Mental Health Professionals Explained

Posted on February 1, 2018

Mental Health Professionals Explained

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between Counselling, Psychotherapy, Psychology and Psychiatry? Did you think all mental health providers are the same? Well, I’m here to dispel the myths.

Psychiatrist A psychiatrist has attended medical school, is a trained and qualified physician and therefore holds an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree. In residency, he or she received specialised training in the field of psychiatry. Just like other fields of medical practice such as internal medicine, psychiatry tends to focus mainly on the use of medications for treatment. Psychiatry is also considered a science. You will need a referral from a GP to see a psychiatrist for your initial appointment.

Costs Between $180 and $500 – rebate from Medicare between $113.15 to $384.80

Restrictions You are required to go to them; they do not make house calls unless you are in a hospital. Psychiatry is long term (1-5 years) and requires regular appointments (1-5 sessions per week). They also do assessments and medication and management plans.

Psychologist A psychologist usually holds a doctoral degree (a Ph.D., a Psy.D., or an Ed.D.,) from a university or professional college. All psychologists have had extensive training in research, having completed an original scientific study, called a doctoral dissertation, as a major part of the training.

In fact, the psychologist’s training in research is what most distinguishes them from other mental health providers. Not only does the field of psychology use research to assess the effectiveness of various forms of treatment, but also any psychologist trained in research should have acquired some solid skills useful for analysing information and drawing conclusions in psychotherapy sessions. Psychology is considered a science.   To access the Federal Governments Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative and receive a rebate from Medicare you will need a referral from a GP. This rebate CAN NOT be used for couples or relationship counselling or issues.

Costs Between $150 and $300 – rebate from Medicare $84.80

Restrictions You are required to go to them; they do not make house calls unless you are in a hospital. Psychology is long term (2-5 years) and requires regular appointments (1-5 sessions per week).

Counsellor A person who has completed a diploma or degree in counselling. A counsellor does not diagnose, medicate, or give advice. A counsellor will help you focus on your strengths and then support you to use those rediscovered strengths to sort out your current issues. Counselling is all about effecting change.

Costs Between $60 and $150 – claimable on Medibank Private Bonus Package Plus, Australian Unity Health & Doctors Health Fund.

Restrictions There are none, only advantages.

Counselling is considered short term. It usually doesn’t last any more than 1 year and sometimes as little as one visit.

Counselling is all about regaining your power. It helps you to find a healthier way of dealing with your past, your family, yourself and situations in general. It’s not about giving advice or telling you what you should do, it’s about giving you back the power to decide for yourself.

Counselling is empowering. It doesn’t take away your decision-making skills, it helps you develop them, so that you are able to make your own choices without needing someone else’s advice or validation. After all, you are the expert in the room; I am only there to help guide you to a healthier way of coping.

Psychotherapist I have been asked this question a few times recently so like all good therapists I contacted the ACA for clarification & their response was “There is no reason why you cannot refer to yourself as a psychotherapist. The difference between the two no longer exists now counsellors are better trained and experienced. Many counsellors work with long-term clients who have complex issues.”

And always remember to check the credentials of any mental health professional you see and ensure they are a member of a recognised association, such as the Australian Counselling Association, APS or RANZCP.