What is a mental health care plan?

Do I need a referral to see a psychologist and what exactly is a mental health care plan? Read on to learn more

What is a mental health care plan?

Answers to common questions


A mental health care plan is required for most Psychologists and mental health service referrals such as the Better Access Program (Medicare). It is a treatment plan for anyone experiencing mental health issues (don’t require a diagnosed disorder) and can be written by your doctor. Its main aim is to improve the outcomes for people suffering from poor mental health and give them the best opportunity to gain skills that help them thrive in life. 

 The plan identifies what care you need and what will work most effectively to ensure the best outcome. Everyone’s mental health journey is unique, so it is vital each plan is tailored to you and what you want to achieve. You don’t have to go through it alone. 


How can the plan support me? 

  • Feel more peace and optimism. 
  • Ability to think clearer. 
  • Work through challenges in adaptive ways. 
  • Improve communication with others and relationships. 
  • Learn how to set and achieve your goals. 
  • Cope with conflict and difficult situations. 
  • Empower you to make a change. 


How do you get a mental health care plan? 

You can receive a plan from your doctor who will discuss your situation, and experiences, and assess your current mental health. From this, they will determine if you need additional support, and will benefit from a care plan. If you don’t have a regular doctor, you can find a local one near you. Ensure when you book you notify them you are seeking a mental health care plan so they can dedicate enough time. While filling in the plan you and your doctor will set goals and discuss your needs. Communication during this process is key.  


The plan can refer you to professionals such as psychologists and other care that may foster your well-being. It can also encompass strategies that bolster and maintain your mental health.  


What does a mental health care plan cover? 

Once you have your mental health care plan, you will be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual psychological appointments and up to 10 group allied mental health services within a calendar year (as at October 2023). Unless you are seeing a bulk-billing psychologist, there will most likely be an out-of-pocket expense for your appointment, you can usually confirm a psychologist’s fees via their website or by contacting them directly. Additionally, some psychologists offer discounts for concession holders, therefore, if you’re a student or have a healthcare card, ensure you check If your psychologist offers this. 

After your first six sessions, you will need to revisit your doctor to revise and update your plan to ensure it is still meeting your mental health needs and goals. From here, they will decide if you need a referral for a further four sessions (as at October 2023).


I’m feeling nervous. What can I expect? 

When completing the plan and talking to your doctor, it is best to be as open as possible. This can be an intimidating process, so it is completely normal to be nervous. Doctors work with people needing mental health care all the time and are trained to listen, understand, and show compassion. What you tell them is confidential. They want the best outcome for you. 

Your doctor may ask you to fill out a questionnaire about how you’ve been feeling and ask what’s been going on in your life, to find what support is best for you. Additionally, they may ask you to come back for a second appointment before they confirm whether a mental health care plan is the right option for you.  

Occasionally, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist who specialises more closely in mental health difficulties or, if you are a young person, a paediatrician. Ultimately, each decision is for the purpose of getting you help that is best suited for you.  


What support can I get? 

Support from specialists can facilitate you in making positive changes, feeling better and finding adaptive ways to cope. Having an expert in your corner who can guide you through learning strategies to process emotions and manage life’s challenges is a game changer.  

Support your doctor can help you access with your plan include: 

  • Psychologist sessions 
  • Telehealth Psychology services 
  • Group psychologist sessions 
  • Sessions with a social worker or other allied health practitioner. 


So, how do I prepare? 

Before you apply for a mental health care plan, it is advised to write a list of the things you are going through and what things and aspects of life you want support with. Having a list ensures you don’t miss anything and leave the session with your doctor confident that you covered everything and got the most out of your discussion. It can also help prompt anything you might find difficult to bring up. If you are feeling worried, you could also give your list to your doctor and allow them to guide the conversation and ask questions in a safe environment.  


Do I need a mental health care plan? 

No, you do not need a referral or mental health care plan in order to see a psychologist. If you do not want to see your doctor for a plan or your doctor does not give you one, you can still see a psychologist without one. The plan simply allows you to access Medicare rebates to help with the cost.  


So, take a deep breath and remember, getting a mental health care plan or seeing a specialist is a great achievement and a constructive step towards feeling happier, free, and empowered. 


Helpful resources 

Finding a professional:  


Better Access Initiative: 


Medicare Benefits Schedule – Item 2712: https://www9.health.gov.au/mbs/fullDisplay.cfm?type=item&q=2712#:~:text=The%20GP%20Mental%20Health%20Treatment%20Consultation%20item%20is%20for%20an,GP%20Mental%20Health%20Treatment%20Plan. 



Australia, H. (2023, April 6). Mental Health Treatment Plan [Text/html]. Healthdirect Australia. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-treatment-plan 

Beyond Blue—Find a mental health professional. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2023, from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/find-a-mental-health-professional 

Gregory, M. (2019, June 6). Do I need a Mental Health Care Plan? – PsychHelp. https://psychhelp.com.au/question-for-may-2019/, https://psychhelp.com.au/question-for-may-2019/ 

How to get a mental health care plan | headspace. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2023, from https://headspace.org.au/explore-topics/for-young-people/mental-health-care-plan/ 

Item 2712 | Medicare Benefits Schedule. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2023, from https://www9.health.gov.au/mbs/fullDisplay.cfm?type=item&q=2712#