We understand that this may be a new experience for you, so we’re here to help and try and make your initial appointment as comfortable as possible. If you would like to know more about what to expect, see our FAQ section on this page, email us or contact us.
What to Expect from Your Initial Psychology Appointment?
Psychologists are mental health professionals who provide psychological therapy to help people overcome a range of difficulties. You might not know what to expect if you’ve never been to a psychologist before which is why our team will provide you with support along the way.
The first time you visit a psychologist they will talk to you about confidentiality, which is your right to privacy. During the first appointment, your psychologist will typically ask you why you have come. You will be asked to describe your problem in as much detail as possible. The psychologist’s questions will likely include:
- When did the problem start?
- Under what circumstances does it occur?
- How long does it last?
- Has it occurred before?
- What makes it worse or better?
The psychologist may also ask how the problem has affected your life in terms of personal distress, interpersonal and family relationships, employment, finances, recreation, and so on, in other words, the activities of daily living.
As background in exploring your current (“presenting”) problem, the psychologist may also take a detailed personal and family history. Similarly, the psychologist may also ask about your medical history, medication use, and use of alcohol or street drugs. By gathering all this information, the psychologist can comprehensively evaluate the problem and understand how it affects your well-being. This phase of gathering information can take one or more sessions; it may be supplemented by the use of psychological tests.
The psychologist will work collaboratively with you on a treatment plan, they may recommend that you visit them weekly or fortnightly for a period of time. The length of time for your treatment can vary from a few weeks to many months, depending on what you need. An appointment usually lasts about 50 minutes but can sometimes go for longer.
What to Expect from Your Initial Psychiatry Appointment?
At your initial appointment, the psychiatrist may ask you questions about your current situation, including asking about your mood, thoughts and behaviour, such as:
- What has been happening for you?
- What are you concerned about?
- When did the problem start?
- Under what circumstances does it occur?
- How long does it last?
- Has it occurred before?
- What makes it worse or better?
- What do you hope to gain from treatment?
Following the initial assessment, the psychiatrist will provide you with information, and will make a recommendation about what treatment might be most helpful to you. This depends on the type of mental health issues you are experiencing, their severity, your preferences where possible and what you already know works best for you. Medication may be recommended depending on your treatment plan. Sometimes admission to a hospital is recommended to begin treatment, generally in situations when you can’t care for yourself properly or when there’s a significant risk to your health and safety, or that of others. For further information about type of appointments, see our psychatry FAQ section on this page.
Inside a Psychatrist’s Mind
Welcoming & Warm
From the first phone call, you’ll notice that Vita Health Care is different, because we know that it’s the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.
When you contact us you, expect a warm and friendly welcome. And if you’re not sure about anything, our team can give you all the information you need.
Our discreet signage and ample car spaces ensure our patients arrive for their appointment with the least amount of fuss. The light filled reception with soft music and freshly filtered water helps all our visitors and patients feel welcome and comfortable.
Your Confidentiality, Our Highest Priority
Our focus is on patient confidentiality and privacy is of the utmost importance to all our team.
From the way we gather information from our patients on the phone to our online systems – everything we do has our patient’s privacy and confidentiality at top of mind.
What Depression and Anxiety Look Like in the Brain
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I be seen today?
The Vita Health Care team is here to help you and has your mental health as their top priority. We know that you may need to see us on the same day that you call, but on some days that may not be possible.
If you need urgent medical attention, please call 000 for an ambulance.
In an emergency, you can see a psychiatrist at a hospital emergency department or community health centre.
What’s the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?
Psychiatrists and psychologists are both trained to provide treatments for mental health problems. But their university training, diagnosis method and treatments are different.
Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who have specialist psychiatry training and psychologists usually complete a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science at university with Honours in psychology.
How do I know if I am eligible for the Medicare rebate?
To receive a rebate for psychiatry services a referral letter from your GP is required. A referral from a general practitioner to a specialist lasts 12 months, unless noted otherwise. The referral starts from the date the specialist first attends the patient, not the date issued.
If a patient needs continuing care, GPs can write a referral beyond 12 months or for an indefinite period.
For psychology rebates you will need to make an appointment with your GP who will assess whether you are eligible for a Mental Health Treatment Plan. A Mental Health Treatment Plan will enable you to claim a Medicare rebate of $124.50 (for a clinical psychologist) or $84.80 (for a general psychologist) per session for a maximum of ten sessions per calendar year.
To be able to claim the Medicare rebate for your session you will need to bring a copy of your Mental Health Treatment Plan to your first appointment with your psychologist.
How do I find out about fees for psychiatry and psychology appointments?
A list of current fees will be provided on request. The fee charged will depend on your choice of practitioner, the length of the session and the issues identified in your referral letter. Additional fees may apply for report writing and for correspondence with other parties. All fees are to be paid in full on the day of your appointment.
The cost for a session is usually greater than the Medicare rebate, so it is likely that you will need to pay the difference between what the clinician charges you and the Medicare rebate. The payment arrangements will vary and you will be advised of the fee payable before commencing your treatment.
Rebates will be higher once you or your family reaches the annual Medicare Safety Net threshold. Individuals are registered automatically, however couples and families must be formally registered with Medicare for this to take effect, and the family’s details need to be updated as family members change (for instance when a child is born). Call Medicare on 132 011 for more details, or click to learn more about the Medicare Safety Net
Please note: Vita Healthcare DOES NOT routinely bulk bill, please contact our friendly team for information about fees.
I would like to use my Private Health
Private health funds may provide contributions towards psychology consultations. There are no provisions for outpatient consultations for psychiatry consultations. Many private health insurers allow for some refund for psychotherapy services; however, no two are the same. Check with your health insurer to see what your policy allows. Unfortunately, you cannot use your private health insurance in conjunction with claiming a Medicare rebate.
We will provide you with an on the spot rebate where possible to save you having to process it manually. As each private health fund differs, please enquire with your fund regarding specific cover for psychological services.
I have WorkCover approval to see a psychologist or psychiatrist
You may be eligible to have your sessions paid for by WorkCover if you have suffered a psychological injury in the workplace.
You will require a referral from a GP or Psychiatrist. You must bring a signed WorkCover medical certificate to your appointment. The treatment plan will need to stipulate that psychological services are required.
An injured worker is entitled to choose their psychologist, as long as that psychologist has been approved by WorkCover.
Please quote your claim number, insurance company and your case manager when making your booking for the first time.
I have TAC approval to see a psychologist or psychiatrist
We are registered to provide psychological services under TAC. There may be an out of pocket fee associated with the consultation. A GP referral is needed to access these services.. Please have your claim number handy to provide during your booking.
What happens if I cancel an appointment?
We know that life gets busy and that scheduled appointments can be hard to get to. If this happens, the Vita Health Care team appreciates as much notice as possible so we allocate your appointment to another patient who needs an appointment. Our team can help you reschedule your appointment to a more convenient time. Contact them on 5972 2444.
For Psychology appointments that have been confirmed , 24 hours’ notice is required of inability to attend an appointment, otherwise the full fee may be apply.
I have an EAP support
Under certain circumstances where you are experiencing general stress or other mental health issues not directly caused by your employer, your employer may also offer you employee counselling under and Employee Assistance Scheme. Check with your employer to see if you are covered.
I have approval form Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)
Individuals who have been the victim of a crime may be eligible for counselling services through a referral from VOCAT. There are no out-of-pocket costs for these services. VACP and VOCAT clients can obtain a referral letter from their local VACP centre or legal representative, respectively.
What is a psychologist?
Psychologists must undertake several years of university study in the science of how people behave, think and feel. They are subject to professional code of ethics and must maintain high standards of practice.
A psychologist usually completes a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science at a university with Honours in psychology. A further two years of post-graduate study (like a Masters degree) is then undertaken so they can become a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
What is a clinical psychologist?
A clinical psychologist treats mental health problems by using psychotherapeutic treatments. They generally have practical experience in clinics helping people with everyday issues like stress, anxiety, depression and relationship issues.
Some clinical psychologists use the title “Doctor” because they’ve also completed a Ph.D in psychology or a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D).
How does confidentiality work with a psychologist?
All information that you disclose in your session with a psychologist is confidential. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first exception is if you are at risk of harm to yourself or someone else and the second exception is in relation to court orders. If either of these situations become relevant your psychologist will discuss this with you.
How long are sessions with a psychologist?
Sessions are approximately 50 minutes long.
What is a 'Mental Health Care Plan'?
Under the Federal Government’s “Better Access to Mental Health Initiative, you may be able to access this plan.
As you book an appointment with your GP, it’s helpful to let them know that you’d like to discuss this as the appointment times need to be longer.
When your GP gives you a referral under the Mental Health Care Plan, you’ll be able to claim a partial Medicare rebate for 10 individual psychology sessions during a calendar year.
A Medicare rebate applies to Vita Healthcare’s psychology services if you’ve got a GP referral in the form of a “Mental Health Care Plan” or a referral from a Psychiatrist. This Medicare rebate may be accessible up to:
- 10 individual psychology sessions per calendar year, and
- 10 group therapy sessions per calendar year.
Your referring psychiatrist or GP requires a further assessment after the first 6 individual sessions, then after 10 more.
If you’ve no longer have access to the Medicare rebate, you can still see your psychologist. If you have a private health insurer you may be entitled to further rebates and if you don’t you can still see your psychologist by paying the full fee.
I have a mental health treatment plan from my GP to see a psychologist.
For individuals eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan (developed by a GP or Psychiatrist) a total of 10 sessions per calendar year can be accessed with a significant rebate from Medicare. A review with your doctor is required after the first six sessions, after which an additional four sessions can be granted. For further reading on Medicare and psychology please refer here.
For a detailed flyer on Better Access download Better Access for the patient flyer.
Additional sessions may also be granted in addition to the 10 sessions per year if eligible under the following schemes if applicable:
Do I need a referral to see a psychologist?
No, you do not need a referral. You can make an appointment with a psychologist without a referral from your GP or a psychiatrist. If you decide to do this you will need to pay the full amount for your sessions out of your own pocket.
What is a psychiatrist?
All psychiatrists hold a university medical degree (generally taking 6 years) that covers biochemistry, human anatomy, physiology, the function of the boy’s organs and central nervous system and the effects of all drugs.
After completing an intern year in a hospital, they’ve decided to undertake specialist training in psychiatry. While they complete another 5 years of study (that includes psychiatric and psychological treatments, social and other health impacts in addition to their biological knowledge) they’re usually working full-time as a hospital and community doctor (as a ‘Registrar’).
A registered psychiatrist has a minimum of 12 years medical training and is able to take a birds eye view of mental health problems by looking at physiological, biological and social causes as they provide treatment and a strategy towards recovery.
Psychiatrists use their broader knowledge with patients at the more severe end of mental illness, including those in hospital environments. They also see people with less serious disorders. Psychiatrists also offer direct care and guidance to other health professionals (including GP’s) who are involved in providing care.
Do I need a referral to see a psychiatrist?
A referral is a letter from one doctor or professional to another.
In the case of psychiatrists, the referral allows:
- your psychiatrist to get some background information about your symptoms
- your GP or referring doctor to be kept informed about your treatment
- you to get a Medicare rebate for your appointment.
To get a referral you need to first make an appointment with your GP or other doctor. They will ask you some questions and write the letter for you.
How many appointments will I need?
The Psychiatrist will discuss your treatment plan with you on your initial visit. You might only need to see a psychiatrist once or twice per year or you may need to have regular appointments for management of a long-term illness.
Your general practitioner (GP) can refer you to a psychiatrist for either:
- an ‘opinion and report’ (MBS item 291) – for the GP to manage as the primary health-care provider (A patient is only eligible for one Medicare rebate on the 291 in a 12-month period)
- ongoing management where the patient becomes a patient of the psychiatrist. MBS items 302-306
- Review There is provision for the psychiatrist to review the opinion and report previously prepared by them, within the 12-month period (MBS item 293).
Will I be medicated when I see a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists may prescribe medication because an underlying medical or physical health issue is the cause of the mental health problem.
If medication is part of your treatment plan to improve your mental health, this will be fully discussed with you, your support network and family.
What should I do if I lose my medication script?
Please ensure you keep your scripts in a safe place and collect them from a pharmacy as soon as applicable.
In the event that you can’t locate your script, please go to our online script request and provide the medication name, dose and any other information, a fee applies. If the clinic is closed and you require urgent medication please contact your pharmmacy or emergency department.
Paying for medication.
Most medications used to treat mental illness are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in Australia.
The PBS reduces the cost of medications to Australian residents. If you have a Health Care Card you will get a further discount.
Going to hospital for psychiatric treatment.
Most people living with mental illness will never need to go to hospital for treatment. But if you do have to go, hospital can be the best place for you to rest, feel safe and receive the help you need.
Staff at the hospital are trained to help you get through what can be a stressful time for you and your family. Inpatient care can be arranged by several of the psychiatrists at Vita Health Care, if required for your treatment.
Skipping Sessions or Ceasing Treatment
When thoughts of skipping your session or changing clinician come up, check in with them. Tell them what you’re feeling, even down to your not wanting to go. You will find that, again and again, this is a conversation worth having.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the clinician-client relationship simply does not work out. Simple compatibility issues are among the most common reasons for breaking off the relationship. Before you leave, try to work through your issues with the clinician. Sometimes issues such as transference can make you feel like leaving when, in fact, staying is the best choice. Nonetheless, changing your clinician need not be a painful or difficult process, talk to our team if you find yourself in this situation.
Hours of Operation
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9:00am – 5:00pm
9:00am – 12:00pm
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135 Mount Eliza Way, Mount Eliza VIC, 3930
Phone: (03) 5972 2444
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