Are you struggling with a mental health challenge and considering if you should consult a psychologist or seek other help?
You’re not alone.
The coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters and emergencies across Australia have seen greater awareness of achieving and maintaining good metal health, along with focused national messaging on the importance of getting help when you need it.
However, crisis events aside, mental ill-health can affect anyone at any time in their lives. In fact, one in four people will struggle with mental health issues at some point.
While it can be helpful to initially talk about your problems to close friends and family members, sometimes you may need extra help and support.
Psychologists can help you get to the root of your problems, overcome emotional challenges, and make positive changes in your life.
If you’re considering getting help, here’s a brief guide on when and how to consult a psychologist in Australia.
When to Consult a Psychologist
Occasional grief, stress, and sadness are normal feelings and not necessarily signs that you need psychological counselling.
However, if you’re experiencing persistent or severe mental health challenges that interfere with your day-to-day life, it’s time to seek help.
The following might be signs of a mental health condition where you may need help:
- Frequent and persistent feelings of intense sadness, worry, fear, irritation, anger or anxiety
- Unexpected mood swings and emotional meltdowns
- Sudden changes in daily patterns and behaviours such as eating and sleeping habits
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Unexplained poor productivity at work or school
- Cognition problems such as confusion, lack of focus or memory loss
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or others, including suicidal thoughts
- Disturbing delusions, hallucinations or night terrors
- Withdrawal from social scenes, relationships or family
- Toxic drive toward rebellion and defiance of authority
- Uncontrollable substance abuse, drug addiction or alcoholism
- Unusual addictions or cravings, including sex addiction, obsessions and risky behaviour
- Unexplained physical ailments such as aches and pains, hypertension and gastrointestinal problems
- Persistent fatigue, drowsiness or insomnia
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or someone else, get help right away.
If you note other symptoms on the above list, make an appointment with your doctor. Once they’ve ruled out a physical basis for your symptoms, they may refer you to a mental health practitioner such as a psychologist.
However, it’s also important to know that you don’t need to be diagnosed with a mental health problem to benefit from psychological counselling. Many people seek help for everyday concerns such as relationship problems, job stress, or lack of confidence, for example.
How Psychologists Can Help
Psychologists are trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Personality and identity disorders
- Learning difficulties
- Relationship problems
- Behavioural disorders
- Trauma-related conditions and phobias
- Substance abuse and addictions
- And other conditions
Your psychologist will sit and talk with you to learn more about your issues, help you to uncover the root or the cause of the trouble and identify ways to address and move through the problem.
Treatment options will vary depending on your condition and specific areas of need. Types of treatment therapies include psychotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), acceptance and commitment therapy and group therapy. You can read more about these therapies here.
How long your therapy will last will depend on factors such as how complicated your issues, or if you have a relatively straightforward problem that you want to address. Some therapy treatment types are short term, while others may last longer.
In general, your treatment ends when you and your psychologist agree that you have met your therapy goals.
How to Consult a Psychologist
You can get mental health support from a psychologist as a private patient (no referral needed), via a referral from a doctor (or other qualified health professional) with a mental health treatment plan or via group therapy sessions. You may also be seen as part of an insurance claim such as a motor vehicle accident or workers compensation.
The type of patient and session will determine the cost of your consultation. For example, group therapy usually costs less than private sessions. It’s important to discuss fees, session duration and session frequency with your therapist before starting treatment.
As a private patient, if you have comprehensive health insurance cover, ask your insurer about your eligibility to make claims on your policy for psychological treatments.
If treatment is part of insurance or legal compensation claims, a third party – such as an insurer, employer or defendant – may be liable for therapy fees.
Medicare rebates are also available for patients who have been referred by a GP and who have a mental health treatment plan.
If you have a treatment plan, you are entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 20 individual psychological appointments per calendar year, until 30 June 2022.
If you have no private health insurance cover and no medical referral (for Medicare claims) you will be unable to claim any rebates. In this case, the Australian Psychological Society recommended fee may be charged, however fees are at the discretion of individual psychologists and do vary.
The current APS recommended schedule fee for a standard 45-to-60-minute consultation is $260. Ask you psychologist at the start what fees they will charge.
Discounted fees are available for concession card holders. For concession card holders with a mental health treatment plan, after rebates have been applied, out of pocket costs may be as low as $78.85.
Get Psychological Help
If you’re considering psychological therapy but still unsure how to go about getting the help you need, reach out. You can email or call the admin team at Psychological Health Care for answers to your questions and discuss whether therapy may be able to assist you.