What is a Mental Health Treatment Plan?

Almost half of Australians will, at some point in their lives, experience problems with mental health. Not everyone can overcome these problems on their own – there are some people that will need to seek out the help of a professional, and that’s okay. 

The thing that lots of these people worry about is that psychological help can be expensive. However, this situation is exactly where a mental health treatment plan comes in. Anyone that has mental health trouble and has an eligible Medicare membership card may be able to receive a mental health treatment plan. 

A mental health treatment plan gives you affordable psychological care

A mental health treatment plan is a strategy to manage your mental health. It is an official document written by you and your doctor. When you receive a mental health treatment plan, it opens the door for you to get access to Medicare rebates on sessions with an affiliated psychologist, social worker, or counsellor. 

The mental health treatment plan (also called a mental health care plan) is part of a larger system that aims to give people psychological care at realistic costs. Although there are lots of reasons that people don’t seek help for mental health issues, this initiative aims to eliminate the hindrance that the cost of care might be playing.

How to get a mental health treatment plan 

The process of getting a mental health treatment plan and later psychological care is actually fairly simple. The first step is to book a consultation with your general practitioner, who will get to know your mental health issues and then help create the plan with you. 

Before you go for the appointment, make sure that your doctor is someone that can help you create the plan. Try not to forget your Medicare card and valid identification as well, since these will be necessary for getting you the official plan and referral. 

During the consultation, you will be interviewed about your mental health, which may require you to talk about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. You might also have to answer a form if your doctor thinks that this is necessary. 

After you’ve been assessed by your doctor, you’ll talk about your options for getting treatment as well as care and support. These all constitute the plan which will make a number of sessions with the right healthcare worker available to you. 

The letter of referral given to you by your doctor will be available for use with a professional of your choice. You might want to ask your doctor for their recommendations to go to, but you could also check out psychologists or counsellors for yourself. You will have to find out if they accept mental health treatment plans so that you can get a subsidy from Medicare, so be sure to contact them beforehand to get the details. 

What happens when you create a mental health treatment plan with your doctor? 

Creating a mental health treatment plan involves your general practitioner getting to know the issues you are facing. In doing so, they will work with you to understand your experiences and set goals for your treatment. 

Like any consult, your doctor might ask about what you’ve been feeling and how long you’ve been feeling it. They might ask about your experiences and your thoughts. You can also expect questions about your personal and family history of illness, alcohol or drug use, and other questions that will help them get a better picture of you as a whole. 

They will likely ask about how you cope with what you’re feeling or experiencing, as well as if you ever think about hurting yourself. Some doctors ask their patients to answer a K10 questionnaire, a tool to help your doctor assess if you have anxiety or depression. These are all necessary for them to make a proper diagnosis and recommend options for treatment and support. All of these things are encompassed in the creation of a treatment plan. 

Your doctor will ultimately refer you to a healthcare worker that can give you the psychological care you need. Aside from allowing you to avail of affordable care, the plan is meant to serve as a record of your condition to document your progress, as well as ensure that you receive consistent care.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Health Treatment Plans

What problems can a mental health treatment plan help with?

Mental health treatment plans can cover a number of conditions. Under the Better Access Initiative, eligible patients include people who have been assessed by a doctor as being likely to benefit from the structural intervention for their mental health issues. 

Some of the problems that you can get help for with a mental health treatment plan are:

  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Panic disorders and phobias
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and other eating disorders
  • Addiction (alcoholism, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Dealing with grief and loss
  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders

There are more problems that are covered by mental health treatment plans, but most people with a diagnosed mental disorder will be able to avail of subsidised sessions with a psychologist. 

How long does a mental health care plan last?

Most doctors will prescribe a maximum of six (6) sessions with a professional to start. After the sixth session, your psychologist or counsellor may write a letter to your doctor, who will likely want to assess you again.

If you are judged to need more sessions, you may be referred for more by your doctor – if you feel that you need more sessions, you may also make these thoughts known to your general practitioner. A maximum of 20 sessions per year are allowable to be partially subsidised by a mental health treatment plan as of October 2020. 

Can Medicare cover the cost of my sessions?

Most of the time, what you will be getting is a discount for your sessions. If your psychologist offers bulk billing, Medicare will likely be able to shoulder the full cost of your treatment. Otherwise, you might be asked to cover part of the cost. 

There are certain requirements to avail of bulk billing that differ between healthcare professionals, so it’s best to figure these things out with your psychologist directly. Most likely, availing of healthcare with bulk billing will require you to get on a longer waitlist, so make sure to ask about that as well. 

Getting a mental health treatment plan 

Sometimes, taking the first step to book that appointment with your general practitioner can be difficult. Some people have a harder time than others talking about mental health as well as sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Opening up can take courage, and it can feel like a very big obstacle to overcome. 

If you find yourself feeling this way, we encourage you to slow down and remember that going through challenges in mental health does not make you “crazy” or “weak”. Whether minor or major, what you are experiencing is a real illness that others go through as well. 

Going to see a doctor when you are sick is one of the most natural things in the world. Seeking professional help is nothing to be ashamed of – everyone needs a little help sometimes.

Even if it can be difficult, trusting them and making the decision to seek care is a choice that helps millions of Australians every year.  We also encourge you to find support from loved ones as you make decisions about your treatment and begin (or continue) your journey to being mentally healthy. 


https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/mental-health-care-and-medicare?context=60092 (897 words)

https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/what-is-mental-health-care-plan-how-to-access-Queensland-Australia (1160 words)

https://www.myhealth1st.com.au/health-hub/articles/mental-health-care-plan/ (822 words)