This could be for you if you...
- are thinking of seeing a psychologist
- want to know about medical options for dealing with a mental illness
- want to know how to get psychology through Medicare
- want to know about confidentiality
What's a psychologist?
A psychologist is someone who can help you with whatever's going on. They're trained to deal with pretty much anything. Some things you can take to them are school issues, bullying, legal problems, relationships, drugs and alcohol, family life and anger issues.
Most psychologists spend at least six years at uni, then have two years supervised training before they're allowed to practise on their own. You can ask your doctor to refer you to one, find one in the yellow pages, or contact the Australian Psychological Society to find one near you.
It's fine to take someone you trust with you to the appointment. If you're not feeling good about a psychologist, you can try someone different. It's hard talking about life problems, so be sure you find someone you feel good with. This doesn’t mean that if the psychologist challenges you on something that you need to work on, that you should leave or change psychologists. You need to stick with it through the difficult times. But you should consider looking at your options if your psychologist is a poor fit with your personality or they just don’t seem to get you.
Seeing a psychologist
You normally have to book. Most psychologist will work with you on a weekly or fortnightly basis so sure you find a time that suits you and grab it before it goes. Some psychologists will have a waiting period before you can see them, because they're booked up. Tell them if things are really urgent. If you need to talk to someone right now, call Lifeline or Kids Helpline.
Psychologists in places like schools and community health centres are often free. Others charge, and private health insurance can cover part of the charge.
You can see a psychologist for a number of sessions a year if your GP refers you to help manage things like depression, anxiety, bipolar or another mental health problem. Some psychologists, like the ones at headspace and community mental health teams have no fees because Medicare or the government covers their bill. Others might charge you a “gap” fee depending on what Medicare covers for them. The psychologist will have to send a report to your doctor after six and ten sessions. You can talk to them about what it will say.
Most things you say to a psychologist are confidential. But they have to act if you or someone else is at risk of serious harm, or a court orders them to give up information. You should talk to your psychologist about what is and is not private, so there's understanding and trust between you.
Find someone to talk to
There are services listed on the help page that can give you someone to talk to now, or they can let you know who's in your area if you want a psychologist or counsellor.