Part II – Accessing Psychology from start to finish
Continued from Part I
3) Accessing Psychology: see your GP for a Mental Health Care 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.
4) MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE PSYCHOLOGIST: Once you have your referral, the first appointment is usually arranged over the phone, with the psychologist themselves or reception staff. If the psychologist is part of the same practice as your GP, then the appointment can be made automatically. If this is the case, you can still ask to speak to the psychologist before the first appointment, especially if you’re feeling nervous or have specific questions that you really want answered. Many psychologists will be happy to have a quick phone chat before meeting in person if you really want to.
5)BEGIN THERAPY – ASSESSMENT: The first session or two often includes the psychologist completing a detailed assessment, building a picture of various parts of your life, to make sure that possibly relevant information doesn’t get missed. This is also a time for you and your psychologist to get to know each other, and get a sense of whether you think you’ll work well together. It’s important to remember that you are not locked in to seeing a particular psychologist for the whole referral- if it’s seriously not working, you can request a referral to someone else. However, some discomfort is a normal part of the therapy process, especially if you’re not used to it, so sticking with the same psychologist for at least a few sessions is highly advisable. You might be reacting to a whole range of things rather than the psychologist themselves, and it’s good to talk about your discomfort in session if you can- most therapists expect this and are very comfortable with it.
6) WORK ON TREATMENT, INCLUDING BETWEEN SESSIONS: During and/or after assessment, your psychologist will usually discuss treatment options, including what they think is going on, and some directions for therapy which have been demonstrated to be helpful for your situation. As part of psychological therapy, your psychologist will probably suggest exercises to complete or ideas to spend time thinking about between sessions, which is very important in the therapy process. This is because if the lessons and ideas discussed in session never make it outside the therapy room, that might only be helping you to become a more effective therapy client! Since the goal is to make changes to the parts of your life which made you come to see a psychologist in the first place, new ideas have to be practiced in those areas, so making time in your schedule to do this will probably be important. Your psychologist will work with you to develop between-session practice tasks which are relevant and interesting.
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