Private Health Rebate Campaign For Counselling & Psychotherapy In Australia

Submitted by Adam Szmerling on 2nd Dec 2012

Please digitally sign this petition to support a campaign to private health insurance companies designed to level the playing field for mental health practitioners of various ilk’s, by importantly providing greater rebates and access to people seeking counselling and psychotherapy services.

Introduction

In September 2012 the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) submitted a formal submission to the ACCC regarding concerns of unfair competitive practices of major private health insurance providers. Click here to read the submission. And, to read PACFA’s second submission as of January 2015 click here.

It is argued that no clinical justification exists in research or practice for restricting consumer access to private health rebates for counsellors or psychotherapists. Registered psychologists being privileged in this regard raises many concerns of an unfair playing field in the mental health arena that most importantly makes accessing counselling, psychotherapy and psychological care more financially difficult for those in need.

Current Mental Health Climate

Our system is dominated by the medical model which prefers to describe psychological problems in narrow terms and focuses on short term resolution of surface symptoms. Certainly for individuals who are experiencing mental health problems such as depression or anxiety that have arisen in the immediate past following a specific trigger, this approach is occasionally (but not always) the best course of action. However many people requiring the assistance of a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist have a long history of depression, relationship difficulties, addictions, poor self-esteem and confusion about themselves and who they are.

Such ingrained and long term struggles are often better handled with a more in depth approach and cannot be adequately grasped through short term therapy or discrete categorisation. This medical paradigm doesn’t seem to appreciate the subjectivity of each unique person’s suffering – the very elements which will be critical to address for deeper, lasting improvements in personality, affect and relational experiences.

This may suit policy makers who seem to like simplicity and may not understand the necessary ambiguity inherent in any effective longer term, deeper psychological course of treatment. Many psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists are trained (at a minimum) in an approach called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which treats the symptoms of presenting complaints, but longer term benefits (beyond 6-12 months) are questionable with this method alone.

We are not against CBT. We are against limiting consumer choice to only one or two methods. We therefore support the proposal to widen the scope of access to more counselling methods, including but not limited to services like hypnotherapy and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Regardless of theoretical orientation, counsellors and psychotherapists who are registered with PACFA or the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) are required to have undergone extensive training including a minimum number of contact hours with patients and with a more experienced professional supervisor before being able to register with a professional body. It is possibly discrimination since their clinical skills are of at least the same level of a recently graduated psychologist but only the latter are entitled to access private health rebates.  Furthermore, there is no practical or scientific evidence that supports the current position of private health providers funding psychological treatments for psychologists but not for counsellors and psychotherapists.

A Call For Greater Choice

Bayside Psychotherapy supports the rights of clients to receive access to psychiatrists and psychologists under Medicare and private health insurance. However we do not support the current system which does not provide adequate rebates for clients seeking psychological treatment from competent counsellors and psychotherapists.

We are concerned with the current mental health climate that seems to be complicit in a growing demand for quick fix therapies, boxing complex human suffering into ever expanding categories of apparent disease, without the privileging of insight. We therefore invite you to support the PACFA petition to gain greater access to private health rebates for consumers within Australia, for counselling and psychotherapy from qualified therapists. It will take less than a minute of your time.