In my conversations about mental health, one of the most common questions which I have been asked is: “What should I do if I would like to see a psychologist?” It is daunting enough making the big decision to see a psychologist, let alone the thought of a long, confusing process leading up to the first consultation. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that the process is probably more straightforward than you first imagined. You might be even more surprised to know that in obtaining a ‘Mental Health Care Plan’, a substantial portion of the fees is subsidised by the government. This post provides a background on what is a Mental Health Care Plan, as well as detailing the steps required to obtain a Mental Health Care Plan.
What is a Mental Health Care Plan?
A Mental Health Care Plan is a support plan for someone who is experiencing mental health concerns. The plan is completed by the doctor with cooperation from the individual seeking therapy sessions, and includes details relating to the individual’s mental wellbeing and the goals of the treatment. Under the Mental Health Care Plan, the doctor can initially refer the person for 6 sessions, with a further 4 sessions allowed in that calendar year subsequent to a further review from the doctor. Therefore, an individual can be referred for a total of 10 one-to-one sessions per year, with an additional 10 group sessions available if needed.
A significant component of the Mental Health Care Plan is the rebate which is covered by Medicare. In other words, if you have a Mental Health Care Plan, Medicare will refund a considerable portion of the consultation fees. The Medicare rebate will cover $124.50 per session (~ 55 minutes) with a Clinical Psychologist or $84.80 per session (~ 55 minutes) with a Registered Psychologist.
Therefore, if a Clinical Psychologist charges $225 per session, then an individual with a Mental Health Care Plan will only need to pay $100.50, with Medicare covering the remaining $124.50 of the fee.
How do I get a Mental Health Care Plan?
- Book an appointment to see your doctor. Make sure you clearly state that you would like to obtain a Mental Health Care Plan, because the doctor will allocate additional time to the consultation to ensure there is sufficient time for the plan to be filled out.
- Consider which psychologist you would like to see. It is very important that you choose a suitable psychologist because different psychologists have different sub-specialties. Furthermore, it is crucial that you choose a psychologist who adopts scientifically validated approaches to treatment, and one who you believe you can establish a good rapport with. If you would like to speak to someone about the process of choosing a suitable therapist, or if you would like someone to pray with you as you consider this decision, please feel free to speak to a member of the Grace in Mental Health team!
- Attend your appointment with your doctor, who will complete the Mental Health Care Plan with you. I understand it may be uncomfortable sharing your mental health struggles with your doctor. However, your honesty and the information you provide will allow your doctor to have a better understanding of your condition. If you have decided on seeing a particular therapist, make sure you inform the doctor of his / her name.
- Book an appointment with the psychologist. When you speak to the receptionist, make sure you confirm the details of the consultation, including the:
- Date and time;
- Consultation fees;
- Travel arrangements to the clinic; and
- What to bring to the initial consultation.
For anyone who is considering seeing a therapist, my encouragement is that you pray for strength and courage (Psalm 31:24) as you take this significant step, and that you pray for wisdom (James 1:5) in choosing a suitable therapist. We should also be thankful that we live in a country whose government significantly contributes to our treatment costs, and provides accessible treatment through a support system such as the Mental Health Care Plan. If you are considering seeing a therapist and would like to talk to someone about it, please feel free to speak to a member of the Grace in Mental Health team, and we will be glad to embark on this journey by your side!
by Enoch Hui