FAQ Psychologist

Inner West Sydney NSW

What is a Psychologist?

Psychologists training requirements include undergraduate and post graduate study in psychology and two years clinical supervision under a psychologist in psychology placements.  Psychologists are trained to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. After years of university study and supervised training, psychologists become registered by the Australian Government's Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to help with mental health. Psychologists provide a number of psychological services, including psychological assessments,  psychological therapy, psychological counselling and psychotherapy. Psychologists use a variety of evidence based techniques. Psychological therapies are based on the best available research and consider someone’s unique values, culture, characteristics, goals, and circumstances.

What is the difference between a Psychologist and Psychiatrist?

If you have mental health issues, a mental illness, or not coping with life, there are healthcare professionals who can help. These include psychiatrists and psychologists.

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialise in psychiatry. Psychiatrists usually prescribe medications to treat mental illness. 

 

Psychologists have a minimum of six years of training in psychological treatment for mental illness and mental health issues. Psychologists use psychological therapy focused on improving an individual’s mental health without medication. There is considerable evidence indicating evidence based psychological treatment is effective in assisting individuals with mental health issues (such as anxiety and depression).

 

We recommend psychological therapies to address mental health problems, especially for teens (adolescents), before considering medication unless your mental health condition is acute, severe or caused by an underlying medical condition. When required, psychologists can recommend a medical review by a GP or psychiatrist to assess the need for further medical assessment and medication. Although for most people, a referral to see a psychologist is obtained from their local doctor to claim a Medicare rebate on psychology services.

Psychologists are trained in the science of how people think, feel, behave and learn. Psychologists working in psychology clinics, assess people’s mental health, concerns and life circumstances. Psychologists provide help with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, stress and trauma. Psychologists have extensive training that includes the assessment and diagnosis of psychological conditions using objective psychology assessments. A psychologist's assessment informs the psychological strategies applied in psychological therapy.

Generic counselling, as opposed to psychological counselling, generally does not involve a comprehensive psychological assessment. A generic counselor might simply listen to problems and discuss your goals. While the AHPRA does regulate psychologists and psychology services it does not regulate counselling services unless the counselling falls under psychological services provided by a registered psychologist. 

The simple answer is that Australian psychologists are highly regulated by the Australian government, specifically AHPRA, whereas counsellors are not.

It is important to understand the difference between a counsellor and Psychologist. Anyone can refer to themselves as a 'counsellor', as the use of the term is not regulated like it is for psychologists. This means that there is no minimum training requirement for counsellors, no registration, and no independent body monitoring their practice and well-being, or conducting integrity checks. There are risks when seeing an unregistered 'counselor' that can be generally avoided when seeing a psychologist who has to be registered.

It is always safer to see a psychologist, particularly when you are likely to be at a vulnerable time in your life. Psychologists are registered health professionals, who undertaken extensive training in psychology and have to meet and maintain psychologist's professional standards. All psychologists are required to abide by a strict code of ethical conduct.

Like the title 'counselor', anyone can call themselves a 'psychotherapist'. These titles are not regulated by the Australian government and so there is no assurance that people using these titles have relevant qualifications, appropriate experience, and are medically and legally fit to practice. Psychologist's legal and medical status is reviewed every year to ensure public safety.

What are the competencies of Psychologists?

Referrers should have a sense of the competency of the health practitioner to whom they are referring patients or clients. The best way to do this is to use a registered health professional. All psychologists must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to use the term ‘Psychologist’ and practice. Using a Psychologist, who has to be registered to use the title legally, helps ensure they have been appropriately trained and supervised to meet professional standards and maintain their health, integrity, training and registration standards.

​When to refer to a Psychologist?

Many referrers will be able to identify people presenting with major common mental health problems, provide some appropriate psychoeducation and at times prescribe medication. Medication for many clients, however, should often only be prescribed after a client has had the opportunity to address their issues through non-pharmaceutical means by seeing an experienced psychologist. Often seeing a psychologist and participating in psychological therapy is at least as effective as medication and can have greater benefits to the client over time. In some cases, where a client’s condition is severe or not responsive to psychological therapy from a psychologist, medication can be a useful adjunct to psychological therapy. Psychologists are trained in a range of therapeutic techniques and tailor therapy to the individual based on the situation, cultural background and worldview. Research has demonstrated that the therapeutic rapport with your psychologist is the best predictor of client engagement and therapeutic outcomes. The therapeutic rapport allows clients to engage in a professional relationship with their psychologist to provide safety and containment as they address potentially sensitive and difficult personal issues. Psychologists using a formal model of therapeutic intervention is also an important predictor.

Access to a Psychologist

Medicare rebates for psychology has resulted in access to psychologists being more affordable for clients. If a client is referred by their treating doctor to a psychologist their session fees are partially rebated for up to ten to twenty sessions per calendar year.

What conditions do Psychologists treat?

Psychologists work with people from across the lifespan. Interventions by Psychologists can be as effective, and sometimes more effective, than pharmacotherapy, although combined treatment may be the best option for some patients. Psychologists deal with a wide range of problems including: relationship problems (family and marital), sexual dysfunction, life stress, depression, anxiety, trauma and acute and chronic life crises. Issues of loss and grief are also managed by Psychologists. iflow psychology services provide psychology interventions for people with anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.