What is psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour. This involves both overt behaviour (the things you actually do) and covert behaviour (the things you think and feel). Psychologists generally employ a model which tries to take into account and understand all aspects of a person’s life (i.e. the biological, social, contextual and psychological aspects) in order to help them achieve desired change.

Psychological therapies are used widely in many different types of settings. Psychologists are trained to work with people individually, in couples, in group settings, with children and families and with organisations.

Psychologists endeavour to assist people develop the skills to cope better and overcome difficulties they are experiencing in their life. They can also assist people to develop their potential further in areas of their life, such as career and relationships.

What is the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in the treatment of mental illnesses, particularly those such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Psychiatrists usually prescribe medication such as anti-depressants or anti-psychotics as part of their treatment.

Psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication. Psychologists have usually trained for 6-8 years and can have a masters or doctorate in psychology with an arts or science background. They have special training in conducting assessments using psychometric instruments, and in providing treatments.

Psychological treatment typically involves ‘talking therapies’ designed to help people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, stress and work-related problems, life transitions and also people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Depending upon what the issue is, some people will see both a psychologist and psychiatrist at the same time.

Professional Regulation and Legal Requirements

In Queensland at present, anyone can legally call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist. People who use these terms do not have to be registered with any regulative body or possess any minimum level of qualification.

Both psychiatrists and psychologists must possess the required university qualifications and be registered with the Health Professionals Registration Board in their relevant state to be able to call themselves a psychiatrist or psychologist and to be legally able to practice. There is a public register in each state which enables anyone to check that somebody calling themselves a psychologist or psychiatrist is registered with the relevant authority. In Queensland you can access this register at www.psychologyboard.qld.gov.au and then by following the instructions at ‘check registration’.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychotherapist or counsellor?

Psychologists have done extensive formal training (6-8 years) in psychology and have been trained to use scientific measures in their work. This means that they are often focussed on outcomes and using the most effective techniques for change available. Psychotherapists and counsellors have generally trained from 1-3 years and have a variety of backgrounds.

How many sessions will it take?

It is very difficult to proscribe the exact number of sessions that someone may require. The psychologists at 4Life are committed to providing the type of intervention which best suits the needs of the individual. Some people come for one session to talk through something on their mind, while others continue to see a psychologist for a number of years. And of course most people fit somewhere in between.

For the most common problems (i.e. depression and anxiety) it is usual for most people to attend between 6 and 20 sessions.

How does Medicare apply to private psychology consultations?

From November 2006 the federal government made provision for the public to access rebates for private psychological consultations.

In order to use the Medicare rebate system you need to be referred by a GP. This is essential as the GP (not the psychologist) has the responsibility for linking you up with the Medicare system. Your GP will complete a Mental Health Care Plan which will be either sent to the identified psychologist or you will be given the plan to bring with you on your first visit.

In one calendar year each person can be funded for a rebate on a maximum of 10 individual psychological consultations. They can also receive a rebate in relation to a maximum of 10 group psychological consultations within one calendar year. This is in addition to the individual sessions.

This rebate system also applies to other health care items under Medicare so if you have received a rebate for any other allied health care issue it is important to check with Medicare to see what your eligibility for rebates is at any point in time.

All 4Life psychologists are registered Medicare providers. For further information you can visit the Medicare website: www.medicareaustralia.gov.au.

Can I use my private health care to claim back money for consultations?

Yes. Many private health insurers allow for some refund for psychology services; however no two are the same. We advise you to check with your specific provider to see what your policy allows.

Please note that you cannot use your private health insurance in conjunction with claiming a Medicare rebate. However you may use your 10 Medicare rebates and then claim against your health insurance for further sessions.

How will my investment benefit me in the long term?

Once you have increased your knowledge about the issues relevant to you and increased your skill base you can use these tools for the rest of your life. Psychological tools are very versatile and can often be used in many situations. For example there are many uses for things such as communication skills, emotional regulation skills and problem-solving.

Do you work after hours?

Currently we work during normal office hours and also offer after hours appointments (9am-7pm) Monday to Friday. Our psychologists are also available for appointments on Saturday mornings and afternoons.

Do you have a choice of male and female psychologists?

Yes. All you need to do is state your preference when making an initial appointment.

What does seeing a psychologist involve?

Consultations with an individual psychologist usually last for one hour. Work with a psychologist usually involves a period of assessment followed by a period of treatment. The length of time taken to complete the ‘therapy process’ is different depending upon the type of problem. This will be discussed with you.

In the initial assessment phase, psychologists try to gain a thorough understanding of the problem from your point of view. This may involve filling out questionnaires or monitoring forms. The treatment phase involves helping you to do things differently in order to help you feel better. All aspects of the process are collaborative, meaning that you participate and make active decisions about what goals you would like to achieve and how you would like to participate.

What happens in therapy?

Psychological therapy is a two way process which centres on moving towards specific goals. The first session is about understanding your current difficulties and agreeing on treatment targets with your therapist. For example you may want to overcome feelings of sadness and a lack of enjoyment related to depression. Perhaps you would like to feel in control of your life rather than be consumed by worry. It can be helpful to think about your expectations from therapy and raise any concerns that you have with your therapist.

Research shows that therapy works best when you attend regularly and give some thought to what you want to discuss during each session. The type of therapy offered by 4Life asks you to practice skills and strategies between sessions. People who do this generally get more out of therapy.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

CBT is changing the way you feel by changing the way you think. It is a type of therapy that was pioneered by Aaron T. Beck and has been shown to be a very effective treatment for many types of problems. For more see www.beckinstitute.org.

There is a lot of research published about the effectiveness of CBT for many psychological issues, in particular depression and anxiety.

What are your confidentiality rules?

Psychologists are bound by the Psychologist’s code of ethics. This can be found at www.aps.org.au. With regard to confidentiality at 4Life, all therapy discussions are confidential with the important exception that if you are at risk of harm from yourself or to someone else, we may need to break confidentiality. The third limitation on confidentiality is in relation to court orders. Should any of these situations be relevant to you, your psychologist will discuss them with you.

Do you offer child/adolescent assessment/therapy?

Yes. We have psychologists who specialise in working with children, adolescents and families.

Do you run group treatments?

Yes we do. Please got to the “Services” page on our website and click on “Group Programs” to see what groups are currently running or that will be running in the near future.

Is therapy only for people with serious emotional problems?

Although therapy can be beneficial for people who do have serious emotional problems, it is also helpful for people with everyday concerns such as adjustment or phase of life issues.

Must therapy be a last resort?

Most of us do not think that we have to experience a heart attack before we can see a doctor; it is OK to go if we merely have a sprained ankle. The same applies to therapy – you don’t have to have the emotional equivalent of a heart attack to see a psychologist. By working with a psychologist you can often get back on track much faster and save yourself a lot of unnecessary distress.

What’s the difference between clinical psychology and positive psychology?

Traditionally clinical psychology has been about alleviating misery and learning to cope with clinical disorders, for example: depression, anxiety, substance abuse etc. In the last few years, there has been an acknowledgement by psychologists and others that happiness is not just the absence of disorder, it is about finding out what makes us healthy, fulfilled and focussed on well-being. Positive psychology provides a scientific framework for the study of human potential and happiness.