A clinical psychologist undergoes specialist training by completing postgraduate studies (usually a Masters or Doctorate degree) and then completes two years of work as a registrar fulfilling requirements by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) before they can receive their endorsement to be called a “clinical psychologist”.
No you do not need a referral from a doctor to make an appointment. A referral that is accompanied by a Mental Health Care Plan does make you eligible for a medicare rebate though.
;A Mental Health Care Plan is a plan that your GP will prepare for you that allows you to access up to 10 medicare rebates for psychology consultations per calendar year. Your GP will discuss your needs and do a brief assessment of your functioning in order to make the appropriate recommendations and/or referrals. Once you receive your plan you will be able to get a rebate for 6 sessions and then you will need to go back to your GP to have a Mental Health Review done where you will be able to gain access to the remaining 4 sessions for the calendar year. For further information you can access information on the Department of Health’s website by clicking here.
Please note that you cannot claim your session back on both medicare and private health, it is one or the other. Most clients tend to access their 10 medicare sessions and then claim subsequent appointments via private health.
The first session is often referred to as the “diagnostic assessment”. Generally this will take about 60 to 90 minutes. During this session your clinical psychologist will introduce themselves to you, provide you with information about confidentiality and briefly outline any administrative matters. Your clinical psychologist will then ask you a number of questions regarding your main concerns, current situation, background history, and reasons for coming (e.g. if you have any treatment goals) in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of your needs. Following this, your clinical psychologist will discuss potential treatment options, address any questions you may have and collaborate with you on designing the best treatment plan. Subsequent appointments run for approximately 45 to 55 minutes.
This is incredibly normal and the majority of clients report that they are nervous about their first appointment. Think about it – you are going in to see a stranger who you know nothing or very little about and they are asking a lot of personal questions about your life. Most clients find that if their clinical psychologist is the right fit for them then their anxiety quickly decreases and they gain a sense of hope about being able to reach their desired treatment outcomes.
We understand that from time to time some clients may have specific needs or preferences which can impact whether or not they connect well with their clinical psychologist. As it is very important for you to feel comfortable we recommend you discuss any concerns or needs with your clinical psychologist. Some clients find it can take them a few sessions before they build the rapport, however if you feel strongly that your clinical psychologist is not the right fit then we understand and can facilitate in helping you match up with someone else.
This is a tricky question to answer as it tends to vary from client to client. Some therapy modalities are more long-term, some clients have more severe, enduring symptoms and sometimes new issues can present in session which you may wish to also address and this can extend therapy. How frequently you attend therapy also factors into this as some clients find that due to family, work or financial reasons that they cannot go as often as they may like. Your clinical psychologist will discuss the treatment plan and potential timeline with you more thoroughly in your appointment. As a general indicator, most clients find they make the most gains when they start with a few weekly or fortnightly sessions and then space it to three or four weeks once they have a good grasp of their therapy skills or need more time to practice.
Any discussion of medication is best done with your GP or psychiatrist. We have worked with clients who do not take medications as well as clients who do a combination of therapy and medication. Your clinical psychologist will be more than happy to liaise with you and your GP/psychiatrist to discuss your treatment needs.
Your GP will often have a good data base and knowledge of the clinical psychologists in their local area so is a good point of contact for making the referrals. However, you are able to also inform your GP if you have already done some research and found someone that you feel is a good fit for you.
When clients are in crisis they require immediate support. As a clinical psychologist in private practice we are not available 24/7. If a client calls in crisis and reaches a voicemail as their clinical psychologist is unable to take the call then this is likely to leave them feeling worst and in despair. Your clinical psychologist is also another human being who has their own family commitments and limits to what they can offer you. As much as we wish we were superheros we aren’t. Your safety is vital so we are always very upfront that should you be in crisis then your needs are best met by calling 000 or going to the emergency room at your nearest hospital. You can also contact lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 24 or NSW Mental Health line 24/7 on 1800 011 511.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently offering telehealth consultations in addition to face-to-face appointments.