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Help Us Help More

The Help Us Help More Campaign was launched in February 2023 at Parliament House by the Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi).

Australia has experienced significant challenges in recent years, including COVID and natural disasters, meaning the nation's mental health is at risk more than ever before. 

As qualified professionals, we want to help, we can help, and YOU can Help Us Help More. 

We aim to involve our members, their clients, the community and key stakeholders in mental health to support the campaign, and let the federal government know that substantial funding and operational changes to mental health care delivery are required if we are going to provide quality care for Australians living with mental ill health. 

Our aim is simple - to ensure psychologists can deliver the best possible care and that vulnerable Australians have access to quality mental health care, whenever and wherever they need it.

The campaign has three main objectives: 

  1. Reverse cuts to Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions to support Australians living with mental ill-health and struggling to access the services they need.
  2. Allow provisional psychologists to provide services under Medicare to create a larger pool of qualified mental health professionals that the community can affordably access.
  3. End the two-tier Medicare rebate system for psychologists and implement a single Medicare rebate of $150 per client per session.

Reverse cuts to Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions 

The Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler recently announced the end of a program that allowed eligible patients to access up to 20 Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions per calendar year under the existing Better Access initiative. 

The Minister’s decision to turn the clock back and subsidise just 10 psychology sessions per year goes directly against a key recommendation of the Better Access initiative review the Government commissioned.

The decision is a backwards step and will deny many Australians the level of mental health care they desperately need. We are urging the Minister to provide additional subsidised psychology sessions for those with more complex mental health needs.

The Government needs to consider the mental wellbeing of all Australians. 10 subsidised sessions per year equates to fewer than one session per month, which is not enough for Australians living with mental ill-health and struggling to access the services they need.

Allow provisional psychologists to provide services under Medicare 

Provisional psychologists are, at a minimum, four or five-year educated psychologists, embarking on a final period of supervised practice which is overseen and mentored by a qualified psychologist. 

They have studied across each of the competencies required for registration and are gaining relevant experience and supervision to meet full registration requirements.

At present, a significant proportion of provisional psychologists engage in unpaid employment to meet their requirements for full registration. Given the increasing demand for psychology services and increasing waiting lists to access psychologists, we believe the deployment of provisional psychologists is an ideal solution to improve the availability of much-needed mental health care support to Australians.

In essence, the Government currently has around 8,000 university trained mental health professionals available at its fingertips to address the growing need for mental health support that goes beyond an urgent phone call to a helpline.

Creating a provisional psychologist Medicare rebate will provide an assured funding stream to allow for more placement opportunities, reducing the current bottleneck in advancing students into fully qualified psychologists.

End the two-tier Medicare rebate system for psychologists

Under the current Medicare Benefits Schedule bulk billing system, clients of Australian psychologists are rebated at two significantly different rates depending on the classification of the psychologist as either clinical endorsement or all other psychologists, including those with endorsement in other areas of psychology. 

This is despite their education and training being the same or similar, and the fact that all psychologists provide the same service to the same standards, and to the same population group. Psychologists with clinical endorsement only account for 24% of all psychologists in Australia. 

Clients of registered psychologists are rebated $89 for a 50-minute session, while clients of clinical psychologists are rebated at $129 – over $40 more for the same kind of service. 

All psychologists have similar operating costs, including insurance, registration fees, administration support, rent and ongoing professional development. 

AAPi is concerned this two-tier system has led to misinformation about the skills of all psychologists which is restricting access for the public to psychological services at a time when these services are needed more than ever. Furthermore, there is a disproportionate number of practitioners who qualify for the higher tier rebate operating in our major cities, thereby creating a major disparity in rural and regional areas of Australia.

About AAPi

The Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi) is a not-for-profit peak body for psychologists that aims to preserve the rich diversity of psychological practice in Australia. Formed in 2010 by a group of passionate grassroots psychologists, AAPi’s primary goal is to increase access to psychologists through addressing inequalities in funding. 

Our work is of vital importance to deliver exceptional care and quality to the Australian public through caring, attentive, research-based psychology services to assist individuals, families and communities to achieve peace, balance and enhanced quality of life. 

Over two in five Australians will experience a mental illness at some point during their lives and alarmingly, almost 40% of those aged 16-24 years had a mental disorder in 2020-21. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a spike in mental health challenges, with a growing trend in anxiety and indicators of PTSD and depression. It is therefore our priority to make highly skilled mental health professionals accessible to all Australians.

What our members told us

Prior to the launch of the Help us Help More campaign, AAPi undertook research across the country with members, to discuss their experience and changes which might be appropriate and supported. 

The 2022 AAPi Private Practice Survey identified an increased need for psychology services, and found that:

  • 95% of psychologists believe the Federal Government should retain the additional 10 Better Access Medicare sessions per calendar year.
  • 80% of psychologists report cost as the top barrier to accessing mental health services
  • 77% of psychologists reported an increase in the cost of providing services.
  • 53% of clients are waiting longer than 4-6 weeks to see a psychologist.

We also have concerns about the wellbeing of the psychology workforce:

"10 sessions are unrealistic and sets up some clients to feel like they have failed.”

“Abandon the two-tier system - psychologists deserve equal pay and recognition irrespective of their pathway to registration. I say this as a person who completed a Master of Clinical Psychology - I cannot in good conscience, attain the clinical endorsement, as this discrimination severely harms and undermines the profession as a whole. My educational path in clinical psychology does NOT make me superior to any other psychologist!”

“Increase rebates so I can keep my doors open and my vulnerable clients can afford treatment.”