If you’re under 18 and want to see a psychologist, it’s complicated. You need to think about how you’ll pay for it, whether you can agree to it, and whether what you say will be kept confidential.
Firstly, it’s much less complicated if your parent or guardian is helping you. But what if you don’t want them to be involved, or they don’t want you to access mental health support? Maybe your family is the reason you need help in the first place.
I’m going to discuss money, consent and confidentiality. I want to give you a shortcut though. Headspace gives mental health support to people under 25 all the time, their services are free, you can go online or in person. They’re very good at helping people under 18 get support. If you haven’t tried them, do that first.
If you’re still looking for a psychologist, we can recommend some good options for what you’re going through. Go to our quiz page and tell us what you need.
The main way to pay for psychology in Australia is Medicare. Medicare rebates cover most of the cost, and in some cases all of the cost. If you don’t have a lot of money and you want to see a psychologist, the first thing to do is have your own Medicare card.
The rules here changed recently and they could change again. I’m going to link to government web pages so you can check the current situation.
You can have your own Medicare card without being removed from the family card if you’re aged 15 or older. To get your own card you need to complete a form: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/forms/ms011 and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more info on getting your own Medicare card if 15+ : https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/medicare-card/getting-your-own-medicare-card-15-years-old
You can get a digital Medicare card that works via an app on your phone. For more info on getting a digital Medicare card: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/medicare/medicare-card/how-get-digital-card
Next, you have to agree to be treated. That’s easy, you say, of course I agree. But in every state there’s an age where the law says you’re too young to consent to your own treatment.
Currently the ages where you can usually consent to your own treatment are:
- 14 years or older in the Northern Territory
- 16 or older in New South Wales
- 16 or older in South Australia, as long as two doctors sign off on a specific course of treatment
- 18 or older everywhere else in Australia.
If you’re younger than that, your doctor and psychologist will need to decide whether you’re mature enough to make your own decisions. This is done on a case by case basis.
More about consent here: https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-age-and-confidentiality (scroll down).
You want to be able to tell private things to your psychologist, without worrying that your parents will find out. Psychologists won’t generally go around telling your secrets. But there are situations where they have to report things to other people. And if your parents want to get access to notes from your sessions, that can be hard to prevent.
‘Automatic confidentiality’ is when you’re old enough to have some confidentiality rights from your parents. If you’re under these ages you don’t have automatic confidentiality:
- 14 years and over in the Northern Territory
- 16 and over in New South Wales and South Australia
- 18 and over everywhere else in Australia.
Links to good information about confidentiality:
- https://au.reachout.com/articles/confidentiality for confidentiality as it applies to adults
- https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-age-and-confidentiality for extra stuff about confidentiality when you’re under 18
If a psychologist thinks there’s risk of you seriously harming yourself or someone else, they may have to report it (regardless of your age).
If you’ve done something illegal and you tell a psychologist, they may have to report it to someone else such as the police (regardless of your age).
One thing you probably don’t have to worry about is your My Health Record. If you’re 14 or over, your parents’ access to your electronic health record is cancelled. So your parents won’t find out about you seeing a psychologist via your Medicare records. See more at https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-parents#Children%20over%2014%20years.
If you need some help to find a psychologist who’s affordable and good with young people, we’re here for you. Go to our quiz page and choose what you need.