From November 2017 Australian Government provided approval to Psychologists to provide telehealth services under the Better Access to Mental Health initiative. As a result clients can access medicare rebates for telehealth psychological consultation sessions.
Opening up of telehealth services helps people in rural areas who are experiencing mental health issues and finding it difficult to access quality psychological professionals that provide treatment using APS approved evidence-based therapies without travelling big distances and long hours.
Now these people will be able to access psychological help through videoconferencing (telehealth).
What is psychological consultations?
Psychologists offer treatment for mental health issues such as Depression, Anxiety, Stress, OCD, Fears, Phobias, Eating Disorders using talk therapies that are approved as evidence-based. Such therapies reorient the thinking style and help clients to make required changes in their life and perception of events to ease their mental stress and anxiety.
Psychology Board of Australia, an arm of Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) has set up strict guidelines for maintaining privacy and confidentiality of clients information and all AHPRA approved psychologists have to abide by these guidelines and provide their services meeting these guidelines and requirements.
What are “Evidence-based Therapies”?
A large number of therapies have spawned over the last 100 years and claim to offer treatment for a large number of mental health disorders. However only a selective subset of these therapies have proven to be effective for one or the other mental health disorders. These proven therapies are published by APS in the 4th edition of Evidence-based Psychological Interventions in the Treatment of Mental Health Disorders.
Some of these therapies are amenable to video conferencing, whereas others aren’t. Therapies and techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, problem solving therapy, grounding techniques, assertiveness techniques can be taught using telehealth. However, therapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) cannot be administered over the phone / video line and clients need to come in person to the clinic to avail of these services.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth refers to communication between the client and the psychologist using videoconferencing tools. A range of tools are available for this purpose including zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype. Practice management software providers like Mediclinic will soon provide an integrated videoconferencing facility.
Telehealth services have to confirm to the guidelines about privacy and confidentiality of client information as set about by AHPRA.
Eligibility for Telehealth Services?
Following conditions need to be met for availing telehealth services:
- Have one or more of the mental health condition listed below:
- Alcohol use disorder
- Adjustment disorder
- Attention deficit disorder
- Bereavement disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Chronic fatigue
- Conduct disorder
- Co-occurring anxiety and depression
- Dissociative disorder
- Drug use disorder
- Eating disorders
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Mental disorder, not otherwise specified
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Phobic disorder
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Psychotic disorders
- Sexual disorders
- Sleep problems
- Unexplained somatic complaints
- you live in a rural and remote area that classifies as Modified Monash Model areas 4-7. To find out if your location is eligible, visit the MMM locator, select the ‘MMM classification’ and enter your location.
- be at least 15 km away by road from the nearest mental health professional
- Not admitted to emergency (casualty) department or another hospital admission at the time of the service.
However, your GP has the final say in whether you should access telehealth services or not.
Exemptions for Telehealth for Bushfire Victims
After the horrendous 2019-20 bushfire season, Federal Government allowed special access to Telehealth services for bushfire victims.
Under these arrangements bushfire victims, first responders, emergency services personnel, volunteers (RFS, SES, others) can access medicare rebates for 10 mental health with psychologists using Telehealth services, without getting a mental health plan prepared by their GP. These sessions can help them build resilience and providing coping strategies to deal with the trauma of loss of life and property experienced in the bushfires.
Please get in touch with us if you are a bushfire victim and wish to access mental health support.
To access video conferencing you would need access to a quiet place where you can be in a session undisturbed. You also need access to good quality broadband internet, a device such as laptop, desktop, tablet that has camera, speaker and microphone.
If you don’t have access to these equipment, check with your local GP, library or community centre if they can provide access to these equipment during the scheduled session times.