a range of mental health issues and Medicare rebates are available. GP’s can also prepare a Mental Health Care Plan to help you work out what services you need, set goals, and decide on the best treatment options for you. To make an appointment contact the GP or medical clinic directly.   

Psychologists: Provide therapeutic techniques and insight to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues, stress, family problems, or mental health issues. Psychologists receive specific training in diagnosis, psychological assessment, and a wide variety of psychotherapies and research, however, they cannot prescribe medication. Psychological treatment is focused on changing behaviours using evidence-based strategies that are constantly updated with new research findings. Medicare rebates are available if the psychologist is registered with Medicare, and a referral as made to the psychologist. A Mental Health Care Plan, in consultation with your GP, can provide up to 10 Medicare-covered therapy sessions in a year at no cost. You can be referred to a psychologist by your GP, though it is fine to contact a psychologist directly without a referral letter.

Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are doctors who have undergone further training to specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. They can make medical and psychiatric assessments, conduct medical tests, provide therapy, and also prescribe medication. You can access Medicare rebates when seeing a psychiatrist upon referral from your GP. In some cases you may have to wait a few months for an appointment with a psychiatrist and you should see your GP if anything changes in the meantime.

Counsellors & Psychotherapists: Counsellors and psychotherapists (therapists) generally help people who are suffering from emotional and well-being issues that are having a negative impact on their quality of life. A counsellor can talk through different problems you may be experiencing and look for possible solutions. However, it is important to note that not all counsellors have specific training in treating serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. It is important to ask for information about the counsellor’s qualifications and whether they are registered with a professional society. In Australia, therapists are not able to prescribe medication, nor are they qualified to discuss dosage amounts or appropriateness of medication. No Medicare rebates are available and appointments are made by contacting the therapist directly.

Mental health social workers: Social workers in mental health can support people with depression and anxiety by helping them find ways of effectively managing difficult situations that may contribute to these conditions or interfere with recovery. These may include family issues, financial problems, work stress, and living arrangements. Some social workers are registered with Medicare to provide focused psychological strategies, such as psychoeducation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), relaxation training and skills training.


·      Explore: Identify the main issues you are experiencing and would like help dealing with. Are you looking for someone to talk to, or someone who can prescribe you medication?

·      Plan: Consider what qualities you are looking for in a therapist. It is also important to think about who you would be most comfortable talking to. Do you have any preferences for gender, age, racial or religious background?

·      Research: Choosing the right person for you can be a difficult decision, but doing your research will be beneficial in the long run. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask about their qualifications, how long they have been practicing, fees, treatment options and whether they are experienced in treating individuals who have faced problems similar to yours.

·     Persist: While for some people it only takes one try, finding someone that you are comfortable and happy with can take time. Don’t let one bad experience set you back, keep persevering until you find the right one for YOU.


The websites below are a great starting resource for finding a professional that suits your needs. Note that not every practising professional will be listed on these sites.

I want to find a psychologist…  

I want to find a psychiatrist…   

I want to find a counsellor…     


Good Luck!

Emily- ADAVIC Volunteer

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