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Australia’s Psychologist Shortage Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

Australia is seeing the biggest demand for mental health support yet the cost, a shortage of psychologists and the Medicare system is leaving so many in the lurch.

Sahra O’Doherty is a practicing psychologist and director of the Australia Association of Psychologists whose advocating for major reforms in the mental health space. She believes the Medicare subsidy system, which allows patients access to subsidised psychologist sessions, is way too complex.

“The Medicare process is so difficult for patients and clients. Here at AAP, we’re advocating for it to be simplified so that process can be a lot easier and less arduous on people.”

Sahra O’Doherty , Australian Association of Psychologists

She has a point. To access the first 10 subsidised sessions, you need a Mental Health Care plan from a GP, which requires you to fill out a questionnaire detailing your mental health issue. After six sessions with a psychologist, to access the remaining four subsidised sessions, you have to visit the GP for a follow-up consultation. After those four, you’re back for a third follow up. To top it off, if you want to access the ten extra sessions that were added during the Covid-19 pandemic its likely you’ll need another follow-up. Sound annoying? We couldn’t agree more.

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The other major setbacks are that a) a session with a psychologist is expensive and b) there’s a shortage in the profession due to a lack of change in our uni system.

In today’s Briefing, Sahra discusses the major shakeups to our healthcare system that need to happen in order to address Australia’s deepening mental health crisis.