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  • Writer's picturejessica_carstairs

Demystifying Psychologists' Fees: Understanding the Investment in Mental Health

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

We understand that the cost of private psychological support often acts as one of the barriers to people seeking individual therapy. In Australia, both the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPI) - the primary representative bodies for psychologists - recommend a fee of $300 for a 45-60-minute session, during the 2023/2024 fincancial year. This is still significantly higher than our current fees at Lilac Psychology.

Either way, we recognise that this is a substantial amount of money. When you calculate it across multiple sessions each day, several days per week, and throughout most weeks of the year, the result is an estimated annual income for psychologists that might indeed appear exorbitant!

Your psychologist has thoughtfully considered their fee, recognising its impact. Considering the limited funding for mental health support, your psychologist strives to balance providing quality care with the aim of offering affordable services. Now, let's delve into the breakdown of therapy costs:

  • Extensive Education and Training:

Psychologists undergo many years of rigorous education and training, earning advanced degrees such as specialised Masters with a heavy research component or Ph.D. This investment in education contributes to their expertise and warrants a higher professional fee.

  • Ongoing Professional Development and Supervision:

To stay current with the latest research and therapeutic techniques, psychologists engage in continuous professional development, requiring both time and financial resources. Additionnally, psychologists are required to seek regular supervision from experienced colleagues to enhance their skills, uphold the quality of their practice, and maintain registration. These essential practices, while invaluable, can at times reach costs ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per year.

  • Specialised Expertise:

Psychologists often specialise in specific areas such as clinical psychology, neuropsychology, or counselling psychology. Specialisation demands additional training and expertise. Within their specialised area, psychologists may also choose to develop additional skills in specific areas of interest. Acquiring proficiency in these subfields involves obtaining additional certifications, memberships, and sometimes specialised equipment. This is also a substantial investment of time and financial resources.

  • Registration and Certification:

Psychologists must obtain and maintain professional registration, adhering to strict ethical and professional standards. This involves a range of additional expenses including their own insurances, registration, and other membership fees. These financial commitments are necessary to remain legally practicing and also amount to thousands of dollars per year.

  • Confidentiality and Ethical Standards:

Maintaining confidentiality and upholding ethical standards are crucial aspects of psychological practice. Psychologists invest in secure systems to protect their clients.

  • Overhead Costs:

Running a private practice involves overhead costs such as rent for a consultation room, software memberships (e.g. for Telehealth, assessments, and therapeutic tools), administrative expenses, equipment, and utilities.

  • Limited Client Load and Intensive Sessions:

Psychologists limit their client load to ensure quality care, recognising the intensive nature of a session. This focus on individualised attention allows for a deep and meaningful therapeutic experience but restricts the number of clients a psychologist can see in a week. Balancing intensity with a limited client load ensures dedicated support for each individual.

  • No One-Size-Fits-All Approach:

Recognising the uniqueness of each client, psychologists who choose to work integratively tailor their approach to individual needs. This personalised care demands additional time and effort, both within and outside of sessions.

  • Preparation and Administrative Work:

Psychologists commit substantial time outside of sessions to ensure personalised care, involving thorough preparation, note-taking, sending reports to GPs, and administrative duties such as scheduling, invoicing, email management, and marketing activities. The cumulative time spent on these tasks ususally exceeds that of direct client sessions.

  • Time Off and Financial Planning:

Psychologists, like anyone else, need to take essential breaks for holidays and personal well-being, crucial to maintaining the quality of care provided. Those running their own private practice solely rely on session earnings and do not receive paid leave or sick/carers leave. Hence, effective financial planning is crucial to cover periods of time off.

  • Income Variability:

Psychologists, especially those valuing quality by limiting client loads, navigate income fluctuations stemming from both cancelled sessions and varying session frequencies as clients adjust schedules for holidays, financial considerations, or fluctuating needs. Ensuring personalised care therefore leads to unfulfilled slots, posing financial challenges and emphasising the need for effective planning to manage the inherent unpredictability of private practice.

The purpose of this article isn't to portray psychologists as underprivileged or facing hardhips! Psychologists typically earn incomes above the Australian average. Most psychologists are passionate about their work, driven by the love of their profession, rather than the financial aspect. Nevertheless, this article aims to shed light on factors contributing to the high costs of individual therapy.

Indeed, psychologists come with a cost. If affordability is a concern for you, do not give up on seeking help. Your mental health is invaluable and should be prioritised alongside your physical well-being. Here are some suggestions to make therapy more affordable:

  • Speak to your psychologist: Some psychologists reserve space in their caselaod for reduced-fee clients. Your psychologist may be able to work out a plan with you during financial challenges, as they are committed to support your continued therapy. Avoid disengaging - by sharing your financial concerns, your therapist might offer assistance, such as reduced fees, reduced frequency, or referral to a more cost-effective service.

  • Take some time to review your budget: Reassess your spending choices and consider redirecting funds towards caring for your mental health - it's a vital part of your overall well-being.

  • Search for psychology/mental health clinics offering reduced fees or bulk-billing options: Some physical and/or online clinics offer this - explore these options using your internet search engine or ask your GP for advice.

  • Explore online therapy courses: There is a growing availability of online mental health courses. Consult your GP or psychologist for guidance.

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs: This is a free service available to anyone living in Victoria - call 1300 375 300 for more information.

  • Consider group therapy: Group therapy provides face-to-face mental health support without the expenses of individual therapy. It also often includes the added benefit of connecting with people facing similar challenges, sharing experiences, and learning from each other's successes.

  • Check for eligibility for public or not-for-profit mental health support: If you are under the age of 25, Headspace might offer treatment. For acute or chronic mental health conditions, consider seeking referrals through your community mental health team or explore not-for-profits catering for specific populations, like those with disabilities (through NDIS), victims of crimes (through Victims Services), recent parents, individuals with eating disorders, or those with co-occurring medical conditions (such as cancer).

  • Explore local university clinics: Many universities offer low-cost psychological clinics staffed with Provisionally or Generally Registered Psychologists completing their specialised training. These clinics usually offer reduced-fee individual and group therapy, along with psychometric assessments.

  • Private health insurance: If you have private health, it's advisable to comfirm your coverage for psychology. This way, you can leverage it once your Medicare sessions are exhausted.

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