Seeing a Counsellor, Psychologist or other Therapist, and the Medicare rebate question…
I’ve been asked this one question many, many times by clients in Australia:
Do you offer a Medicare rebate?
Before I answer this question, please allow me to provide you with my understanding of what a medicare rebate for counselling services means for Australians.
To receive a Medicare rebate for talk therapy, it means that:
The first thing you need to do is visit your GP (or psychiatrist, or paediatrician)
Your GP will need to chat to you about what you’re experiencing; the psychological and physiological symptoms that are worrying you. They will need to make an assessment, and then create a Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP) for you. This plan is what allows you to access the Medicare rebate for the counselling sessions that you’ll be booking with a Medicare approved Psychologist (or Social Worker).
Part of the MHTP, means that your doctor is required to note down a “Mental Disorder” – a diagnosis – that you appear to be suffering from, so that this can satisfy Medicare (in order to receive rebates). This diagnosis will then be placed on your Medicare health record.
While many medical patients / counselling clients are absolutely fine with having a formal ‘Mental Disorder’ noted on their personal Medicare records, many aren’t aware that this is the case, and are not 100% comfortable with this. Many people wish to manage their emotional, psychological and mental health privately. A ‘Mental Disorder’ noted on your medical / health record may be something that is viewed or considered when applying for certain government employment roles, or may be referred to in other legal /court circumstances.
Once you have a MHTP, you are then able to receive between 6-10 rebated counselling sessions (per calendar year), with a Medicare approved Psychologist. After the initial 6 sessions have been completed, the Psychologist prepares a report for the client’s GP regarding any assessments, further diagnoses, treatment plan, etc. The GP will then decide on whether a further 4 sessions of counselling under the Medicare scheme is required.
Clinical Psychologist’s HOURLY fees vary, but the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has 2016-2017 recommended hourly fees for a Clinical Psychologist at $241 per 45-60 minute session. Medicare rebates for this fee are capped.
Should you wish to have further sessions with your psychologist, beyond the allotted 6-10 sessions, you will then be required to pay your Psychologist’s FULL FEES for each subsequent session, or, in some instances you may be able to discuss the possibility of negotiating a lower fee between the two of you. If you are suffering from a chronic condition, or your diagnoses are more complex, there may be other support options for you to enquire about with your doctor.
Currently, ALL Medicare rebated counselling sessions MUST be face to face (in person) consultations only – this excludes any online counselling methods, video / Skype type consultations and telephone counselling.
So, do I offer Medicare rebates?
No, I don’t.
I’m not a Medicare-approved Psychologist or Social Worker.
As a trained and registered Counsellor in private practice (with a degree in Psychology, in addition to a related Masters degree), I made the decision many, many years ago, to take a different post-graduate pathway, where my focus was not so much about making psychological assessments and diagnoses (because, honestly, I question the benefit of these subjective diagnoses in many instances). I have been most interested in, and passionate about seeing positive results achieved by clients who can implement evidence-based, practical ways to support their troubling experiences in order to start feeling better – whether these are emotional, psychological or physiological in nature – through committing to the supportive, empathic and non-judgemental process of professional counselling.
(hint: a significant part of achieving positive change through seeing a counsellor or therapist, is about finding the right therapist for you!)
I also appreciate that many people who would benefit from counselling are going through a temporary challenging circumstance in their life, and they don’t necessarily meet clinical diagnostic criteria for a Mental Disorder. So many individuals benefit from counselling therapy to help them overcome worrying thoughts, negative thinking patterns, strained relationships, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, feelings of depression, and other related symptoms.
And in this day and age, I understand that so many women (particularly the clients I support online), would have it no other way, than to access professional and secure counselling online; the ease of connecting to a professional, and feeling better, from the comfort of their own home, at a time that suits them (day or evenings!).
I offer my clients personalised, professional and confidential support to help them overcome many of the symptoms that clients would otherwise see a psychologist for (such as anxiety, panic attacks, stress, feeling overwhelmed, feeling sad or depressed, angry, or having work or relationship difficulties).
I work with clients who just need to ‘vent’ and offload their thoughts, emotions and feelings in a safe space for 1 or 2 sessions. And, equally, I also work with clients over many months; these are often clients who are committed to improving their sense of self, confidence, experiencing greater joy and connection in their life, and enhancing their relationships longer term.
I don’t work with clients who have been diagnosed with, or display symptoms of severe mental illness (such as psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression with suicidal ideation) – in these cases, I would recommend a Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist.
Wendy Gilroy is a Mother of 2, and a professional Counsellor for women. Wendy has a degree in Psychology, a Masters degree in Addiction Studies, and a Diploma of Counselling. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and offers secure ONLINE counselling for women around the world, as well as telephone, face-to-face and home visit services for mums.
Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about your physical or mental health, please consult your healthcare practitioner for medical advice.