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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a referral to see a clinical psychologist?


Although a referral is not required, many people prefer to obtain one from their GP prior to attending sessions because they will be eligible for a Medicare rebate for up to 10 sessions per calendar year. A referral to a clinical psychologist is called a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) or Mental Health Treatment Plan (MHTP).


Is the information I give my clinical psychologist confidential?


Clinical psychologists are bound by the Australian Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics, which involves maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of the identities and personal information of those they work with. All personal information is stored in a secure drive and file names are de-identified. However, in specific circumstances where your clinical psychologist has recognised that there is a significant and imminent risk of serious harm to you or someone else based on information you have provided, they are ethically bound to relay this information to whoever is able to act to prevent this harm. Clinical psychologists are also mandatory reporters and are obligated to inform the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) of any serious risks to child safety identified, and if subpoenaed by a court, in many cases clinical psychologists will need to release information as per the court order.


What qualifications does a clinical psychologist have?


To become a qualified clinical psychologist, it takes a minimum of 8 years of study and supervised practice. This includes a four-year undergraduate degree with honours, two-year masters degree and two years of supervised practice, with extra professional development and supervision requirements. Clinical psychologists are required to participate in ongoing professional development and supervision annually in order to maintain their registration. Completing a clinical psychology qualification involves training in and exposure to a variety of client population groups, presenting problems, assessments and therapy modalities, as well as independent research projects.


What will happen at my first session?


Your psychologist will obtain your signed consent to assessment and therapy. You can withdraw your consent to participate later at any time, should you change your mind. The first session is used to get to know you and your hopes for attending therapy, and determine some key goals to work towards together.

How many sessions do I need to attend?


There is no set number of sessions that people must attend in order to make progress with their mental health. Some find having only a few sessions will give them the information and support they need to move forward without assistance. Others really benefit from longer-term support, sometimes over a year or even multiple years. The recommended number of sessions depends on the main issues the person is seeing their psychologist about and how quickly they respond to therapy. It is ultimately your choice as to how many sessions you attend, as only you can truly assess the value of continuing to engage in your own therapy.

How often do I have to attend therapy sessions?


There is no fixed rule about how often someone should attend therapy and this also largely depends on the main issues they are seeking therapy to address. However, if you are working with a new psychologist, it is generally recommended that you attend on a weekly or fortnightly basis for the first 3-6 sessions. This allows the psychologist to establish a good relationship with you and gain momentum in the work you do together. Later on, sessions can be more spread out as you become better able to work independently, with less input from your psychologist.

What if I don't feel comfortable with my psychologist?


It is normal not to gel with everyone and it's the same with psychologists. It is important to find someone who you feel understood by and who you feel genuinely wants to support you. It is completely OK to try a few before you find one who feels like a good fit. Sometimes, though, you might feel uncomfortable because of what is discussed in sessions, rather than how your psychologist relates to you. If this happens, it is worthwhile having a conversation with them about whether it is something that can be worked through together or if another style might be a better fit for you. Psychologists also approach mental health support from a variety of angles, using a number of different treatment approaches and styles. Some are more conversational, others are more structured and prescriptive. Some focus more on what happens within the session, and others focus more on what happens outside it. It is important to note that, if you do not find a session with a particular psychologist helpful, this does not mean that all psychologists and therapy styles won't be helpful. I encourage people to keep trying until they find a person and approach that feels right and helpful to them.

What are my responsibilities as someone who is participating in therapy?


Therapy is a partnership between the psychologist and the person they are working with, and cannot be a successful process without the input of both. People who get more out of therapy attend sessions regularly, answer the psychologist's questions openly and honestly, and are willing to try things that might feel uncomfortable sometimes. Your psychologist will never force you to do anything, and any challenging activities your psychologist might suggest should be set in collaboration with you, in order to achieve a goal you have set for yourself.

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