Paying for treatment or rent?The Heartbreaking Mental Health Choices Many Face

Paying for treatment or rent?The Heartbreaking Mental Health Choices Many Face
Paying for treatment or rent?The Heartbreaking Mental Health Choices Many Face

Although casual psychologists have completed four years of college and can see clients, they can only perform their work under supervision, including regular observations by their supervisors.


Australian Psychologists Association executive director Tegan Carrison, which represents psychologists without clinical qualifications, is advocating for kickbacks for casual psychologists such as Radford.

“The drivers of mental illness are increasing, and so is the demand for mental health services … unless steps are taken to reduce the cost of services and increase the number of professional mental health staff,” she said in the organization’s budget submitting.

The Australian Psychological Society has called for Medicare funding to be extended to casual psychologists from 2019. Chairperson Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe said too many Australians were living in a mental health desert where there were no psychologists.

“Millions of people suffer from untreated mental illness each year, and this must change…existing services are also unavailable or affordable, and more and more patients are being forced to use credit cards instead of medical care Insurance card,” she said.


“We would also like to see the GP relocation incentive replicated in psychology to attract more psychologists to work in regional, rural and remote communities and disadvantaged groups.

“Currently, the government is only on 35% of its psychology workforce target. We must prioritize rapid expansion of the psychology workforce.”

But Caroline Hunt, president of the Australian Association of Clinical Psychology, the peak body for clinically qualified psychologists, said her priority was funding postgraduate places in clinical psychology.

“We would also say that the amount of funding for each place would need to increase to reflect the cost of running these programmes. The Commonwealth component is currently funded by English literature.”

She agrees the government should provide incentives for psychologists working in rural and remote areas, but doesn’t think adding casual psychologists to Medicare should be a priority.

“It would be better for the government to invest more in the training system to strengthen the workforce,” she said.

Psychiatrist Ian Hickie, co-director of health and policy at the Brain and Mind Center, also cautioned against adding more psychologists to lower levels of training.

“The worst thing you can do is expand the base of the pyramid without the right number of specialists. It’s not just a numbers game, it’s a job role problem,” he said. “What we need are more clinical psychologists … we need to make sure that clinical care is available to those who really need it.”

The budget submitted by his center calls for adding at least 200 federally-supported clinical psychology university spots each year for the next four years.


These places may be linked to areas of need for services, such as rural and regional centres, youth and Aboriginal mental health, and services for multicultural communities, he said.

“There is debate about where the most emphasis should be placed … but there is consensus that labor investment is needed. That is the number one issue and the number one issue on which to judge whether the government has taken substantive action,” he said.

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