Psychologist Sydney- Frequently asked questions 

How do you know when to seek professional help when you have a problem?

Making the decision to seek professional help from a clinical psychologist can be difficult if you feel or belief that you should be able to handle everything in your life on your own. People seek therapy from psychologists for various reasons including when they are having difficulties coping or when they want assistance in achieving their goals.

It is important to seek professional assistance if you find that you are unable to cope and that your problems are interfering with your ability to enjoy life or to function at work or at home. Treating mental health concerns will not only improve your quality of life, it will enhance your physical and mental performance.

What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychologist?

To become a psychologist an individual must have successfully completed an accredited sequence of university psychology studies and gained significant levels of supervised practical experience. Psychologists are required to register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to be able to call themselves a psychologist and to be legally able to practice. Psychologists are trained to use scientific measures and evidence based techniques in their work, and must adhere to strict requirements, including continuing professional development, to maintain their registration.

Counsellors listen to clients personal problems and provide support and advice. Counsellors are not regulated and therefore there are no uniform standards of qualifications or training. Their practice may not be monitored as to whether it adheres to standards of ethics and professional conduct. Anyone can call themselves a psychotherapist or counsellor after completing a short course in counselling. There are no Medicare rebate for sessions provided by counsellors or psychotherapists as they are not registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

 What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Both psychiatrists and psychologists have university qualifications. They work in the area of mental health, and often work together.

Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involves six years of studying general medicine, followed by further study of the mind to specialise in psychiatry. They specialise in the medical treatment of mental health problems and can prescribe medication such as antidepressants, anxiolytics or antipsychotics as part of their treatment.

Psychologists are trained to treat a wide range of emotional, behavioural or cognitive problems. They provide treatments which are based on changing behaviour and emotional responses. Psychologists assist individuals to develop the skills needed to function better and to prevent ongoing problems. Psychologists are not medical doctors and therefore are unable to prescribe medication.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a clinical psychologist?

Clinical psychologist holds accredited post-graduate qualifications and training and meets the criteria established by the Psychological Board of Australia (PsyBA) for endorsement as clinical psychologist. You will obtain a higher rebate under Medicare ($126.50 per session) when you see a clinical psychologist. Medicare rebate for seeing a psychologist who is not a clinical psychologist is $84.80 per session.

My doctor referred me to a psychologist but I would like to see someone else who specialises in treating my condition. Could I use the same referral/ Mental Health Care Plan?

Yes you can as the referral / Mental Health Care Plan is transferable. Once an initial Mental Health Care Plan is submitted to Medicare it is valid for two years.

I attended several sessions with a psychologist but I was not satisfied and I would like to see someone else. Do I need to go back to the doctor for a new referral/ Mental Health Care Plan?

There is no need for you to go back to your GP to request for a new referral as the Mental Health Care Plan is transferable. However, if you have used up six sessions with another clinician, then you will need to go back to the GP to request for another Plan – for further four sessions as the maximum number of sessions covered by Medicare per calendar year is 10.