Tips for accessing mental health treatment plans

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Mental health treatment plans can help you to address worry, stress, sadness and potential crises in your life before they become an emergency.

Key points:

  • Mental health treatment plans can give you access to professional services and support
  • The plans are provided through GPs
  • Part of the process of the plan is to continuously reassess how you are going and whether it is effectively supporting you

These plans can be an important part of accessing professional help to stay on top of life and look after your mental health.

What is a mental health treatment plan?

The plan, previously known as a mental health care plan, sets out what you want to achieve to improve your mental health and wellbeing and the services you will use to achieve it.

It can include referrals to a mental health professional like a psychologist, group psychology sessions or other community health programs and mental health services.

It might also include connecting you with other allied health professionals such as social workers or occupational therapists or a prescription for medication to treat depression or anxiety.

You and your general practitioner (GP), or a specialist your GP refers you to, create the plan based on what you tell them during an appointment.

The doctor or specialist needs to diagnose you with a mental health disorder for you to be able to get a plan.

Reviewing your plan is part of the process, so if you have therapy sessions included you will need to go back to your GP after six sessions to assess how you are going, whether your plan is working for you and whether it would help you to have more therapy.

You can get up to 20 sessions with a Medicare rebate (until 30 June 2022), although Medicare is unlikely to fund the complete cost of each session and the price will be different depending on what your mental health professional charges.

You can change therapists if the one you are seeing doesn’t fit with you, and you can change as often as you like to find the right one.

Getting a plan

There are several things to keep in mind when going through the process of asking your GP for a mental health treatment plan.

Firstly, you can go through your regular doctor if you have one or look for a local GP with mental health experience – the receptionist at the clinic you want to attend might be able to suggest a doctor with experience in that area.

Asking for a doctor of a particular gender is also fine, as it might help you to feel more comfortable talking to them.

You might want to ask if your doctor will bulk bill for your appointments because you are likely to need multiple appointments to set up the plan and assess how it’s going.

When you are booking your appointment make sure to mention that you want a mental health care plan, as these appointments tend to take longer than the usual 15 minute appointment.

The doctor will ask you questions about your life to see what could be affecting your mental health and what steps you might be able to take to feel better.

If you want to have someone to support you at the appointment you can bring along a family member or friend that you trust, but you need to be comfortable talking about your personal feelings while they are around.

This person might be able to help you remember times when you needed mental health support and help you explain your circumstances to the doctor.

Make sure you get to talk to the doctor about how you feel, your concerns and how this has affected your life.

You can also take ideas of what services you think will be good for your wellbeing, or you can let the doctor suggest supports to you.

If you have questions for the doctor about what you’re feeling, the services available or anything else about your health and wellbeing you can write them down and take them with you.

The most important thing to remember is that your mental health treatment plan needs to be tailored to you so that you can get the best support.

If reading this article has caused you distress call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support, or contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

What other services do you find support your mental health? Tell us in the comments below.

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