If like me, you assumed that seeking professional help for your mental health means visiting a psychologist, then I have news for you. It turns out that there are several highly trained professions to help you cope with and improve your mental health – and they’re all covered under the Medicare Better Access rebates.

These rebates, which offer 10 subsidised sessions with a mental health professional, also include appointments with mental health social workers and mental health occupational therapists.

Most of us go straight to registered and clinical psychologists, which could absolutely be the best choice for you, but it’s important to know there are other options that may end up suiting your personal needs more accurately.

Especially when you consider 2018 research by the Reform Australian Psychological Society (APS), found that there was “no difference in treatment outcomes” when comparing people who saw clinical psychologists under the Medicare Better Access program, as opposed to those who saw other mental healthcare professionals.

Accredited Mental Health Social Worker at The Hummingbird Centre, Chris Butler, broke down the difference between these professions for us.

Mental Health Social Worker

“Generally, social workers’ background and degree has a focus on systems in someone’s life – like relationships and their environment – alongside mental health,” explains Chris.

The idea of seeing a Mental Health Social Worker is to get support in broader areas of your life that may be suffering due to a problem with your mental health. You can read more about their areas of expertise and how to locate one on the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) website.

Mental Health Occupational Therapist

At first glance, there might seem like a disconnect between occupational therapy and mental health, but the need is very logical when you think about it.

“Occupational therapists’ background involves a lot of sensory work, alongside mental health work too,” says Chris.

OTs use their profession to help patients live independently in an engaging and meaningful way in their community. This particular specialty of the profession arose out of the recognition that recovery from problems with a persons’ mental health is a long-term process that can also affect their ability to do things like hold long-term employment, study or live independently.

If this is ringing a bell for you, find out more about the type of help you can receive on the Occupational Therapy Australia website.

Which One Is Right For You?

The best place to start is by chatting with your GP. They can provide an initial assessment and help you work out which mental health professional could best suit you.

“See your GP and talk to your friends and family. [Needing help for your mental health] is not as uncommon as you might think, and it’s important to get support. There are web-based options through Beyond Blue and Headspace too,” suggested Chris.

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