This week is Psychology Week - dedicated to the promotional of all things psychological.
The Australian Psychological Society has released the results of its annual stress survey, and the results are not looking good, people.
35% of Australians report having a significant level of distress in their lives
26% of Australians report above normal levels of anxiety symptoms
26% of Australians report having moderate to extremely severe levels of depression symptoms
The above stats suggest that at least one in four Australians are eligible for government assistance with seeing a psychologist.
Are you one of the 1 in 4?
Today’s post is all about how to access a psychologist if you think you need one. Honestly, it’s not scary/ expensive/ certified proof that you’re mad.
How does it Work?
In Australia, you can be eligible for Medicare rebates that help you to pay for up to ten psychology sessions a year.
To access this, you need a diagnosable mental health condition. Don’t freak out! This just means that you have symptoms that are common to at least one in four Australians – things like trouble getting to sleep, feeling tired all the time, being unable to control your worries, or not feeling interested in things that you used to enjoy.
If you’re not sure if you qualify, then click on the links below to check out lists of common symptoms for the ‘big 3’ - Anxiety, Depression and Stress (aka ‘Adjustment Disorder’ - stress symptoms resulting from big lifestyle changes like job loss or relationship breakdown).
Stress - Adjustment
If you recognise yourself in any of the above, you just make an appointment with your GP and have a chat to them about it. Your GP will make the decision as to if they think you need help, and if you can claim the Medicare rebate. If you can, they will write you a ‘Mental Health Care Plan’ and give you a referral to a psychologist.
If you have different symptoms to what is listed above - definitely contact your GP. The lists above just cover what is most common - symptoms of other disorders are more rare and often even more
distressing and include hearing voices or having periods of extreme energy/irritability mixed into feeling low.
The thing I love most about the Medicare rebates (known as the “Better Access Program”) is that Medicare actually wants you to get help early. The program is designed to help you get help before your problems get really bad: which is when most people seek help. But like most things, getting help early saves a lot of extra time, money and effort – it’s much easier to correct problems when they first occur (this is true no matter if we’re talking about relationships, emotional issues, physical health or just getting into your car and driving in the wrong direction!).
‘Don’t wait: it’s much easier to correct problems when they first occur’
Don’t Worry about the Money
Seeing a psychologist does NOT have to be expensive. There are psychology practices built on only bulk-billing their clients, which means that if you have one of those ‘Mental Health Care Plans’ from your GP, you won’t pay anything for your sessions – no matter who you are.
Other psychologists will charge rates from $90 - $250+ for a session, depending on their specialisation, location and other factors. Medicare will cover $85/ $125 of that fee for registered psychologists/ clinical psychologists, which is a significant contribution. Remember, more dollars doesn’t necessarily equal better service – it’s all about finding the right psychologist for you.
Don’t be intimidated
Seeing a psychologist for the first time is pretty nerve-wracking. You have to meet with a complete stranger who will ask you plenty of questions about personal life, particularly the bits you’re struggling with. Why would you do it?
Because you want the help they can give you.
Psychologists are trained to help. They’re trained to be compassionate. To respect privacy. To uphold high standards of confidentiality. But really, what you want from them is their knowledge on how to help you get to a different place.
Different psychologists do that in different ways. They related to you in different ways too. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to try a few psychologists out if you don’t feel comfortable with the person you get. Liking the person asking you to make changes is quite important. If you don’t get some sense of relationship from them, you’re not going to do what they suggest.
My personal style is pretty direct. People often describe me as ‘down-to-earth’ and ‘honest’. I’m very interested in practical action and change. I like to have used the techniques I talk about in my own life wherever possible, so I can relate to the difficulties and rewards that come with using the techniques. That may or may not suit you! You won’t really know until you meet someone whether or not you’ll get along (although checking out their website can help, as can a quick chat on the phone or a recommendation from someone you trust).
If you don't like the psychologist you choose, please don't give up on psychology.
Know that change is hard, and don’t make it harder than it has to be. Just shop around until you find someone you like.
The Next Step
If you’ve read this and become motivated to take the next step, then:
* Call your GP and make an appointment to see if you’re eligible for the Medicare Rebate (you need to see the GP before you see a psychologist in order to claim the rebate).
Or, if getting a rebate doesn’t matter to you, then:
* Start to research local psychologists to find one who will suit you. Commit to spending ten minutes just Googling and reading to start with. Stop when you feel overwhelmed and keep looking each day until you find someone you're happy with.
* If you live rurally, you can still access a psychologist via Skype. Known as ‘tele-therapy’, it's been shown to be just as good as face to face therapy (but Medicare won’t give you a rebate for that).
* If you’d like me as your psychologist, give me a call on 0421 720 635. If you’re eligible for the Medicare rebate, you’ll pay about $15 for a session with me out of your own pocket, with Medicare covering the rest. I also do Skype consultations - just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make 2016 the year you become part of the 3 in 4 - get on top of your mental health now.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.