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Do Counsellors in Australia Qualify for the Mental Health Treatment Plan Rebate Scheme?

When seeking support with your mental health it is helpful to understand the differences between the various professionals available. In Australia the two most common are Psychologists and Counsellors. Although their roles can be quite similar there are differences in qualifications, scope of practice, fees, and Medicare rebates.

What are Psychologists?

Psychologists will typically have completed six years of university education which includes an undergraduate degree in psychology, followed by an honours year and a Master’s or Doctoral degree or an accredited four-year degree followed by two years of supervised practice. They must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and meet ongoing professional development to maintain their registration.

Psychologist are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat a wide range of mental health conditions, they can also conduct psychological testing.

What are Counsellors?

Counsellors may have a diverse educational background, for example as well as my counselling degree and counselling diploma, I also have a nursing degree and spent many years as an endorsed midwife.

Counsellors are not legally required to be registered with a professional body, however membership with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) is recommended as this ensures adherence to professional standards and code of ethics such as mandatory ongoing education and clinical supervision.

Counsellors support people experiencing a wide range of emotional/psychological issues. They provide an environment where you feel safe to explore your thoughts, feelings and emotions around these issues. This can improve self-awareness, self-confidence, and as a result improved relationships with yourself and others. They do not diagnose.

How Much Does a Psychologist Cost?

Fees to see a psychologist will vary depending on their experience, specialisation, and location; I encourage you to conduct your own research. Latest information indicates that the average range of fees vary from $130-$280 per 50-minute session. Individuals with a Mental Health Treatment Plan will receive between $89.65 and $131.65 rebate.

How much does a Counsellor cost?

Fees for seeing a counsellor are generally lower but again are at the discretion of the counsellor, and typically range from $60-$150 per session. This can make counselling more accessible for those with limited financial means.

Counsellors are not eligible for Medicare rebates, although this is something that is being considered, and would have great benefits for those needing timely access to mental health support, as the waitlist to see Psychologists grows.

Do I need a psychologist or a Counsellor?

Deciding whether you need to see a psychologist or Counsellor will depend on your specific needs and goals for therapy. If you require a formal diagnosis, need specialised psychological testing or have a severe mental health condition, your appropriate option would be a psychologist.

If you are seeking support with life’s challenges, relationship issues, personal growth and many other issues, but are not seeking a diagnosis, a more cost-effective option will be a counsellor.

The most important thing to bear in mind is that research shows that for therapy to be effective it has little to do with the educational background of the therapist or the techniques they use or insights they have, but has more to do with the quality of the relationship between the therapist and client. Change happens when the therapist and client are in sync and calm, where the therapist is listening, and the client feels heard.

Here are some suggestions of questions to ask yourself when choosing a therapist:

  • Do I feel safe with the therapist?
  • Do I feel listened to and understood?
  • Do I feel comfortable enough to share my thoughts, feelings and emotions?
  • Am I comfortable with their manner towards me?

Feel free to give me a call to see if I could be a fit for you.



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Donna Douglas

Your Calm Caring Compassionate Counsellor

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