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Health insurance for psychology sessions

Compare health insurance extras policies that cover psychological therapy and counselling.

Extras cover can have options for counselling and psychology. It can work alongside Medicare if you need ongoing psychological treatment or can be a great option if you just need a few sessions with a psychologist.

Many extras policies have short waiting periods for psychology and lots of other great extras like dental, optical and natural therapies.

Which Australian health funds cover psychology?

Below are a few funds from Finder partners that cover psychology in extras. We've displayed the Psychology yearly limit. They also include other benefits such as dental, optical or physio - using the range of extras covered is a great way to get value for money.

Provider Policy Limit & Wait period Price per month Apply
lifestyle $250 (no wait period) $51.00 Go to site
nib logo Image: Supplied Core and wellbeing extras $300 (2 months) $51.07 Go to site
Vital Extras $250 (2 months) $56.35 Go to site

*Price based on a single female living in NSW, always check for combined limits

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What is psychology?

As far as health care is concerned, psychology is professional counselling or therapy for a range of mental issues, conducted by a trained clinical psychologist. These issues can be anything from a diagnosed mental illness like bipolar disorder to short-term issues like work-related stress.

A psychologist can help with any of the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Everyday stress
  • Relationship issues and marriage counselling
  • Phobias
  • Addictions
  • Grief
  • The mental aspect of pain management
  • Post-natal depression

What does a psychologist do?

The main job of a psychologist is to help people cope with whatever is troubling them mentally, from everyday concerns to more complex mental illnesses. They do this by using a range of therapies that can be collectively called "psychotherapy". Through psychotherapy, patients can learn any number of new skills including better ways to think, act, communicate and manage their emotions.

Psychologists are trained to observe the mental states of their patients and adjust their treatment plans in a way that gives each patient the best opportunity to apply what they've learned in therapy. For example, psychologists might use hypnosis to help patients relax so that their mind can be open to new ideas.

Some common therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy. A therapy that helps you identify and change unhelpful thought and behavioural patterns.
  • Humanistic therapy. A therapy that helps you learn more self-awareness and to develop a positive, healthier attitude.
  • Psychoanalysis. A therapy that helps you explore your unconscious thought patterns.
  • Integrative therapy. An approach to therapy that combines elements of many of the other therapies in a way that is specific to each patient.
  • Hypnosis. A tool that is used to help you relax into a state where you are more open to helpful suggestions (but still present enough to reject harmful suggestions).

A psychologist does not prescribe medication to treat mental problems. You would need a psychiatrist for that, although your GP can prescribe some medications related to mental illness should they be required.

What psychology support is available on Medicare?

The Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative lets people claim up to 10 psychology sessions per year through Medicare. You're required to visit a GP for a consult to receive the sessions.

This can be a good solution if you’re looking for ongoing support, and can also be combined with additional sessions via private health insurance.

By following a few simple steps, almost anyone with temporary or ongoing mental issues can get covered. Here's what you need to do:

  • Visit your GP. Your GP will need to create a mental health treatment plan to determine if psychology is right for you.
  • Get your mental health treatment plan. You and your GP will work together to create a treatment plan that could include medication, psychiatry, psychology and/or wellness programs like yoga.
  • Get your referral. If the GP recommends psychology, you will need a referral to be eligible for the Medicare rebate.
  • See your psychologist. You will initially get up to six sessions for your first "course of treatment".
  • Revisit your GP. If at any time you aren't feeling it with one psychologist, you can ask for a referral to see another. Or if you need additional sessions, you can ask for another course of treatment that will cover you for up to four more visits.

Medicare will rebate you $84.80 per 50+ minute session with a general psychologist, and $124.50 for a session with a clinical psychologist as long as you are on a mental health treatment plan. If the actual cost for a session is greater than this, you’ll have to pay the difference.

When you are booking your appointment, remember to ask for the fees up front so you know how much out-of-pocket expense to expect.

What psychology support is available through private health insurance?

Most insurers offer psychology cover through an extras policies, which typically also includes dental, optical and natural therapies cover.

You don't need to see a GP first, you don't need a referral and you don't need a mental health treatment plan. Depending on which level you sign up to, your plan will have a set dollar limit which you are allowed to claim throughout the year.

What should you be aware of when using private psychology cover?

When comparing health insurance policies you'll want one that offers the best value, and there's more to value than just price. Keep an eye out for how insurers treat the following:

  • Your benefit limits. This is the maximum amount you can claim each year for services like psychology and dental. Sometimes these services will have separate limits (for example, $300 for psych and $300 for dental), but other times they'll have combined limits (using the same example, $600 to use wherever you'd like). A policy with combined limits is often the better choice.
  • In-network versus out-of-network providers. Your extras cover will most likely pay for a percentage of each therapy session, while you pay the rest. Some insurers will pay a higher percentage if you use a phycologist in their network. The savings may or may not be worth it depending on the size of their network.
  • Waiting periods. If this is a new policy, you'll probably have to wait before you can claim on psychology treatments. If you look hard enough, you may be able to find a special offer that will waive your waiting periods for some treatments including psychology.

Medicare v Private health insurance – which option is best?

There are benefits and drawbacks to both systems, but the beauty is that you can take full advantage of both. You won't be refused Medicare cover if you've already used your private cover or vice versa. So in most cases, having private cover is a no-brainer.

Here are some reasons why private cover makes sense:

  • If you only need a couple of sessions. If you only need a few sessions for a minor issue like work-related stress, Medicare will work but you'll need to see your GP first. Private health insurance allows you to be more discreet and go directly to the therapist without needing your GP's referral or a treatment plan.
  • If you know you need ongoing therapy. Medicare limits you to 10 sessions per year, or less than one a month. Depending on your policy, private insurance might cover anywhere from 2-5 sessions. But the good news is, you can use them both one after the other in any order. Now you can get the ongoing treatment you need while saving a big chunk of change in the process.
  • If you need therapy, but don't know how much you need. In this case, you'd go with the Medicare option while keeping your private cover in your back pocket. If you need more than 10 sessions, then whip out your private cover. If you don't need the extra sessions, your private cover can still save you tons on other essential extras like your twice-a-year dental cleanings.

How do I claim for mental health treatment?

You'll usually have a few options. Depending on who you are insured with, you may be able to claim by:

  • Swiping your health insurance card when paying.
  • Using your health fund’s mobile app.
  • Filling out a claims form and faxing, emailing or posting it to your insurer.
  • Visiting your health fund's office in person with your claims form.
  • Getting treated by a provider affiliated with your health fund who will lodge your claim directly.

Can overseas visitors get psychology cover?

If you are an overseas visitor, such as a student or worker, there are ways to get cover for psychology, but you may have to jump through a few hoops:

  • Through a reciprocal health care agreement. If you are from a country that has an agreement in place to provide healthcare to each others’ citizens, you can get up to 10 psychology sessions per year. This requires a visit to your GP who will want to see evidence that you need counselling for an ongoing mental health issue that has caused problems in your life.
  • By purchasing private health cover. The only private cover available to long-stay visitors is either Overseas Visitors Health Cover for workers (OVHC) or Overseas Student Health Cover for students (OSHC). Top level policies will offer cover for treatments known as “extras” like dental, physio and acupuncture. It’s not common for them to offer psychology, but you may find it in one of these top level policies.

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