Mental Health Journey.

Navigating Your Mental Health Journey

 

 

Seeking support can be daunting, especially if you are sleep deprived or overwhelmed with distress. If you’re experiencing mental health symptoms, including anxiety, depression, or acute life stressors, you may benefit from reaching out.

The first question people often ask is ‘where should I start?’. If in doubt, a GP can be a valuable sounding board to help you steer towards the next step. Sometimes mental health care will involve a psychologist, counsellor, or psychiatrist. We can discuss these options with you and help you choose how you proceed.

Many of our patients say that once they understand mental health terminology and systems, they find their care much easier to navigate. So, let’s talk through some common terms you’ll hear when you reach out for support. We’ll start with the different practitioners involved and a description of a Mental Health Care Plan (also sometimes called a Mental Health Treatment Plan).

 

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What is a psychologist?

Psychologists are experts in human behaviour who can help people change the way they think, feel, behave, and react. They provide counselling and therapy in a wide range of situations.

A clinical psychologist undergoes a Masters or Doctorate degree to refine their skills further and may develop a special interest or skill set.

 

What is a counsellor?

Counsellors offer advice and support during personal or work challenges. They tend to offer support on a more short-term basis, while psychologists are more likely to treat mental health conditions on an ongoing basis.

 

What is a mental health occupational therapist?   

Occupational therapists use individual and group programs/activities to enhance independence in everyday activities. They may help to develop coping strategies for people overcoming their mental health issues or improving confidence and self-esteem in social situations.

 

What is a social worker?

Mental Health Social workers support patients and their families. They may help patients navigate the healthcare system or assess the patient’s mental health. Sometimes, the social worker will offer short-term therapy or counselling.

 

What is a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in mental health. They evaluate, diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders. They provide psychological therapy, prescribe medications, and provide brain stimulation therapies (such as TMS).

 

What is a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP)?

A Mental Health Care Plan is a plan to treat your mental health symptoms. It sets the outcomes you and your doctor hope to achieve and lays out the steps to get there.

It includes a referral to a mental health provider such as a psychologist, social worker or mental health occupational therapist. The MHCP enables you claim up to 10 individual and 10 group sessions with a mental health professional each calendar year. To start with, your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional for 6 sessions. If you need more, they can refer you for further sessions.

 

Who can get a MHCP?

The MHCP is available to patients with an assessed mental disorder who would benefit from a structured approach to the management of their treatment needs. ‘Mental disorder’ is a term used to describe a range of clinically diagnosable disorders that significantly interfere with an individual’s cognitive, emotional, or social abilities.

You may hear or read mixed messages about whether you are eligible for a MHCP. If you are not sure, we recommend booking with a doctor to talk it through. Whether your concern is minor or serious, short, or long term, we can figure out a plan that gives you access to any help you need to feel well again.

 

How do I book a MHCP and what is the cost?

You can either phone in or book online.
We require a 30-minute appointment as a minimum for a mental health assessment or a MHCP. Sometimes your doctor will encourage several appointments to explore your situation and discuss support options, especially if you are considering starting new medication or are seeking mental health support for the first time.

The average cost for a 30 minute MHCP is $176. This may alter depending on time and complexity. We charge for additional time when an appointment exceeds 30 minutes.

 

Did you say ‘Medicare rebates’? Tell me more!

Yes! A MHCP provides up to 10 rebatable sessions with a psychologist per calendar year. If you complete those 10 sessions, you can still see your psychologist as a private patient until your MHCP rebates refresh in the new calendar year.

The MHCP also offers you access to rebates for group therapy. You can claim $40 per appointment for up to 10 sessions per calendar year. An example of this is DBT Group Therapy, a gentle and nurturing therapy designed to develop skills in self-soothing and emotional regulation.

 

How often should I get a new MHCP?

A Mental Health Care Plan does not expire but, you do need a new MHCP if you have used your 10 rebatable sessions.

While the rebates refresh in the calendar year, the MHCP can only be renewed every 12 months. There are some tricks to navigating this that your GP and psychologist can help you with. The most important thing for you to do is keep a copy of your MHCP and a record of the dates of your psychology appointments.

 

I’m nervous about finding a psychologist. What if I don’t like the psychologist I’m referred to?

This is a very common and understandable concern. It’s a bit like finding a great hairdresser, it’s very personal and can take time.

Finding a great psychologist is really a matter of finding a great match. In pairing with a psychologist, it is worth considering what style of therapy you’re interested in, your disposition and appointment logistics. You can always try one session with a psychologist and then meet back with your GP to discuss.

You are very welcome to change psychologists during the tenure of your MHCP. If you change psychologists, your GP will need to write a new named referral to enable you to claim Medicare rebates with a new professional.

Sometimes patients try several psychologists before they find a good fit. If you have a great match between psychologist and client it will feel like a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment. Having good relationships with your Mental Health providers is paramount for a productive therapeutic process. We value the process of helping our patients find Mental Health Providers they feel safe and comfortable with. We encourage you to research local psychologists or seek recommendations from like-minded friends. Our practice also networks with local clinics and providers to inform and guide our referrals.

 

How much do psychology appointments cost?

Prices in the inner city vary from $180 – $300 per hour for a standard psychology session.

When referred via a MHCP you will be eligible to a Medicare rebate of between $93 – $137 per session, depending on the qualifications of the psychologist.

 

How do I go about making my first psychology appointment?

Some psychology clinics prefer you to call them to book in an appointment. Other psychologists ask you to send a referral or an online enquiry and first. Your GP may be able to guide you in this process. If you’re not sure, it always helps to reach out to your psychologist and enquire about appointment options.

 

What should I expect during a mental health appointment with my GP?

A mental health appointment will begin with a discussion of your symptoms. It may involve discussing other stressors which are contributing to your distress. Depending on your situation the GP will guide you through some suggestions and processes that may be useful.

A MHCP appointment involves writing a ‘Treatment Plan’. This usually includes a survey (e.g. a K10 depression score) and writing a referral letter. At the end of your appointment, you will be able to take your MHCP documents with you. We can also email a copy of these to your personal email address.

 

How do I approach a conversation about starting medication for anxiety and depression?

Many people benefit from using medications as a tool to help with symptoms of anxiety or depression. Most people seek an in-depth discussion about their medication options, side effects and safety information. A GP will happily discuss these concerns or questions with you and help you choose a path that you feel comfortable with.

 

What should I do if I need urgent mental health help?

There are some excellent mental health services offering 24-hour care, 7 days a week.

If in doubt, Lifeline 13 11 14 can be a great place to start. Lifeline is 24-hour crisis support phone line staffed by trained volunteers and staff. They can also be reached via text or online chat at www.lifeline.org.au.

Over 1 million Australians reach out to Lifeline for support every year. No matter what you are going through you are not alone. Please reach out, there will be someone available to listen.

 

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As you can see, there are several options to consider when in embarking on a therapeutic path. At Gasworks Medical Practice we strive to provide high quality mental health support as you navigate this journey. If you are unsure of who to see or how to get started, please feel welcome to call our friendly reception staff to book an initial appointment. Our experienced GPs can answer your questions and help you choose a path towards your recovery and emotional wellbeing.

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