What is a Mental Health Treatment Plan?
In Australia, you’re eligible for a Mental Health Treatment Plan (formerly known as Mental Health Care Plan) as part of the Medicare system. The plan is available to anyone needing support for a mental health condition and allows you to access free or subsidised sessions from particular mental health professionals - registered or clinical psychologists, eligible social workers and occupational therapists.
The first step is visiting your GP (General Practitioner) who will help you identify how you’ve been feeling and what kind of support best suits you. That might include creating a Mental Health Treatment Plan and providing a referral to an eligible mental health professional, where you can get up to 10 free or subsidised sessions each year.
While you can access up to 10 sessions, you cannot get them all at once. After your first 6 sessions with the eligible mental health professional, you will need to see your GP again for a Mental Health Treatment Plan review. You will then collaboratively decide if you need a referral for further sessions.
If you're unsure how to talk with your GP about mental health, this video might help you:
How a plan can help you
Aside from giving you access to free or subsidised mental health care, the Mental Health Treatment Plan is often a great place to start the journey towards feeling better. A plan can:
- Help you feel more in control of your mental health
- Give you clarity and insight into what you’re feeling
- Help you feel connected and supported
- Break down big challenges into more bite-sized steps.
On first read, getting a plan may sound a bit like climbing Everest: hard work and too many steps. But in reality, your GP will take care of most of it, leaving you to focus on the big-picture view. Below we break down how your GP session for obtaining a plan will run and how to get the most out of your appointment.
“Booking in to see my GP and getting a plan helped me take back some sense of control. I decided I wanted to feel better for me and only me.”
What to expect during your GP appointment
Whether you’ve made up your mind about the support you’re after or don’t know where to start, it’s always a good idea to chat to your GP and see if a Mental Health Treatment Plan can help. During your appointment, they’ll ask you some personal questions to understand how you’ve been feeling and to figure out what type of support is best.
Here is how things typically run:
- When you book into your GP, either specify you’re after a Mental Health Treatment Plan consultation or book a longer or ‘double’ consult.
- Once at your appointment, start by letting your GP know how you’ve been feeling about your mental health, and that you’re looking to get a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
- To get access to a plan, your GP will need to make a mental health diagnosis. This can sound a bit scary but don’t worry, it’s just there to ensure you get access to the support you need. Any diagnosis is confidential between you, your doctor and the mental health professional you’re referred to, and doesn’t have to be shared with anyone if you don’t want it to be.
- To do this, they’ll start by asking you some questions about how you’ve been feeling and how often you’ve felt that way. They may also note down your family history of mental health and any external factors that may be contributing to how you’re feeling.
- Once complete, your GP will determine if a Mental Health Treatment Plan is right for you.
- If it is, they will usually make a referral recommendation for a nearby service or mental health professional. If you have a specific service or individual in mind, you can let them know you’d prefer that instead.
- You don’t need to commit to a specific mental health professional there and then–you can go home, review your options and once you’ve made a decision, you can get in touch with your GP and they will add this to your plan.
- Now you have your plan, contact your referral service or the mental health professional and organise an appointment.
- If, after a few sessions with your mental health care professional, you decide they aren’t the right fit–you can go back to your GP and they can help you find new suitable options and adjust your plan accordingly.
“I was stuck inside my own head and couldn’t see a way out. Opening up about my mental health and getting another perspective was the only way I could move forward.”
Getting the most from your GP visit
If you’ve decided to book in with a GP to get a plan together. Here is how to gain the most out of that visit.
- (Ideally) book into a GP with an interest in mental health
It’s not always easy to open up to your doctor about how you’re feeling, so choosing a GP with an interest in mental health may provide more support. This may be your regular GP. Or you may want to seek recommendations from friends or family. You can also jump online and find GPs that mention being interested in mental health on their website, or give a clinic a call and see if they can recommend a doctor for a mental health consultation.
- Reflect on your goals or future hopes
- Prepare any questions you have
- Take the time you need
- Check for any pricing gap with your mental health professional