How to see a psychologist in Melbourne
Once you’ve made the decision to find a psychologist in Melbourne it’s important to know where to start.
Before finding the right psychologist, you may need to consider financial factors first. The Australian Psychological Association’s recommended rate for a psychologist is $251 an hour, however most practitioners will range between $100 – $250 a session (usually 45mins to an hour in length). With these financial considerations in mind, it’s important to know your options.
The Australian Governments Better Access scheme allows individuals with a diagnosed mental health condition to be placed on the Mental Health Care Plan. This plan allows individuals to receive a rebated amount back from Medicare for 10 sessions a calendar year with a registered psychologist.
The rebate amount is $86.15 for a registered psychologist.
This means, if a psychologist charges $86.15 a session you will have the full amount refunded by Medicare. However, there are limited bulk-billing psychologists in Melbourne. As stated above, most psychologist will charge between $100-$250 an hour. But having $84.80 rebated back for a session can make the process a lot more affordable, so it’s strongly recommended you first get on the Mental Health Care Plan.
How to get on The Mental Health Care Plan
A general practitioner, a psychiatrist and a pediatrician can all place an individual on the Mental Health Care Plan. This applies to adults and children, if you’re looking for a child psychologist in Melbourne. This should be a very straight forward process. Your GP will conduct a brief assessment, fill out the necessary paperwork, and may also assist you in making a referral to help you find a psychologist in Melbourne.
If you don’t have a regular GP, the process may take a little more time. In order to assess your conditions and circumstances a GP may require more than one session before making a preliminary diagnosis and placing you on The Mental Health Care Plan. If you are making an appointment with a bulk billing GP for the first time you can request a double appointment, which will give you half an hour with the doctor rather than 15 minutes. This should provide enough time for an initial assessment.
With 1.2 million Australians accessing the Mental Health Care Plan a year this is a very common process and a much-needed resource for Australians to utilise. You should not intimidated by the wording of the Better Access scheme of “needing a diagnosable mental disorder” to be placed on the plan. In reality, this just refers to anyone who is experiencing some level of on-going psychological distress that can be assessed by a GP as having an effect on functioning. The Mental Health Care Plan is an excellent way to engage with a therapist in Melbourne.
Finding the right psychologist for you in Melbourne
After being placed on the Mental Health Care Plan there are many other factors to consider aside than finances. Many people begin their search by looking for the “best psychologist Melbourne”, but this however, this will be more of a personal preference as there is no “best” for everyone.
According to research, the biggest predictor of positive outcomes in therapy is the therapeutic alliance between a client and therapist. The better the therapeutic alliance the more positive outcomes from therapy. In short, the therapeutic alliance is a measure of how well a psychologist and a client can work together, which is based on factors like rapport, relatability, and a shared understanding of therapeutic goals. If these factors are not present it may be harder to make progress, so it is vital that this isn’t compromised. Numerous individuals have reported feeling compelled to stay with their psychologist out of loyalty, or even deferring to authority, even though they were experiencing limited progress. This a shame, and sometimes people need to be reminded that they are the authority on their own experience. A psychologist’s role is to help facilitate change, not preside as an authority on how someone should live their lives. If you are not getting what you need from a psychologist, it is strongly recommended to try someone else.
Another factor when finding the right psychologist can be a psychologist’s main intervention style and training. There are many different intervention frameworks when it comes to practicing psychology, and it is up to the individual psychologist to select an evidence-based intervention to use with clients. Most psychologists will gravitate to 1-2 main intervention styles, so it is worth learning about these different backgrounds, seeing which you might relate to, and considering a psychologist who uses them.
Some examples of main intervention styles are; cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, psychodynamic therapy, and solution-focused therapy. Feel free to research these different forms of therapy.
Finding a psychologist who you can build a strong therapeutic alliance with, using an intervention framework you can relate to, will give you the best chance of reaching your goals in therapy.
Starting the search
As stated above, after being placed on The Mental Health Care Plan, your GP may refer you to a local psychologist. But it should be clear that it is your decision who to see. You may want to take the GP’s initial recommendation, or you can start searching on your own. If you are searching for a psychologist in Melbourne yourself, you might consider starting with the Australian Psychological Societies (APA) data base of registered psychologists in Melbourne.
You’ll be able to use a postcode or area search which will allow you to find local psychologist to you and, in most cases, see their picture and read a little bit of info on them.
Feel free to call around and ask for an introductory conversation over the phone. Try and remember, you’re in therapy for your own needs, and given you only have 10 rebated sessions a year, it’s important to utilise them well by finding the right psychologist.
Before attending your first session try and have some specific therapeutic goals in mind. A psychologist can help you identify and specify your goals in sessions but having some clear ideas on what you would like to achieve from therapy will be very helpful. This can include things you want to reduce, including feeling less anxiety or depression, and/or things you want to achieve, such as improved relationships, confidence etc.,
Lastly, know who you’re having a session with. It’s illegal to call yourself a “psychologist” in Australia if you’re not registered with the Australian Health and Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). The discipline of psychology is a protected and regulated industry. A fully registered psychologist has a minimum 6 years of training in mental health or equivalent education. Other disciples, such as counselling or psychotherapy, are not government regulated, and have no requirements of formal training. This can be easily resolved by looking up a therapist on the APS website, as listed above, and/or checking the credentials and registration number of a practitioner. Once you have a name, you can check the credentials of any government registered allied health worker on the AHPRA website here: