Find a mental health professional

Figuring out who to see to support your mental health can be hard – psychologist, counsellor, psychiatrist or someone else? Often the best place to start is talking to your GP.

On this page we explain what different mental health professionals do and how to find mental health services near you.

What are mental health professional services?

A mental health professional is an expert in conditions like anxiety and depression. They can help you prevent, treat and manage these conditions.

Finding the right professional for you

Some people may need help from one mental health professional. Others may see several professionals for different treatments. Many mental health support services offer online therapy as well as face-to-face appointments.

It’s important to find someone you feel comfortable with. While some people find a practitioner and treatment that works for them first time, for others it can take a few tries. The main thing is to persevere – try not to let one bad experience put you off getting support. 

On this page

General Practitioners / doctors (GPs)

Going to the doctor for mental health is often the best starting point for someone seeking professional help. 

A GP can: 

  • diagnose anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions 
  • talk to you about treatment options and prescribe medication
  • refer you to another mental health professional such as a psychiatrist
  • write a mental health treatment plan so you can get Medicare rebates.

Finding a GP 

It’s best to go to your regular GP. If you don’t have a GP you can find a GP near you using healthdirect's National Health Services Directory

Read our tips for Finding a GP that can help with mental health issues.

Planning your first appointment

To make sure you’ve got plenty of time to talk without feeling rushed:

  • When you book - ask for a longer or double appointment to talk about depression or anxiety.
  • Before your appointment - read our article on Questions to ask your health professional.
  • At your appointment - talk about your mental health concerns at the start of the appointment.

You and your GP may decide to have follow up appointments to check on your progress.

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Psychologists

Psychologists diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Treatments may include:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – changing the way you think (cognitive) and act (behavioural).
  • problem-solving therapy – learning to manage everyday difficulties.
  • interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) – improving relationships can improve your mental health.
  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) – group-based mindfulness meditation to avoid negative thoughts and feelings.

Finding a psychologist

You don't need a referral from a GP to see a psychologist, but you will need a referral to claim a Medicare rebate.

You can also search for your own psychologist and request a referral to a particular person from your GP.

To find a qualified psychologist near you use the Australian Psychological Society’s directory.

Rebates

Medicare rebates are available for individual or group sessions with psychologists. You'll need a mental health treatment plan (a referral) from a GP to claim rebates from Medicare.

If you have private health insurance and extras cover, you may be able to claim part of a psychologist's fee. Contact your health fund to check. 

The Australian Psychological Society has more information about costs and rebates: How much does seeing a psychologist cost?

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Counsellors and psychotherapists

Counsellors and psychotherapists support people with mental health conditions. They can also help with other difficulties like relationships, grief or addiction. Treatments can include:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - changing the way you think (cognitive) and act (behavioural).
  • acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – stop overthinking by learning to notice and accept negative thoughts and reactions.
  • interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) - improving relationships to improve your mental health.
  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

Finding a counsellor or psychotherapist

You don’t need a referral to see a counsellor or psychotherapist. Medicare rebates aren’t available.

To find a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist near you use the:

Rebates

If you have private health insurance and extras cover, you may be able to claim part of the fee. Contact your health fund to check.

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Mental health coaches

Beyond Blue’s NewAccess program connects you with a trained mental health coach near you. You'll get 6 free, confidential sessions. 

Most sessions are held on the telephone or video call. Some services offer face-to-face sessions.

Who it’s for

NewAccess is for anyone feeling stressed or overwhelmed about everyday life issues. If you’re having difficulties with work, study, relationships, health or loneliness, NewAccess may be right for you.

We also offer a specialist stream for small business owners.

NewAccess isn't right for you if you’re:

  • currently seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist
  • dealing with severe or complex difficulties.

Find out more: NewAccess – mental health coaching support

Psychiatrists

Psychiatric doctors (psychiatrists) are doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. They can make medical and psychiatric assessments and also prescribe medication.

They often use psychological treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).

A GP may refer you to a psychiatric doctor if your anxiety or depression: 

  • is more severe
  • is associated with a high risk of self-harm or suicide
  • continues for a long time, or continues to come back
  • hasn’t responded to treatment.

Finding a psychiatrist

You'll need a referral from a GP to see a psychiatrist and to claim rebates through Medicare. 

To find a psychiatrist near you, you can:

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Other mental health professionals

Accredited Mental Health Social Workers

Accredited Mental Health Social Workers can treat mental health conditions. This includes anxiety and depression. Treatments include:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – changing the way you think (cognitive) and act (behavioural).
  • interpersonal therapy (IPT) - improving relationships to improve your mental health.
  • training for relaxation and interpersonal skills.

You don’t need a referral to see an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, but you’ll need a referral to claim a Medicare rebate.

To find an Accredited Mental Health Social Workers near you use the Australian Association of Social Workers directory.

Mental health occupational therapists

Mental health occupational therapists help people with anxiety and depression take part in everyday activities. They give support for:

  • self-care – such as showering, dressing or preparing food
  • getting back to work - such as education, paid work or volunteering
  • connecting with others – such as making friends or joining a community group.

You don’t need a referral to see a mental health occupational therapist, but you’ll need a referral from a GP to get a Medicare rebate.

To find a qualified occupational therapist near you use Occupational Therapy Australia’s directory.

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers understand the health issues of First Nations Peoples. They know what’s needed to provide culturally safe and accessible services.  

Support can include:

  • screening, assessment, referrals and case management
  • transport to and attendance at specialist appointments
  • education and advocacy
  • counselling and support for family and acute distress response.

Find support near you at Helpful contacts and websites for First Nations Peoples.

Crisis Assessment or Acute Treatment teams

Crisis Assessment or Acute Treatment teams provide emergency psychiatric care in the community. They're sometimes called CAT teams.

If you’re experiencing a crisis, you can be assessed and treated in the community. However, if you’re a potential danger to yourself or others, you’ll be admitted to hospital.

You can contact a CAT team by calling the local hospital or community mental health services.

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How much does it cost to see a mental health professional?

Most mental health professionals set their own fees, so the cost varies. Check with your preferred mental health support service and ask if you can use:

  • Medicare rebates
  • private health insurance rebates
  • NDIS budget.

Some practitioners may also offer ‘sliding scale’ fees, with lower fees for low-income clients.

Medicare rebates for mental health support services

Medicare rebates are available to people with a diagnosed mental health condition such as anxiety or depression.

You may still need to pay a ‘gap’ fee. This is the difference between the health professional’s fee and the Medicare rebate.

The first step is to get a mental health treatment plan from your GP.

Find out more about Medicare rebates with the Department of Health’s Better Access initiative.

Private health insurance rebates

Many private health insurers offer rebates for mental health services and medical treatment. Check with your health insurance provider to see if you’re covered.

NDIS

You may be able to use the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding for mental health support.

Find out more on the NDIS website.

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More support to get started

If you’re still unsure after talking to your GP, our counsellors can help find the right mental health services for you. Use our free, confidential counselling service (local call costs apply):

Read our helpful articles to get started

 

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