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Opinion/Commentary

Rent or therapy: the choice Australians shouldn’t have to make

Human hands unraveling red threads on human head, representing the human brain
Image: Ildar Abulkhanov, iStock

This is horrible.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, provisional psychologist, Emily Radford has clients that have to choose between paying for therapy or paying rent. Radford is a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider. However, they have clients that pay out of pocket.

Radford offers same services to both sets of clients:

Radford’s rate is A$156.00 a session. Provisional psychologists aren’t covered under Medicare. Meaning, clients have to pay full fee unless they have private insurance.

Psychologists push for reform

Cropped shot of psychologist with a long sleeved blue shirt taking notes and talking to client
Image: PeopleImages, iStock

Psychologists are pushing for reform. Two psychological bodies are pushing the Labor Government to allow provisional psychologists to be covered under Medicare. This will increase the workforce by 8,000.

However, many argue that this will further burden the Medicare system. Instead, the Government should invest in higher education pathways and incentives for students to work in regional areas.

Some commenters claimed that covering provisional psychologists under Medicare is a bad idea. As someone who isn’t in the mental health field, I found some of these comments to the SMH article insightful.

One wrote:

I am a clinical psychologist and supervisor of trainees (provisional psychologists). The vast majority of trainees are not ready to provide services to the standard required by Medicare. They also require very close supervision and we currently have a shortage of supervisors.

BD, comment to SMH, 17 April 2023

One comment suggested a change to psychology training requirements.

I’m in the profession and the idea of Medicare subsidising trainees is a big mistake. “The government would be better off putting more money into the training system to enhance the workforce” – totally agree with that. Also, the professional body itself makes it very difficult for people who have studied for years to become an actual Psychologist – generalist undergraduate degrees, minimum masters that are impossible to get into or alternative pathways that have insanely complex requirements, and then the more recent cash cow hurdle of to do an [sic] paper exam to enter into the profession.

AP from Melb, comment to SMH, 19 April 2023

What Labor plans to do

Stupidly, the Labor cut Medicare Better Access sessions from twenty to 10 last year.

Federal Health Minister, Butler, says he wants mental health care to be more accessible. However, Labor have no policy to reform it.

What can be done?

Before working on this post, my response was simple — take a leaf out of UK’s book. Mental health services should be fully covered Medicare. (Mental health under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been a disaster).

However, I realise this view is over idealistic. It looks like the training process for potential psychologists needs an overhaul. To be honest, it seems like a nightmare.

Red tape needs be cut in training psychologists. It shouldn’t be “impossible” to do a Masters or alternative pathway. Then maybe -— just maybe — psychologists might be more accessible. And, who knows, they may become properly covered under Medicare.

What do you think? How can mental health services improve? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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By Sara Harnetty

I'm a student. Interested in current events, music and various issues.

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