Psychological Therapy in Australia: How It Works

When and how a referral to a psychologist is made:Issues a psychologist can help with:

• Phobias and anxiety disorders

• Eating disorders

• Depression

• Stress and managing emotions, such as anger

• Suicidal behavior

• Assessment for educational, legal or diagnostic purposes

• Assessment and management of neuropsychological conditions

• Rehabilitation, including pain management and life planning

• Psychosomatic disorders and medical conditions responsive to psychological treatment

• Parents requiring help with children’s behavioral and emotional problems.

• Families, couples and children with relationship problems; couples wishing to enhance their relationship

• People adjusting to major life events and transitions such as pregnancy and childbirth, marriage, separation and divorce, ageing, retirement and death.

• Issues of personal development and lifestyle management.

• Career and employment issues, such as vocational assessment and planning, redundancy and retirement.

How a patient is referred:The way medical practitioners refer may affect the success of the psychologist’s involvement. Here are some suggestions:• Openly discuss the reasons for the referral with the patient, and their family or carer if appropriate.

• Generally, patients should make their own appointments.

• However, practitioners may make appointments in some cases by contacting the psychologist to discuss the referral, or writing a referral letter. Information that is helpful includes:- Reason for the referral (if it is for opinion or management)

– Treatment history

– Medication

– Any relevant medical or social history.After referringThe psychologist should send an opinion and management plan soon after the initial assessment. The amount of ongoing contact between the medical practitioner, the psychologist, and the patient varies depending on the treatment required.A couple of examples:• The patient may start seeing the psychologist frequently, in which case the practitioner and psychologist may consult occasionally during and at the end of the treatment in regard to progress and appropriate medication; or• A medical practitioner may want to improve a patient’s lifestyle, such as weight and exercise management for hypertensive patients. This would result in frequent contact between the practitioner and psychologist, with only occasional contact between the psychologist and the patient.Important information for clients / patients:Some information to help prepare patients who are unfamiliar with psychologists:• Appointments usually last between 45 minutes to one hour. Sessions may be longer for certain kinds of treatment and psychological testing.• The first appointment will usually involve talking about the problem and some initial treatment planning, which will be discussed with the patient and/or family if appropriate.• Patients should expect the psychologist to estimate the number of sessions and the type of therapy that is likely to lead to an effective outcome for their problem. It is important that patients understand the relevance of their treatment plan and raise any issues they wish to clarify.

• Psychologists are trained to use a wide range of assessment and therapeutic strategies. The reason for referral and the psychologist’s theoretical orientation (way of working) will determine the content of the sessions, which may include discussion, testing, behavioral tasks, or other relevant activities. Patients will sometimes be asked to do assignments between visits and family may also be involved in sessions.• Typically, patients need only four to ten sessions with a psychologist, because of the effectiveness of short-term treatment. Occasionally a single session will be sufficient to provide patients with appropriate and useful information. Some psychologists practice on a long-term basis and some patients require long-term support.

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