Can I go directly to a psychologist to receive treatment through Medicare?

You must be referred by your GP, your psychiatrist or paediatrician. Your GP must first assess that you meet the eligibility requirements to receive psychological services and, with your agreement, must also complete an assessment and develop a plan for the management of your condition. You should book a longer session with your GP to enable time for this. Your GP then needs to decide whether you would benefit from the specific services that a psychologist can provide under Medicare, before referring you to a psychologist. If you would like to know more about whether you would be eligible for these services, you should discuss this with your GP.

Can I request a referral to a specific psychologist or does my doctor have to choose?

Your doctor must first assess that you require the services of a psychologist. Your doctor may allow you to request a specific psychologist or may refer you to a psychologist that he/she recommends. The psychologist in question must be registered and have a Medicare Provider Number for you to be able to claim the Medicare rebate.

Can I use my private health care to claim back money for consultations?

Yes. Many private health insurers allow for some refund for psychology services; however no two are the same. We advise you to check with your specific provider to see what your policy allows. Please note that you cannot use your private health insurance in conjunction with claiming a Medicare rebate. However you may use your 12 Medicare rebates and then claim against your health insurance.

Do you have a choice of male and female psychologists?

Yes. All you need to do is state your preference when making an initial appointment.

Do you offer child/adolescent assessment/therapy?

Yes. We have psychologists who specialise in working with children and adolescents.

Do you run groups treatments?

At present we do not run treatment in a group format.

Do you work after hours?

Currently we work during normal office hours and also offer after hours appointments (9am-7pm) Monday to Friday. Our psychologists are also available for appointments on Saturday mornings and afternoons.

Does the Medicare Safety Net apply to my out-of-pocket expenses under this initiative?

Yes. You are responsible for paying any charges in excess of the Medicare rebate for items under this initiative. However, these out-of-pocket expenses will count towards both the original and the extended Medicare safety nets. Once you or your family reach the relevant threshold in the calendar year, Medicare benefits will increase to 100% of the schedule fee under the original safety net, and 80% of your total out-of-pocket expenses for out-of-hospital services under the extended Medicare safety net. The Medicare safety nets are designed to protect high users of health services from large out-of-pocket expenses.

How do I know if the therapy is working?

Many patients notice a decrease in their symptoms within three to four weeks of therapy if they have been diligently attending sessions and applying the treatment techniques discussed in therapy between sessions on a daily basis. We will do our best to assist patients on the road to recovery. Once we agree on a therapy management plan, its also important that patients continue to prepare for subsequent sessions by evaluating and applying techniques learnt along the way to everyday life. This will be very helpful and can yield lasting results.

How does Medicare apply to private psychology consultations?

From November 2006 the federal government made provision for the public to access rebates for private psychological consultations. In order to use the Medicare rebate system you need to be referred by a GP. This is essential as the GP (not the psychologist) has the responsibility for linking you up with the Medicare system. Your GP will complete a Mental Health Care Plan which will be either sent to the identified psychologist or you will be given the plan to bring with you on your first visit. In one calendar year each person can be funded for a rebate on a maximum of 12 individual psychological consultations. They can also receive a rebate in relation to a maximum of 12 group psychological consultations within one calendar year. This is in addition to the individual sessions. This rebate system also applies to other health care items under Medicare so if you have received a rebate for any other allied health care issue it is important to check with Medicare to see what your eligibility for rebates is at any point in time. All 4Life psychologists are registered Medicare providers. For further information you can visit the Medicare website: www.medicareaustralia.gov.au

How many sessions will it take?

It is very difficult to proscribe the exact number of sessions that someone may require. The psychologists at Sunshine Coast Clinical Psychology are committed to providing the type of intervention which best suits the needs of the individual. Some people come for one session to talk through something on their mind, while others continue to see a psychologist for a number of years. And of course most people fit somewhere in between. For the most common problems (i.e. depression and anxiety) it is usual for most people to attend between 6 and 20 sessions.

How many sessions with a psychologist am I entitled to?

Eligible patients can generally receive: Up to 12 individual services in a calendar year. Your referring doctor will assess your progress after the first six sessions. Up to 12 group therapy services in a calendar year where such services are available and seen as appropriate by your referring doctor and the psychologist.

How will my investment benefit me in the long term?

Once you have increased your knowledge about the issues relevant to you and increased your skill base you can use these tools for the rest of your life. Psychological tools are very versatile and can often be used in many situations. For example there are many uses for things such as communication skills, emotional regulation skills and problem-solving.

Professional Regulation and Legal Requirements

In Queensland at present anyone can legally call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist. People who use these terms do not have to be registered with any regulative body or possess any minimum level of qualification. Both psychiatrists and psychologists must possess the required university qualifications and be registered with the Health Professionals Registration Board in their relevant state to be able to call themselves a psychiatrist or psychologist and to be legally able to practice. There is a public register in each state which enables anyone to check that somebody calling themselves a psychologist or psychiatrist is registered with the relevant authority. In Queensland you can access this register at www.psychologyboard.qld.gov.au and then by following the instructions at ‘check registration’.

What about my private health insurance?

You cannot use your private health insurance ancillary cover to top up the Medicare rebates for these services. You need to decide if you will use Medicare or your private health insurance ancillary cover to pay for psychological services you receive. You can either access rebates from Medicare by following the claiming process or claim where available on your insurer’s ancillary benefits.

What are your confidentiality rules?

Psychologists are bound by the Psychologists code of ethics. This can be found here www.aps.org.au. With regard to confidentiality at Sunshine Coast Clinical Psychology, all therapy discussions are confidential with the important exception that if you are at risk of harm from yourself or to someone else we may need to break confidentiality. The third limitation on confidentiality is in relation to court orders. Should any of these situations be relevant to you, your psychologist will discuss them with you.

What does seeing a psychologist involve?

Consultations with an individual psychologist usually last for one hour. Work with a psychologist usually involves a period of assessment followed by a period of treatment. The length of time taken to complete the ‘therapy process’ is different depending upon the type of problem. This will be discussed with you. In the initial assessment phase, psychologists try to gain a thorough understanding of the problem from your point of view. This may involve filling out questionnaires or monitoring forms. The treatment phase involves helping you to do things differently in order to help you feel better. All aspects of the process are collaborative, meaning that you participate and make active decisions about what goals you would like to achieve how you would like to participate.

What happens in therapy?

Psychological therapy is a two way process which centres on moving towards specific goals. The first session is about understanding your current difficulties and agreeing on treatment targets with your therapist. For example you may want to overcome feelings of sadness and a lack of enjoyment related to depression. Perhaps you would like to feel in control of your life rather than be consumed by worry. It can be helpful to think about your expectations from therapy and raise any concerns that you have with your therapist. Research shows that therapy works best when you attend regularly and give some thought to what you want to discuss during each session. The type of therapy offered by 4Life asks you to practice skills and strategies between sessions. People who do this generally get more out of therapy.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

CBT is changing the way you feel by changing the way you think. It is a type of therapy that was pioneered by Aaron T. Beck and has been shown to be a very effective treatment for many types of problems. For more see www.beckinstitute.org. There is a lot of research published about the effectiveness of CBT for many psychological issues, in particular depression and anxiety.

What is psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour. This involves both overt behaviour (the things you actually do) and covert behaviour (the things you think and feel). Psychologists generally employ a model which tries to take into account and understand all aspects of a person’s life (i.e. the biological, social, contextual and psychological aspects) in order to help them achieve desired change. Psychological therapies are used widely in many different types of settings. Psychologists are trained to work with people individually, in couples, in group settings, with children and families and with organisations. Psychologists endeavour to assist people develop the skills to cope better and overcome difficulties they are experiencing in their life. They can also assist people to develop their potential further in areas of their life, such as career and relationships.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in the treatment of mental illnesses, particularly those such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Psychiatrists usually prescribe medication such as anti-depressants or anti-psychotics as part of their treatment. Psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication. Psychologists have usually trained for 6-8 years and can have a masters or doctorate in psychology with an arts or science background. They have special training in conducting assessments using psychometric instruments, and in providing treatments. Psychologists specialise in helping people with their emotions, thinking and behaviour in relation to themselves and others. Psychologists are educated for 6 years. A registered psychologist has completed 4 years of undergraduate university training and 2 years of internship training in an organisational setting.A clinical psychologist is a specialist psychologist with a minimum of 6 years university training, including approved postgraduate clinical studies and placements in psychiatric settings. Psychologists/Clinical Psychologists are registered and this means that they must be competent and follow a strict Code of Conduct. Psychological treatment typically involves ‘talking therapies’ designed to help people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, stress and work-related problems, life transitions and also people who have a been diagnosed with a mental illness. Depending upon what the issue is, some people will see both a psychologist and psychiatrist at the same time.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist or counsellor?

Psychologists have done extensive formal training (6-8 years) in psychology and have been trained to use scientific measures in their work. This means that they are often focussed on outcomes and using the most effective techniques for change available. Psychotherapists and counsellors have generally trained from 1-3 years and have a variety of backgrounds.