How to see a Psychologist when on a “shoestring” budget

These days most of us have to count every penny as life seems to be getting more and more expensive. Often we need to cut expenses in order to afford basic essentials and we start to prioritise our expenses during this process. Unfortunately many people do not prioritise their mental wellbeing and might stop going for counseling in order to afford other expenses.

As a psychologist, I shudder when that happens, as I know that with financial difficulties come increased relationship difficulties, increased stress, increased worry, sleepless nights, a decrease in coping and ultimately a relapse in psychological functioning. It is almost as if people leave counseling when they need it the most!

So today I want to lift the lid on how to afford counseling when money is tight. There are a number of funding options available and many people don’t even know about it!

First of all, I’m going to share with you something you won’t often find being displayed on practice websites: How much you should be paying for a quality psychologist! I have been in the psychology private practice industry for more than 10 years now and have a pretty good idea of what the cost of a quality psychological counseling session is worth in Australia.

The Australian Psychological Society recommends that you pay $241 for a session of 45 to 60 minutes. Now, I can’t afford that and I assume neither can you! Luckily, psychologists can set their own rates. If you are paying more than the rate in the table below, then you are paying too much. I would suggest you chat to your psychologist about adjusting your rates (yes, it is ok to ask) or alternatively seek support elsewhere – what is most important is that you can afford to continue your counseling despite having financial difficulties.

Initial    Appointment        (50 minutes) Subsequent Appointment  (50 minutes) Medicare Rebate you could receive
Psychologist $165 $145 $84
Clinical Psychologist $200 $180 $124

As you can see from the table, you can generally expect to pay about $20 more for your first session and most often you will also be charged $20 more for after hours and Saturday sessions.

Be wary when offered a free Initial Consultation/Session/Check-up (or whatever else it might be called). We all know that nothing is free and most often any subsequent sessions booked by you will be priced well-above the rates listed in the above table. Psychologists do fabulous work, but they can’t work for free (as none of us can!). OK, so lets have a look at how you can see a psychologist whilst on a budget …

  1. Consult your GP and ask to be assessed for a Mental Health Care Plan. If you think you might need to see a psychologist, step 1 is to make a long consultation appointment with your GP. If you don’t book a long consultation appointment, your GP will just tell you to come another day – so it ends up being a waste of time and money. Your GP wants to take their time to chat wih you about this very important issue (your mental wellbeing!) and then they have to do A LOT OF PAPERWORK (i.e. the actual Mental Health Care Plan) and they need time to do all of this properly. If they don’t do it properly, it won’t be approved by Medicare. If your GP agrees that you should see a psychologist, they will do the Mental Health Care Plan, which will allow you to have up to 10 sessions with a psychologist AND (here comes the good news) get a Medicare Rebate! As per my table above, you can either get back $84 or $124 – isn’t that great? 
  2. I realise that due to circumstances, some people might not be able to afford the out-of-pocket expenses even after the helpful Medicare Rebate. Well, I have good news for you guys!! There is another referral known as: Access to Allied Psychological Services, referred to as ATAPS, which can be offered at no cost to you as the government pays your psychologist! If you have a valid Health Care Card and your GP is registered with its local Primary Healthcare Network (PHN), which in our practice area is the BSPHN you could get an ATAPS referral. You will still need to follow the same procedures as in 1 above, in that you make a long consultation appointment with your GP and the GP will do a Mental Health Care Plan for you. If you are eligible for ATAPS the GP will just need to do some additional paperwork. The disappointment here is that not all psychologists can accept ATAPS referrals. To accept an ATAPS referral your psychologist has to pass a strict tender selection process. (And now my time to boast…) I’m delighted to say that all psychologists with The Psych Professionals are able to accept ATAPS referrals, as we have been successful in passing such tender selection process.
  1. If you are lucky enough to work with a company that has its own Employee Assistance program (EAP) then you will have access to a limited number (usually between 1 to 4) of funded sessions with a psychologist, with your employer covering the costs of your sessions. Speak to your HR department to find out if your workplace has an EAP and how you can access this. Using an EAP service is a great way to get help for short-term issues. Currently The Psych Professionals has psychologists who provide EAP counselling on behalf of ACCESS and Psychological Interventions (PHI). If either of these is your company’s EAP provider you will be able to access such counselling with us.
  2. If you are a White Card holder with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) you will be able to access around 10 government-funded sessions per year with a psychologist. If you are a Gold Card holder you might be able to access an unlimited number of sessions per year. These are excellent funding support for our veterans and I would encourage you to take up this support if you are a veteran.
  3. If you have a current claim with an Insurance company (i.e. RACQ, Suncorp, Allianz, etc) then they may agree to fund a number of your sessions via the claim. The criteria for these are determined on a case-by-case basis via your insurance provider and you. They may ask you to see your GP for an assessment first. Remember that before you can start counselling you must have an approved Claim Number from your Insurance Provider.
  4. If you have been the victim of workplace bullying, harassment, unfair action taken by management, an excessive workload, received a workplace injury, or have been exposed to a traumatic workplace event (e.g. accident) which has resulted in symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or trauma, then you may be able to access psychological counselling as part of your recovering process via WorkCover. If you think this applies to you, have a chat to your GP as they are generally the ones whom can initiate this for you. Again, remember that before you can start counselling you must have an approved Claim Number from WorkCover.



Ok, so I have just bombarded you with a lot of information. If you are still not clear please do one of the following:

Call/Email one of our friendly Client Relationship Team Members (i.e. receptionists) and they will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Loganholme Practice:  P: (07) 3801 1772 | E:

Capalaba Practice:  P: (07) 3823 2230 | E:

Go to our website at and complete our Online Enquiry Form and someone will call you at a time convenient to you.

As you can see, there are a broad range of funding options that may be available to you! There is absolutely no excuse not to look after your mental wellbeing – irrespective of your financial status! Yes, as you might have noticed, I am very passionate about mental wellbeing and will always encourage you to put your mental wellbeing first! When we look after our mental wellbeing, managing other issues becomes so much easier as we are in the right mindset to manage challenges, problem-solve and live a happy and meaningful life despite our daily struggles.

Please let me know if you found this helpful and if you have any other topics that you would like me to address!

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