Working as a psychologist in Australia requires an undergraduate and honours or postgraduate diploma in psychology, and either one or two years of working as a registrar under the supervision of other psychologists. Psychologists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation AHPRA*. Psychologists approach mental health from a scientific perspective, with an emphasis on evidence-based research, and will often use psychometric assessments to assist in diagnosis or to monitor treatment outcomes.

Psychologists may participate in further study to obtain specialisation and go on to become registered as a clinical, neuro-, educational and developmental, counselling, sports or organisational psychologist. Psychologists may also have areas of expertise or interest that they specialise in, although specialisations are not formalised as they are in the medical profession. While doctors are clearly categorised as dermatologist vs oncologist vs surgeon, psychologists might have a special interest in complex trauma, OCD or working with children, however, they will not have a formal title that describes this. Patients are able to obtain a Mental Health Care Plan from a GP and access rebate to see a psychologist. The current rebate for a general psychologist is $89.65.

Clinical Psychologist

A clinical psychologist is required to have a master’s degree in clinical psychology as well as the general registration requirements of a general psychologist. This means further formal education in specific treatment orientations, as well as in assessment, research, ethics, psychopathology and diagnosis. Clinical psychologists are required over general psychologists by some agencies, for example, to confirm diagnoses or provide treatment plans for a disability support pension or to obtain funding to support students at school. The current rebate for a clinical psychologist is $131.65.


A psychiatrist is trained as a doctor first and then specialises in mental health. In Australia, psychiatrists are largely involved in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions using psychopharmacological medication. Psychiatrists must also be registered with AHPRA*. Psychiatrists are the only mental health practitioners on this list able to write a prescription for medications used to treat mental health disorders, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers or stimulant medication. For the most part, psychiatrists do not provide therapeutic counselling in the same way that other MH practitioners do, however, some psychiatrists will offer psychotherapeutic treatment.

Counsellors and Psychotherapists

Counsellors and psychotherapists in Australia do not technically require a degree or formal qualifications to practise, although many have undergone formal training. Counsellors and psychotherapists are not required to be a member of a regulatory body. “Counselling” and “psychotherapy” are general terms that describe some form of talk or psychological therapy. Counsellors and psychotherapists may have special interests, such as somatic therapy, marriage counselling or family therapy. Areas of specialisation might be accessible online through the clinician’s webpage, or you can ask when calling the clinic. Patients of counsellors or psychotherapists are not eligible for a Medicare rebate.

Mental Health Accredited Social Workers

Social workers are able to obtain accreditation as mental health practitioners through further education and registration with AHPRA*. These clinicians will be able to support patients with mental health disorders using evidence-based treatment, whilst also providing support as social workers or nurses. Social workers might take a more holistic or systemic approach than other practitioners, sometimes including family members in therapy, or helping patients work toward practical goals such as obtaining employment, housing or the support of social services. Medicare rebates are available for Mental Health Social Workers, and are currently $79.05.

*AHPRA is a regulatory body that determines whether practitioners are suitably trained, qualified and safe to practise. For patients, it may provide peace of mind knowing that their practitioner is beholden

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Article written by: Kate McLisky

Image credit: Alex Green at Pexels

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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