If you’re struggling emotionally, you can go and see a GP for a Mental Health Treatment Plan that allows you to see a psychologist six to 10 times per calendar year with up to $140 back from Medicare per visit.
The Australian Psychological Society recommends psychologists charge $238 per consultation hour but centres such as Sydney Counselling Centre charge $180 per consultation hour, meaning you would only be about $40 out of pocket per visit, while other providers might see you out of pocket as little as $10 or $15.
“It’s so much easier and more affordable compared to how it was before,” Dr Bastian Seidel, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president, told Coach.
“This Mental Health Care Plan is done together with your GP so the GP still coordinates things and looks out for changes in your mental health so it’s a team approach.”
Dr Seidel says there has been a real reduction in stigma around mental health and urges people not to be intimidated to bring up their emotional struggles with their GP.
“Thirty percent of all consults with a GP are about a mental health issue,” he says.
“We have seen a change of attitude in the community with people openly bringing things up with their GP.”
Unfortunately there are still some people who try to self-medicate their problems with alcohol and drugs, and Dr Seidel suggests anyone who is struggling to cope have a chat with their GP.
“Particularly in male patients there is a ‘fix it’ approach – they think it will go away but it drags on,” he says.
“Patients sometimes start drinking alcohol or are tempted to use recreational drugs to feel better but the risk is that you will damage your body and mind significantly, and that’s something we need to avoid.”
Dr Seidel says that psychological approaches to depression, anxiety and stress can be incredibly beneficial – often it’s about giving patients a toolkit of strategies to help them cope.
“We much prefer patients seeing a psychologist than using medication, which can have side effects and interact with other drugs – it should never be the first line treatment,” he says.
Fact is, there is no one size fits all approach to psychology and Dr Seidel says you won’t have to lay on a couch and be psycho-analysed.
“There are different approaches, so it’s important to sit down with your GP and talk about the options you have and set the parameters,” he says.
“Psychologists know if they don’t click with the patient and they will usually bring this up and find a different practitioner for them. You can also speak to your GP and we can help you find somebody who is a good fit.”
This piece was originally published on the ‘The Coach’ on January 15, 2017.