Medicare – Accessing Psychology from start to finish (Part I)

Jason Brain

/ Clinical Psychologist

The number of Victorians accessing Medicare rebated therapy services with psychologists increases each year. Over the 2015-2016 financial year, there were over four million rebated psychology sessions claimed in Australia, with around 1.3 million of these in Victoria alone, an increase of 10% over the previous financial year (from medicarestatistics.humanservices.gov.au).

But despite these growing numbers, the exact process to get in and work with a psychologist under Medicare still causes some confusion, with reliance on ‘word of mouth’ leading to many different ideas of how the system works. With that in mind, here are some facts to simplify seeing a psychologist through Medicare, from the start of the process to the finish.

1.Researching a Psychologist: If you have a particular idea of what kind of psychologist you’d like to see, do a little research beforehand – whether it’s finding a female trauma specialist in your area, or an older therapist experienced in working with young people with personality disorders, you can request who you get referred to, if you want to– it just takes a little extra effort to find them. The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has a ‘Find a Psychologist’ service where you can search for Medicare-rebated therapists according to issues they work with (e.g. anxiety) and their location (by suburb). Not all psychologists are listed with this service, but it can be a good place to start. If you are not in a position to pay a gap per session, you will need to find a psychologist who bulk bills. Not all psychologists bulk bill, in fact most private psychologists charge at least some gap fee per session, so if you have financial constraints it’s good to research this or discuss it with your GP.

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2.See your GP to discuss a Mental Health Care Treatment Plan: Once you’ve decided to seek medicare-rebated psychological therapy, book a meeting with your GP to set up a referral (psychiatrists and paediatricians can also make this referral). It’s important to book a longer than normal session by letting them know it’s for a mental health treatment plan – it takes a little longer than a regular GP visit, and your GP will appreciate having the extra time to properly complete the assessment with you in session. They’ll ask some questions about your recent mood and why you want to see a psychologist, and this information gets included in the referral. If you don’t have a particular psychologist in mind, your GP might have someone they recommend referring you to, and might want to refer you to a particular psychologist even if you already found one- this can be discussed during the GP appointment. (Click here for Part II )