Psychologists are university-trained health professionals who have studied human behaviour. Psychologists are experts in the ways people think, feel, behave and learn.
Psychologists work in many different areas. Most psychologists work directly with people when they’re upset or troubled – for example, when someone has anxiety or depression or is experiencing stress. They also work with people who are going through challenges in life, like parenting or relationship problems. Psychologists can help people find better ways of coping or managing parts of their lives.
Psychologists also help people improve performance, health and learning. They sometimes work in research, training and education.
Psychologists work on changing thoughts, behaviour and emotions using different therapies and approaches. They don’t prescribe medications to help people feel better.
If your child has health, development or wellbeing concerns, health professionals like psychologists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why you or your child might see a psychologist
You’re most likely to see a psychologist if you or your child needs:
- counselling to help with life’s problems including grief, trauma or relationship issues
- educational and developmental assessment and support to help with learning difficulties, disorders like ADHD and difficult behaviour, or social skills
- help to deal with mental health problems like childhood depression, teenage depression, childhood anxiety, teenage anxiety, teenage stress and adult stress
- help with rehabilitation after brain injury or stroke.
You don’t need a GP referral to see a psychologist, but your GP is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing a psychologist and help you find someone who’s right for your child. You can also go to Australian Psychological Society – Find a psychologist.
Before going to a psychologist
Before seeing a psychologist, it’s a good idea to find out about the following things:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see a psychologist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment or will the GP make it for you?
- Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the psychologist?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting to get an appointment – for example, is there anything you can do at home to help your child?
- Type of therapy: how will the psychologist work with you and your child?
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the psychologist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you’re eligible for Medicare, private health insurance or other rebates. You might be able to get a mental health treatment plan through your GP, which can help with the costs of seeing a mental health professional for up to 20 sessions.
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the psychologist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.
- What to bring to the appointment: for example, you might need to bring your child’s referral letter, school reports or assessments from other specialists like speech pathologists.
- Qualifications: psychologists in Australia must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This means they’ve met all requirements to work as a psychologist in Australia.
You can ask your GP these and any other questions before you go to the psychologist. You could also ask the psychologist’s clinic when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down your questions, so you don’t forget.