QUESTIONS ABOUT PSYCHOLOGY SERVICES
Do I need a referral to see a psychologist?
No, you can make an appointment to see a psychologist privately if you wish. However, if you are referred by a GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist under a Mental Health Care Plan you will be eligible for medicare rebates for each session, up to 10 sessions per calendar year.
Additionally, in response to the pandemic, the Australian Government has made an additional 10 medicare rebatable sessions available for those who have already used their 10 sessions this year, with a new referral from your GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician. The additional 10 rebates are currently available until March 2021. Please see the attached fact sheet from Medicare or speak to us or your GP for further information.
What are the fees and how do medicare rebates work?
Individual sessions: standard fees for a 50-55 minute session are $200 to see a clinical psychologist, and $160 to see a generally registered psychologist. Medicare rebates are available for eligible clients of $128.40 (clinical) and $87.45 (general) for up to ten individual sessions per calendar year, so generally the out-of-pocket fee is approximately $72 per session. Fees for after-hours and Saturday appointments are somewhat higher to cover additional costs. Weekday appointments before 9am and after 5pm are an additional $10 per session ($210 and $170 respectively). Saturday appointments are an additional $30 ($230 and $190 respectively). The same medicare rebates apply. These fees are substantially lower than the Australian Psychological Society recommended fee of $260 for a standard 45-60 minute consultation, as we aim to maintain affordable services for our clients.
Concession rates are available for clients who have a government concession card (pensioner concession card, seniors health card or health care card). These rates are $150 per session to see a Clinical Psychologist and $110 to see a Registered Psychologist, which means the out of pocket cost per session is approximately $22 with a referral under a Mental Health Care Plan. After-hours and Saturday surcharges also apply (an additional $10 and $30 respectively). There are limited concession appointments available, however we do our best to accommodate people's needs.
Low cost clinic: At times, Valley Family Health hosts provisional psychologists as interns in the practice, who provide services under the supervision of the Principal Clinical Psychologist Dr Kate Taylor. Our interns are all undertaking Masters or PhD level training in Psychology at the University of Melbourne or Monash University and have completed at least 6 years of psychology training . Counselling sessions provided by interns are available for a low cost of $60 (or $30 concession), however please be aware that no medicare rebates are available. Formal assessments conducted by interns are also available at a reduced fee. Please contact us to discuss if this may be a suitable option for your needs.
Group sessions typically cost around $60 per session of 60-90 minutes, and rebates of $22.35-$32.60 are available for up to ten group sessions per year in addition to ten individual sessions for referred clients. The out-of-pocket cost is therefore $32-38 per session. Fees for the entire group program are usually charged up-front, with rebates payable each session that is attended.
Medicare rebates are available to clients who have been referred to a psychologist by a GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist for treatment of an eligible mental health disorder . To access these rebates you will need to consult your GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist prior to attending your first appointment, and be assessed for eligibility under a Mental Health Care Plan. Generally, GPs require notice and a longer session to create a Mental Health Care Plan, so it’s best to inform them when you book the appointment. A referral may be made for individual treatment, group treatment or both, up to 10 sessions of each per calendar year. You will need to bring your referral to the first appointment or have it faxed directly by the GP prior to the first session to access rebates for that session.
Please note that rebates are available for individual therapy only. Couples and Family Counselling are provided privately and do not require a referral.
Rebates may be available if you are referred under another medicare program such as Helping Children with Autism or an Enhanced Primary Care plan. Speak to us or your doctor for more information.
Telehealth sessions during COVID-19
Until March 2021, all clients who are eligible for a rebate from Medicare for their psychology sessions will be able to access the same rebates for sessions conducted by video or phone call (called telehealth). 30-minute or 50-minute telehealth sessions are available to all clients. The fees and medicare rebates are the same as for face to face sessions.
Private health insurance may provide a partial rebate if you have extras cover including psychological counselling. It is recommended that you contact your insurance provider for further information because the rebate available depends on the insurance company and level of coverage that you have. Please note that medicare does not permit private health insurance to be used to pay gap fees under a Mental Health Care Plan.
Third party funding arrangements such as WorkSafe, TAC and EAP funded services are available when approved by the provider.
Cancellation fees of 50% of the full session fee may apply if you cancel or reschedule an appointment with less than 48 hour’s notice. See the confirmation and cancellation policy above for further information.
Assessments and Reports
Individual quotes are provided for formal cognitive, educational, speech and developmental assessments depending on the type of testing and number of sessions required. All formal assessments include a written report and verbal feedback, which recommend appropriate interventions if required. Most assessments are not eligible for medicare rebates, with the exception of assessments for Autism Spectrum Disorder which may attract rebates if you are referred by a paediatrician under the Helping Children with Autism program.
Please note we do not provide medico-legal assessments or reports for court.
What can I expect when seeing a psychologist?
The first visit
You will be provided with registration paperwork in a welcome email prior to your first appointment. This includes collection of your personal and contact details, and simple questionnaires that help us to understand your concerns and provide a baseline to measure improvement. Please bring your registration paperwork, referral and any other information we have asked for to your initial appointment.
During your initial consultation your psychologist will discuss your concerns with you, and help you identify treatment goals. To assist us to develop a thorough understanding of your situation and what may be contributing to the difficulties, your psychologist will explore relevant background information such as your family and personal history. This information will help us to develop a treatment plan in collaboration with you, which individualises empirically supported strategies and techniques to work towards your goals.
As treatment is always individualised to address your specific needs and goals, the number of sessions you may need will vary from person to person. This will be discussed as part of the treatment planning process. Typically, clients attend for between 6-18 sessions (10 of which are rebatable under medicare each year). Sometimes people may also attend for a single session or just a few sessions to help them understand the difficulties they or their child may have, or to speak about a specific issue in their life. Sessions are around 55 minutes in length and may be scheduled weekly, fortnightly or variably depending on your treatment plan.
Finding the right psychologist for you
At Valley Family Health we always endeavour to match clients with a psychologist who will be a good fit for them. We encourage you to read the information on the website introducing you to each psychologist, and we can also recommend a clinician if you’re not sure who you’d like to see. During the intake phone call prior to your first session we can discuss factors that might be important to you such as availability, area of expertise, therapeutic approaches, gender or style.
Psychologists are people with different personalities and ways of working so it is inevitable that some psychologists will be a better ‘fit’ for you than others. If after a session or two you feel that the match is not right, it is important to let us know. We pride ourselves on our collaborative approach and this means we want to hear your feedback and won’t be offended if you prefer to see someone else. If you prefer not to discuss this with your current clinician, you can speak with the Director and Principal Psychologist Dr Kate Taylor who can assist you with a referral to another psychologist either within or outside the practice. The assessment and treatment planning information that has already been discussed can be handed over to another psychologist with your written permission if you wish.
What are the differences between psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors?
Psychologists use scientifically evaluated talking- and behaviour-based treatments to help people explore and change their thought processes and behaviours, which underlie emotions, relationships and ways of coping with stressful situations and life events. Psychologists can also assess thinking processes in formal ways, such as cognitive (IQ) testing and assessments of learning and memory. Clinical psychologists have additional training in assessing and treating mental illnesses and are required to complete a period of advanced professional development and supervised practice following completion of their degree and registration as a general psychologist (called a registrar program).
All psychologists working at Valley Family Health have a minimum of 6 years of university training, including either a Masters or Doctoral degree. Valley Family Health supports registrar programs for clinical psychologists and many of the generally registered psychologists working at the practice are engaged in this advanced training.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They tend to treat complex and serious mental illnesses, and often use medications to assist. It might be useful to see a psychiatrist in combination with a psychologist if you need specialised advice about medications for mood and mental disorders (for example if you are pregnant or have another health condition).
Unlike psychiatry and psychology, counselling is not a regulated profession. This means there are no minimum training or qualification standards and anyone can call themselves a counsellor, life coach or personal coach. However, some counsellors do have a university diploma or degree, and organisations as such as Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) have been established in an effort to develop ethical and practice standards for the profession.