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Counsellors and counselling

9-minute read

If you or someone close to you is in crisis, or is at immediate risk of harm, call triple zero (000). To talk to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Key facts

  • Counsellors are a type of mental health professional who can help you work through issues in your life.
  • Counselling can help with many issues, such as relationship problems and mental health challenges.
  • Counselling sessions can be done individually, with specific people or in a group.

What is a counsellor?

Counsellors are a type of mental health professional. You can talk to a counsellor to help you overcome difficulties in your life.

What do counsellors do?

Counselling can help you to cope with your issues and move through life. Counselling is when you talk with a qualified professional to help you make sense of and deal with the things you are going through. Counsellors ask questions and listen to you in a way that is:

  • non-judgmental
  • safe
  • confidential

People of any age can see a counsellor — there are counsellors who specialise in helping people throughout the life span.

Depending on your needs, counselling can be for a short time or long term. It can also be done:

  • individually
  • with specific people, such as family members or a partner

What problems can counselling help with?

Counsellors help people who are facing problems such as:

Counsellors can also support people with mental illnesses like:

Counselling can also:

What sort of treatment does a counsellor provide?

Some counsellors offer a range of approaches, which means they can offer counselling that best suits you. Other counsellors offer only one approach.

Examples of different types of therapies used in counselling are:

Counsellors can work with you to:

  • improve your mental health
  • help you understand yourself better
  • help you develop strategies to work towards goals
  • provide advice on the difficulties you are facing

A counsellor can help you develop your problem-solving skills by:

  • helping you to understand the issues you are facing
  • exploring the options you have to manage these issues

Counsellors can refer you on for further help if needed. Counsellors don’t diagnose mental health conditions.

Is counselling confidential?

By law, a counsellor must keep what you tell them confidential.

There are some exceptions, such as where you or another person is thought to be at risk of harm.

Your counsellor should outline confidentiality in your first session.

How much does counselling cost?

Fees vary depending on the counsellor and the number of sessions you need. Medicare does not cover counselling unless it done by specific health practitioners such as:

Some private health funds may cover part of your fee for seeing a counsellor.

Free or low-cost counselling may be available through:

  • community centres
  • charities
  • religious organisations

These are often available both face-to-face and online.

Can counselling be done online?

Some counselling can be done through online interactive counselling programs, often supported by mental health professionals. You can ask your doctor about accessing online counselling programs.

Do I need a counsellor?

Counsellors can help with many problems, such as if you are:

  • struggling with stress
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • having distressing thoughts
  • low in self-confidence

What type of counsellor is right for me?

The type of counsellor you see will depend on:

  • your reason for getting counselling
  • what therapy is best suited to your situation

How can I find a counsellor?

You don’t need a referral to see a counsellor. But, you can still talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask for counselling recommendations.

In Australia, most counsellors have qualifications and training. It’s a good idea to check that any counsellor you want to see is registered with a professional body like:

You can find a counsellor in your local area on these websites. You can search for counsellors by languages spoken and type of counselling provided.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Is my counsellor a good fit for me?

After a few sessions you should know whether you feel comfortable with your counsellor. You should:

  • not feel judged or criticised
  • start to see some improvement and feel better

If you don’t feel that you are making progress or you feel that the counsellor isn’t right for you, you can talk openly with your counsellor and/or change counsellors.

Which other healthcare professionals provide counselling?

Other healthcare professionals can provide counselling, including:

Resources and support

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, call triple zero (000). For help and support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Are you having a tough time and you need to talk to someone? The helplines and services below are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2024

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