Bulk Billed Therapist: Understanding the Differences Between a Therapist and Psychologist in Australia
Bulk billed therapist options are a rare option in many communities. This affects access to mental health care service options which is why we discuss the importance of seeking help from a suitably qualified healthcare practitioners for any mental health issues.
Choosing the right bulk billing therapist, whist dealing with a mental health issue can be a daunting task. In addition, mental health services can be quite expensive, which is why many people turn to a bulk billed therapist as a more affordable option (Australian Association of Psychologists, 2021). In this article, we will explore the differences between therapists and psychologists in Australia, and why a bulk billed therapist is becoming a more popular option for mental health care.
If you’re searching for a bulk billed therapist, you may proceed directly to the next section. “Get Help Now From Our Registered Psychologists?”
What is the Difference Between a Bulk Billed Therapist and Psychologist in Australia?
Frequently, we receive inquiries regarding the actual differences between individuals designated as ‘therapists’ versus ‘psychologists.’
These two terms can sound quite similar, however we describe the fundamental differences below.
In Australia, several categories of health professionals and non-health professionals are referred to a therapists. Concerning mental health, the expression ‘therapist’ may denote a professional who offers therapy or counselling services pertaining to a mental health issue.
Registration requirements, qualification and clinical experience between therapists can vary significantly. This can range from; not requiring any registration with the Australian Healthcare Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to needing full registration, not having any education to requiring a completion of university level education and having the necessary prerequisite clinical training. Those who are registered with AHPRA would have completed training in therapeutic methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychoanalytic therapy or, may use a multi-modal approach which is a combination of various techniques and methods (AHPRA, 2023).
It’s important to note that a healthcare practitioner designated as a ‘registered psychologist‘ is a professional who has completed a recognised degree in psychology, completed postgraduate or clinical training after their initial education and, meets the stringent requirements of the regulatory body, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) to practice as a registered psychologist (AHPRA, 2023).
AHPRA registered psychologists are required to have to completed extensive training in mental health assessments, interventions and therapies. Whilst practicing as a psychologist, continuing professional development and peer supervison are part of the psychologists registration requirements. This is to ensure that services provided are effective, evidence-based and justified when working with their clients. This gives the public confidence that effective and evidence-based treatments are used to address any of the mental health issues presented (AHPRA, 2023).
Effectively diagnosing and provide treatment for conditions found in the DSM-5 or ICD-10 is another important part of a psychologist’s work. AHPRA Registered psychologists must demonstrate competence in identifying symptoms of various disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, among others mental health conditions (AHPRA, 2023).
What are the Different Pathways in which a Bulk Billed Therapist or Psychologist is Qualified in Australia?
In Australia, there are various pathways to becoming a qualified psychologist.
The most common pathway is to complete a four-year undergraduate degree in psychology, followed by a two-year registration pathway which includes supervised clinical work with clients across the lifespan or, undertaking postgraduate degree in psychology which includes a supervised clinical component. After completing their postgraduate clinical training or further university study which must include clinical training, they can begin the registration process with AHPRA as a psychologist and use the designation ‘Registered Psychologist'(AHPRA, 2023).
For those who want to focus in a particular area of psychology that leads to an endorsement, there are various postgraduate programs available.
These programs include a master’s degree or a doctoral degree aligned with a particular endorsement pathway. Such postgraduate training permits endorsement in areas such as community psychology, clinical psychology, neuropsychology, and organisational psychology based on the psychologist’s interests (AHPRA, 2023).
What is Most Important when Selecting a Bulk Billed Therapist or Psychologist to Work Through Your Mental Health Issues?
When choosing a psychologist to work with, the primary key determinant for successful mental health outcomes is if you have a therapeutic alliance. If you do not trust or do not feel comfortable sharing your circumstances and history with your psychologist, then regardless of the psychologist’s therapeutic modalities, clinical training, qualifications and experience, therapy will be a uphill battle (APA, 2023).
If you know a therapeutic alliance is present, then it is important to do your due diligence and ensure that the psychologist is registered with AHPRA. This registration guarantees that the psychologist has completed the necessary training and is qualified to provide mental health services and is covered by professional indemnity insurance. Professional indemnity insurance covers liability incurred by the psychologist if an error or omission during the course of therapy or treatment (AHPRA, 2023). Professional indemnity insurance applies to all healthcare practitioners regulated under AHPRA, which may include; general practitioners, medical specialists, physiotherapists and categories of healthcare practitioners (AHPRA, 2023). Note that this may not include anyone who simply identifies as a ‘therapist’.
Another crucial factor to consider is the psychologist’s experience in treating your specific mental health issue. Some psychologists may have had clinical training in certain areas, such as depression or anxiety, while others may have more experience in working with trauma survivors or hoarding disorders.
During your time with your psychologist, you may reveal concerning issues and may need to be vulnerable which requires a high level of trust and confidentiality. Feeling safe and supported when discussing your issues with a psychologist is imperative.
At Chat Corner Psychologists, we take mental health very seriously. We are committed to understanding you and helping you get back on track socially, educationally and occupationally. Bulk billed therapists and psychologists are two options available for mental health care in Australia. While therapists provide counseling services, psychologists have the most extensive training in providing psychologically effective and evidence-based therapies, assessments and interventions.
Don’t forget to consider factors such as the therapeutic alliance, qualifications, experience, and even your personal comfort level with the professional you decide to work with.
Additionally, for those looking for more affordable options, bulk billed therapists can be a great alternative.
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Australian Association of Psychologists. (2021). Submission to the Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. https://www.aapi.org.au/common/Uploaded%20files/SCMHCP%20AAPi%20Submission%202021.pdf
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. (2023). Psychology Board of Australia. Retrieved from https://www.ahpra.gov.au/About-AHPRA/What-We-Do/Psychology.aspx
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
American Psychiatric Association. (2023). How to choose a psychologist. https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/choose-therapist
Department of Health. (2022). Better Access initiative. https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/better-access-initiative#:~:text=Extra%20support%20is%20available%20until,Read%20about%20these%20extra%20sessions.