There are many types of health professionals working in mental health care including:
- your doctor
- mental health nurses
- community health workers
- social workers
They have different skills to support your mental health. Some will use different types of counselling, and some will be able to prescribe medications, while others cannot. Some are very practical, while others work to help you understand deep patterns in your life. Even within the same profession, different professionals can have different styles, so find the one that suites you.
How do I find a mental health professional?
If you’re searching for a mental health professional, try talking to your doctor first. They can assess you, and can refer you to another health professional if needed. In some cases, your doctor will treat you themselves.
You need a referral from your doctor to see some health professionals, such as psychiatrists.
What questions should I ask?
When choosing a health professional, ask questions such as:
- Do I need a referral?
- What problems can they help me with?
- What results can I expect?
- What qualifications do they have?
- How much will treatment cost?
- How often will I need appointments?
- Are appointments available on days or at times that work for me?
Most types of health professionals must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA). You can check if a health professional requires registration and is registered or make a complaint about a health professional on the AHPRA website.
What can I expect when I visit a mental health professional?
At your first visit with a mental health professional, you will probably be asked a lot of questions about your mental health. This might include questions about:
- why you have made an appointment
- what you hope to achieve
- whether you or anyone in your family has a history of mental illness, such as depression
- your relationship with your family and friends
- your stress levels and any particular stressful events in your past
- your feelings about your job and your relationships
- whether you use drugs and how much alcohol you drink
- the risk of you harming yourself or others
- other existing medical conditions.
This may seem overwhelming but it’s important for your health professional to understand you so that they can provide you with the best care possible. At the end of your visit, your health professional may set up a management plan to assist in the long-term treatment of your mental health.
What if I need to change my mental health professional?
There are many reasons why you might want to change your health professional, such as:
- you aren’t feeling better
- they are difficult to travel to or the appointment times don’t suit
- you just don’t get on.
It’s a good idea to talk to the person you’re seeing first. They might be able to change the appointment times or move the appointments to a different location.
If you still decide to change, you can ask for your medical notes to be transferred to your new health professional. This will help your new health professional understand you better and it will make the transition easier.
What does it cost to see a mental health professional?
If you have a diagnosed mental illness, your doctor can provide you with a mental health care plan. This covers some of the costs of up to 10 therapy sessions a year with some mental health specialists.
A tool to help you create a question list for your doctor’s appointment. Go to the Question Builder, prepare your list, then print or email it so you remember what you want to ask.
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Last reviewed: October 2017