Mental Health Care Plans

Australian Mental Health Care Plans:

Understanding and Exploring Therapy Options

In this article, we will delve deeper into what these plans entail and discuss the pros and cons of therapy under a mental health care plan. Understanding these aspects will help you make informed decisions about your mental health care journey.

Let’s explore further!

An Australian Mental Health Care Plan is a program initiated by the Australian government to ensure accessible and affordable mental health care for individuals in need. These plans are designed to facilitate the provision of psychology or mental health social worker only based mental health services to individuals who are experiencing mental health difficulties. MHCP do not allow for treatment by other therapists such as counsellors. Read about the difference between the  types of therapists here..

To access a mental health care plan, you need to consult a general practitioner (GP) or a psychiatrist. The GP or psychiatrist will assess your mental health condition and, if necessary, create a personalized care plan tailored to your specific needs. The plan outlines the treatments, interventions, and support services that will be provided to help improve your mental well-being.

Pros of Therapy Under a Mental Health Care Plan:

  1. Financial Assistance and Accessibility: One of the significant advantages of therapy under a mental health care plan is the financial support it provides. With a mental health care plan, you become eligible for Medicare rebates, which can substantially reduce the cost of therapy sessions. This financial assistance increases the accessibility of therapy for individuals who may have financial constraints, making it more feasible to receive the necessary support.
  2. Range of Qualified Professionals: Mental health care plans offer access to a diverse range of qualified mental health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, and social workers. This variety ensures that you can choose a professional whose expertise aligns with your specific needs and preferences. You have the opportunity to work with someone who specializes in the type of therapy that best suits you, increasing the chances of positive outcomes.
  3. Comprehensive Treatment Approaches: Mental health care plans promote a holistic approach to treatment. In addition to therapy sessions, the plan may encompass medication management, lifestyle modifications, self-help strategies, and referrals to other specialists if needed. This comprehensive approach addresses the multifaceted nature of mental health and ensures that various aspects of your well-being are taken into consideration.
  4. Continuity of Care: Mental health care plans emphasize ongoing support and continuity of care. Your treatment journey is not limited to a set number of sessions; rather, it can be a long-term process. The plan allows for regular reviews and adjustments as necessary, ensuring that your evolving needs are met consistently. This continuity helps build a strong therapeutic relationship and promotes sustained progress in your mental health journey.

Cons of Therapy Under a Mental Health Care Plan:

  1. Limited Subsidized Sessions: Mental health care plans typically offer a limited number of subsidized therapy sessions per calendar year. While these sessions may be sufficient for some individuals, others may require additional sessions beyond what is covered. If you need more sessions, you may need to pay out-of-pocket or seek alternative funding options, which can be a challenge for some individuals.
  2. Wait Times and Availability: Due to high demand and limited resources, accessing therapy under a mental health care plan may involve wait times for appointments on average from 6-12 months. The availability of mental health professionals can vary depending on your location. Waiting for an appointment can be frustrating, especially when immediate support is needed. It's important to communicate your urgency with your healthcare provider to explore available options.
  3. Geographical Constraints and Provider Choices: Mental health care plans may have limitations concerning geographical locations and provider choices. Depending on where you live, you may have a limited selection of professionals who accept the plan. This can impact your ability to find a therapist who aligns with your preferences, expertise, or cultural background. It's crucial to consider these factors and discuss them with your GP or psychiatrist when selecting a provider.
  4. Administrative Processes: Navigating the administrative aspects of mental health care plans can be challenging for some individuals. Understanding the paperwork, claiming Medicare rebates, and coordinating care with different healthcare providers can be overwhelming. However, support is available from your GP, mental health professionals, and Medicare representatives to assist you throughout the process.

Why a MHCP isn’t always a good option for everyone:

It’s important to approach mental health care from a holistic viewpoint, taking into account the overall well-being of individuals.

Here are some reasons why mental health care plans may not always be the best choice:

  1. Limited Focus on Prevention and Early Intervention: Mental health care plans primarily focus on treatment rather than prevention and early intervention. While they provide support once mental health concerns have arisen, a holistic approach should also emphasize proactive measures such as education, awareness, and early intervention programs to prevent mental health issues from escalating. By prioritizing prevention and early intervention, the overall mental well-being of individuals can be better supported. 
  2. Narrow Approach to Treatment: Mental health care plans often focus on specific types of therapy, such as CBT Cognitive behaviour therapy or DBT Dialectical behaviour therapy, which may not fully address the diverse needs of individuals. A holistic perspective recognizes that mental health encompasses various aspects, including physical health, social support, lifestyle factors, and self-care practices. Effective treatment should consider these multiple dimensions and offer a range of therapeutic options to cater to individual needs.
  3. Disclosure and Privacy for Employment: Whether or not to disclose a mental health diagnosis to an employer is a personal decision. If a mental health care plan diagnosis is not relevant to the job requirements and does not impact performance, employees may choose to keep it confidential. However, in situations where accommodations or support are necessary, disclosing the diagnosis may be beneficial to ensure appropriate workplace adjustments. It's important to consider future employment as well as current employment. A holistic approach will not require you to disclose this information.
  4. Disclosure and Privacy for Insurance: When applying for new insurance policies, including life insurance or disability insurance, you may be asked to provide information about your health history, including mental health diagnoses. It's important to understand the disclosure requirements and how they may impact your coverage or premiums. In some cases, failure to disclose relevant information accurately may lead to claims being denied. A holistic approach will not require you to disclose this information unless required to do so by law.
  5. Limited Availability of Services: Mental health care plans may face limitations in terms of service availability, particularly in remote or under-served areas. This can result in long wait times for appointments, creating delays in receiving the necessary support. A holistic mental health approach should strive for equitable access to mental health services for all Australians, regardless of their geographical location, socioeconomic status, or cultural background.Doctor's don't often inform you that there are other services than psychologists available. By seeing a registered counsellor rather than a psychologist you will not have the long wait times and be able to access the treatments you require and often at a similar cost to that of the Gap payment of a psychologist. 
  6. Stigma and Reliance on Diagnosis: Mental health care plans require a formal diagnosis for eligibility, reinforcing a reliance on diagnostic labels. While diagnoses can be useful for treatment purposes if absolutely necessary, a holistic perspective emphasizes a person-centered approach that goes beyond labels and recognizes the unique experiences and needs of individuals. This includes addressing the social determinants of mental health, such as socioeconomic factors, trauma, discrimination, and access to supportive environments.
  7. Integration of Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Mental health care plans may not adequately incorporate complementary and alternative therapies that have been shown to benefit mental well-being. Holistic approaches recognize the value of modalities such as mindfulness, yoga, art therapy, herbal medicine, and other non-conventional approaches that can contribute to an individual's overall mental health. Integrating these therapies within mental health care plans can provide more comprehensive and personalized treatment options.
  8. Lack of Cultural Sensitivity: Mental health care plans may not always address the unique cultural and diverse needs of individuals. Cultural factors, including language, beliefs, and values, play a significant role in mental health. A holistic approach considers cultural competence and tailors treatments to meet the specific needs of diverse populations, ensuring that mental health care is sensitive, inclusive, and respectful of individual cultural backgrounds.

It’s important to note that while mental health care plans may have limitations from a holistic perspective, they still offer valuable support for many individuals. However, complementing these plans with additional holistic approaches, community programs, and awareness campaigns can enhance the overall effectiveness of mental health care in Australia. Emphasizing prevention, early intervention, diverse treatment options, equitable access, person-centered care, and cultural sensitivity are essential components of a holistic mental health approach.

Australian Mental Health Care Plans were designed by the government to support people in need of moderate to severe mental health concerns, such as the need for a diagnosis and treatment of Bipolar disorder, PTSD, Severe Anxiety or OCD for example. They offer invaluable support and resources for individuals seeking these diagnosis, serious mental health therapy and treatment. However, they often pose potential limitations and challenges, the facade of benefits of financial assistance, limited access to qualified professionals, selective treatment approaches, and limited continuity of care make mental health care plans vital for these serious conditions. The government never meant for them to be used for everyday concerns or mild or short term situational mental health concerns, such as a relationship breakdown causing situational depression, or general anxiety or to resolve conflict.

How Counsellors Provide a No Wait, Low Cost, Effective Option to Mental Health Treatment

While both counsellors and psychologists play essential roles in mental health care, choosing a counsellor can often be a better option for some individuals. Counsellors often focus on providing support, guidance, and practical strategies to address specific challenges or life transitions. Some are specialised in areas such as relationships, mental health, trauma, child development or parenting. They typically have a person-centered approach, emphasizing empathy and creating a safe space for clients to explore their emotions and can specialise in many different modalities such as Internal Family Systems, EMDR and Somatic Therapy. A counselling approach can be particularly beneficial for individuals seeking support in navigating day-to-day stressors, mental health issues or specific life issues in a more accessible and relatable manner. Financially a counsellor costs around as much as the Gap fee that you would pay under a Medicare rebated session with a psychologist. A counsellor does not have limits to types of treatment as long as they are trained in the modality and are not limited in the number of sessions they can provide. The privacy and confidentiality remains between you and the counsellor only unless there is a risk of harm to yourself or others or a court is requiring the information.

To understand the difference between the different mental health professionals, see our post here: