What’s the Difference? Mental Health Professions Explained.

Where to turn when we require professional mental health support?   Many people are becoming more and more aware to attend their GP in the first instance when seeking professional mental health support.  This is a great practice we encourage in terms of initially looking after one’s mental wellbeing.  I think we can also confidently say that your GP will, most likely, complete a mental health care plan and a referral to a Psychologist.  Again, potentially, another very good step.  However, it also depends on your GP’s knowledge, experience and connections to the mental health services around them.  Without knowledge and connection to the right provider, you might be end up having to source your own Psychologist. We want you to know, while Psychological Therapy may be the correct service type for you, there are also many other alternatives. This post explores the true diverse nature of services available, the differences between them and how to check professional registration and rebate statuses of those you are looking to work with. Each day we will introduce a different mental health support type to you. It is important for you to know each profession so you can make an informed decision about the care of yourself or a loved one. At A Path To Follow, we support communities members to find and engage in specialised mental health support. Please reach out if you require support with finding an appropriate and reputable mental health specialist for your or someone you know. Psychologist A Psychologist is a professional trained in the science of how people think, feel, behave and learn. Psychologists work to assess and provide therapy for people struggling with mental health or psychological issues by helping them to understand how their own brains work and its relationship to their feelings and behaviours. Psychologists are regulated in Australia, meaning that for someone to call themselves a Psychologist they must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and be listed with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. (APHRA) A registered Psychologist will have had 6 years minimum university training and supervised experience.  They can be general providers, with sound knowledge across a broad range of mental health challenges and/or illnesses, or they may specialise in a certain area or areas.  A Clinical Psychologist will attained further qualifications to enable them to participate in research, teaching supervision, etc.  In practical terms their therapy is based in session to session talking, without their role extending to outside session work on behalf or for the client.  For more information on the different forms of Psychology, see here. Medicare and Private Health Psychologists offer Medicare rebates. The gap (amount you will pay), will vary from professional to professional.  Some may offer Bulk Billing if you hold a Health Care Card or Pension or can prove financial hardship. Private Health: Check your fund, type and level of cover. Psychiatrist A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has undergone additional training to be qualified to practice Psychiatry and must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia via APHRA.  They have the capacity to complete thorough Assessments, especially for those more serious and complex mental health challenges. A person may have both a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist as part of their care team. While the Psychiatrist may prescribe and manage medication, the Psychologist may use evidence based talking therapy models to assist the client. Medicare and Private Health Psychiatrists offer Medicare rebates. The gap (amount you will pay), will vary from professional to professional.  Some may offer Bulk Billing if you hold a Health Care Card or Pension or can prove financial hardship. Private Health: Check your fund, type and level of cover. Social Worker Social Workers are trained at university in human behaviour, families, social justice and human rights. They can assist people with a range of challenges that may come about for reasons other than mental health challenges. At this stage Social Work is not a registered industry in Australia at the moment. There is a peak body, Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), but membership with this body is voluntary. At the very least we advise people to ask if their Social Worker would be “eligible” to become a member with the AASW; this ensures they meet the same requirements that paying members have to. Social Workers can provide counselling to individuals in addition to advocacy, referrals and the coordination of services for their clients. Medicare and Private Health                                                                                                                                              No, not at this time.                                                                                                                                    Mental Health Social Worker A Mental Health Social Worker is a Social Worker with additional qualifications in mental health that prepares them to deal with issues relating specifically to mental health challenges and/or illness. Mental Health Social Workers generally have experience in assessing and diagnosing people experiencing mental health related stress and other life challenges.  Mental Health Social Workers are accredited via AASW. Medicare Yes Private Health No   Counsellor A Counsellor works with clients to promote mental health and wellbeing, enhance self-understanding and resolve identified concerns via talking therapy. In Australia you do not have to be registered to practice and there are many different counselling qualifications available. We recommend that you check if your