Accredited mental health social workers specialise in working with and treating mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, psychosis, relationship problems, life crises, adjustment issues, trauma, parenting issues, and family conflicts. Just like psychologists, accredited mental health social workers are trained in a broad range of interventions to support their clients including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Relaxation Strategies, Interpersonal Therapy, Narrative Therapy, plus many more.
In order to become accredited, mental health social workers complete two years of supervised post-graduate practice in mental health and are registered with the Australian Association of Social Workers. They must undertake annual professional development and training to maintain their accreditation and registration.
Accredited mental health social workers are also registered providers with Medicare. This means you are eligible for a Medicare rebate when you see an accredited mental health social worker, providing you have been referred by a GP, paediatrician or psychiatrist through the Commonwealth Government’s Better Access Initiative and have a mental health treatment plan in place.
Psychologists are mental health professionals who are qualified to perform psychological testing and assessments, and provide diagnosis, counselling, therapy, and treatment for mental health concerns. They have a minimum of six years of university training and supervised experience.
To practise, a psychologist must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and listed with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. They must also undertake ongoing professional development to maintain up-to-date skills and knowledge.
Some psychologists have additional endorsed areas of specialisation, for example, clinical psychology, which involves undertaking further qualifications and supervised training.
Both accredited mental health social workers and psychologists provide evidenced-based therapy and counselling interventions, but only psychologists can provide mental health diagnoses and psychological testing, such as personality and intelligence testing.
No, you do not need a referral to see a psychologist or mental health social worker if you are using your private health insurance or privately paying the fee in full.
However, if you have a referral letter and a mental health treatment plan from your GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician, you are entitled to a Medicare rebate for up to 10 individual sessions per calendar year.
A mental health treatment plan is a support plan your GP writes with you that identifies what type of care you need and spells out what you and your doctor have agreed that you are aiming to achieve. Having a mental health treatment plan in place means that you will be entitled to a Medicare rebate for up to 10 individual sessions with a psychologist or mental health social worker per calendar year.
To get a mental health treatment plan book a double appointment with your GP. At your appointment, tell your GP that you want to talk about your mental health concerns and would like to see if you can get a mental health treatment plan. They will ask you some personal questions about your thoughts and feelings and may get you to complete a K-10+ questionnaire which is a simple psychological checklist. It is important to be as open and honest as possible with your GP and when answering the questionnaire. Your GP will then fill in the plan and set some mental health goals with you.
Once completed, your GP will send your mental health treatment plan along with a referral to our team at Psychology SA, or, they may give them to you to present at your first appointment with us. You must have this paperwork at the time of your first appointment with Psychology SA so that we can process the Medicare rebate.
Usually, your initial referral and mental health treatment plan will be for six sessions. After this, you may be required to undertake a review with your GP where you’ll discuss how you are progressing against the goals set out in your plan. If you and your GP agree that further therapy is required, your plan can be extended for a further four sessions.